Big Day: Meeting with the President of Vietnam

October 22, 2009

On Thursday September 24th I found myself in a very exclusive meeting room at the Citi building on Park Avenue in New York City for a private session with the President of Vietnam and some of his senior advisors.

Harvey Nash with the President of Vietnam
Earlier in the day President Triet had been at the United Nations General Assembly meeting with President Obama and other world leaders on a range of issues. Afterwards the Chamber of Commerce arranged for him and his delegation to meet with a small number of companies who they considered prime investment partners in Vietnam to discuss the appeal of their country to the wider global business community.
Harvey Nash was asked to send a representative (me!) alongside senior executives from Citi, JP Morgan, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. As you can see, Harvey Nash was in pretty good company.
The business executives chatted amongst themselves as we waited for the President and his delegation to arrive from the UN building and it struck me that of all the big name companies who were represented in the room (Fortune 10 companies let alone Fortune 100 companies) very few of them had developed as close a relationship as Harvey Nash with the Vietnamese. In fact we were the only ones invested directly in the talent and futures of the Vietnamese people through our partnerships with Vietnamese universities–the President noticed this too, but more on that later!
President Triet arrived with his senior delegation, which included the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Vietnamese Ambassador to the US and the First Vice President of VCCI (VCCI is the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce).
After arriving, the President spoke with each of us one-to-one before we were to sit down to lunch. When I spoke with him I was impressed with his understanding of the Harvey Nash proposition and how high value and high skilled jobs were key to his country’s future. As we sat down for lunch with the delegation the President spoke to the audience about how Vietnam is developing as a country, as an economy and as a population.
Later, I had the chance to ask him a direct question based on our experience of doing business in Vietnam. I outlined how important it was for a business like Harvey Nash to locate in a place with the highest calibre talent pool. I mentioned that Harvey Nash is greatly impressed with the skills and education of Vietnam’s local technology workforce and as such we have become one of the largest investors in IT talent in his country. Lastly I pointed out how excited we had been for the math Olympics to have been held in Vietnam–after all, any ambitious IT solutions company needs the best and brightest math, science and technology graduates!
When I told him that we had actually hired and worked with a number of these incredibly bright young people who had competed in the math Olympics and that we were utilizing their skills on our client projects around the world, the President was visibly excited and pointed out that the investment by his government in education remained the top priority and that companies like Harvey Nash were needed to promote the skills of his young and highly literate workforce around the world.
President Triet also mentioned that his government continues to invest millions of dollars in programs to develop their young and talented people providing a range of financial aid to great swathes of young men and women through Vietnam. In a nation of 80 million people and with more than half of those people under the age of 30, you can see just how powerful the talent pool in Vietnam is going to become for Harvey Nash and the clients we work for.
The President of Vietnam
The President and I also had an exchange about intellectual property rights, which is certainly a concern of many people I talk to who are considering locating operations in India, China and other parts of Asia. Acknowledging that intellectual property rights must be protected to retain the credibility of Vietnam as a high-tech outsourcing destination, he outlined a number of existing laws that were in place in Vietnam that were not present in other Asian countries to protect the rights of foreign investors. He also pointed out the harsh penalties for anyone considering breaking these rules in Vietnam.
After our lunch, President Triet and his delegation had to leave for their next appointment. But not before he was able to tell me that during his time at the UN earlier in the day he had been able to convince President Obama to make multiple trips to Vietnam in the next few years because of their reputation with the World Bank and other institutions as one of the model developing economies.
When I pointed out that I’d already made 12 trips to his country compared to the two that President Obama has committed to, President Triet playfully suggested that I encourage President Obama to make his trip sooner rather than later. I’m still waiting for my call to the White House to be returned as I was hoping they’d offer me a flight out on Air Force One!
It goes without saying that I’ll be back to Vietnam with a range of clients old and new very soon; hopefully President Obama will have visited this vibrant and exciting country by then.
I’ll be as proud as ever to talk with our fantastically talented team in the country about my meeting with their President. I profoundly believe that with the relationships Harvey Nash has with the Vietnamese government, with the potential of Vietnam and its people, and with the track record of work that Harvey Nash has undertaken both onshore in the US and offshore with Vietnamese support, our clients will be the ones who benefit most from our past 10 years partnering with Vietnam and all the exciting developments to come in the future.