Countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia are expected to see a sharp increase in immigration from wealthy Chinese following the axing of Canada's Immigrant Investor Program. A backlog of over 45,000 high-net-worth Chinese citizens were waiting for approval on the scheme, which was cancelled with immediate effect in February by the Canadian government. It is estimated that the combined wealth of these applicants was a minimum of US$11.6 billion.
The scheme had proved hugely popular with Chinese emigrants, pushing up the property market of cities such as Vancouver and making Canada one of the top destinations in the world for wealthy Chinese. These potential immigrants, and the capital they bring with them are now expected to seek residence in other leading economies.
This sudden and unexpected extra influx of high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) will be a boon to immigration specialists, real estate professionals and educational establishments, but it will continue to be the most proactive companies that gain the largest slice of this new business. Those companies able to target Chinese immigrants in their domestic market, before they have made decisions on where to invest or settle, are set to be best placed to take advantage.
Targeting Chinese HNWIs
Fewer than 3% of UK immigration lawyers have any presence at all in the Chinese online market. As most of the initial planning for investing and emigrating is done back home, not being found on Chinese search engines such as Baidu instantly removes most of these businesses from the decision-making process. High-net-worth individuals will typically research both property markets and potential service providers online, so having a good presence on the popular search engines is an important first step.
Establishing trust is also vital; this is true for any market but it is particularly so for the Chinese market. The value of brand recognition from appearing prominently online alongside well-known Chinese immigration lawyers cannot be overstated. A Chinese-language website (not only do Chinese users want to browse in Chinese, an English website is unlikely to rank on Baidu) that is highly visible and effectively projects the company as being trustworthy, with clear and obvious means of contact, will set a US or UK immigration specialist apart from its competitors.
Serving a Chinese Audience
A challenge for companies targeting the Chinese market is how to serve potential clients. How will you respond to and service enquiries that you bring in? Depending on your situation there are a few ways to tackle the issue.
Establishing a company in mainland China - A company with a physical office belonging to your organisation, preferably in a Tier 1 city (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou or Shenzhen) or one of the larger Tier 2 cities, has the advantages of a strong presence in the market (excellent for generating trust) and your own staff based locally. With your own office you can respond to enquiries quickly and know that you are delivering a quality service, but this comes at a high cost - both setup and ongoing - and a significant investment of time.
Working via Chinese partners - Forging relationships with Chinese immigration specialists is a way to access the market more cheaply, and with immigrants moving both to and from China there is the opportunity for a mutually beneficial exchange of market knowledge and capability to deliver service. Whilst this can be a much lower cost option than setting up your own office, finding the right partner can be time-consuming and you will have less control over operations.
Setting up a virtual office - A popular option due to the very low cost and quick setup is to operate a virtual office. This provides the speed of contact and reassurance that your Chinese clients will want, without the hassle or expense of creating your own Chinese legal entity and employing Chinese staff directly. A virtual office allows for more control than a local partnership but must be paired with your own lead generation (e.g. a Chinese-language website with rankings on Baidu).
The restriction of settlement opportunities for Chinese HNWIs in Canada will undoubtedly increase numbers of emigrants targeting other desirable destinations over the coming months and years. While governments in the UK and beyond have made strong overtures to these individuals, the Chinese market is still under-served by immigration specialists from these countries. Those firms able to access the market directly will benefit from increased trust and visibility, that will, in turn, increase the share of this business they are able to win. For further information on Chinese market entry please get in touch.