The Art of Doing Business in Emerging Markets


BNY Mellon Investment Management’s Freer shares her experiences at Johnson’s Emerging Markets Institute

The Art of Doing Business in Emerging Markets

Cynthia Fryer Steer, head of manager research and investment solutions for BNY Mellon Investment Management, relayed her experiences in emerging markets as a financial professional in a talk at Sage Hall sponsored by Johnson’s Emerging Markets Institute Feb. 16, “The Way Forward — How Events in Developed Nations Will Impact Emerging and Frontier Markets.”

“This is not science, this is not numbers, this is art,” Steer said of doing business in emerging markets.

Steer first began interacting with emerging markets while working at American Express, following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.  One of the first promoters of emerging markets, she says she strongly believed early in her career that they would become a new core asset class. Steer noted that the Asian crisis of the late 1990s sparked numerous emerging markets across the world, and stressed the importance of understanding the details of each individual market one wishes to work with.

“Don’t ever assume that one country is like another,” Steer said. “If you don’t understand what you’re doing, or who you are doing it with, don’t do it.”

Steer said that her experience in Brazil was particularly formative, especially while working with a group she called “The Boys from Brazil”: five young businessmen whom she cited as examples of the leadership that helped develop Brazil’s current, fast-growth economy.

“The Brazilian bond market is currently one of the most liquid markets in the world,” Steer said.

In addition to Brazil, Steer expressed her confidence in India, Nigeria and South Africa as promising emerging markets. She also noted that, while Washington, D.C., has become a center for emerging markets leadership and business, London is slowly establishing itself as a hub as well.

Steer suggested that students look to the history books to better understand the opportunities in emerging markets, identifying Venice in the 15th century and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century as prime examples of growth markets whose lessons are still relevant today.

Further, Steer stressed the importance of “knowing which questions to ask” when identifying opportunities in emerging markets.

“It’s as much of what we don’t hear in a conversation as what we do hear,” Steer said.

Steer also said that the world will be undergoing “a change in viewpoint” over the next few years that will affect opportunities in emerging markets, as well as business climates in all industries. To this end, she stressed the importance of maintaining a close friendships and building consistent relationships that benefit personal lives as well as careers.

“That’s one of the things about being in business school that’s so amazing: You make relationships that last a lifetime and transform your life,” Steer said.

—   Brendan Doyle ’12, student intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson