Robert Gilardino is Regional Partner with Horizons Corporate Advisory, based in Shanghai.  In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Dr. Gilardino explains what makes Horizons unique, the unique challenges he faces in an increasingly competitive legal market, how his previous government experience is leveraged to help clients, his experience publishing about China’s legal environment for foreign companies, and what those companies should be most aware of when considering the Chinese market.

Horizons is a unique advisory firm providing highly specialised legal and tax solutions that allow enterprises to thrive in today’s complex transnational corporate environment. Tell us more about your services offer and what makes Horizons unique for clients interested in Asia.

In today’s globalised world coupled with the new ‘normal’, corporate advisories must act nimbly and swiftly to meet international-minded enterprises’ local, regional, and global challenges.

At Horizons, we provide corporate turnkey solutions in tax, legal and accountancy expertise for international enterprises, regardless of their size and industry. Instead of the traditional mode of listening, executing, and invoicing, we leverage a team of multidisciplinary experts to anticipate the client’s needs proactively.

Specifically, for clients capturing opportunities in unfamiliar jurisdictions, our professionals bridge local expertise with international law to execute cross-border investments comprehensively compliant with all the laws in the geographical places that it touches. Therefore, the controlling dashboard to govern the investment is always in the investor’s hands, and local, national, and international issues are addressed quickly in their native language.  

Horizons leverages a team of multidisciplinary experts with unique professional experience. Among them, Horizons founded the China Collaborative Group (CCG). Tell us more about CCG.

CCG comprises of business and legal advisors who work together to effectively facilitate cross-border activities with smart corporate solutions. CCG advisors span more than 20 countries and special administrative regions. The diverse team provides broad perspectives and international know-how to be highly attuned to an ever-changing international legal environment. Initially, the CCG platform was designed to facilitate Chinese outbound investment under the One Belt, One Road initiative and other global economic platforms. However, we found that clients in other CCG countries or regions were increasingly choosing the CCG platform to advise on their cross-border investments. 

Clients can access an international team through a local team without leaving their country. Specifically, the client may speak with a local CCG advisor in the comfort of their home country or region and confidently communicate in the same language communications and culture. The local CCG advisors then structure the corporate services for the investment with the relevant CCG advisor(s) from the target country or region and other CCG experts that the project may touch.

From start to end, the local CCG team continuously follows the investment without the complications of multiple advisors from multiple jurisdictions seeking to advise the client. In this approach, the client is fully served locally by a global team.

You are Regional Partner at Horizons based in Shanghai, supervising the advisory’s activities in North Asia and additional countries (including Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Cyprus and Malta). Tell us more about this role and what unique challenges you face in an increasingly competitive global legal market.

As a Regional Partner supervising activities in such countries, my role involves digging in deep to uncover the tangibles and construct creative solutions, which deliver real results for clients.

Though the landscape has changed, and businesses face challenges navigating through numerous regulations, many cross-investment issues in unfamiliar jurisdictions remain steeped in bridging cultural and language gaps. As a result, we continue to serve clients with a ‘one team, one focal point, one purpose’ approach with a sensitivity to client’s needs. We work as one team through the one focal point and with one purpose – to serve the client achieving his targets.   

You focus your multidisciplinary practice on international business and corporate law with special attention on corporate government, strategy and shareholder protection. Prior to joining Horizons, you served professionally in ministries and governmental bodies. Tell us more about your experience and how you can be of unique assistance to clients.

During the 30 years of my career serving as a corporate international and Chinese law professional, I questioned how to serve the client better. Of course, there are varying answers from varying viewpoints.

However, I firmly believe that professional services entail the following; remaining by the client before problems occur and not after the occurrences; serving the client as I would require to be served, diligently and professionally; communicating legal issues in an accessible manner and for the benefit of the client, without any legal jargon. In this approach, communication is clear and transparent, and most of all, there is valuable and effective professionalism in delivering services with down to earth results. If we do not convey the proper information and tools to the client, the client cannot fully comprehend their choices and the consequent results – and we would be betraying the client’s trust.

Therefore, I am and remain very proud “to serve”, enjoying the walk, working with active and energetic clients, achieving a team together, and providing valuable services for their investments in China and worldwide.

Horizons publishes Thesquare Blog. Tell us more about what unique insights you have previously highlighted for clients.

In 1978, China opened the door to foreign investment through the ‘Reform and Opening Up’ policy initiated by Deng Xiaopeng. After 40+ years of opening up and China’s economic advancement, China enters a new era with different needs moving forward than the prior period. The Square Blog focuses primarily on regulation reforms for foreign businesses and the political policies driving economic developments in China.

Specifically, the Square Blog highlights and comments on the most recent laws and rules trends. For example, we promptly update regulation reforms for China and other developing countries or Blue OceansTM in which Horizons law and tax firms are engaged in. Our rapid speed is essential for our clients, country partners, and wider readers to be informed.

What should clients be most aware of when seeking to do business in Asia in general and China in particular?

Clients seeking to do business in Asia and China should be sensitive to varying regional, sociocultural, political and religious differences that may be directly or indirectly influence the business environment. Many businesses are either reluctant to invest in an unfamiliar legal system or enthusiastically leap in without seeking professional expertise since the investment is too far from ‘home’ to generate any ‘real’ liabilities for the individual. Investors often lack access to local information, technical knowledge, and target country expertise because they view Asia with limited understanding.

Investors should note that cross-border investment, especially in North Asia, is a long-term commitment. Therefore, cutting corners to save costs can result in serious liabilities. Moreover, investments are not a quick profit generator, and success requires both financial funds and legal structure to achieve a profitable business.

Posted by Asia Law Portal

A forum for discussion of news, information & opportunity in the Asia-Pacific legal markets

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