Looking back and Thank you

SML Emerging Market Fieldtrip 2018 to China and Vietnam

30th June to 14th July 2018

After fifteen days of travelling 2’600 km from Beijing to Hanoi on buses, trains, ships and in airplanes, we look back with great gratitude on a challenging, but highly rewarding journey. It was a unique experience to meet so many entrepreneurial people, to visit the Swiss embassies in China and Vietnam, high-tech Chinese companies in Beijing, consulting practices and financial institutions in Hong Kong, universities and manufacturing companies in Chengdu and Chongqing, an entertainment complex in Macau and textile companies in Hanoi. In addition we were able to discuss topics such as family business and wealth management as well as possible consequences of the harsh trade dispute evolving between the US and China with financial experts, students and company representatives alike.


Students of the SML Emerging Market Fieldtrip 2018 with Ambassador Dr. Jean-Jacques Dardel and Lecturer Dr. Markus Braun at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing, July 2018.

Students from left to right: Gino Mächler, Nico Wyss, Marc Andersen, Lukas Bachmann, Christoph Bänninger, Simon Bärtschi, Davor Gavranic, Robin Chahal, Alessandro Paradiso, Luka Devcic, Jessica Stocker, Michael Trautmann, Nicole Schlierenzauer, André Vonmentlen. Not shown on the picture: Michael Sebastian Henschel, Rubén Ramirez Garcia and Wei Sun, ZHAW Research Associate


There is no doubt that the objectives of getting a real onsite insight into the rapidly growing Asian economies where present and future business partners and employers of today’s ZHAW students and tomorrow’s business people reside were fully achieved as the feedback by the students confirmed.

Despite the packed time table we were also able to take in the natural beauty of China and Vietnam as well as to visit the old cultural heritage monuments and to experience the new traffic and building achievements in Asia’s mega cities.

We sincerely thank all contributors for their generous support in making this unique journey possible. In particular and in order of the companies visited we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to

  • Ambassador Dr. Jean-Jacques Dardel, Swiss Embassy to China, Beijing
  • Dr. Nektarious Palaskas, Head, and Ms. Chenchen Liu, Project Manager, Science, Education and Technology Section, Swiss Embassy to China, Beijing
  • General Consul Frank Eggmann, Swiss General Consulate, Chengdu
  • Axel Menning, Director Public Affairs, Huawei, Zurich
  • Marc Goomber, General Manager, JV Volvo-Geely, Chengdu
  • Danyi Wang, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu
  • Kurt Lötscher, Head Group Public Affairs, ABB Headquarters and John-Hanping Zheng, ABB Transformer Co. Ltd, Chongqing
  • Ms. Zhang, Senior Partner, Ms. Jenny, CIO, and Ms. Alice, Swiss China Corporation (Wealth and Asset Management), Chongqing
  • Dr. Urs Buchmann and Ms. Vanessa Bergqvist, Credit Suisse Greater China, Hong Kong
  • Tom Wilson, Partner, and Mr. Tom Leisinger, Manager, KPMG, Hong Kong
  • Symon Tilberis, UBS, Hong Kong
  • Chan Chee Pong, Facility Manager, Galaxy Entertainment, Macau
  • Ambassador Beatrice Maser, Swiss Embassy to Vietnam, Hanoi
  • Jean-Paul Hässig, President Swiss Business Association Vietnam and Head of Cotton Asia, RDMA Cotton, Singapore

Thank you so much! We will never take your support for granted.

Day 15 – Goodbye Hanoi

After 15 days, 6 cities and more than 11,000 km, the SML Emerging Markets Field Trip 2018 officially ended on Saturday evening in Hanoi.

While for some early risers our last day started with a swim in the sea, many took advantage of the rainy weather to enjoy our comfortable rooms on board of the ship to rest a little longer. After a hearty breakfast our boat chugged back through the rain towards the harbor.

We enjoyed the last moments on the ship before the bus transported us back to Hanoi. Once there, we all signed the banner that accompanied us on our two-week trip through China and Vietnam. After a few final words, we said goodbye to each other and the group split. While some drove directly to the airport, some stayed in Hanoi.

The Emerging Market Field Trip was a complete success. We would like to thank everyone involved for the work and hospitality. The last two weeks have given us a very impressive impression of how exciting and different the culture, the countries and the way one does business in these countries is.

Day 14 – Halong Bay

After a short night, we started with the most relaxing part of the fieldtrip: The Halong Bay Cruise. But before we could embark the Emeraude Cruise ship, a 5 hour bus ride had to be faced. A short stop at a pearl farm gave us an idea of how pearls can be bred and how expensive pearl jewelry can be.

A short while later, we embarked the cruise ship and the captain raised the anchor. While we ate Vietnamese spring rolls and enjoyed the delightful local cuisine for lunch, the ship sailed past the countless islands of the Ha Long Bay. Breathtaking!


In the late afternoon, we were ready for some action. The whole group paddled with kayaks through the Ha Long Bay until there was no muscle power left. Fortunately, everyone managed to find their way back to the ship to enjoy french crepes and refreshing drinks on the sun deck.


After a delicious dinner, it was time to watch the sunset and enjoy the evening. While drinking a cocktail, we discussed the highlights of the past days and recalled the trip we had taken so far.

Day 13 – Textile Factories

The day started with a presentation about the RCMA Group hold by Jeanpaul Hässig Head of Cotton Asia, Member of RCMA Group and Swiss Business Association Vietnam and his Team Daniel Ghilardi, Assistant Trader and Brett Edgz, Assistant Trader. He gave us some (deep) insights about the Business Modell of RCMA as well as the challenges in the market of buying, selling and distributing cotton all over the world. Soon after we continued by bus to the first textile fabric Hanosimex. Seeing the raw cotton being stored gave a first impression about the scale of the factory and the international maturity of the industry. To further clean the cotton the factory installed the Uster Jossi Vision Shield machine which uses newest technology to precisely separate not wanted particles from the cotton. After that multiple 50-100m long lanes of machines converted fiber into yarn.

At 11:00 o’clock we continued to the second textile fabric called Hanam where even longer machineparks were using the raw cotton to proceed them into yarn. Invited by the Hanam Company we had the chance to experience the Vietnamese kitchen. Pleasured by the variety of dishes we drove by bus to the next company Bao Minh. On the way to the company we passed rice fields, thousand of motorbikes, small stores rivers and palm ales.

Pascal Regner Vice General Director at Bao Minh Textiles welcomed us warmly in his office with a short presentation about the industrial park and some facts and figures about the company itself. Beside the difficulty to organize the installation of all the machines coming from suppliers from all over the world in the factory, finding the labor is also one of the key factors that challenges a company who wants to establish itself in Vietnam. Not yet fully production ready we could see the modernity of the purchased and partially installed machines and especially the volume and potential of the factory in itself. Different than the factory Hanosimex and Hanam, Bao Minh is focused in using the yarn to fabricate and finish the textiles. An important role thereby takes the “Quality Assurance” departure. It uses technological and chemical processes to analyse the goods and reports findings so that the root of the errors can be spotted more easily.

Seeing three such scaled up factories and the production methods awakes a greater awareness and the though towards the own consumption of fabrics. A thought which accompanied some of us on the long quieter two hour way back to the hotel.

Day 11 – Goodbye Macau, Hello Vietnam

Macau is a huge casino town, no question. As Macau, unlike Las Vegas, is not a big party city at the same time, the whole group of students started the day well rested. Due to a change in our timetable we had to leave two hours earlier. The planned sightseeing was cancelled, which was of course a pity. A few impressions of the old town from the times of the Portuguese colonial period would certainly have been very interesting.

The journey from Macau by speed ferry to Hong Kong and from there by plane to Hanoi, Vietnam, went off without a hitch except for some visa discussions at the check-in. And then, finally, we arrived. The first impression was that the traffic in Vietnam seems to be quite chaotic.

Once we hopped into our organized tour bus, we recognized that the tour guide is working as a comedian at the same time. He welcomed us and entertained us with his funny stories. Mainly he was telling jokes about the negotiations with his wife about the percentage of the amount she receives from his salary. After she gave birth to the second child, she receives 89 percent of the salary – that means the negotiations didn’t go very well… 😉 However, it is indeed the case that in Vietnam women have the sovereignty over the finances of the family. That’s why they are often called “noi tuong” of the family which has the meaning of a “Minister of Interior”.

Arrived in the Swiss Embassy, Mrs. Ambassador Maser welcomed us with drinks and biscuits. During the one-hour session at the embassy we received various information and experienced how Vietnam is politically positioned and what the contrasts are with Switzerland. Vietnam has a single-party socialist republic framework and the general secretary of the communist party of Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, is probably the most influential person in the country. The five million party members of the only party in the country are making all the decisions for the remaining 90 million inhabitants. As the population is relatively satisfied with the current economic upturn, this system remains stable. However, it is quite possible that with the increasing prosperity of the population, as soon as the basic needs are covered, desires for more codetermination will also be aroused among the local population.

The various possibilities regarding business activities in Vietnam and trade agreements were also discussed. In contrast to China, with which Switzerland has a direct free trade agreement, Switzerland has allied itself with the EFTA-countries in order to achieve better results in the negotiations on trade agreements with Vietnam. However, no agreement has yet been reached. In terms of business, Vietnam has a lot of potential since they are a big country with a lot of low cost labor and, as told before, the middle class is growing. In addition, doing business in Vietnam has recently become even more interesting. Due to the trade war of China and the US, product produced in Vietnam instead of China can be exported to the whole world and the still huge US market doesn’t have to be excluded.

At the end of the day, we were able to check into our hotel and the rest of the evening was held individually. Finally, we could rest after the exhausting journey (or alternatively watch the World Cup semi-final) and process the first overwhelming impressions from Vietnam.

Hanoi Day 1 – Check!

Day 10 – Galaxy Macau: No more bets, please!

The day started with the journey from Hong Kong to Macau with the speed ferry. After the arrival in Macau we checked-in at the hotel where we had a short period of time to prepare us for the visit of the Galaxy hotel and casino. The Transfer from our hotel to the Galaxy was quite impressive as we started to notice that Macau is like the Vegas of Asia. As we were passing the bridge we started to see the Galaxy. There was no chance to miss the hotel as the complex was HUGE.

At the Galaxy we met Mr. Chan Chee Pong who is the Facility Manager of the Galaxy and we were just in time to see the diamond show at the entrance: The lights went off and loud music started to play as the big fountain started with the water choreography. All of a sudden, the chandelier came down and a big wall started to rise to cover the fountain. As the chandelier went up again and the wall started to disappear we saw the highlight of the show: The biggest diamond we have ever seen!

After the Diamond show we headed to the meeting room, where we enjoyed a good cup of coffee and some delicious snacks. The team of Mr. Chan Chee Pong presented us, what it takes to give the customers the best experience possible at the Galaxy. The Presentation started with the concept of the hotel. There are 5 world-class luxury hotels under one roof. After that they gave us insights of the table games, electronic games, facility management and surveillance. Some of the facts we heard were very interesting and sometimes also funny.

Next stop on our schedule was a tour through the different hotel concepts inside the Galaxy. Every hotel has its own design and they also smell differently. The highlight of visiting the different hotel was the Ritz Carlton at the 51 level. Every detail in this hotel was perfect and you could also smell that the rooms in the hotel have to be expensive! We had a breathtaking view over the whole complex and we enjoyed being there.

As we left the Ritz Carlton we had the opportunity to take a look inside a private villa inside the complex. It was a one-bedroom villa with a private pool (which is cooled down!), a private jacuzzi (42°) and a private massage room. In front of the villa is a small kitchen for the employees to prepare the food.

As we headed back to the hotel we passed several luxury shops inside the complex and Mr. Chan Chee Pong showed us one of a few cinemas. Now it was time for one of the most important things: Dinner. Mr. Chan Chee Pong invited us for dinner ant the food was delicious. Instead of choosing menus we were served different dishes. It was more like all you can eat. Some tales are telling, that this was the best food that we had at our trip in Asia.

For the brave (or dumb?) of us was it time to try our luck at the casinos. We started at the Galaxy but moved then to the Venetian hotel to check the casinos there. Surprise surprise: Most of us lost their money but there was one lucky guy to multiply his bet by five times! Congrats on that Mr. Bänninger!

Lastly, I want to say that it was a great pleasure for us to visit Macau and especially the Galaxy hotel. It was exciting to see what it takes to run such a huge complex and how their business model works. When I asked how many employees are working at the hotel the response was 16’000. Just imagine that: This is the population of a city in Switzerland! It was a short stop in Macau but maybe this is better for our bank accounts. Next stop is Hanoi in Vietnam.

Day 8 & 9 – Hong Kong

After one week of China it was time to change the scenery and go to Hong Kong for 2 days. We arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday evening and most of the people had a bright smile on their face. No hot pots, no chicken feet – finally more western food again.

After a night out on Saturday in lan kwai fong it was time to do some sightseeing on Sunday. Most of us went up to the victoria peak and enjoyed the impressive skyline of Hong Kong.

As we are not only in Hong Kong for pleasure, we met at 0900 on Monday to visit Credit Suisse and KPMG. The Cedit Suisse offices are located in Kowloon in the ICC building. Located on the 88th floor we had the presentations with beautiful views of Hong Kong and the harbour. Mrs Bergqvist organized the event and invited guest speakers that spoke about various topics. Those included the liberalization of the chinese capital market, change in labour and domestic bond market.

Key points were that China has a huge potential and is slowly opening up the market and Credit Suisse tries to take advantage of that. Also there is a change in labour. China used to provide cheap labour where as now, cheap and educated engineers are available. In 2016 only, 1.4 million chinese people graduated. (Bsc, Msc or PHD)

After having lunch at the shopping mall we continued our day with a visit at the KPMG office in central Hong Kong. In a short time, we had 4 presentations about various topics. Most interesting presentations were the virtual banking and the insights of symon and oliver about the expat life in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lacks behind China when it comes to digital payment. That’s one of the reasons why the HKMA (Hong Kong Monetary Authority) started an application process and will issue 4 virtual banking licenses. KPMG estimates that around 81 firms are interested in the 4 licenses. However, it is not clear if all the interested firms will apply and go through the difficult application process.

Symon and Oliver wrapped up the session at KPMG. They gave us various and interesting insights about living and working in Hong Kong. Topics discussed where the rents, way of living in Hong Kong and the working culture.

All in all it was a very interesting day with valuable information.

Now it is time to take the speed ferry which brings us to the Las Vegas of Asia – Macau 🙂


Here some further impressions about Hong Kong and its gold fish market. – poor fish 🙁





Day 7 – Chongqing

Dear Blog readers from all around the world 🌍

Big, Bigger, Chongqing!

Chongqing is the world’s largest municipality, with a population of about 30 million people, is surely enough to make anyone sit up and take notice.

Everything about Chongqing is hot and spicy: the weather, the people and most notably, the cuisine. The city of Chongqing is not a vast boundless plain, but rather a unique landscape set in mountains and rivers. You can see a light rail passing through a building, experiance a cable car ride across the Yangtze River, and watch a mystical mirage upon the mist and clouds. One thing is for sure, nothing is usual here.

In the morning the delegation of the students had the opportunity to visit the Swiss China Center (SCC). SCC is a non-profit organization established in 2016 in Mainland
China, Hong Kong, London, and Switzerland. It was founded by a diverse group of Swiss and Chinese entrepreneurs with the main objective of providing a dynamic platform for business and cultural exchange between the two countries. SCC can be seen as the gateway between China and Switzerland!

After highly interesting presentations from both side, SCC and Mr. Braun (ZHAW), a lively discussion started. Topics like the trade war between China and US or the free trade agreement with Switzerland were on the list.

After the mandatory photo session the time has come to say goodbye to SCC and Chongqing. Next destination ✈ Hong Kong!

Arrived in Hong Kong we noticed the difference to “real” China heavily. Finally we were able to communicate with the people in English again. Ordering food in a restaurant was not a challenge anymore.

We are looking forward to our free day in Hong Kong tomorrow!

Day 6 – Chongqing

In the morning we took the high-speed train from Chengdu to Chongqing where our shuttlebus already waited for us. The train ride itself was quite an experience itself. We passed the breathtaking landscape and the suburbs with nearly 300 km/h. After 2.5 hours we arrived in Chongqing, where it immediately became clear how huge the city must be. The train station looked more than a giant airport than an ordinary train station.

Yasmeen-YunXia Liu, our contact from ABB China, made a perfect figure as a host. With her guidance we were able to find an absolute perfect restaurant for lunch. We ate a lot of different delicious traditional dishes. Everybody was happy to have had such a great lunch before our visit at ABB.

Thankfully, Kurt Lötscher Head Group Public Affairs at ABB opened us the opportunity to visit the ABB factory Plant on the 6th July. ABB’s history dates back to 1891 when Charles E. Brown and Walter Boveri founded BBC, a swiss group of electrical companies, producing motors, generators, steam turbines and transformers.  BBC became ABB in 1988 through a merger with Swedish Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA). ABB operates in over 100 countries and decided in 1998 to open a transformer factory in Chongqing. The joint venture grew really fast and started selling its products all over the world. Nowadays ABB Chongqing Transformers Co. Ltd. delivers its transformers mainly to south east asia and its home market china. Since each transformer is a unique product and set up to the demands of the customers, the process from order and design to assembly and shipping is highly labor intensive and takes about 5 months. ABB Chongqing counts 557 employees.

After a short safety instruction, the general Manager himself, John-Hanping Zheng, held a presentation about ABB Chongqing Transformers Co. Ltd. where the USP’s, market demands and latest changes in terms of technology and competitors were discussed. Many questions were raised by the audience.

Equipped with the necessary helmets and vests, we walked through the enormous production halls and saw the before learned facts live in form of the giant transformers and generators which are capable of serving few hundred thousand and some even up to several million people.

After the breathtaking tour through the production site, we went back by bus to the city. Where each province has its specialties so does Chongqing have its famous hotpots. With some help of locals, we were able to reserve a hotpot dinner at tiny hotpot specialized restaurant. First It reminds at a classic Chinese fondue which is well known to be eaten at New Year’s Eve in Switzerland. Nevertheless, the hotpot was quite different. The additional ingredients as well as the unknown herbs made the dinner a perfect end of the official day. Chongqing itself, as above mentioned, is a city of unimaginable size and flow. The following pictures will give an impression why Chongqing is called the little Manhattan. Surely, a few of us will return to spend a few more days in Chongqing.


Day 5 – Welcome to Chengdu

After the breakfast our group left the hotel and headed to the SWUFE University to meet up with some bachelor students. Both parties held some presentations and discussed the different perspectives which our two countries have when it comes to doing local business. Our visit at the SWUFE University ended with a delicious meal before we hoped on our bus again and drove to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Despite the high temperature and humidity we enjoyed our guided tour through the park, where we could see and learn facts about these jolly animals.

Back at the Hotel we quickley refresehed ourselfs and then set out for the presentation of the Business Confidence Survey 2018, organised by the european business chamber. It was held just 10 minutes down the road from our hotel. The presentation of the survey, which examines how foreign companies are feeling about their situation in the region of south west China, gave some really interesting insights in the challenges these companies are facing while doing business in China.