CEO Michelmore on dancing with the Dragon

Andrew Michelmore, CEO of Minmetals Resources Limited (MMR), treated those who attended Tuesday night’s AMPLA Twilight Seminar at Freehills to a thought-provoking presentation.

MMR is not your everyday company. Its management team is based in Melbourne, it is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and its major shareholder is the state-owned China Minmetals Corporation. MMR is a rare example of China investing in Australia’s human capital and it has strived to achieve a strong ‘east-west’ partnership that can stand the test of time.

Throughout his presentation, Michelmore spoke in detail about MMR’s explorations and operations, its journey since acquiring Minerals and Metals Group (MMG) at the end of 2010 and its ambitious strategies moving forward into 2012. However, it was Michelmore’s thoughts about Australia’s future relationship with China that really captivated his audience.

According to Michelmore, the centre of economic gravity is shifting from the West back to the East. Interestingly, he noted that apart from the 19th and 20th centuries, the Asian region has led the global economy since the beginning of the Common Era. Michelmore stated that he believes China is going to achieve huge economic growth in the coming years, but went on to emphasise that Australia has what China needs to help them grow. For that reason, a strong partnership with China is mutually beneficial and could be lucrative for Australia.

Michelmore’s message is simple. We can’t fight China. We need to work with Chinese companies, on equal terms, in what must be a win-win scenario for both parties. This is what MMR has tried to achieve and it appears to have reaped the benefits.

Significantly, Michelmore believes that it is important to fight the incorrect perception that Chinese companies collude with each other. He affirmed that, in reality, the exact opposite is true. Chinese companies fiercely compete with each other, in contrast to the collusion believed to be characteristic of Japanese companies back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ultimately, Australia needs foreign investment and China is a crucial strategic partner moving forward. MMR is one of the leaders in fostering this relationship and tries to use it to create a competitive advantage over its competitors.

Michelmore’s presentation was not limited to China. He explained some of the obstacles that confront his company in Laos, where unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War need to be cleared. He also stressed the importance of building trust and keeping one’s promises in Africa, a region where many companies fall into the trap of painting all countries with the same brush.

Michelmore is an industry leader. His insights on how to avoid cultural clashes are alarmingly simple. All that is required, he suggests, is the ability to “step into the other person’s shoes,” to understand that others see the world through different eyes and to embrace diversity genuinely and wholeheartedly. One couldn’t help but leave Michelmore’s presentation feeling that this mantra could equally apply to many other areas of life outside the corporate world.

Freehills would like to thank Andrew Michelmore for his insightful presentation.

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