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Export Business

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Submitted By sasikumar
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International section

International business development – what are the considerations?
Robert G. Watters
Introduction There are now many companies in various business sectors which can be classed as global operators. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Avis, IBM, Sony and Ford are ideal examples of worldwide brands. There are also many other companies which have decided to expand their marketing operations by going into new markets abroad because they are confident they can compete, although they could not be truly classed as global operators. Marks & Spencer with their move into France and Aldi’s move into the UK are examples.

Global operators

The financial services sector has no worldwide brands and has even lacked this extensive expansion across borders because, while some of the considerations, such as management control and language, are the same as other business sectors, others, such as legislation and regulation, are unique to this sector. Perhaps the relative importance of these factors has limited expansion and contributed to why there are no truly global financial services brands, although there are some noticeable success stories in companies like General Electric USA, through their financial subsidiary, GE Capital Services, which has successfully expanded by using, or creating, local brand names in niche markets. This expansion consists currently of 13 businesses in Europe providing financing, leasing and loan servicing for capital equipment and speciality insurance for the business market plus some consumer services such as store cards. The most successful expansion in the consumer market also seems to have come from abroad into the UK rather than vice versa; AMP Society of Australia is one company which has expanded and now owns Pearl and London Life, while Axa-Midi of France has acquired Equity and Law, and National Australia Bank has bought Yorkshire, Clydesdale and Northern Banks.
Insurance industry focus

This article attempts to examine the considerations to be taken into account in a UK financial services company going transnational through a manager’s checklist. It also looks at the issues in standardization or adaptation which might arise in going into international markets. The great majority of examples to back up the examination come from the European market but there is also information on the major world markets. The focus is very much on the insurance industry in terms of data but the rationale holds good for other parts of the financial services sector. The considerations also seem to transcend the inherent differences between consumer-focussed and business-to-business operations.
The checklist The checklist includes the following key points: q q q

identifying markets; customer segmentation; distribution channels;


q q q q q q q q q q q q q q

economic issues; legislation and regulation; marketing mix; language; past experience; standardization and adaptation; market structure and opportunities; competitive advantage; financial considerations; political environment; taxation; technology; management control; methods of entry.

The approach suggested is to take each of these considerations and gather the necessary information to allow a decision on the possible impact on going transnational. The order will need to be iterative as the effect of one factor, such as an adverse political environment, could close down an option and lead to the revisiting of identifying markets.
Which markets are dominant? Identifying markets A recent report from Euromonitor (1990) suggests that as a first step an organization would look to identify the major world markets. For insurance worldwide this is set out in Table I. It will come as no surprise to see the USA and Canada account for 50% of the world market. However, the real opportunities may be available in the areas of large population yet low insurance penetration such as Asia and China. The opportunities in Asia have already been spotted by many companies including AMP Society and Prudential.

In addition to looking at which markets are dominant, information on size and future growth would be sought. Companies would also have to look at a breakdown of these large geographical markets by country and Figure 1 sets out the position in Europe.
The competitive situation Market structures and opportunities Next would come the requirement to look at the competitive situation in each market. Information will be required on the structure and competitive

Nonlife USA and Canada EC Rest of Europe Japan Australia/New Zealand Other Total Source: European Commission 56.9 23.4 3.3 9.1 1.7 5.6 100.0

Life 42.6 20.7 4.0 27.2 1.0 4.5 100.0

Total 50.4 22.2 3.6 17.3 1.4 5.1 100.0

Table I. Shares of world trade in insurance 1985 (%)

US$ million equivalent (thousands) 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 y ce N Ita et he ly r Sw lan itz ds er la nd Sp a Sw in ed e Au n st r Fi ia nl an Be d lg i D um en m a N rk or w ay Ei Po re rtu ga l Th e an G er m Fr an U K

Life premiums Non-life premiums

Figure 1. Structure of European insurance market 1989

trends within the identified markets. Figure 2 shows the market concentration, i.e. the percentage controlled by the top five companies in the EC. Finland with over 80% controlled by the top five could be viewed as less attractive than West Germany with around 30%. In the UK we have a very fragmented situation with 20 companies accounting for around 70% of the market. On choosing a market for further investigation there would be a need then to look at market shares in more detail (Figure 3) to give a better picture of the market structure, and then to examine specific competitors such as Allianz in West Germany to analyze relationships, strategic moves and geographical spread to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

Life top five Non-life top five

Source: Datamonitor

Figure 2. Percentage of market controlled by top five companies



Ita ly he W es rlan tG d er s m an y N et


ed en

or w

Be l

en m


Sp ai









an ce


an d

la nd



ar k



Victoria (4.0 per cent) Iduna (3.0 per cent) Aachener und Munchener (3.0 per cent) Gerling (3.0 per cent) Ntimberger(3.0 per cent) Altie-Leipziger (3.0 per cent)

R&V (3.0 per cent) Volksfursorge (6.0 per cent) Ham-Mann (6.0 per cent) Allianz (13.0 per cent)

Other (52.0 per cent)

Source: Datamonitor 1991

Figure 3. Life insurance market shares

Allianz is Europe’s largest insurer with a 13.4% market share in Germany. It is also tenth in the UK with 2.8%, 13th in France with 2.3%, seventh in Spain with 5.1%. As such, with this spread of operation and accompanying expertise, it would be worthy of more detailed investigation.
Identification of opportunities

This full analysis of the targeted market would be necessary to identify possible opportunities. For example, in life assurance and pensions the Spanish market is the least developed of the major European countries. Life insurance has a market penetration of 10%, compared with 32% for Europe as a whole and private pensions a market penetration of 6% compared with the European average of 21%. On the general insurance side Italy is one of the least developed for the nonlife sector. Market penetration of house contents insurance at 11% is one of the lowest in Europe (see Figure 4).
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

European average: 62 per cent

Source: Datamonitor 1992

Figure 4. Penetration of house contents insurance, 1991

ed e en n m a Th N rk e N orw et he ay rla n Be ds lg iu Fr m Sw an itz ce er la n Au d st ria W es tG U er K m an Fi y nl an Ire d la nd Sp a Po in rtu ga l Ita G ly re ec e D


The relative sophistication of the market in terms of branding, product range and product flexibility will all be relevant in making the judgment on competitive forces and opportunities.
Customer segmentation No organization can avoid getting to know as much as possible about the people who make up the potential targets in a market.

Following the customers

Target market(s) It will be necessary for any company to identify its potential market(s). For many companies moving overseas this could involve the realization that there is an opportunity to follow their customers. This has been a feature of the advertising agency industry where many agencies have followed their clients’ expansion throughout the world. For financial services companies there are opportunities to follow expatriate communities abroad and use them as a springboard into the local market, while the global expansion of business customers has forced many banking institutions to set up a network of offices to avoid losing business to foreign competitors. Socio-demographic issues The demographic make-up of markets can be very different in some countries. In the UK socio-demographic groupings A, B, C1, C2, D and E are widely used to segment the market to select a target audience. This might prove more difficult in Denmark where there is almost a classless society, whereas in Australia 90% of the population is middle class. Once again these differences are factors for consideration and other methods of segmentation might have to be applied. The culture of countries can also be different; in attitudes to thrift, the family unit and home ownership to name but a few. All could affect decisions on segmentation, products and calculation of business potential. This is confirmed by a recent Money Marketing article (Insley, 1993) which tells us that “the key difference between the French and UK investor is the relatively higher sophistication of the average UK investor…in France there is demand for the simpler traditional life assurance”.

Developing a competitive feature

Competitive advantage A company’s experience in its home market can allow it to develop a competitive feature that it could exploit overseas. It may even be a feature that can and will be readily copied at home but is not available overseas.

An ideal example is Legal & General’s (L & Gs) expansion into Australia which as a market was and is dominated by two companies with a combined market share of over 60%. L & G used its experience of underwriting substandard lives in the UK as a launch pad into Australia where insurers were only prepared to accept first class lives. They entered the market with a unique offering which enabled them to recruit a salesforce and attract immediate business which they have developed into a significant market share. Other companies like Credit Suisse, one of the leading full-service banks in Switzerland, has a strategy to engage in only large-scale commercial business outside Switzerland. They obviously see a competitive advantage in the business-to-business market while the consumer market is just too competitive.

Distribution channels Different markets have developed a concentration on different distribution channels as highlighted in a recent Money Management article (Atherton, 1993). Access to an appropriate distribution channel will be a key factor to successful entry to a new market. Figure 5 shows the split of established distribution in several European markets. There are also new distribution arrangements being used such as the telephone. Winterthur, of Switzerland, spotted this opportunity early on and set up Churchill in the UK. Financial considerations Companies will need to decide how much capital is required and more importantly how much is available and what is an acceptable risk. Professional advice should be sought regarding the valuation of acquisitions but even this is not foolproof as the Dutch insurer NRG has found out. NRG, which in 1990 was a leading player in the international reinsurance market, bought Victory Reinsurance from Legal & General to increase its exposure but it subsequently had to plough £250m into Victory due to a huge shortfall in its reserves not established at outset. Inward investment and profit

There is also the factor of foreign currency exchange rates which can be liable to severe fluctuation which can affect inward investment and profits. One has to look no further than the problems with the Mexican currency in late 1994.
Economic issues A very important consideration will be the state of the macro-economy. The problems in Germany with reunification; the potential of the fast-growing economy in Spain; the current turmoil in Russia; and the depth of the recession in countries like Australia. Information would need to be gathered and decisions made. The current and projected rates of inflation, unemployment and interest rates would be important. Political environment There will be a need to look at the stability of the government and the political system. One has only to look at Hong Kong being handed back to China as a good example of instability which might scare off some

120 100 80 60 40 20 0 UK Germany France The Netherlands Banks Italy Spain

Key Tied agents
Source: Bacon and Woodrow



Direct marketing

Figure 5. Life insurance distribution in Europe (% premium by sales channel)

organizations, but the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a future gateway into mainland China has attracted others. The more settled environment in South Africa might also be seen as a good investment opportunity but this might be offset by possible problems in collecting profits. The political persuasion of the government in terms of left or right wing may also be of interest as this would normally be linked to the balance between state control and free enterprise.
Legislation/regulation Most countries will set out guidelines for authorization to transact business and have restrictions and controls on the way money is invested. Kamieniecki and O’Keefe (1993) have highlighted the diversity of regulation standards in Europe. In the UK directors of insurance companies have to be approved by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), whereas in Germany a priori approval is required for new products which can affect product features, bonuses and surrender values. Application for a license to transact business will require detailed local knowledge perhaps from an outside source.

A view of the regulatory environment in Europe was aptly set out by Wright and Ashcroft (1992) showing the different emphasis put on areas like taxation and policy terms (Figure 6). Capital requirements may also exist to cover the guarantees offered in certain investment contracts which might be a barrier to entry. While self-regulation or regulatory bodies will probably be a feature of all markets which need careful managing, e.g. the EC Third Life Directive which is an attempt to harmonize the European market (Lapper, 1992).

Italy Authorization Solvency Ownership Reserves Investments Taxationa Premium taxes Pricing Policy terms Compulsory classes Reinsurance Highest


SwitzerFrance land





Regulatory impediment


Note: a Based largely on the tax treatment of reserves rather than corporate tax levels

Figure 6. Booz, Allen and Hamilton’s view of the opportunities for regulatory

Tax concerns

Taxation Local taxation arrangements can have both a corporate and consumer perspective which will need to be built into the decision process. For the consumer it can affect product design and investment returns. Tax relief or liability can be major incentives or disincentives to investment. In terms of corporate taxation concerns, these will affect the decision on investment into a country and the effects on returns back to the parent. The overall fiscal environment could be entirely at odds with the experience of the company. Even in Europe wide diversity is apparent. The Bank of England (1989) state that “it was widely recognised that the low level of corporate tax in the UK was much more favourable than elsewhere in Europe”. Marketing mix Decisions will need to be taken on products, price and promotion prior to entry in the new market. Some of the considerations on products have been mentioned earlier. Kamieniecki and O’Keefe (1993) have also highlighted the diversity of product mix in different European countries. This is split into protection, savings and house purchase as the main categories and for pensions the split is between group and individuals. Whereas on price the main focus will be a need to match the existing competition, in terms of promotion the usual choices of media (e.g. TV, press, etc.), sales promotion, direct marketing, and others will need to be scrutinized. Table II gives a good picture of media available in Europe – the sheer spread gives an indication of the problem of choice. Technology Technology is at the forefront of the development of financial services and there will be a real requirement to match or exceed the competition in any chosen market. Major advances have been made in databases, point of sale, processing and communications aspects and the attractiveness of a market could ultimately depend on whether access to technology is a competence of the expanding organization. Technology is not cheap and one major consideration will be whether the organization can afford to invest in the technology required in the identified market. Language Obvious barriers to expansion are the implications of different languages. Ways of relieving the effects will need to be identified. One way of avoiding the effect is for companies to expand into areas with the same language. Very few companies will have a pool of linguists readily available and this may require a local recruitment drive. Management control The effects of recruiting locally and language mismatch can also affect management control, while distance and the likely effects on communication will need to be appreciated. The looseness/tightness of the control to be exerted and the preference for local or expatriate management are very important decisions. Past experience Examples of recent company or competitor experience should be sought out. There are many lessons to be learnt from past experience and the successes and failures. Companies should always be open-minded and prepared to learn from any source.

Products, price and promotion

Language barriers





Germany: Population 79,950,000, Gross annual advertising expenditure, US$ 11.2 Billion Main financial daily Handelsblatt 126,723 Mon-Fri Main quality newspapers – daily 374,397 Mon-Fri Suddeutsche Zeitung 507,832 Sat Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 366,757 Mon-Fri 458,975 Sat Die Welt 213,887 Mon-Fri 231,371 Sat Main quality newspapers – weekly Die Zeit (Friday) 494,544 Welt am Sonntag (Sunday) 423,171 Main popular newspapers Bild (Daily) 4,590,068 Bild am Sonntag (Sunday) 365,583 Top circulating magazines Womens’ magazines Bild der Frau (weekly) 2,094,366 General interest 1,352,226 Stern (weekly) Political/news magazines Der Spiegel (weekly) 1,174,474 TV magazines Hörzu (weekly) 3,008,544 Business Capital (monthly) 253,314 TV TV universe = 49,020,000 adults 14+ Commercial channels State Private ARD ZDF Sat1 RTL Plus Pro7 Homes with reception 99% 99% 80% 80% 60% France: Population 56,640,000, Gross annual advertising expenditure US$ 9.1 Billion Main financial daily Les Echos 113,069 Main quality newspapers – daily Le Figaro 422,602 379,779 Le Monde Liberation 183,139 Main popular newspapers Le Parisien (Daily) 388,245 France-Soir (Daily) 257,079 France Dimanche (weekly – Saturday) 623,530 Top circulating magazines Womens’ magazines Femme Actuelle (weekly) 1,795,338 General interest Paris Match (weekly) 861,846 Political/news magazines L’Express (weekly) 580,253 TV magazines Tele 7 Jours (weekly) 2,980,331 Business L’Expansion (fortnightly) 161,725 TV TV universe = 42,700,000 adults 15+ Commercial channels State Private A2 FR3 TF1 CanalPlus M6 Homes with reception 97% 95% 97% 60%plus 69%

Table II. Media available in Europe



The Netherlands: population 15,138,000, gross annual advertising expenditure, US$ 2.6 billion Main financial daily Het Financieel Dagblad 38,050 Main quality newspapers – daily NRC Handelsblad 241,900 De Volkskrant 350,400 Main popular/mid range dailies De Telegraaf 725,000 Algemeen Dagblad 413,900 Trouw 120,500 Het Parool 100,800 Top circulating magazines Womens’ magazines Libelle (weekly) 736,000 Margriet (weekly) 539,000 Flair (weekly) 193,000 General interest/family De Kamioen (monthly) 392,000 Panorama (weekly) 209,000 Political/news magazines Elsevier (weekly) 113,000 Intermediair (weekly) 199,000 Business magazines Management Team (2 × month) 124,000 11,000 FEM (weekly) TV magazines Veronica-Gids (weekly) 1,000,000 Avrobode/Tele Vizier (weekly) 924,000 Troskompas (weekly) 723,000 TV TV universe = 11,840,000 adults 13+ Commercial channels State Private N1 N2 N3 RTL Eurosport Homes with reception 99% 99% 99% 80% 66% Italy: Population 57,650,000, Gross annual advertising expenditure US$ 6.6 billion Main financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore 266,364 Main quality newspapers – daily 675,743 La Repubblica Corriere della Sera 674,345 La Stampa 401,551 Main sports newspapers La Gazetta dello Sport 718,252 Monday 453,329 other days 434,937 Mon Corriere dello Sport 292,372 other days Top circulating magazines Womens’ magazines Vera 437,750 General interest/family Famiglia Cristina 1,063,528 Political/news magazines Panorama 487,047 TV magazines TV Sorrisi e Canzoni (weekly) 2,276,217 Business Capital (monthly) 105,687 TV TV universe = 47,581,000 adults 14+ Commercial channels State Private RA11 RA12 RA13 Canal 5 Italia 1 Retequattro Italia 7 Homes with reception 99% 99% 95% 97% 94% 93% 76% (Continued)

Table II.



Spain: Population 39,480,000, Gross annual advertising expenditure, US$ 7.2 Billion Main financial daily Expansion 31,863 Main quality newspapers – daily 394,686 Mon-Fri El Pais 1,046,950 Sun ABC 292,631 Mon-Fri 553,542 Sun El Mundo 131,626 Mon-Fri 191,229 Sun Diario 16 125,939 Mon-Fri 181,823 Sun La Vanguardia 21,624 Mon-Fri 345,348 Sun Main sports newspapers AS “Ace” 159,933 Mon-Fri 206,750 Sun Marca 233,028 Top circulating magazines Womens’ magazines 817,620 Pronto (weekly) General interest El Pais Semanal (weekly) 1,046,950 Political/news magazines Tiempo (weekly) 145,415 TV magazines TP-Teleprograma (weekly) 1,189,529 Business 30,548 Actualidad Economica (weekly) TV TV universe = 31,575,000 adults 14+ Commercial channels State Private TVE1 TVE2 Tele 5 Antena 3 Homes with reception 99% 99% 70% 70% Source: Travis Dale and Partners

Table II. Methods of entry There are three main choices open to companies looking to enter new markets, namely:

Three main choices of entry

(1) Acquisition. Can be the most expensive but it does mean that the acquiring company has ultimate control and reaps all the profits. (2) Joint ventures and strategic alliances: They provide an attractive opportunity to share the risks but also share the profits. Credit Agricole realized that many French companies were developing their activities across Europe so they have a strategy based on alliances with local banks such as Lloyds Bank in the UK and Ambrovento in Italy. However, experience shows that arrangements such as this can end in tears if one partner is more dominant. (3) Start up. Can be a lower cost option than acquisition but a full infrastructure of people, buildings, etc. would have to be built up. It can still be attractive as an exploratory foray abroad. Richardson (1993) suggests that companies are recognizing that partnerships and alliances can provide many of the benefits of an international

distribution network without the cost of establishment, and can act as a significant barrier to hostile acquisition.
Bottom-line benefit Standardization/adaptation As any organization looks to go transnational it will make sense to investigate existing competences which might be able to be transferred. This could have the effect of speeding up expansion and have a real bottom line benefit in saving money. The main areas of investigation for standardization and adaptation are as follows: q Products: allowing for legislation, taxation, investment restrictions, customer requirements. There may be possibilities for using the same or adapted products which would result in economies of scale. Promotion: advertising is one area where economies of scale are available. Many global companies produce very expensive TV adverts and just change the language of the voice-over. Place: in terms of distribution. If direct mail was chosen this could be standardized or just adapted, e.g. language to cross borders. Processes: the same investment management expertise could be used. New business processing and technology are also areas for consideration. Pearl has set up a European data centre which offers services to London Life (owned by AMP Society) and will be the centralized IT centre for AMP’s northern hemisphere operations including possible expansion into Europe. People: the carrying out of functions such as marketing and finance could utilize the same people subject to satisfactory communication links. Branding and corporate identity: a decision will need to be made on the approach to branding. Abbey National in the consumer market with its move into Europe are sticking with the UK brand and building from scratch, e.g. Abbey National Gibraltar Ltd. Whereas United Bank of Switzerland, in the business-to-business market, are majoring on the local brand but still disclosing the new ownership, e.g. UBS Phillips and Drew. Conversely National Nederlanden when they owned Life Association of Scotland and AMP with Pearl and London Life are keeping a low profile. This subject is well covered in an article by Richardson and Bloomfield (1993) where the point is made that AXA have moved to include the parent in all European acquisitions (AXA Equity and Law) in an attempt to build a European brand.


q q



Corporate identity

The decision is similar for corporate identity where the scope for standardization and adaptation is linked to the question of what value does the parent’s identity bring to the party? This can sometimes be overtaken by the need to stamp the parent company’s logo on a very expensive acquisition to obtain a new image for the parent as is the case for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation with the takeover of Midland Bank. In essence the company is looking to re-establish itself as more British after their move from the “colony”.
Managerial implications and recommendations This article is a general account which could apply to any financial services organization and it is accepted that a much deeper analysis into the contextual nature and specific organizational problems in entering overseas markets would be necessary. Having said that, the checklist gives a clear

General considerations


indication of the breadth of issues and the information requirements which will be necessary. As can be seen from the extensive list of considerations there are many difficulties to be avoided, and while they may seem obvious, it does not make the problems easy to overcome. Information is the key component in the decision-making process and must be gathered in a systematic way. Experience is also important and if it is not available within the company then it must be imported either on a permanent or consultancy basis.
Good planning can lessen the risks

Alongside these considerations there is the need for a well developed strategy. The strength of the core business is also a factor. Whereas problems in the home market can drive companies to look elsewhere, there is a need to have a strong foundation to build on, both from a financial and management expertise angle. The attraction of growth and profits will continue to encourage expansion, and the mission and goals of the firm will drive its ambition, but the balance must be made between sales objectives and internal resources. A well conceived strategy needs to be developed. If the fit is not apparent then the most solid of institutions can be adversely affected as confirmed by the problems of Uni-Storebrand and Hafnia whose over-ambition has brought them close to collapse (Lapper and Fossli, 1992). As always, good planning can lessen the risks.
References Atherton, P. (1993), “Europe: the prime Euromovers”, Money Management, January, pp. 3943. “Financial services in Europe – the insurance sector” (1990), Euromonitor, special report. Insley, J. (1993), “Europe special report: single out the sales chances”, Money Marketing, January. Kamieniecki J. and O’Keefe, P. (1993), “Life assurance marketing: a European perspective”, Staple Inn Actuarial Society, London. Lapper, R. (1992), “Barriers fall across Europe”, Financial Times, February 27. Lapper, R. and Fossli, K. (1992), “How dreams turned to dust”, Financial Times, September 11. Richardson, P. (1993), “Open all heures”, Post Magazine, January. Richardson, P. and Bloomfield, J. (1993), “Market stalls”, Post Magazine, March. “The European Insurance Industry” (1991), Datamonitor Publications, Ltd. “The European Insurance Industry” (1992), Datamonitor Publications Ltd. “The single European market – survey of the UK financial services industry” (1989), Bank of England. Travis Dale and Partners (1993), “European media data card”, Travis Dale and Partners, London. Wright, T. and Ashcroft, P. (1992), “Entrance examinations”, Post Magazine, November.

Robert G. Watters is Head of Marketing Communications at Pearl Assurance plc, England.

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