Facilitating Entry for Foreign Firms
When it comes to successfully expanding a business into a new market, two critical factors usually stand out above a myriad of challenges: Opportunity and timing.
The U.S. marketplace has long represented great opportunity for global businesses. According to the Organization for International Investment, the United States was the world’s top target for foreign direct investment in 2016, attracting $3.7 trillion — and much of that attention was focused on the middle market. According to the National Center for the Middle Market, this U.S. segment reported a 7.6 percent revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 over the previous year and represents the third-largest global economy.
As for timing, a confluence of factors could make 2018 a year rich with opportunity for international firms to enter the U.S. market. The economy remains on a steady upward trajectory as unemployment continues to fall, and recent tax and regulatory reform could potentially foster domestic manufacturing and global trade. In addition, chambers of commerce are actively seeking to pull in international firms with a variety of incentives and services.
“The year ahead will offer a lot of growth opportunity for international companies looking to gain their foothold in the U.S.,” said Dawn Miller, CEO, AXA Insurance Company.
But for all the potential the U.S. market represents to an international firm, successful entry is not simple or easy. Companies need expertise to navigate the operational, commercial, regulatory and financial challenges to a successful U.S. launch.
Managing Commercial, Regulatory and Insurance Risk
Once strategic decisions are made related to how best to expand into the U.S., whether through acquisition or organic growth, a host of additional challenges remain.
For one, a web of federal, state and local regulations awaits businesses crossing the border. Deciphering jurisdictional differences in tax codes and employment law; determining duty of care obligations; properly valuing physical assets —these are just some of the key commercial risks presented by any international expansion.
“How do you employ your workers abroad and keep them safe? Do you know the proper accounting and financial reporting methods in the U.S.? Where do your liabilities begin and end with contractors? The due diligence work is significant to ensure compliance,” Miller said.
Inbound companies also have insurance-specific hurdles to contend with, including critical differences in contract vernacular. Definitions of admitted verses non-admitted may vary in the U.S. from a European market. Self-insured retentions and deductibles may offer different advantages and disadvantages. Business interruption versus “loss of use” may not be clearly delineated.
No multinational company can assume that their domestic policies work the same way in another country, or will cover operations outside of the issuing jurisdiction. It comes down not just to intricacies of policy wording, but also to coverage limits required by law.
“There are different risk transfer mechanisms from market to market,” Miller said. “Not having a firm grasp on those variances can leave incoming companies either under-insured or with unnecessary coverage overlaps.”
But for new entrants to the U.S. market, getting a handle on both the commercial risks and insurance discrepancies is a mammoth demand on resources — especially for mid-size companies that run lean. As a result, insurance and risk management often get lumped together and sometimes fall to the bottom of the due diligence checklist.
While getting coverage in place quickly can check the “insurance” box, it misses a valuable opportunity to leverage the risk expertise of domestic carriers to tackle broader business risks as well.
Facilitating a Soft Landing for Inbound Business
“There’s a stronger role that risk management and insurance can play to allay the challenges and fears of foreign companies entering the U.S.,” Miller said. “The right insurer will bring transparency to an experience that can feel very opaque and help to create a soft landing.”
U.S.-based insurers who are proactive about getting risk management resources in front of companies can help international entities navigate both commercial and insurance-related risks.
AXA Insurance Company acts as a true partner in risk management by leveraging the resources of its U.S.-based teams as well as AXA Group’s global network.
“Our in-house claims and underwriting teams are dedicated to facilitating entry for companies coming into the U.S. market, and they’ve been doing it for 40 years,” Miller said.
AXA’s underwriters also come with expertise in property, marine, aviation and liability coverages. With more than 200 years of collective experience, they’ve developed a deep understanding of the needs specific to those companies transitioning to the U.S. market. The manufacturing, technology, and food and fashion industries are currently the top candidates looking to expand to the U.S. mid-market sector.
“Everything that we do is industry-focused. We have the technology, the data, and the breadth of AXA Group’s research capabilities to follow our clients’ industries on a granular level.”
Solutions + Services: The Whole Package
At the end of the day, the carriers that provide the best service for a company’s most important assets will build the long-lasting relationships that support continued growth.
“Insurance is only one piece of the puzzle,” Miller said. “We partner with all of the necessary third parties to create a comprehensive, one-stop-shop risk management solution.”
It does this in part by calling on its partners AXA Matrix and AXA Assistance.
AXA Matrix is a risk engineering firm that can help foreign companies strengthen and protect physical assets like properties and supply chains. AXA Assistance, a travel assistance provider, helps companies protect their most vital resource — their people.
“European countries have a duty of care for their employees working abroad,” Miller said. “Let’s make sure you have those protections here in the U.S. so you can honor those responsibilities.”
Both AXA Matrix and AXA Assistance are U.S.-based, so they can provide on-the-ground support.
“That domestic network of support is what helps companies not only start their business here, but grow their business here,” Miller said.
To learn more About AXA Insurance Company, visit http://axainsurancecompany.com/AboutUs.aspx.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with AXA Insurance Company. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.