Hong Kong Association of Washington: Nurturing Connections Among the U.S., Mainland China, and Hong Kong
It’s all about relationship, or “guanxi.” In China, business comes with relationship while in the U.S., relationship comes with business.
-Andy Yip, President of Hong Kong Association of Washington
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Andy Yip moved to Seattle in 1995 with his family to further his education. After his graduation from the University of Washington, he was recruited by Prudential Financial to lead a diversity effort in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, the office that was under his leadership became the number one office for US operation at Prudential Financial.
In 2008, Andy saw the opportunity and became an independent adviser with Raymond James Financial Services on Mercer Island, with a focus on wealth management. He and his business partner later started an affiliate firm, Rainier Estate Planning International, to focus on estate planning, wealth replacement and transfer. In additional to his career focused on finance, Andy has also started multiple ventures to pursue his interests.
Andy lives in Bellevue, WA with his wife Elizabeth, his son Kaden, and daughter Kaylee. He enjoys civic services and building communities during his free time, and holds leadership positions in various Asian American communities. Currently, he is the President of HKAW http://www.hkaw.org/v3/ (Hong Kong Association of Washington).
Q: Please tell us about your career path.
A: Born in Hong Kong, I moved to Seattle in 1995 with my family to further my education. From 2001 to 2004, I studied Economics/Financial at the University of Washington, and have been engaged in financial work since then.
I was recruited by Prudential Financial to lead a diversity effort in the Pacific Northwest. From 2008 till now, I have been a financial advisor.
In my spare time, I take leadership roles in several nonprofit organizations in Washington State, including President of HKAW, Executive Advisor and former President of NAAAP (National Association of Asian American Professionals) Seattle chapter, Acting Board President of International Examiner and Interim Executive Director of International Community Health Services Foundation. I hope to contribute to the Asian community through dedicating myself to these nonprofits.
Q: What does HKAW do?
A: HKAW aims to make connections within the U.S., Mainland China and Hong Kong by engaging both business and social activities to enrich people’s lives. HKAW serves as a bridge to connect business professionals in Seattle with business resources and network opportunities.
We have many activities every year. For example, every other month, we have seminars or a business lunch to network and exchange business information. We just had our annual gala, attracting more than 900 guests from all walks of life. We also attracted some premium brands to be our sponsors, such as Aston Martin and Ferrari, who provided a test drive and headquarters tour as bidding items. This reflected the value of HKAW as a high-end networking platform.
From June to August 2012, partnering with University of Washington’s Global Business Center, HKAW launched a six-session forum called “The Road to Success in China” to educate business owners on how to now only survive but also thrive in the Chinese market. We invited 6 guest speakers from various industries including law, business, marketing, taxation and so on.
Topics included the different ways a company can be formed in China; how to find the right partners in China and maintain the relationship; accounting and compliance; export opportunity to China; Hong Kong as an international hub for trading in China; and cross-border financing, investing and cash flow. Eighteen companies have participated the forum.
Q: What exciting projects is HKAW engaged in?
A: Besides “The Road to Success in China,” HKAW invited some export traders to Walla Walla last October to taste the wine and promote the wine trading opportunity. Chinese people are beginning to have the habit of drinking red wine. Washington ranks second in the U.S. in the production of wine, behind California. Since Hong Kong abolished tax on alcohol, some wine traders hope to export more wines to Hong Kong and mainland China. After our activity, two wine traders successfully exported 12,000 cases of wine to China last year.
Q: How has being located in Washington State benefited your business?
A: Seattle is the closest U.S. location to China and there are direct flights from Seattle to Beijing on Hainan and Delta airlines. It’s good for business.
Besides, there is huge room for development of import and export businesses in Washington State. For instance, there are export opportunities in agriculture, including apples, cherries and grain; wine exports (currently, most of the sales of Washington wine go to the domestic market and there is a huge development opportunity here); and the export opportunity for medical equipment.
Q: How would you explain the importance of HKAW and its role in the Bellevue/Seattle community?
A: HKAW is a platform for information exchange and business networking. It’s for all the people who are interested in business opportunities between the U.S, mainland China and Hong Kong, not just for people from Hong Kong. For example, in our recent biggest-ever gala, more than 900 guests participated, one-third of whom were Americans. Ours association connects the Chinese community with the mainstream American society, promoting the east-west communication.
Q: Do you see any obstacles to doing business in China?
A: It’s all about relationship, or “guanxi.” In China, business comes with relationship while in the U.S., relationship comes with business.
We have heard so many sad stories of U.S. companies that have lost millions of dollars because they were unable to penetrate the Chinese market due to culture barriers and a lack of “guanxi.”
I advise that U.S. companies should be oriented to the needs of local customers, develop relationships with local partners, learn about Chinese culture and understand the difference between the two giant countries.
Q: What advice do you have for Chinese people about how to do business successfully in the Bellevue/Seattle region?
A: Chinese people look for a lawyer after they are in trouble; however, in the U.S., we find a lawyer at first to help us deal with the potential troubles such as taxation.
Q: What are your favorite aspects of living/working in Bellevue?
A: I have been living in Bellevue for a long time. I graduated from Newport High School and lived in Newcastle for four years. After my first child was born, my family moved to Bellevue Somerset. Bellevue has high quality of living, convenient shopping centers and well-connected transportation. I believe Bellevue will be getting better and better in the next ten years!