All our clients have extraordinary global propositions with a China dimension. By enhancing their team with knowledge, capability and connections, we work with them to improve their global performance whilst managing risk effectively.


What are you to China?

Is what you have to offer of interest to investors, customers and philanthropists? Which companies, institutions and people should you get to know and how can you do that?


What are your options?

There are many paths to choose from. Given your proposition, competitive context and resources, which ones represent the strongest return and manageable risk?


Can you deliver?

Do you have the knowledge, cultural insights and skills to open, negotiate and close deals? And can you make relationships and contracts work over time?

"Never underestimate the role of the trusted intermediary within the team. It's how General Motors wrested SAIC away from Ford in the final rounds of negotiation"

Elizabeth Neidel

Fulfilling the dream

China's GDP is estimated to reach $20trn by 2020, equalling that of that of the US.

Driving China’s surge will be urbanisation, higher domestic consumption of goods and services by a booming middle class, the strengthening of state-owned enterprises and investment in world class sustainable technologies.

"I imagine Chinese brands and Western brands together. They learn from each other, build on their strengths and make up for each other's weaknesses. They represent a partnership between East and West that will benefit us all"

29 year old woman, Beijing, Consumer Citizens of China

A fair exchange

The 'China Dream’ is predicated on the idea of Chinese business champions at home and abroad that can compete with Western Multi-national corporations (MNCs). The significance of the Third Plenum is therefore the nature of the proposal.

The Chinese market will continue to be open to the West.

However, while profiting from the openness of the Chinese market, Western companies will need to play a part in helping domestic companies to become stronger and ascend the value chain. Western companies will need to support China's strategic industries to become more competitive on world markets and contribute, through social responsibility programmes, to the well-being of Chinese society.

For the Chinese leadership, this is a fair exchange.

And one that is increasingly supported by the Chinese consumer.

Managing risk

A series of high profile scandals concerning companies in China have sent MNCs rushing to assess their exposure to risk in the Chinese.

Research suggests that cross¬cultural negotiations fail, not because the scripts and behaviours are different, but because the other party misinterprets what the other party is trying to achieve.

By selecting a respected and appropriate cultural intermediary who can establish personal links between the Western and Chinese group to build the bridges of guanxi a Western company dramatically increases its chances of negotiation success.

Senior Team

James Richards - Global Chairman

James was Group Director for China at De La Rue plc from 2010-2013. From 1996-2010, he worked for Rolls-Royce plc, firstly as Director responsible for China, and later as Director of EU Relations and, concurrently, Advisor to the Chief Executive on China. From 1969-1996 James served in HM Diplomatic Service (in posts including Hong Kong, Beijing, Geneva and Brussels). From 1977-1980 he was official Chinese interpreter for HM The Queen, Margaret Thatcher and other British leaders. James is the chairman of the China Association

Oliver Shiell - Founder and Managing Partner

Oliver founded Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (Europe) in 2011. CKGSB is China’s leading business school established by Asia’s wealthiest man, Li ka shing. CKGSB's alumni manage a portfolio of businesses that generate 17% of China's GDP. Previous roles include CEO of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Foundation and Director of Corporate Relations at Said Business School, Oxford University. Oliver served as Associate Director of the University's 1.25 billion campaign. Board experience includes London Symphony Orchestra, Social Bite and the China-Britain Business Council.

Andrew Cainey - Co-Founder and Senior Partner

Andrew Cainey has 30 years’ experience advising companies and governments on China. Previous positions include Managing Partner of Booz & Company’s Greater China operations, Partner-in-charge for Asia with Tony Blair Associates and Partner leading the Asia-Pacific Financial Institutions Practice of Boston Consulting Group. He is Associate Fellow at Chatham House and a Founding Fellow of the Hong Kong Institution for International Finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Cambridge University Andrew speaks French, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

Lord Oxmantown - Chairman, Ireland

Patrick’s family have a 100 year history with China. His grandfather visited in the 1920s followed by his grand uncle in 1935. Patrick first visited in 1992 to learn Mandarin and develop his career in real estate, spending over 15 years as one of the first western developers in Beijing. Patrick met his wife, Anna Lin, in China and they have a daughter and son who are both bilingual. Patrick served as the Olympic Attache for the Irish Team in 2008 and he and his family continue to work on enhancing Chinese relations and understanding in the UK and Ireland.

Ismet Omer Oztanik - Chairman, Turkey

Ismet is Founder and Vice Chairman of the Avantgarde Collection in Turkey. A seasoned entrepreneur with investments spanning Business Services, Hospitality and Technology sectors, Ismet’s experience includes Chairman of Educhos, Executive Chairman, Soluto Tesis Yönetimi A.Ş., Vice Chairman of Lucis Initiative and Vice Chairman of Ozmetal Steel Trading and Warehousing. A graduate of Cass Business School, London and Koç Üniversitesi, Ismet is fluent in Turkish and English and lives in Istanbul and London.

Matthew Eades - Director

Matthew brings over 20 years of senior experience across international blue chip and public sector organisations. Formerly Head of Human Resources for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (UK) Matthew has led HR strategy for UK government agencies in the Middle East and change and transformation programmes in the UK Civil Service. Matthew has a strong track record in cultural integration and developing organisational capability to successfully deliver organisational outcomes in a dynamic global market.

Dr Rob John - Partner

Dr Rob John has nearly thirty years’ experience of the international philanthropy sector - the last 18 blending philanthropy practice and research, including fellowships at Oxford University and NUS Business School, Singapore. Rob was the first director of the European Venture Philanthropy Association, and co-founded the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network in Singapore. He is an Associate at the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy and Public Good at the University of St. Andrews and lives in Cambridge, England.

Ruth Lau 张燕 - Partner

Ruth's career spans law, education, charity and banking. She co-founded the Eastern Blossoms network in 2013 which has grown into one of the most influential UK-China professional networking platforms and has been recognised in the top 5 EMpower Future Leaders list in Financial Times in May 2017 as well as '30 Ones to Watch' for Inspirational Men & Women under 40 in April 2015 by the City Magazine Brummell’s. Ruth is an alumna of Harvard Business School and University College London. Ruth is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English.

Dr. Sara Ward - Senior Associate

Sara has over 20 years experience in strategy, performance and implementation and has worked successfully with business development professionals in London and Oxford. A research scientist by training, she brings an aptitude for analysis and a real appreciation of evidence based policy. Sara has an unusual ability to focus on Board priorities as well as operational details. She has a deep understanding of complex, knowledge intensive contexts where resources are scarce and decision making dispersed.

Luke Purser - Senior Associate

Luke has 20 years experience in fundraising and business development. He has an in-depth understanding of the needs and motivations of high-net-worth individuals, philanthropists and investors. He has held senior roles at University of Oxford, the Royal College of Art and English Heritage and has developed and implemented international development strategies, recruited and trained staff and senior volunteers and raised in excess of £100m. Luke works as senior business consultant for Fast Track 100.

Felicia Schwartz - Senior Associate

Felicia has had an international career in branding and communications with Ogilvy and Dentsu in Austria, France, U.S. and China where she spent 13 years in strategic planning and consumer insights. Felicia excels at helping companies understand the Chinese consumer through research and cross-cultural executive education. She has worked extensively with HR teams delivering global mobility workshops. Her sector experience includes automobile, luxury, cosmetics, retail and FMCG. She is fluent in German, English, French and Mandarin Chinese.

Ziyue - Executive Assistant to Founder and Managing Partner

Ziyue studied Master of Public Policy at University of Oxford, focusing on Chinese policy research, public & government affairs. She is also a Special Correspondent with Chinese Ministry of Education. Before joining Asiability, she served as a Marketing Specialist for a National Aid Program authorised by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to develop strategic recommendations to the South Sudanese Government. Previous roles include researcher at Development Research Centre at Chinese State Council, at a research centre of UNESCO in Beijing and at Xinhua News Agency Beijing Branch.

In a recent Asiability study, 92% of Chinese executives who spoke English as a second language failed to accurately translate the Children's story "Mr. Muddle" by Roger Hargreaves.

Coaching is key

Within 1 hour you forget 50% of what you learn.

Research on the forgetting curve (Figure 1) shows that, on average, people forget 50% of learning within 1 hour. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten 70% and, within one week, 90% of new knowledge.

Chinese whispers

Western teams often communicate key messages to their Chinese counterparts using western language, not understanding that their counterpart's translators are often under immense pressure to only convey messages their Chinese bosses want to hear.

Coaching and Executive Training

To make deals and cross-border collaborations work over time, your business will require employees in many different functions to have a closer understanding of their Chinese customers and counterparts. Asiability's founding team have unparalleled experience, teaching senior executives at Oxford University and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (Beijing).

Research and Translation Services

With access to our team of over 50 business researchers in China, Asiability research services delivers business intelligence that informs your decision making. Whether you are interested in the identification of customers or potential business partners, or due diligence reports, Asiability's fully Chinese team utilises on-line and off-line research methods to deliver accurate and evidence based information.

Negotiation and Sales

Working as an integral part of your business development team, our bi-lingual negotiators and business development professionals will augment your capacity and capability to progress prospect pipelines and close deals.

"The word of the boss is law. No-one questions that"

"We don't need to play by foreign rules. We are in China and we do things the Chinese way. Foreign companies need to understand that"

KPMG Study, 2012

Exploring options

The Western approach to ‘exploration’ is characterised by direct action, while the Chinese approach continues to be influenced by careful consideration.

Westerners are generally impatient to explore creative solutions that emerge from interest based discussion seeking to unpack suggestions on the spot.

The Chinese generally respond negatively to what they consider to be attempts to control the agenda in unexpected ways. The Chinese will want to take suggestions away for consideration, requiring time to create in-group solutions – and expect to re-introduce such proposals to the negotiating table when they are agreed internally.

Two worlds collide

If you want to understand how important it is to bridge cultural differences - next time you meet a customer from your own background refuse to shake hands.

The omission of such a simple social ritual will immediately undermine trust and relationships.

The five-fundamental contrasting West/East perspectives include:

  • Individualism and collectivism
  • High and low power distance
  • Low and high uncertainty avoidance
  • Direct and indirect style of engagement
  • Short and long-term temporal perspective

Chinese often perceive Westerners as uncomfortably individualistic, direct. impetuous, impatient and short-term.

5 Practical suggestions

Negotiators who prepare carefully from their own perspective and from that of the counterparty more than double their chances of success.

It is suggested that Western negotiators can better prepare for their Eastern counterparts in the following ways:

  1. Be prepared to present issues broadly and not rush into detail
  2. Regard time spent on exploring the big picture at the outset as a positive
  3. Regard positions or offers as opportunities for discussion rather than debate or challenge
  4. Recognise the need of the Chinese counterparty to consult and take time
  5. Prepare for a slow change in positions rather than rapid trade¬offs at the negotiating table

Strategic Partners


HAV are the world leaders in hybrid aircraft – these combine lighter-than-air technology with the best of aeroplanes and helicopters to bring brand new capabilities to aircraft. They produce less noise, less pollution, have a lower carbon footprint, longer endurance and better cargo-carrying capacity than virtually any other flying vehicle.

"The team at Asiability have delivered first class knowledge, networks and advice to Hybrid Air Vehicles as we have begun to address the opportunities offered by China. They have been responsive to our needs, flexible and prompt. And, it is important to say, they are fun to work alongside."
Stephen McGlennan, CEO

At Battersea Power Station you will find emphasis on collaborative work spaces, shared social and hospitality facilities with outdoor open spaces and great connectivity in a zone 1 location.

“London is the creative capital of the world and we must do more to ensure that creative people, technology, media and telecommunications companies remain at its centre. We are thrilled to be working with Asiability to strengthen our relationships and connectivity with friends across all of China”.
Rob Tincknell, CEO of Battersea Power Station

Ditchley Foundation

The Ditchley Foundation brings together leading practitioners and experts from around the world to help shape policy on the major international issues of the day. Its unique blend of intellectual rigour, informality and discretion, in a glorious rural setting, promotes new understanding, fresh thinking, and better decision-making.

“Ollie and his partners are helping Ditchley on fundraising strategy. He has excellent contacts and innovative ideas and I am sure a discussion would be helpful to you.”.
James Arroyo OBE, Director Ditchley Foundation

The Hunter Foundation (THF) is a proactive venture philanthropy that seeks to invest in determining model solutions, in partnership with others, to troubling systemic issues relating to poverty eradication and educational enablement.

To date THF has invested circa £50m for the common good and over time we hope to invest a good deal more.

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Asiability Ltd

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