Practice targets further Asia expansion as well as significant IT investments and ISO 27001 standards
Dec. 9 – Dezan Shira & Associates has just concluded its annual meetings, held this year in Shenzhen, China with 36 senior staff flying in from all over Asia and the United States. The firm employs several hundred lawyers, tax experts, accountants and auditors across 18 offices throughout Asia, and is renowned internationally for its work with assisting foreign mid-cap multinationals to establish their operations in Asia, including due diligence, legal establishment and tax planning issues, as well as on-going administration support in accounting, tax filing, payroll, audit, compliance and M&A services.
“Although our China revenue growth slowed to 11 percent this year, our other Asian operations showed healthy growth,” says Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Founding Partner of the firm and Chairman of the practice’s International Board. “Singapore revenues grew by 79 percent over 2012, while India grew at 35 percent, and Vietnam 56 percent year-on-year. These figures show that our practice’s expansion out of China and into Asia has been a visionary development. The future for our firm is very much tied to Asia as a whole and we can offer alternative business solutions to China that many of our competitors cannot.”
Dezan Shira & Associates began life in 1992 in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Devonshire-Ellis founded the practice before stepping down as the China Managing Partner in 2007 to concentrate on developing the firm’s India operations.
“Shenzhen is our firm’s spiritual home and it is great to be back for our annual meetings,” continues Devonshire-Ellis. “The city personifies much of our own practice’s development – entrepreneurial, well planned and multi-cultural.”
The firm’s China operations are now run by Alberto Vettoretti, who is also an International Advisor to the Guangzhou Government. The firm’s South China offices handle numerous MNC clients, including one of the top 3 rating agencies in the world, many leading foreign fashion brands sourcing operations in the region, and several of the top global design and architectural firms. Elsewhere in China, the firm has significant offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Ningbo, Guangzhou and Zhongshan. In total, the practice handles some 1,500 MNC clients across Asia.
In terms of clients hiring the practice, investors from the United States topped the list, followed by MNCs from Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and India. Several MNC clients now use the practice across Asia as a one stop shop ensuring continuity of service.
“Our Asia development will continue,” says Devonshire-Ellis. “We are very interested in Jakarta in Indonesia, Chengdu in China, and Hyderabad in India. We expect to be opening offices in these cities within the next 18 months. Although we believe that the global economy will not recover until after 2015, we need to be well positioned before then in order to take advantage of the Asian boom we expect will occur between China, India and ASEAN from 2015 onwards. Continuing investment by the firm in IT is critical to take the business forward and we will be making significant investments into new software and IT infrastructure capabilities in 2014 to help us continue our development and to automate more services such as accounting and tax filing. The practice has already developed a significant payroll practice with a highly technical software program in our Dalian offices, and increasingly sophisticated financial services software tools and products to service MNC clients will be developed to assist in handling complex cross border tax structures and FCPA compliance issues. The professional services industry will be dominated by firms who have adapted to and developed strong IT infrastructure platforms and we intend to be at the forefront of this revolution. Compliance with practice management in terms of achieving applicable ISO 27001 and ISO 27002 is also a necessity for firms to achieve and we will be reaching out to attain these standards.”
Dezan Shira & Associates also publishes legal and tax intelligence through their 100 percent ownership of subsidiary Asia Briefing Ltd. and its collection of well-known brands – China Briefing, Asia Briefing, ASEAN Briefing, India Briefing and Vietnam Briefing. China Briefing’s website alone has broken the 1 million page views benchmark in 2013 making it by far the most popular online source of China legal and tax intelligence. Meanwhile, Asia Briefing Ltd.’s other websites have all demonstrated strong growth. India Briefing recorded the highest percentage of new visits among these sites, demonstrating increased global interest in the country.
New brands launched earlier this year such as Asia Briefing and ASEAN Briefing have also immediately attracted high volumes of new readers – Asia Briefing was launched 10 months ago and has already attracted 340,000 page views – a very high number for a new online product. The overall number of views of these websites from mobile phones doubled during 2013, leading the firm to plan for improved download capabilities for all websites for mobile users, something that will be enacted early in 2014. Asia Briefing’s popular mobile app can be downloaded free of charge here and provides complimentary access to each of these products. A complimentary subscription to Asia Briefing, including access to each of these websites and weekly updates together with the firm’s published monthly magazines and books can be obtained here.
Material from these publications are syndicated to organizations such as Bloomberg, the U.S. Commercial Service, Caijing, CFO Innovation as well as many Chambers of Commerce including the American and European Chambers of Commerce and think tanks such as Gateway House. Several universities – including Peking University – and various business schools also take these publications as course material.
“We have improved the quality of legal, tax and technical content on each of these sites and the readership behavior on each of these are useful pointers to where foreign investment interest is going,” Devonshire-Ellis comments. “Consequently, we will be hiring technical content editors in Delhi and Hanoi to increase our legal and tax research in the India and Vietnam markets. Overall, there is a highly positive attitude towards investment in Asia and when the global economy recovers we expect to see a huge investment boom across the board into the region. Our published material continues to be highly popular and is both a driver of business into the firm as well as an indicator of where investment interest lies. Our professional approach to marketing via publications, coupled with a strong commitment to IT development, improving service capabilities by hiring better quality technical staff and additional geographic expansion throughout Asia will underpin our development plans throughout the next two years. While the global economy remains weak, we must concentrate on our internal development and build up strengths to position ourselves well to take advantage of the Asian boom we expect from 2016 onwards.”
Dezan Shira & Associates was awarded the Leading Edge Alliance 2013 Award of Excellence in October.