Business in the Asian Century Dominic Barton

Business in the Asian Century Dominic Barton

Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Co, shares insights and advice on how to get ahead in the Asian Century

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Business people don’t come much more successful or distinguished than Dominic Barton.

A former Rhodes scholar, for two decades he has been a major player with McKinsey & Co, the world’s best known and most prestigious management consultancy.

From 2000 to 2004 he led McKinsey’s Korea office. From 2004 to 2009 he was the firm’s Asia chairman, based in Shanghai. Today he is the company’s global managing director – a tall, polite Canadian with an air of informal authority about him. 

And yet Dominic is a jealous man. Jealous – or perhaps envious is a better word – of the young entrepreneurs and future leaders who packed the auditorium at the University of Edinburgh Business School to hear his Asia Scotland Institute address. 

“The biggest trend in the world today is what I call the ‘re-rise of Asia’,” said Dominic at the start of his talk. “And I think all of us need to be thinking about that now.

“When I see the younger leaders in the room today I would say that I’m jealous of you because I think you’re going to be leading in some of the most exciting times in history – and a big part of that is going to be Asia.”

“The economic power of the world is shifting back to where it was 2,000 years ago,” Dominic added. “And 2,000 years ago China and India were the dominant powers – they were up until probably 250 years ago.

“So many of the ideas of what we’re going to see in the future I think we can learn from what happened in the past.”

Dominic produced some staggering facts to illustrate his point:

* 250,000 people are now moving from rural areas to cities in China every week
* There will be an estimated 2.2 billion new middle-class consumers in Asia by 2030
* By 2025, almost half of the world’s billion-dollar-plus companies will be headquartered in emerging markets, many of them in Asia

“It’s the speed and size at which this transformation is occurring that we need to be thinking about,” Dominic said.

“In my view if you want to be a relevant leader – and I don’t care where you live at the end of the day – you have to understand what’s going on [in Asia] and have relationships and linkages in these parts of the world.”

The staggering pace and magnitude of the changes going on now will present huge challenges in the future, Dominic said. The explosion in middle-class consumers will lead to severe constraints on resources, particularly water, energy and food. And by 2050 the number of people worldwide aged 80 or older is expected to quadruple to 400 million. 

But for anyone interested in Asia and eager to do business there, Dominic’s message was positive.

“We are already seeing the profit pools shifting to the East,” he said. “This idea that the future is in the East – we’re already in the future.

“In almost every single product category, asset class you’re seeing the bulk of the profits being either made – or shortly to be made – in that part of the world.”

Scroll down to watch Dominic’s entire address to the Asia Scotland Institute, or view the slides from his fact-filled presentation here.

Watch the Asia Scotland Institute’s chairman and founder Roddy Gow conducting a short interview with Dominic here.

Consultant and author Nick Williams – a recent speaker at the Asia Scotland Institute – gives his reaction to the talk on his blog.

Our thanks go once again to the University of Edinburgh Business School for kindly hosting this ASI event

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