This post is also available in: Japanese
I’ve just been updating our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database of Japanese companies and their suppliers in Europe. I recently shifted the database to a new cloud-based provider, which enables me to cross reference our customer data with social networking sites such as LinkedIn – a very popular business networking site across Europe and the USA. The way our new CRM interface works has also forced me to focus much more on how our Japanese corporate clients are organising their operations across Europe, including where they have placed their headquarters.
My conclusions are not entirely scientific, as my own business is based in the UK and therefore biased towards UK based Japanese companies, but it does seem that the UK is the most popular base for European headquarters of Japanese companies. Of the 96 European headquarter companies I have identified in my database, 53 are in the UK, 24 in Germany, 10 in the Netherlands, 5 in Belgium, 2 in France, 1 in Switzerland and 1 in Poland.
Of course there are many Japanese companies who do not have a European headquarters, but the trend among those who have been in Europe for a longer period is unmistakably towards consolidating across Europe in terms of functional areas such as purchasing or HR or finance. This seems to be to the benefit of the UK, which is the undoubted European if not world capital of professional services – with many globally capable financial, marketing, legal, consulting and HR firms in London.
The UK has long been a favourite destination for Japanese foreign direct investment, for various reasons ranging from the English language, to golf to the UK’s open economy. Germany has also been very popular, particularly with Japanese engineering companies who feel an affinity with German process orientation and risk aversion, as well as having historical ties such as Fujitsu with Siemens or Denso with Bosch. The North Rhine Westphalia region was particularly active since the 1960s in encouraging Japanese companies to set up there, although Sony decided initially to set up in Berlin, largely, it was rumoured, because of Norio Ohga’s love of the Berlin Philharmonic.
More recently, the Netherlands became popular because of the tax advantages offered, and also, along with Belgium, was an obvious logistical centre for Europe. Lately, however, there seems to be a shift of these headquarters to the UK. Canon has moved from the Netherlands to Uxbridge, near London. Denso and Bosch recently announced their break up, and although Denso continues to be headquartered in the Netherlands, there seem to be several senior managers with European roles based in the UK. Fujitsu and Siemens parted ways in 2009, with the Fujitsu European operations being split between Continental Europe, the Nordics, and UK and Ireland.
Sony sold its Berlin headquarter building in 2008 and is currently in the process of consolidating its sales and marketing across Europe, to be based in Weybridge, a few kilometres south west of London. However, it seems to be shifting towards a “virtual” European structure, with shared HR services now set up in Turkey, and individual senior executives with European remits being based in whatever location they prefer. This pattern has also become evident in other IT and telecoms companies such as NTT Data.
Even this virtual European company structure seems to benefit the UK the most, as senior executives of all nationalities are can be found in, or seem relatively happy to relocate to, London and its suburbs. With more than 40% of London’s population were born outside the UK, London has truly become a global capital and a place to develop global careers.
This article by Pernille Rudlin originally appeared in Japanese in the 10th April 2013 edition of Teikoku Databank News and also appears in Pernille Rudlin’s new book “Shinrai: Japanese Corporate Integrity in a Disintegrating Europe” – available as a paperback and Kindle ebook on Amazon.
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