Q5 Partners opens Hong Kong office with a long-game approach

28 September 2018 Consultancy.asia 5 min. read

Q5 Partners has opened its first office in Hong Kong, a year after first entering the market. Clients of the London-headquartered firm believe it is well positioned to help businesses enter a crowded yet lucrative market.

The brainchild of four friends wanting to change the way things were done in the traditional consulting industry, devised during the world’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Q5 Partners first opened for business in 2009. The consultancy works for clients across several industries, providing media, financial services, retail, professional services and government consulting services.

Earlier in the year, Q5 was named a top boutique management consultancy to work for in the UK by The Sunday Times. According to the data collected from the firm’s workforce, 100% of Q5 staff agreed people in their team go out of their way to help them – and Q5 fosters this in a number of innovative ways beyond face-to-face interaction, including the Q5er (an internal Google+ community), Global Espresso video calls, Slack, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and a monthly team meeting outside the office. Thanks to this innovative approach, less than a decade after its inception, Q5 has nearly 200 employees and offices in London, New York, Sydney and now Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s consulting sector is largely focused on the financial services industry, as well as a developing position as a key finance hub in the region, helped out by a buoyant cryptocurrency scene. While the autonomous territory is fostering a burgeoning consulting industry, however, businesses looking to join the thriving economy should take note that life is not easy for new companies in the former British colony.Q5 Partners opens Hong Kong office, 2nd in Asia and 4th globallyA multitude of issues mean that companies could fail fast if they do not take stock of their surroundings quickly. A cultural clash, differing business practices, or even sky-rocketing office space costs could all up-end newcomers to the market before they have time to get their bearings. This is why it is important to tap external expertise in order to make the most of entering the market, according to several Q5 clients and a local economic expert who were recently interviewed by the firm to celebrate its first formal year in the market, having opened for business in Hong Kong in the autumn of 2017, and launched its new office there in 2018.

“International companies, and there are many of them with bases in Hong Kong, face many challenges on how to connect their global strategy. I think the companies that you see succeeding in Hong Kong are open minded, they’re collaborative, they’re able to make those connections, but also adjust their strategies for a local market where relevant,” said Jonathan Wright, Global Managing Director, Dow Jones.

Katrina Andrews, Managing Partner at Andrews Partnership, agreed that things may appear easier than they actually are for expats arriving to found businesses. Thanks to a well-established system wherein someone can essentially set up a company in three days, the point of access in Hong Kong’s market is deceptively simple. However, Andrews warned, “As someone who has been here for seven years, I’ve seen a lot of people come with the idea that you will come to HK and make your fortune. While it might be easy to set up, to actually survive is a lot harder.”

A saturated market and cultural issues are at the heart of this, and Andrews explained; “There’s been a lot of expats here for a long time, working this market, so to have a pointed difference to them, you need not just international experience, but you need to understand the nuances of Asia. For a start, things here take longer. You might think that an acceptable turnaround time is two days and you’ll call them, but around here it’s very hierarchical and there is a process to go through.”

Challenges and opportunities

While insurance sector expert Michell Ho agreed that culture is a big factor for those arriving in the skyscraper-studded territory, thanks to its heritage it is still a place in which entrepreneurs with the right ideas and execution can succeed. Ho expanded; “I think culture is a key factor for the Western companies to enter Hong Kong. I would say that as a British colony before, Hong Kong people are quite open-minded compared to the traditional Chinese.”

She added, “Culture will be a big factor when foreign companies want to first set foot in Hong Kong. We are quite receptive of new ideas, we are open to speak up at something if we think we should, so in Hong Kong we have the blend of the best of both worlds.”

In order to make the most of these potential inroads into the market, Katrina Andrews stated that persistence and consistency are above all key. She elaborated; “For your business to have roots in this region there is no way you can fast-track it. It is the old fashioned way of being accessible, of being reliable. It is important that you make it clear it is a long-term investment; that you are here to service the Asian market, and not that you are here to get what you can and then run.”

Commenting on the importance of a consulting firm’s insight in establishing strong business ties in Hong Kong, Jonathan Wright said, “I think the keys around collaboration and innovation are the driving forces of what it takes to be successful here in Hong Kong; partnering with local and international companies to help succeed across the Asia Pacific region. I think Q5 are well-placed to do that.”

He continued; “Hong Kong has been for many years and remains an exciting hub for the Asia Pacific region. It’s why Dow Jones has our headquarters here. It’s a base from which we operate in 13 other countries in Asia. I’ve personally worked with Q5 on a number of projects and I think, as a firm, they understand us as a customer. What our objectives are. What our aspirations are. And they’re able to tailor their approach to help us to achieve those, and I think for that reason it’s been a very successful partnership, over the last several years.”