Polyglot Group has been doing business with international & multicultural companies based in more than 50 countries all around the world for over 20 years.
In celebration of these partnerships, we will be promoting bilateral trades by interviewing some of the key players.
Keen to know more about the current challenges faced by the countries we are representing such as Latin America, Europe, Asia & the US, we are thrilled to share with you our interview with Geoff Charnock, honorary consul of the Finland Australia Chamber of Commerce (FACC).
Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation?
The Finland Australia Chamber of Commerce has been assisting Finnish companies for over 12 years. Our clients are primarily subsidiaries of Finnish companies as well as companies who supply and/or distribute Finnish products. We assist these organisations through providing them with networking tools, but also through providing educational services such as seminars.
What type of services can you offer Finnish companies looking for new business opportunities in Australia?
The Finland Australia Chamber of Commerce offers to help businesses become established in Australia through networking. We provide them with an introduction to other helpful professionals who will be essential to the establishment of their business, including lawyers, accountants, and migration agents.
Are you subsidised by Finland, or is your organisation membership based?
As we do not receive any funding, we offer a membership based service. At present we have between 50 and 60 members.
How many Finnish companies are operating in Australia at the present time?
We have approximately 60 companies operating within Australia. In addition to these, approximately 200 companies currently utilise a connection with The Finland Australia Chamber of Commerce. Again, the majority of these connections are Finnish companies, subsidiaries, and distributors of Finnish goods.
What are the main accomplishments of the organisation since you took office?
As honorary secretary, I have been with the chamber since its foundation. My belief is that the primary and ongoing accomplishment of the chamber is supporting the awareness of Finnish companies and Finnish products in Australia. The chamber works with other bodies such as Finpro and the Embassy to constantly support business delegations and as such, we have welcomed two foreign ministers and recently, the minister of defence.
How do you perceive the Australasian region in general regarding its regulations, market trends as well as geography of business for Finnish companies?
The Australasian region is attractive for a number of reasons, firstly, due to its prosperous consumer market. The market’s value is enhanced by the fact that both Australia & Finland are compatible and one the same page in their values. This means that Finland’s’ products are highly regarded in innovation, design and quality. Finnish exporters are well regarded, so as a result, the product prices gain higher value compared to those from other regions.
The Australasian region is also attractive as it bears an easy access to business: the regulations are straight forward and the only barrier to trade is quarantine (which generally only impacts agricultural exports). Overall, I see the Australasian as an easy and promising region for Finnish companies.
What about Finland’s business culture — is it in any way similar to the Australian one?
Finland & Australia’s business cultures are very similar. There are some minor points of difference surrounding business demeanour—generally the Finnish are somewhat reserved and serious, however, when the cross-cultural relationship is built, the extent of the similarities become apparent.
In which industries/sectors of Australia do you see opportunities for Finnish companies?
Finland can supply materials to on-sell, so I see opportunities right across the board, with predominant promise in the building and constructing industry, in addition to advanced manufacturing. Other areas of opportunities are evident in the remediation sector of resources, such as creating efficiencies to restore abandoned mines. The health and wellbeing industry is yet another sector which displays opportunities, so I see possibilities across the whole district.
From your experience, what are the typical steps that Finnish companies undertake when expanding to Australia?
It is a journey of growth. Typically companies initiate their expansion through temporarily using a distributor. Once a market has been established, the next step is usually launching a subsidiary company in Australia, which may be staffed from the Finnish firm, or alternatively, they will begin a process to employ local staff.
What are the main challenges for Finnish companies entering Australia in 2016?
Fortunately, I do not believe Finnish companies face great challenges due to the favourability of the Australian market. Perhaps the greatest challenge is founding the company in Australia whilst still in Finland. This geographical separation can prove challenging for finding customers and getting distribution channels.
What do you think about the proposed Free Trade Agreements between Europe and Australia?
I understand Europe has been working on a Free Trade Agreement, which is probably approximately 5 years away. I see this hope for more positive business opportunities between Finland and Australia. Overall, I believe there will be further growth and constructive change for Finnish businesses to expand to Australia.
Thank you to Geoff for his insight and for taking the time to speak to us. If you are interested in knowing more on what the Finland Australia Chamber of Commerce provides and how the organisation can help you, head over to their website to find out more.