REGION SPECIAL ASIA
18 ISSUE 19 APRIL 2009 THE WORD
points of sales in such large economies
make sense. But you also need to become
acquainted with what's happening in such
places, and understand the scales involved.
We're talking about countries here, but in
India, for example, you could talk about
provinces. In China, meanwhile, you could
talk about provinces or even cities - that's
how large it is. China has cities with tens
of millions of people, which we in the
West have often never heard of. And these
provinces and cities drive economies that,
in some cases, are larger than the Dutch
economy. So we need to break these
markets down into manageable chunks
and act accordingly."
Pruijs identifïes Rabo Development's 10
percent stake in URCB, which was the first
foreign equity participation in a Chinese
rural cooperative bank, as a very smart way
for the bank to get its feet on the ground in
China. "It is an excellent way of absorbing
know-how and intelligence in a manageable
way in the rural sector," he says.
With businesses in Asia being asked to
significantly up the percentage of F&A
activities in their portfolio, staff will need to
become more specialised. However, Pruijs
believes that all of the knowledge is already
available in-house, and says he is primarily
after drive and commitment. "We have a
great deal of knowledge throughout the
region, so if any training needs to be done
it'll be on the job. It's the can-do mentality
that we're after. It's about rubbing shoulders
with the experts and learning how we
can really help our clients. That's why FAR
in Asia has been placed very close to the
business. It's also why we've given them a
budget as a research team - it's what I would
call monetising the intelligence. And as an
organisation, Rabobank produces so much
wonderful material within the F&A space.
We produce reports almost daily, covering
everything from the wine industry, to beef,
dairy, lamb, and the entire commodities
Within the Asian market lie two of the
world's largest countries, in terms of both
population and market opportunity - China
and India. Pruijs is well aware of both
countries' potential, but notes that timing is
crucial. "Before you even approach a market,"
he says, "you first have to understand how
the country and its economy is organised.
For example, if you look at a country like
India, its primary agricultural sector is highly
fragmented, which is perhaps not something
you necessarily want to finance today.
Flowever, if you dig a little deeper you see
developments in terms of the emergence
of larger farms and conglomerates. And
within the food processing industry, for
instance, India already has players of real
scale. Additionally, India is a large importer
of agricultural goods and commodities, so
many of our clients in Australia sell into India
and China. It makes good business sense for
us to understand these trade flows, to follow
these trade flows, and determine if there are
business opportunities available to us."
Pruijs also sees similar trends in China,
although he notes that increasing demand
on the domestic market has the potential to
put pressure on China's agricultural sector.
"The dynamics between India and China are
quite different, but I don't think the Chinese
will accept that what they have built up
over the last 10 years, mainly on the back of
export-driven manufacturing, could largely
be wiped out by increased pressure on their
domestic economy. I believe that they have
sufficiënt financial buffers in place to ride it
For Rabobank, this means being able to
straddle short-term events with a sound
long-term strategy, Pruijs says. "In China, for
example, we talk of our 2020 strategy, and
you really need to look that far ahead.
We've always said it's good to be close to
your clients, which would mean that further
sector. And so there is already a great deal of
know-how out there, but better utilisation of
this intelligence is a big driver in all of this."
According to Pruijs, being a sector specialist
is only one part of being a capable banker.
'We have to make sure that we are positioned
properly from a client's point of view," he
says. "More than ever, we have to sit in