We seem to get out of the office so rarely these days. All of us spend more time dealing with electronic communications that simple, face-to-face contact takes place less often than it used to.
This is why getting on a plane to meet your contacts, not to mention your investments, seems like a good idea. And when our co-operation partners at PensionKøbenhavn suggested a visit to China to discuss investment opportunities, the chance seemed a very fine thing.
One Saturday in April, I found myself in Frankfurt Airport’s executive lounge preparing for a connection to Beijing, chatting with Rolf, PensionKøbenhavn’s CIO. ‘We’ve got a lot on our plate over the next four days, Pieter,’ he says. ‘But fortunately, we have Charles on the ground.’
We have been ably assisted by DeGama Global Asset Management, who we asked to arrange meetings. As it happens, both
Wasserdicht Pension Funds and PensionsKøbenhavn are long-term clients of DeGama GAM and they have been especially keen to help us.
Around 11 hours later, we land at Beijing Airport’s terminal three and Charles from DeGama GAM is waiting for us. Charles is a China pro and has run their Chinese operations for over 10 years. He also seems to be one of the few expats who speaks Mandarin fluently. He certainly sounds impressive as he tells our driver where to go.
Later on, as we discuss our trip over drinks at the Capital M restaurant by Tiananmen Square, Charles is a mine of information about last year’s change of leadership and what seems like a rapid slowdown of the economy. ‘I always feel so well briefed after a chat with Charles,’ I tell Rolf as we retire to our hotel rooms.
Most of Monday and Tuesday are spent in anonymous Beijing offices. But Wednesday is the highlight of our trip, as we travel about 200km west of Beijing to view a catalytic converter factory that we see as a potential investment opportunity.
Over green tea, Mr Cheng, the company’s COO, is keen to fill us in on a lot of technical data. But he doesn’t miss the bigger picture. ‘Even if there is a slowdown in China, there will still be lots of drivers and we will still need clean air. It places us at the forefront of our industry,’ he tells us. ‘Five years ago, we were playing catch-up. Now we are real innovators.’
We have many questions, but both of us are impressed with the responses and the openness of the senior management, as well as the quality of the documentation we are given.
‘These people certainly have a good story,’ says Rolf as we drive back to the hotel. ‘And this fits well with our green energy theme. Every time I come to Beijing. they seem to have built another ring road and there’s certainly no improvement to the smog.’
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds