A hand in just about every business

Updated: 2013-10-20 08:00

By Joseph Catanzaro (China Daily)

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Jean-Michel Floc'h worked his way through the sea of suits at the Gabonese embassy event, pausing briefly now and then to pump the hand of a diplomat or to share a quiet word with a businessman before moving on.

Floc'h, in his own words, is "a business enthusiast" who has lived in more than 14 countries.

Ask him for a story about himself and he will begin rattling off details of lucrative mining ventures in Africa or the push by Chinese small and medium-size enterprises into Singapore, or the merits of investing in elderly care facilities in several Chinese provinces.

The 65-year-old is simply all business.

So when Floc'h talks about his time living and working in China over the past decade, the conversation reads less like a personal history and more like a how-to guide for his unique style of doing business in the world's second-largest economy.

A Madagascar-born French citizen who grew up in central Africa and who now also holds an Australian passport, Floc'h's business in China is somehow convoluted but simple.

In practice, his business is a mish-mash of interests almost unbelievable in range and variety, but he says the common thread of what he does is knowing what people and companies want, finding it and delivering it to them.

Floc'h won't reveal who his clients are, opting instead to keep the Chinese board members and billionaires well away from the spotlight. But when it comes to the mechanics of doing business in China and the reason why he has his fingers in so many pies, he's willing to share his hard-won experience.

"People ask me why I don't focus," says Floc'h. "China is the supermarket of the business world. If you focus too much, you run into problems and you close your business in one or two years."

Floc'h studied law and economics in France, international business and trade at Cambridge University in England, and went on to work as a banker - a career that saw him rise to seniority at BNP Paribas and Suez Group over 26 years.

The work took him to several Southeast Asian countries, but it was love as much as business that brought him to China. Having left the big banking institutions to strike out on his own, Floc'h was in Australia when he met a Chinese business student who would become his wife and the mother of two of his children.

From the very beginning, Floc'h said he realized the Chinese had already built the road to success in China. He just had to follow it.

"I do business like the Chinese do business. The Chinese say they are flexible like water. I am like a fish in the water."

His pitch is that he uses his experience in corporate banking, private investment, business development and marketing to facilitate entry and investment into the Chinese market, and conversely, to help Chinese businesses invest abroad in a diverse range of areas through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

In addition to running his own investment and advisory firm, he is a senior partner at Higgs Capital asset management company, and the head of Asia investments for the Ottoman Group, an international wealth, assets and investment management organization.

In short, Floc'h says, it all comes back to giving people what they desire.

In his experience, he says, the Chinese look for brand and expertise in foreign investments, with a view to moving at least part of the manufacturing process to China.

"They love to keep the brand, the product from a Western country," Floc'h says. "Then they can bring that product back to China with its years of experience."

josephcatanzaro@chinadaily.com.cn

 A hand in just about every business

Jean-Michel Floc'h, a self-professed "business enthusiast", has lived and worked in China over the past decade, adopting a unique style of doing business. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 10/20/2013 page4)