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Browse Articles By : Author | Date | Category | Story Type Monday, 2 Dec 2002
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The Warriors' make-over
Fiona Rotherham
In two years the Warriors rugby league team has been converted from basket case to grand final contender, from financial mire to profit. Fiona Rotherham looks at the two men Eric Watson and Mick Watson and the business model that made the difference
(Unlimited - Dec 1, 2002)
Lifestyle entrepreneurs
Fiona Rotherham
New Zealanders are once again among the most entrepreneurial people in the world, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report. But when Fiona Rotherham read behind the lines she discovered, somewhat depressingly, Kiwis aren't truly entrepreneurial just good at starting up companies
(Unlimited - Dec 1, 2002)
All you can eat
Fiona Rotherham
As American fast food giant McDonald's battles a two-year profit slump, its New Zealand subsidiary has run out of places to open outlets
(Unlimited - Dec 1, 2002)
Best seats
Lauren Hirshberg
Chrysler, the world's third largest car manufacturer, needs some new seats
(Unlimited - Dec 1, 2002)
Great debate
A Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and Unlimited event
(Unlimited - Dec 1, 2002)


Anita Devasahayam
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002

On his first foreign assignment, Roger Wilkinson found himself in the middle of four cyclones and a military coup in Fiji. For Wilkinson, now chief executive officer of US-based risk and insurance brokerage Marsh in South East Asia, the mid-80s baptism by fire kindled his ambition and sense of adventure.

"Opportunities are abundant for our business in places like Indonesia and Vietnam, as the economic potential is high. It is not like this back home. Our business is not as sophisticated in New Zealand," says Christchurch-born Wilkinson, who has spent 29 years with the company.

His experiences in Fiji taught him the importance of being true to himself and stood him in good stead when the firm asked him to move to Indonesia in 1999.

Those who have worked with Wikinson say his open and straightforward manner works well in Asia. "For a gwei loh [white man] in his high position, he does not have airs many Caucasians who work in Asia tend to have," says an employee, who doesn't want to be named.

Wilkinson shrugs off the need for a Kiwi network to survive in Asia in his line of work, being a New Zealander has little relevance. His advice to Kiwis aspiring to work in Asia is to have a positive attitude and learn to adapt. "You don't have to change your personality to match a culture. It is more important to be open and to trust others, as well as delegate, in order to gain their respect and confidence."

And don't let age stand in your way: the firm asked Wilkinson to move to Indonesia when he was 50. Jumping in and out of aeroplanes, enduring choppy helicopter flights and pot-holed car rides became a part of life in the poverty-ridden Indonesian archipelago. "I regularly had to travel over 1200km to a copper mine to see a client. The journey took almost a day on a jet aircraft, then on a small plane, followed by a helicopter ride and then a four-wheel drive," he says.

Wilkinson left all that behind earlier this year when he moved to manage Marsh's regional office in Singapore. He plans to stick around Asia for another decade rather than return home. He's deterred by New Zealand's location and its small domestic market.

"Many global companies have, since the 1980s, moved out of New Zealand to relocate in Australia, and I think the same thing is beginning to happen in Australia as well."

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