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How Business is Done in Accra: A Snapshot of One WTC's Important Role

Jane Reindorf-Attoh, CEO, WTC Accra

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On June 12 WTCA released its second annual Trade and Investment Report detailing how cities are navigating global economic uncertainty in local communities around the world. It also demonstrated how our Members play a vital role, working hand-in-hand with their municipalities and helping local businesses take advantage of opportunities, as well as weather the storm. To this end we asked one star Member--WTC Accra--to talk a bit about how they are helping local businesses tackle these issues. 

WTC Accra is an international business and trade development organization, whose main focus has been to create a one-stop shop for international trade and investment. In addition to providing a platform of expert services, the organization helps facilitate connections for global and local businesses through the WTCA network. Since its inception, WTC Accra’s efforts to promote trade and investment in Ghana, as well as throughout Africa, have provided numerous invaluable opportunities for local businesses, which have benefited the overall local economy.

As entry into global markets can be a complex endeavor that requires a wide range of services and specialized skills, the targeted services provided by WTC Accra have been critical for the success of companies who are newly engaged or expanding in international business. By activating on the motto of “Prosperity through Trade,” WTC Accra has achieved success over the years — benefiting the business community in Ghana and bringing a spotlight to the country. Here are some of the key ways we’ve done so.

EVENTS AND CONFERENCE FACILITIES
Between 2013 and 2019, WTC Accra has provided supreme office space and serviced offices, as well as conference facilities, to enable local and foreign companies to conduct business at a global level. Additionally, its conference facilities have hosted more than 1,000 events and welcomed thousands of people.

TRADE MISSIONS
Over the years, WTC Accra has become a bustling hub of international business activity through both inbound and outbound trade missions. Since 2014, WTC Accra has organized more than 25 trade missions, involving about 500 companies, to countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, the U.K., the U.S., Turkey, and Zimbabwe, among others. During the same period, WTC Accra received more than 20 trade delegations from about 20 countries, which have generated many positive results and benefited the local economy, including assisting companies to: identify and match with local partners to increase local content, source products, and identify specific projects or areas for investment.

TRADE INFORMATION AND MARKET RESEARCH
WTC Accra has been a reliable source of information and opportunities for Ghanaian businesses. By joining WTC Accra, member firms have received access to various tools including online and printed newsletters, as well as other forms of publications, that feature vital information covering all sectors and industries, thereby creating local business opportunities. Market research has also helped businesses strengthen their positions and allowed them to gain better perspectives to ensure they remain competitive within the market.

TRADE EDUCATION
WTC Accra has promoted the export of goods and services by supporting, training and advising companies, associations and economic development organizations in their activities in international markets. For the last six years, this entity has organized more than 30 seminars and workshops, and trained more than 100 companies in various business topics.

WTC ACCRA CLUB MEMBERSHIP
WTC Accra’s operations have helped local members, tenants, and business clients meet their international business needs by giving direct access to businesses located within other WTC regions. The organization’s namesake, premium address, and international trade expertise have also bestowed an invaluable opportunity for all stakeholders, in addition to providing Ghanaian businesses a sense of credibility and exposure to the international market.

BUSINESS NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES
Over the past few years, WTC Accra has provided numerous networking opportunities for the local business community and has been an essential aspect of marketing, both for local businesses who are members of WTC Accra, and for WTC Accra to market its services to potential members. With the WTC name, there has been an endless amount of business networking, including joint ventures, client leads, and partnerships, among others. Connections made during these networking sessions have opened doors for our local clients to have conversations with influential people who wouldn’t have been otherwise easily accessible. Under the umbrella of the prestigious WTC Accra brand, inroads have been made into the local economy, which has made a lasting impact on the local economy.


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2019 T&I Report Illuminates How Businesses are Navigating Uncertainty


On June 12, World Trade Centers Association Day, the WTCA published its second annual WTCA Trade & Investment (T&I) Report: Navigating Uncertainty. This year’s report investigated how cities are pursuing trade, investment, and growth amidst heightened geopolitical and economic uncertainty. It follows last year’s inaugural report, which found that a majority of WTCA members expected economic uncertainty to increase in the coming year. Marrying city-level data analysis and in-depth interviews with WTCA members from around the world, the report highlights concrete and replicable strategies that cities are undertaking to continue to deliver growth and prosperity.

Around the world, WTCA Members surfaced important insights that informed this year’s report. They identified escalating trade tensions, major economic slowdowns, and geopolitical conflict as significant factors contributing to uncertainty when polled at this year’s General Assembly (GA) in Querétaro, Mexico. Interviews with WTCA Members grappling with how to operate and compete in this “new normal” revealed that the economic impacts from heightened uncertainty may be even worse than earlier estimates. They reported a surge in trade over the past year as businesses sought to lock in deals before Brexit and before trade tensions between the United States and China intensify further. For example, Karen Gerwitz of WTC Denver highlighted how companies were stockpiling aluminum and steel before the tariffs hit. From North America to Europe to Asia Pacific, members also underscored the impact that heightened uncertainty is having on foreign direct investment — with greenfield projects declining and investments in manufacturing and other sectors shifting to markets perceived to be lower risk. These dynamics are not only disrupting supply chains, but intensifying local competition for limited and increasingly selective Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

On multiple fronts, global uncertainty is escalating. In the months since the 2019 GA, several news stories have echoed the sentiments of those polled. The report’s launch coincided with a further escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China, for example, despite previous indications that a deal to end a trade war was imminent. U.S.-Mexico trade tensions have also created new questions regarding the ratification of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. In the Middle East, heightened geopolitical conflict between the U.S. and Iran is creating volatility for oil prices. And in the U.K., Brexit negotiations have been prolonged with no clear path forward. These global uncertainties make the need for replicable coping strategies all the more urgent and findings of the report timely.

So, how can cities defy the odds? The 2019 WTCA Trade and Investment Report found that resilient cities — defined as those that outperform their countries during economic slowdowns — possess a consistent set of characteristics. Regardless of their location or size, these resilient cities all have diversified economies, strong service sectors, educated and global populations, and robust transport infrastructure. Resilient cities are also FDI magnets, and on average have FDI as a percentage of GDP that’s twice as high as non-resilient cities. Cities’ investment in these core factors could strengthen resilience, and foster growth and competitiveness even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Interviews with WTCA Members shed light on the specific strategies these cities are employing to navigate the uncertainty. They emphasized that city-to-city diplomacy, direct dialogue, and human connection are more important than ever. With political turmoil fracturing long-held political or economic relationships, city leaders are engaging in international diplomacy to demonstrate credibility and instill confidence with old and new trading partners, and deepen economic ties. WTCA Members also shared that their cities are looking for opportunities to leverage geography, language, political ties, and other strengths to seize new opportunities. Without exception, they considered economic orientation toward innovative, high-tech industries and clusters to be a key competitiveness and resilience strategy — with support for SMEs and entrepreneurs vital for economic transformation.

WTC Members also shared best practices for how their organizations are providing businesses with the tools they need to navigate uncertainty. Knowledge, preparedness, and agility are essential for businesses to remain competitive in the increasingly complex global economy — and WTC services have been crucial in arming businesses for the unexpected. WTCs are helping their local businesses more effectively assess complex risks, game out alternative scenarios, and seize emerging opportunities through briefings, trade training, and partnerships. Their services such as export assistance, offices and direct networking facilities, partner identification, trade missions, and conferences were identified as the most demanded by business and helpful for providing support.

WTCs are uniquely positioned to arm their members with real-time information that is often not public knowledge or available elsewhere, and help them craft a rapid and appropriate response. Updates from experts and partners on the ground in other markets can help give businesses a competitive edge in their decision making. Responding to members' concerns over U.S. sanctions on Iran, for example, WTC Rennes Bretagne developed a “Practical Guide to Better Understand the Business World in Iran” and is continually updating their website with information pertinent to their members as sanctions-related issues continue to evolve.

Tapping the insights of its global network of trade and investment-focused professionals in 325 cities that together constitute more than 35 percent of the global GDP and are home to nearly 1.24 billion people, the WTCA’s annual Trade and Investment Report brings a uniquely global and local view to the state of the economy, emerging trends, and best practices. WTCA Chief Executive Officer Scott Ferguson points out that “because our Members are deeply involved in helping their local companies and municipalities find new opportunities abroad, they provide a meaningful vantage to think about how the far-reaching changes we hear about every day are affecting communities on a local level.” The resiliency factors and growth strategies outlined in this year’s Trade and Investment Report not only illustrate what is working, but also represent tools and templates other cities can leverage for greater resilience and growth in the uncertain times ahead.

Interested in learning more? Read the full report at www.wtcareports.com. Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish translations are also available on the WTCA Resource Center.

On June 12 WTCA held a live launch event featuring a panel discussion on the report's findings. Pictured on the cover is Rani Dabrai of WTC Dublin, and Rolf Alter, Senior Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and Former Director, Public Governance, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This article was made possible with the support of FP Analytics, the research and analytics division of the FP Group, publisher of Foreign Policy Magazine.


WTCA Meridian™ July 2019 Issue

The July issue of the WTCA's official publication is out now!

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Trends in Financial Technology Around the Globe


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The days of calling a broker to order a stock trade are long behind us. Unsurprisingly, technology has become an integral aspect of investment across the world. Financial Technology, or “FinTech,” has led Wall Street’s pneumatic tubing system to be replaced by waves of advancing technologies, from the earliest electronic trading systems to online brokerage websites and mobile trading. Let’s take a look at some of the latest trends in technology across the global financial sector.

Mobile-First Finance Disrupts Investing

Over the past few years, a global trend has been the push towards brokers going mobile. In fact, 61 percent of institutional traders said they were extremely or somewhat likely to use a mobile trading app in 2018, up from 31 percent in 2017.

One example of a mobile-friendly financial institution is U.S.-based financial services company Robinhood. Considered as the darling of the FinTech industry, it has spent the past five years disrupting the brokerage status quo. Starting out with 100,000 pre-registered users in 2013, the company has grown to more than four million accounts, surpassing electronic trading giant E-Trade along the way. The company’s strategy is simple — offer clients an easy-to-use, well-designed trading platform, and make it free.

The global push towards mobile investing also has another universal beneficiary — the financial services industry itself. With transaction fees racing toward (or landing at) zero, the competition has forced companies to heavily invest in cutting-edge technology. As the industry is no longer predicated on brand loyalty, firms around the world are refocusing their efforts on both client-facing and back-office technology. Improved infrastructure and sleek designs can open doors to more clients in less active regions — especially those in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and other regions.

Commission-Free Trading Grows Globally

From a global perspective, the concept of free trading has been trending. For example, plucked from a large list of hopeful countries, Australia was selected as Robinhood’s first expansion abroad, and Australians are anxiously awaiting free access to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Other UK-based companies have also launched competing products and offerings similar to Robinhood including Freetrade, a London-based stock brokerage upstart, and Revolut, a popular, mobile-focused finance company.

Further, China has also been proactive about entering this market. Tiger Brokers markets its mobile-first trading platform to Chinese clients who are primarily seeking access to the U.S. and Hong Kong exchanges. Its largest competitor, Futu Holdings, has also experienced significant growth thanks to its mobile investing platform. Although neither company markets its services as free, the trading costs for investors are close to zero.

FinTech Expands Market Participation

The results of these low-cost, highly-accessible platforms are markedly beneficial to not only the investors, but to the industry. For example, Robinhood has expanded the market by attracting first-time investors with its new investment accounts. Likewise, E-Trade achieved new company records for both new brokerage accounts and assets in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019.

Back-Office Automation Improves Service and Lowers Costs

The race to the lowest costs has motivated back-office innovation across the globe. Futu Holdings’ IPO prospectus states, “Over the last eight years, we have made significant investments into our technology platform, which has evolved into a highly-automated, multi-product, multi-market, closed-loop technology infrastructure that drives every function of our business.” This full-scale automation allows for better service, faster settlement times, and universally lower transaction fees.

Additionally, a look into Interactive Brokers’ annual report may provide a hint of more benefits to come with this type of automation. After a record year for commission revenue, reported at US$777 million, the company’s management made special note to attribute most of the uptick to futures and options contract trading. Industrywide, the push towards a more liquid derivatives market has been underway since the 2008 crash, albeit less publicly in its early years, and as access to the stock market increases, so does its efficiency.

FinTech May Boost Investment Globally

A more inclusive, robust network of investors leads to more liquid markets. If free mobile trading continues in its current trajectory, the velocity of investment across all parts of the world may follow suit — perhaps even beyond just the swapping of stocks, and all with just a tap of a finger.

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the global financial sector will become even more complex. New FinTech tools will be introduced to the market, providing greater access and more options for the end user to conduct exchanges with ease. Ultimately, these advancements will expand the scale and efficiency of global trade and investment relations.


WTC’s Role in Technology and Innovation: Providing a Place for Tech Companies to Flourish

By: Sagar Chordia, Managing Director, World Trade Center Pune (India)

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In today’s digitally connected world, technology and innovation thrive. Mere brick and mortar buildings cannot be long term, apt solutions for new-age businesses that foster creative work. They need a futuristic ambience with refreshing energy that enhances productivity and efficiency. To attain this, forward-looking corporate and millennial workforces seek real estate that are equipped to accommodate their dynamic outlook.

Pune, India – IT Capital of the World

Pune, the ninth largest city in India, has a thriving economy comprised of education, research, manufacturing, trade, hospitality, and knowledge-based industries such as Information Technology (IT), Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), Financial Technology (Fintech), and Engineering Design. Though the city is 350 years old, it boasts one of the youngest populations in India, with an average age of 29 years.

To attract and cater to this demographic, the WTC Pune team, led by Panchshil Realty (P One), decided to create a tech-centric hub within the city in 2010. The team designed and enabled an infrastructure in Kharadi, a suburb east of Pune renowned for its various IT and business parks, and helped the region shed its decade-old Peripheral Business District (PBD) identity with the addition of WTC Pune.

WTC Pune – Built on Solid Philosophies

WTC Pune offers a “freedom-at-work” culture. Towers consonant to global norms, equipped with large floorplates and proactive facility management services, have driven many IT and consulting firms to base their organizations within the Centre and its neighbouring IT and ITES Special Economic Zone - EON Free Zone. Workspaces have been reinvented – trading in traditional cube-like office spaces for more collaborative work areas to ensure that team members participate more in open discussions to exchange ideas freely. With this open-working culture, its global tenants have witnessed a marked increase in employee productivity, as well as high talent recruitment and retention.

The Center houses high-tech companies like Crowdstrike, HCL Technologies, Onward Technology, Vandarlande and ZS Associates. Additionally, it’s catalyzed by EON FZ that houses global names like Allianz, Allscripts, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Eaton, Honeywell, Mphasis, Metro, Northern Trust, Polaris, Prism, Seagate, Sears IT, SG Analytics, Sterlite, Sungard, Symantec, TIAA, Tieto, UBS, Veritas, Vodafone Zensar, etc.

To date, the city of Kharadi has attracted more than 100 top-notch tech companies and 45,000 young professionals who sustain technological advancements with the assistance of WTC Pune’s knowledge-sharing trade services, training platforms, and events. Now fully occupied, the 1.6-million-square-foot development consists of four towers on 15 acres, equipped with built-in, future-proofing capability to nurture advances in tech. Two additional towers are planned to meet new demand, enabling WTC Pune to become one of the largest and most advanced tech campuses in India.

Offerings within a Successful Tech Hub

Sustainability, a leading concern today, is wholly addressed at the “green” WTC Pune. Tenants are attracted to the sustainable Construction Management Plan (CMP) encompassing low emissivity, glass-cladded buildings; high-efficiency AC systems; large, green open spaces; and a robust water conservation system.

Tenants also enjoy many of the campus’ amenities like ATMs, auditorium, banks, cafes, food courts, and fine dining restaurants complemented with a 1,000-seat amphitheater. The campus houses two executive centers catering to flex-office spaces, meeting rooms, and virtual offices for short-term lease.

Over the past few years, the ambience of WTC Pune has increasingly reflected the changing mindsets of the neighboring campuses — quietly scaling from traditional IT to encompass more Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Key Takeaways for Your WTC

Based on WTC Pune’s experience, it’s essential to incorporate a “people-centric” design in your WTC, creating a workplace that is as social as it’s futuristic. Today, it’s all about people and making their workspaces collaborative and intelligent. Additionally, a truly democratic design that reflects the modern corporate culture and aesthetic exterior would enhance the local WTC brand value and reach. Lastly, WTCs who would like to emulate WTC Pune’s success must understand that workspaces need to be planned thoroughly — looking forward to the next 25 years, as creative work knows no boundaries.