Of course, ‘home’ is becoming a bit tougher to define for Goldman, as it is for its competitors.
Many Wall Street activities have shifted to London and opportunities are growing substantially in other money centres. Merrill Lynch hopes to earn three-quarters of its revenue outside the US by the end of this decade.
In other industries as well, many of the US 1000 become part of the Global 1000 as earnings grow more rapidly abroad. Some of this growth can be attributed to exports from home base; some is replication of vertically integrated operations in new markets, mimicking an integrated US model (think multi-domestic). But, increasingly, a US company’s business model is geographically disaggregated but strategically integrated – inventing where it makes sense, producing where it makes sense, managing where it makes sense, and marketing wherever a customer base exists or can be built. Except for those serving sheltered markets such as sewing army uniforms, companies all under one roof (or under one flag) are becoming the exceptions. Even the venture capital communities’ newest ventures are being conceived as global from the outset.
So many manufacturing and assembly operations have found their way to lower cost or non-union labour markets that labour unions are clamoring for successor clauses as a way to retard this migration after a change of control. The administrative part of managing has been consolidated into shared services centres (internal or outsourced), increasingly in lower-cost places – India, the Philippines, eastern Europe, etc.
Now, ‘inventing’ and other higher-order work is becoming mobile as well. China’s Lenovo purchased Thinkpad from IBM and is joining with Ogilvy Mather to centralise Thinkpad’s worldwide advertising (including its creative shop) in Bangalore, India. Wage arbitrage is coming to the advertising business, just as it has to software, engineering and other knowledge- and know-how-based services.
Correlation between place and result is seldom diagnosed systematically, and anecdotal evidence points to both great successes and less stellar results. Deployment strategy and location choices are not easily discerned from a company’s annual reports or even its filing with securities regulators. So, it is doubtful that those stock analysts (in London, New York or Bangalore) are considering the ‘where’ issue as carefully as might be warranted. Yet the impact on current business competitiveness and future business success may be quite fundamental.
Deciding where to put what – where to stay, where to expand, where to leave – are decisions that may take a while to play out and are not likely to be immediately factored into market analyst outlooks. And, because of the delayed impact, accountability for a wrong choice is usually dodged by the chooser and later swept away in a re-structuring journal entry when a new team takes over.
Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.