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How to Make it in America: Ask An Expert with Duncan Edwards (We’re The Brits In America S1:E23)

Episode 23 Shownotes – Ask An Expert with Duncan Edwards

“You have to treat it as a foreign country; you have to make the same kind of preparation for market entry as if you were preparing to go into India or Indonesia or somewhere else.”

That’s a quote from Duncan Edwards, guest on this episode of WTBIA. Despite the cultural similarities, treat the US like any foreign market – do your prep. Duncan is the CEO of the British American Business, a leading transatlantic trade organisation with 450 member companies. The BAB exists to strengthen trans-Atlantic business.

Preparation for market entry into the US, as a UK-based company, is critical, and that’s what Richard and Duncan discuss on the show. There’s a significant failure rate for companies attempting to enter the US market – Duncan explains how to avoid it. There are plenty of success stories too however, so listen to find out what they have in common.

Plus, the influence of Brexit on global trade dynamics, and the unique characteristics of the various US states.

We’re the Brits in America is affiliated with Plan First Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Plan First Wealth.

Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Plan First Wealth does not provide any tax and/or legal advice and strongly recommends that listeners seek their own advice in these areas.

About Richard

Richard Taylor is a British expat, dual citizen (UK & US). Originally from Bolton, he now lives in Greenwich, CT, where Plan First Wealth has its head office.

As the firm’s leader, Richard launched Taylor & Taylor, now Plan First Wealth, and continues to fuel the firm’s growth. Richard is a Chartered Financial Planner (UK – CII) in addition to holding the IMC (CFA UK) and Series 65 (US – FINRA).

Connect with Richard on LinkedIn

About Duncan

Duncan Edwards is the chief executive of BritishAmerican Business, the leading transatlantic trade association with offices in London, New York and Washington DC.

Prior to this Edwards had a 30 year career as an operating executive in the media business spent largely at Hearst. He had roles including CEO and Country Manager in the UK, President and CEO of International and was a Board Director of The Hearst Corporation.

Connect with Duncan on LinkedIn

Transcript:

Richard Taylor:
[00:00:30 – 00:01:21]
Welcome to the We’re The Brits In America podcast, a Plan First Wealth podcast for Brits in America, by Brits in America, dedicated to helping British expats thrive in America. I’m your host, Richard Taylor, and Plan First wealth is the business I founded and run today and we work with successful British expatriates living across the US to make the most of their opportunity and avoid the expat landmines. However, while Plan First Wealth, LLC is an SEC registered investment advisor, the views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of planned first wealth. Information presented is for educational purposes only. Now, if you aren’t already receiving our weekly emails, please go to our website, www.planfirstwealth.com and sign up to wealth hub.

Richard Taylor:
[00:01:21 – 00:01:47]
It’s free and you will then be notified every time we drop a new episode and so much more. Alrighty, let’s get back to this week’s show. Welcome back to the we’re the Brits in America podcast. Today we have an ask an expert show where I invite a fellow professional in the US UK cross border space to come in and talk to me about the issues we think Brits in America need to be aware of if they are going to thrive here. We have a very special episode for you today.

Richard Taylor:
[00:01:47 – 00:02:28]
I am delighted to be joined by Duncan Edwards. Duncan is the CEO of British American business, the leading transatlantic trade organization of some 450 companies. Companies of which plan First wealth is one that has an ongoing mission to support policies which protect and enhance the environment for trade and investment in and between the US and the UK. Duncan is a Brit living in America, specifically Connecticut and New York, and prior to his involvement with BAB, he spent over 30 years as a media executive, much of it at the Hearst Corporation. What’s more, at the end of 2023, Duncan received an OBE in recognition of his work in strengthening us and UK relations and trade, which is quite something.

Richard Taylor:
[00:02:28 – 00:02:56]
So today we have some fertile ground to cover. We’re going to talk about BAB and the great work they do as an organization. We’ve timed this episode to coincide with the launch of their updated trade and investment guide to the US, which is a critical resource for uk companies seeking to expand into the US. So obviously we’re going to get into that. If time permits, we’ll get into the uk government state led MoU scheme with us states, which sounds like it presents some significant opportunities for certain uk businesses.

Richard Taylor:
[00:02:57 – 00:03:13]
And of course we’ll go wherever else this conversation takes us if we think it has the potential to help British expats already in America or Brits eyeing up America to thrive here. So without further ado, let’s get into this. Duncan, welcome to the we’re the Brits in America podcast.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:03:13 – 00:03:19]
Well, thank you. And thanks for that fantastic introduction. And thank you also for being a member in British American business.

Richard Taylor:
[00:03:19 – 00:03:28]
Of course, it’s great. I really like it. I should also just shout out the team producing this podcast. The podcast guys are also fellow members, so this is a family affair.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:03:28 – 00:03:33]
They certainly are. Did you meet the podcast guys through British American business?

Richard Taylor:
[00:03:33 – 00:03:46]
We did. You know, it’s evidence of this working. We joined, I think the first email that went out, group email, podcast guys were featured. That led to a call with Dan and that led to the we’re the Brits in America podcast.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:03:46 – 00:04:09]
You know, that’s such a great story and I’m so pleased to hear it because we know this happens. I mean, one of the functions of British American business is to be exactly that. This kind of networking community where companies with different skills and different services can meet each other. And we hear about this all the time. But I hadn’t realized that was the case with you guys, so that’s great to hear.

Richard Taylor:
[00:04:10 – 00:04:30]
Yeah, and we’re Americans now. I’m an American. You’ve been in America a long time. And there’s a lot I love about America and Americans and working with Americans, but I’m still a Brit and I love working with Brits. And there is, I do feel with something like the podcast guys, where Daniel is very much British and Sam, who produces our show, is very much American.

Richard Taylor:
[00:04:31 – 00:04:36]
I enjoy the dynamic. I think it works. I think that mingling of the two worlds really works.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:04:36 – 00:05:04]
And, you know, it’s a really interesting background. Uk companies have been doing business in the US for the last 200 years and it continues to be the place where, more likely than not, a uk company that is looking to expand outside of the UK. It’s more likely than not that the US is the place that they’re going to try. And not really surprising if you think about it. There’s the attractiveness of the market.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:05:04 – 00:05:45]
It’s such a great market. It’s huge, vibrant, entrepreneurial, relatively few kind of formal barriers to entry and then all the other things which mean it’s familiar to the UK, your language and the way the justice system works and so on and so forth. It’s not really surprising that uk companies have been trying their luck in the UK for the last 200 years and more. And by the way, it’s the same the other way around. Us companies have been doing business in the UK as well, and basically since the end of the 1812 war, so there’s been peace between the two countries for 212 years.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:05:45 – 00:05:46]
So that’s a very positive thing.

Richard Taylor:
[00:05:46 – 00:06:02]
Ever since we burned down the last White House, the first White House we’ve been trading. Exactly. So what you just said is so true. It’s such a natural, you know, successful British business owner. It is natural that the gaze turns to America because of the language and because of the size of the market and its reputation for entrepreneurialism.

Richard Taylor:
[00:06:02 – 00:06:20]
That being said, though, there are major challenges. It’s not just, oh, great, America speak the same language. Let’s go. And how do you ensure you are the Beatles and not oasis? Because, you know, Oasis were a huge British band, and I remember listening to the radio here.

Richard Taylor:
[00:06:20 – 00:06:32]
This is during COVID actually, and the radio, they played Wonderwall and they said, oh, yeah, Oasis. Do you remember that? What happened to the one hit wonder? And it was a Brit from Manchester, you think, oh, one hit wonder, are you kidding me? And it really brought home.

Richard Taylor:
[00:06:32 – 00:06:35]
There’s a lot of broken dreams, British broken dreams here in America.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:06:35 – 00:07:04]
The analogy is a good one, Oasis. Or how do you not be the kinks either, who were arguably just as good as the Beatles at the same time and completely failed in the states? So, look, the truth is that with all the attractiveness of the US market, it’s still the case that the failure rate for companies coming here is still quite high. And that’s for lots and lots of reasons. More often than not, I think it’s a lack of preparation.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:07:04 – 00:08:10]
And just because the US speaks English and we’ve got that cultural familiarity, kind of mainly because of media, film and television and so on, it feels very familiar. You have to treat it as a foreign country, you have to make the same kind of preparation for market entry as if you were preparing to go into India or Indonesia or somewhere else. So more often than not, the reason for failure is a lack of proper preparation about what you need to think about when making a market entry here, because there are some big differences. And you’ll know this as well, that you also can’t think of the US as a single market because it isn’t a single market at least 50 markets, with each state having its own laws and regulations and so on, and licensing requirements. Each market having profound differences in the availability of workforce and the cost of that workforce, and of course, differences in the market opportunity as well.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:08:10 – 00:08:37]
So if you want to sell farm machinery, you’ve got to go to the Midwest, but if you want to sell financial services, you’ve got to go to New York City, you’ve got to really think about it and plan it. And over the years, over the decades, whilst there have been some fantastic success stories, there have been some pretty significant failures as well. You think of important names like Marx and Spencer when they bought Brooks brothers here. That didn’t work. Yeah.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:08:37 – 00:08:59]
Tesco, riding on the back of huge success in the UK 25 years ago, thought they could do convenience food better than the Americans, spent a huge amount of money in California and failed. So there are some big mistakes. You have to be thoughtful, careful, do all the preparation that you need to do before you pull the trigger.

Richard Taylor:
[00:08:59 – 00:09:14]
Said another way, it’s unrealistic expectations. And that expectation, I think, comes from the familiarity. We grew up watching American tv. We speak the same language, X Colony. We think we know America, and we do, but we don’t.

Richard Taylor:
[00:09:15 – 00:09:36]
And there are many similarities, but there are also massive differences. And we actually had another BAB member, Christie was of Dy Dyke Yaxley on a few weeks ago, and she brought up that point that the biggest mistake she sees is people coming in, thinking of America as one single market, and not realizing it’s 50 individual states. And we learned that the hard way. We hired people remotely. We’ve always been a remote.

Richard Taylor:
[00:09:36 – 00:10:03]
Our clients are remote across the US, and our staff are remote across the US. That’s fantastic. I’m not constrained by geographical location, but it turns out having staff in different states opens up me to a raft of registration requirements and taxation requirements, and filing requirements, tax payroll, workers comp. Yeah, and this other thing I’ve found is that at first I used to rail against all this stuff. I used to get angry that the US positioned itself as the entrepreneurial center of the world, and it is.

Richard Taylor:
[00:10:03 – 00:10:19]
And then I’d bump up against all this idiosyncratic red tape and challenges, and I used to get frustrated and annoyed, and that solved nothing. But now I kind of just roll with it. And I accept New York and Connecticut is not the same as Lancashire and Yorkshire. There are massive differences, and I accept that. And it’s on me, not on America, to change.

Richard Taylor:
[00:10:20 – 00:10:31]
And part of this podcast now. And why we’re having this conversation is about if we can share this with people before they get here, or when they’re just here, we can save them a lot of heartache and a lot of headaches and maybe even a failure.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:10:31 – 00:11:22]
I think you’re absolutely right. And the other thing which I think people find challenging to get to grips with is the compensation expectations in the US. So what you have to pay to get good people for your firm, and if you try to use benchmarks from the UK, you’re going to really struggle, particularly in things like sales, but more or less across the piece. The compensation levels are higher in the US and the expectations are higher and the all in cost of employment is therefore going to be higher because the employer has to pay for quite expensive healthcare benefits and some form of pension benefits. So I think, as they say in the States, there’s often a bit of sticker shock when people realize what the cost is going to be of hiring people, particularly good people.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:11:22 – 00:11:34]
But as you said, you can rail against that as much as you like and it won’t change it. It’s still going to be the case that if you want good people, you’re going to have to pay the higher levels of compensation than you had paid for the equivalent role in the UK.

Richard Taylor:
[00:11:34 – 00:11:57]
And we can smile about it. And if you’ve got deep pockets, it’s a frustration, but you can wear it. But the danger is when you’re an entrepreneurial client, these are the people we often speak to who have come to America on the same budget, and then they get knee deep into it and they realize this isn’t going to work and that’s when. So again, if we can forewarn them that they need to have deeper coffers when venturing over here and the opportunities.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:11:57 – 00:12:42]
Here, and you just have to do the planning because the revenue opportunity is much bigger here as well. So you are talking about much bigger scale and therefore the cost of employment, although it’s understandable, but the people are concerned about it, entrepreneurs are concerned about it, but it is a fact of life and the revenue opportunity is bigger. So plan for that and make that work. It’s interesting, there are differences for market entry for entrepreneurial companies, owner managed companies to corporates. We also recommend for owner managed or privately held companies that when they come to the US, they should send the owner, the owner should come, or one of the principals to really drive it.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:12:42 – 00:13:07]
It’s very, very difficult to do it remotely and to be successful remotely for corporates. Of course, large corporates have a different. You can hire senior people locally and so on, but I’ve seen too many entrepreneurial companies launch in the US, not send the owner or the principal, and then wonder why it doesn’t have the momentum, the oil. I was there once a month. That just doesn’t work.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:13:07 – 00:13:10]
If you’re going to do it, really commit to it. Yeah.

Richard Taylor:
[00:13:10 – 00:13:17]
And then you have to embrace the joys of the US immigration system. But again, we have BAB members who can support with that.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:13:17 – 00:13:18]
We certainly do.

Richard Taylor:
[00:13:18 – 00:13:31]
Can we just take a step back a second? And can you give us an abridged version, in your own words, of your story? How you ended up in America, what that was like professionally, what was that like personally, and how you ended up at the BAB? And then we can get into the great work the BAB does.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:13:32 – 00:14:06]
Yeah, of course. So I spent 30, nearly 35 years in the media business. So out of university, I went into the media business in London, and shortly after that, I joined the UK office of a large us media company called the Hearst Corporation, which is famous for newspapers, magazines, tv stations and so on. ProBABly best known in the UK for magazines like Cosmopolitan and good housekeeping and those kind of things, but a much broader business than that. William.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:14:06 – 00:14:25]
Anyway, I worked for that company for nearly 30 years. I was the UK CEO and country manager, and then I moved here. I was promoted and became the president CEO of all the non us media businesses, the consumer media businesses. So it’s quite a large job.

Richard Taylor:
[00:14:25 – 00:14:27]
Global, right? They’re everywhere.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:14:28 – 00:14:47]
Yeah, it’s a big international job. Big international job. So we owned. And while I was there, we acquired businesses pretty much all over the world. So I spent eight plus years, basically on a plane based in New York City, but traveling all over the world, often to not very easy places.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:14:47 – 00:14:59]
It’s funny to think about it now, but we had big businesses in both Russia and China, which were fantastic at the time, and very profitable businesses, but now look much more challenging, of course.

Richard Taylor:
[00:14:59 – 00:15:02]
When are we here, Duncan? What decade are we in the noughties?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:15:02 – 00:15:05]
I moved to the US in 2009.

Richard Taylor:
[00:15:05 – 00:15:09]
2009. Oh. So in the wreckage of the global financial crisis.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:15:09 – 00:15:33]
Yeah. So the years after that were actually pretty good in the media business. So 2009 was a tough year, of course, for advertising funded businesses, but the years after that, until 2016, were actually pretty good. There was a lot of change, obviously, in media. I mean, the Internet had been around for a long time in media, but the mobile Internet was what really drove the change in that space.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:15:34 – 00:15:52]
So consumers behavior changed and advertisers behavior changed. But, yeah, it was a pretty good time. And I mean, I joined that company in 1989. So I spent majority of my career working for Hearst. And so I came here with my family in 2009.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:15:52 – 00:16:05]
My kids at high school age, they went to high school in Manhattan. And we’ve had the full adventure of. I’m now an American. Actually I’m dual citizen. I’ve been an American citizen for about four months.

Richard Taylor:
[00:16:05 – 00:16:17]
Oh, really? And newly mint. So you just on the other. You did the oath recently, that must be. Yeah, I mean, there can’t be many people who get awarded an OBE at the end of one year and then take the American oath a matter of months later.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:16:17 – 00:16:44]
That’s about the same time, in fact. So anyway, I left Hearst in 2017 and I’d been involved with British American business. Hearst is a member of BAB, has been for many years as a us company that’s had a big UK presence for 100 years. And I actually represented Hearst on the advisory board of BAB. We have this advisory board of CEO’s and chairs and other senior executives.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:16:44 – 00:17:16]
And yeah, I was on that advisory board for many years. It was chaired by Sir Martin Sorrell, the advertising executive entrepreneur. And Martin, I knew Martin, of course, from media. And so I was on that advisory board. Anyway, when I left Hearst, it happened to coincide with the time when BAB was looking for a new CEO and they had a search out and they were looking for someone who hadn’t come up through the trade association or chamber of commerce route, but had been an operating executive in a big company.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:17:16 – 00:17:33]
Anyway, that suited me. I didn’t want to stay in corporate life. I’d kind of done that. So I was looking for something to do that would keep me kind of busy and in the world and interesting, that wasn’t corporate. So this turned out to be exactly that thing.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:17:33 – 00:17:38]
So. And I’ve been doing it ever since I joined in 2018. So I’ve now done six years here.

Richard Taylor:
[00:17:38 – 00:17:39]
Great. And how’s that been?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:17:39 – 00:17:56]
Do you know? It’s been fantastic. Super interesting. Not everyone would enjoy the transition from a senior job in a big corporate environment to a job running a 25 person non profit organization. You know, you have to have no ego.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:17:56 – 00:18:04]
You know, there’s no big black car waiting outside to take me anywhere. I make my own tea and do my own photocopying, so.

Richard Taylor:
[00:18:04 – 00:18:05]
Sounds awful.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:18:05 – 00:18:16]
And yeah, it’s terrible, you know, well, it’s awful to think about it, but if you have been a senior executive in a large company and there are some support networks which are very helpful and quite nice.

Richard Taylor:
[00:18:16 – 00:18:28]
Duncan. People can say what they want, but you see those black cars whisking people away, and especially at the airport, no one’s thinking, oh, I’m so glad that’s not me. You know, everyone wants to be in one of those big tahoes or whatever, Escalades.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:18:28 – 00:19:07]
Yeah, there’s certainly something to be said for it, but it’s been great. I mean, and what we’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is to make a difference. I mean, that’s really what we’re for. And just to give you, your listeners, kind of some background, what we do at British American business, so we are the American Chamber of Commerce in the UK, so we represent us companies that are doing business in the UK, but we’re also the British Chamber of Commerce in the United States, so we represent UK companies here. These were two separate organizations, both more than 100 years old, that were merged about 25 years ago to create a bilateral chamber of commerce.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:19:07 – 00:19:36]
So that’s what we do. We are a pro business, pro trade voice for US UK trade and investment, a champion of trade and investment, an advocate for kind of more liberalized trade and investment. And we kind of operate in three areas. First of all, we do public policy work. So for large companies, we are a voice for them in Washington and London, advocating for anything that can be helpful to encourage trade and investment between the US and the UK.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:19:36 – 00:20:35]
So we produce white papers, we engage with government, we do all of the kind of advocacy on behalf of large companies to help protect the trade and investment environment. But we also do a lot of what I consider to be more of the contact sport of business, which is providing opportunities for companies to meet each other. So we do a lot of convening, we do a lot of networking, and we do a lot of events with themes that companies are kind of worrying about and thinking about, whether it be kind of practical issues like how to get a visa or tax issues, or broader things like sustainability regulation or deni issues. So pretty much anything that businesses are worrying about and grappling with of any size, whether you’re a giant, multinational, entrepreneurial small company, we try to reflect in the content and the programming that we put on through our events, which, as I say, also act as a kind of platform for people to meet each other.

Richard Taylor:
[00:20:35 – 00:20:52]
Yeah, I’ve been surprised by the breadth of the membership, large and small. We didn’t join for a while, just assuming, because we’re a really small boutique firm and we just thought it would be for the behemoths of the transatlantic trade. And we were totally wrong in that. Completely wrong. And I’m so glad we came to our senses.

Richard Taylor:
[00:20:53 – 00:21:05]
And here we are. We’re a small firm out in Greenwich, Connecticut, serving brits. We’re spread out across the US, our clients spread out across the US. It can feel a bit lonely. I feel a little bit more plugged into the community through BAB.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:21:05 – 00:21:40]
Well, it’s certainly the case that companies join us for different reasons. And the giant companies with public affairs teams and government relations teams, they’re a member of ours because they want our representation in Washington and London on these big issues, and they’ve got budgets to do that work. But for entrepreneurial companies, I absolutely understand that it’s about building a personal network as much as a business network. You arrive in New York City, you don’t know anyone, and you’re trying to build a network. We’re a very good place to land and to immediately build a network of connections and people.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:21:40 – 00:22:04]
You may make some friends as well as business connections, and we hear that all the time. And we do the same in London, too. So we have exactly a mirror operation in the UK and a mix of giant companies there and the entrepreneurial businesses that are servicing them and others. So, yeah, it’s worked pretty well. We’re growing as an organization and, yeah, more to come, I think I have interest.

Richard Taylor:
[00:22:04 – 00:22:14]
I’m always intrigued by how this works. I mean, is it literally the lobbying that we see on tv? How do you influence stuff in Washington? What’s the process? Do you have a lobbying team?

Richard Taylor:
[00:22:14 – 00:22:19]
Do you employ a lobbying firm? How does that work? Is it House of card style, your influence?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:22:19 – 00:23:04]
Well, it’s interesting, you know, actually, we’re not a lobbyist. There is a legal definition of lobbying in the US, which requires a lot of regulation and licensing, and we are not a registered lobbyist, so we don’t take money from a client to argue for a particular piece of legislation. What we are is an advocate, and we’ll do influencing on a very clear set of issues, which our mission is to be a champion of trade and investment between the US and the UK. So whenever there’s an issue that can either positively or negatively affect trade and investment between the US and the UK, we’ll take a position on it. And our approach is really, I guess, threefold.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:23:04 – 00:23:35]
The first is we’ll write about it. So we’ll produce a white paper, we’ll set out the issue that our members are concerned about, and we’ll try to talk about why it’s an issue, why it matters and what a potential remedy will be. That’s the first stage. The second stage is we’ll then bring those members in front of the relevant influencers, whether that’s elected politicians or civil servants or other advocacy groups. So we’ll do roundtables, we’ll do meetings.

Richard Taylor:
[00:23:35 – 00:23:37]
Did you meet literally, like congressmen or senators?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:23:37 – 00:23:51]
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we engage with those representatives in Congress who are interested in this stuff. Yeah, we engage with them. We have a team of three full time people in Washington. I try to be in Washington once a month, and then we do the same in London as well.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:23:51 – 00:24:12]
So we work very closely with the Department for Business and Trade, both in London and here, and the other government departments that occasionally have interests in this stuff. So foreign Office d sit DCMs sometimes. So we’ll engage with these companies when there are issues that really matter.

Richard Taylor:
[00:24:12 – 00:24:29]
Do you think the institutional or governmental administrative heights of Washington, London, is there a genuine appetite to work? We know Brits are welcomed in America by Americans in general, but is there an appetite at the government level to facilitate our ties and links and make it easier for us to work together?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:24:30 – 00:24:55]
From the us government perspective, do you mean? Yeah, yes, but not more than any other country, I would say. So. Under the current administration, there have been no trade liberalization deals done. So the US, under the current administration, has really focused on trying to protect us jobs and us industry.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:24:56 – 00:25:22]
But that has meant there has been no further liberalization for uk companies or any other companies from around the world in accessing the us market. The us market still is a very open market, comparatively to the rest of the world. Tariffs are low. So if you’re exporting stuff here, tariffs tend to be low, with one or two exceptions. There are many businesses that a UK company can’t get into.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:25:22 – 00:26:01]
If you’ve got the desire to set up a business in the US, you pretty much can. There are no additional barriers, but there hasn’t been any effort to further liberalise trade and investment with the UK, and on the margin, that might make the difference. So what the UK has done instead, because they were really pushing for a free trade agreement, the uk government was, and got pretty close to it under the prior Trump administration. But anyway, the election happened, so that all died. But since then, what the UK has done, they’ve been pretty smart about this, is they’ve negotiated some, what I would call trade promotion agreements with individual us states.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:26:01 – 00:26:53]
There are nine of these now, and these agreements are basically an agreement between the state and the UK that they’ll work together to encourage more commerce and economic activity between the UK and that individual state. So that means more trade missions, more opportunities to access help, both from the UK team in those states, but also from the state development agencies. And just as we describe it, you’re likely to get a slightly warmer welcome if you show up in Florida and Texas or the Carolinas or Oklahoma and these other places where these agreements have been negotiated. If you’re keen to do that, you should talk to us and we can connect you. There are teams within the Department for Business and Trade that are there to help companies access the benefits of those agreements.

Richard Taylor:
[00:26:53 – 00:27:25]
You know, it’s fascinating when the pieces of a jigsaw come together. So obviously, post Brexit, a lot of noise was made about a free trade agreement with America and it didn’t come to fruition. And then over the last couple of years, I’ve seen various posts from the BAB announcing these mous is it with these various states? And I didn’t realize that from what you said, it sounds like that was a pivot from, okay, free trade agreement isn’t happening, what can we do? Well, we’ll go to each individual state again, one of those unique things about the US is there was one government and then there’s another 50, and that’s what you’re doing.

Richard Taylor:
[00:27:25 – 00:27:28]
You’re doing it state by state rather than at the federal level.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:27:28 – 00:28:02]
Yeah, they’re slightly different because what they can’t do at a state level is they can’t affect tariffs. So for exporters from the UK, what you have to pay in terms of the customs, they can’t change those and they can’t change market access. So if your product is not allowed into the US for any reason, or has a quota, which is really only around agricultural products and other things like that, they can’t change those. But what they can do is say, we want your business, come to Florida and we’ll help you. And of course, all countries want foreign direct investment.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:28:02 – 00:28:31]
So the UK is desperate for American companies to invest in the UK, and it’s no different there than it is in the US. It helps to have that energy and capital being deployed in those sets. It’s very interesting. So there are UK companies active in every state in all 50 states. In fact, we think, although it’s hard to prove, that there are UK companies employing people in every congressional district of the United States.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:28:31 – 00:28:47]
And honestly, wherever you go, you’ll find a UK company, either a giant company like a BP or a BT, or a shell or Unilever or Glaxo. GSK or independent entrepreneurial companies that have set up shop.

Richard Taylor:
[00:28:47 – 00:29:08]
If I’m in the UK and I’m looking to the US and I’m in one of these industries that these mouse support or encourage to come, let’s say I’m looking at Florida, which has one of these arrangements and I’m in an industry that fits it, or I’m looking at another state that doesn’t have the MoU, all things been equal, they’re going to roll the red carpet out a little bit more in Florida. What does that actually look like?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:29:08 – 00:29:37]
Yeah, that’s at least the theory. So in Florida, for example, they’re focusing on insurance based businesses. It’s a big area of interest for them. And defense and aerospace industries, inevitably, they’re going to be more focused on big companies than small companies because that’s where the dollars are for them, that’s where the reward is. But the Florida Economic Development Agency is now tasked with making this MoU work.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:29:38 – 00:30:08]
We publish information about this. In fact, in early June, we’ll publish our latest edition of our trade guide to the USA, which will include all the contact details for the states with the MoU. So you can access that on our website, www.BABinc.org. you’ll be able to find the information about how to access help from those states with which there are mous. You can also access it through the Department for Business and Trade as well.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:30:08 – 00:30:18]
And their teams locally in those states are also tasked with making these Mous work. So there’s a couple of ways that you go about accessing the help.

Richard Taylor:
[00:30:18 – 00:30:24]
It sounds like the starting point, though, is this updated trade and investment guide. So can you tell us a bit about that?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:30:24 – 00:31:15]
Yeah, we publish a trade guide to the US, which we update every two years. And what we try to do here is to give you kind of everything you need to think about before you pull the trigger on either building an export business or a actually setting up shop in the US. So there are contributions in there from both the government, so the US, the UK embassy in the USA, the US embassy in London and the commercial services team there. There are contributions in there from lots of the states in the USA, and then there are contributions from lawyers, accountants, real estate advisors, tax advisors, who can help you think through the challenges and what you need to think about in planning a market entry strategy. So it’s rammed full of contact information.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:31:15 – 00:31:31]
It’s not universal, of course, we don’t include everything, but there’s enough in there for anyone who is seriously interested in setting up shop here in the US to read through and to kind of think whether they’re properly prepared.

Richard Taylor:
[00:31:31 – 00:31:44]
It’s not just the information which is critical, it’s the network. Right. One thing again, I learned a lot this the hard way. A lot of the. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Richard Taylor:
[00:31:44 – 00:32:06]
One of the most valuable things I now have is access to a network of cross border professionals. And I can’t even imagine if I was thinking of coming to the US trying to find the right attorneys, accountants, registration experts. And the list goes on and on and on. Immigration people, the amount of moving parts and all this. And you get it wrong, there can be severe consequences.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:32:06 – 00:32:39]
They can. And it’s interesting that your list starts with attorneys, because you need a lawyer in the US, you need legal advice as you make decisions all the time. And finding a lawyer that’s right for you, that is the right size for you, I think is very important. So there’s no point going to a giant law firm if you’re a tiny company. And sometimes if you’re a big company, you might need the breadth of services that a very large firm might offer you.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:32:39 – 00:32:55]
So finding the right people and those that genuinely understand market entry and can intuit the issues that a UK based company might be thinking about, might not understand, is really important.

Richard Taylor:
[00:32:55 – 00:33:12]
You know, we’re a relatively new BAB member and I didn’t realize about this guy had existed. And I can think of, off top of my head, three people, people contact us who’ve got their eye on America or who are freshly here, and I can think of people who would have benefited from this straight away. So what a resource.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:33:12 – 00:33:47]
It’s a useful resource. We do the same going the other way as well. So we publish a trade guide to the UK for us companies, and so that’ll be updated in 2025. And the other thing we try to do is tell stories of success, because although I talked about the challenges and some of the failures, there are also plenty of fantastic success stories of UK companies that have built businesses here and pursued different strategies towards that success. Actually, physically coming here and building a business is not the only way.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:33:47 – 00:34:01]
I mean, if you can do it through exports, you can do it remotely, or by visiting here through distributors. If you’ve got a physical product or a virtual product, you don’t have to physically be here. There’s more than one way to heaven. And there are some great success stories in all of those areas.

Richard Taylor:
[00:34:01 – 00:34:25]
Do you think Brexit has changed the focus of British companies to America. I was talking to someone recently, I know I’m beating this drum, but a fellow BAB member, and we were talking about. There seemed to be an increased appetite for British companies looking to America. And they speculated that they thought it was because of Brexit, because Brexit had made potentially trading with Europe harder. So the focus had turned across the Atlantic.

Richard Taylor:
[00:34:25 – 00:34:26]
Do you see any truth in that?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:34:27 – 00:35:08]
Maybe the truth is that the trade and cooperation agreement that the UK has with the EU is the world’s most comprehensive free trade agreement. The only difference for UK companies trading with the EU is a little bit of paperwork. There’s no restrictions on selling stuff into the EU, there’s no quotas, there’s no tariffs, it’s a full free trade agreement, but there is paperwork. And so because you have to do customs declarations, and there’s also a perception that it’s more difficult, even though the reality may be that it isn’t. So for that reason, I think you’re right, the US looks amazingly attractive.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:35:08 – 00:35:28]
Growth rates in the US, economic growth rates are just better. The economy is just better. So if you’re going to put your money to work or take a bet, you’re more likely to do that in a market that’s growing more rapidly and feels more dynamic than one that is not growing so dynamically.

Richard Taylor:
[00:35:28 – 00:35:47]
You know, one thing about the US, and I can’t really explain it, there’s just so much opportunity here. I think the UK is quite entrepreneurial. I know we have a longer history and that might not have implications on our. The ease of entrepreneurship, but the US. And the US, it’s not bureaucracy free, it’s not without its challenges.

Richard Taylor:
[00:35:47 – 00:36:01]
But there is just so much opportunity here. They just seem to generate a level of opportunity and wealth that is unrivaled. And I don’t quite know how they do it. I’ve been here nearly a decade, I’m also an American now and I’m in awe of it, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:36:01 – 00:36:38]
Yeah, the entrepreneurial spirit in the US is amazing. I mean, I think the UK is a very entrepreneurial country. But I think one of the differences is the UK tends to breed people who, what I would describe as satisficers, so who may be entrepreneurial, but end up being satisfied with a level of success that in the US, people would think, well, you’re just getting started. So once entrepreneurs in the UK have made enough money to have a nice lifestyle and they tend to sell and call it a day, that is not the case in the US. Enough is never enough in the US.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:36:39 – 00:36:56]
So that’s why you get these entrepreneurs who are still hard charging when theyve got billions of dollars in the bank and are still pressing and pushing and so on. And its a different culture. So never enough in the US and that drives the entrepreneurial culture here.

Richard Taylor:
[00:36:56 – 00:37:18]
And this is a double edged sword. But winning their obsession with winning, whatever that might be, winning the entrepreneurial game, winning the sports game, and theres a flip side to that where it can take things too far and you can win a race, but there can be a wrong way of winning, let’s put it that way. So there’s a flip side to it as well. But I think that captures it quite nicely. So dangerous territory perhaps, but we’re on the eve of an election.

Richard Taylor:
[00:37:18 – 00:37:31]
Well, we’re not quite on the leave, but we’re starting to gear up. What happens if we have a change of administration or we don’t? Does that have much of an impact for the BAB and for how you see the business climate for this transatlantic trade?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:37:31 – 00:38:23]
If the polls are right, and there’s no reason at the moment to think that they’re not, then we’re likely to have a change of government in the UK and a change of government in the US. My view is that the change of government in the UK, proBABly for the business environment, is fairly neutral because we think about it from the perspective of us companies who may be investing in the UK. Is there anything about a change of administration in the UK that would put off us companies from investing in the UK? Well, then maybe if tax rates go up, particularly corporation tax, that’s the issue to really watch. And so we’ll be focusing a lot on that and whether the cost of doing business in the UK rises through things like energy levies, more payroll taxes and so on and so forth.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:38:23 – 00:38:24]
So that’s the issue there.

Richard Taylor:
[00:38:24 – 00:38:32]
Do you think the UK is, is it still attractive for business? Is it overtaxed or overlevied? Is it heading that way or is it still friendly?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:38:32 – 00:39:03]
The UK has been very successful at attracting foreign direct investment, particularly from the US, over many decades, and it has a lot of advantages over the competitors. So if you’re a us company and you’re looking at building a resource in the european region, the UK is the most likely place you’re going to choose. Whether you’re a financial services company or a tech company. Unless it’s sort of heavy manufacturing, the UK is the most likely place. So if you’re a pharmaceutical company, or whatever, and that was because of lots of reasons.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:39:04 – 00:39:31]
Language, rule of law, time zone, all these educated workforce, all these things are very, very positive. It was also because the cost of doing business was relatively attractive, relatively low tax compared to some of mainland Europe, relatively liberal competition environment. You can hire and fire relatively easily compared to Germany or France or Italy. And some of that’s changing. So the cost of doing business in the UK is rising.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:39:31 – 00:40:03]
Corporation tax, some of these levies, like energy levy, other payroll taxes, and it’s likely a Labour administration will add more costs to companies in the UK. So I don’t think it’s a disaster. But we certainly, at BAB, are talking about this a lot, saying, be careful to the UK government and the opposition. Be careful, don’t kill your advantages, don’t take them for granted. It’s really important, if you want to track inward investment from the US, that you remain super competitive on.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:40:03 – 00:40:29]
Tax and labour flexibility are the two key issues. So hiring people and letting them go, which companies have to do, and if that becomes prohibitively expensive, then. Then it becomes less attractive. So that’s the UK on the US. Again, I may be completely wrong, but the polls are indicating that it’s likely that Donald Trump will win a second presidential term.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:40:30 – 00:40:48]
Everyone will have their own views about this. We don’t see this as some of the more kind of extreme commentary about this, that it’s somehow the end of democracy or anything like that. We don’t see that. We see that. There’ll be four years, it’ll be relatively pro business administration.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:40:48 – 00:41:14]
People are very reticent to say what they prefer, sort of senior executives, but our soundings are that proBABly a Trump administration, second Trump administration was seen as more kind of business friendly. Yeah, certainly on tax, certainly on regulation, but, you know, who knows? Yeah, a lot of the focus is on non business issues, of course. And that’s not really a subject that I’ll spend time on.

Richard Taylor:
[00:41:14 – 00:41:26]
No. A lot has happened in the last four years, and it’s going to be interesting to see if he does get in his response to that. It’s going to be interesting, if nothing else. Let’s put it that way.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:41:26 – 00:42:11]
One of the things to pay attention to is trade policy, because the former US trade representative guy called Robert Lighthizer, Bob Lighthizer is very, very influential in the sort of Trump camp. And he was influential last time around and will be if Trump wins. And he has a belief that the US is being disadvantaged in the international trade environment and believes that there needs to be a reset. So countries with whom the US has a trade deficit. So a country sells more stuff to the US than the US sells to that country, may still have higher tariffs on the US than the US has on the other end of the corridor.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:42:11 – 00:42:51]
And thats true. And yet its very difficult to change that in the WTO for complicated reasons. And this guy lighthizer believes thats unfair. And so you might see some quite dramatic changes in policy towards trade. And frankly, whoever wins the election, youre going to see that around China just this week, the Biden administration, for example, has imposed 100% tariffs on chinese electric vehicles and very, very dramatic tariffs on Chinese made semiconductors and solar panels and things like that.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:42:51 – 00:43:20]
So the view about China is kind of bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats feel the same. They’re just vying for each other. Who can be more kind of anti China and the sort of America first sort of language of we need to protect our industry, we need to protect our workers from unfair foreign competition and imports, particularly focused on China. But not only China is a real issue and trade hasn’t really been an election issue in the US for like 100 years.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:43:20 – 00:43:30]
I mean, it used to be back in the late 19th and early 20th century, trade was a massive issue in these general elections and whether to have these very big tariffs or not.

Richard Taylor:
[00:43:30 – 00:43:32]
They were massive protectionists, weren’t they, America?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:43:32 – 00:43:56]
Well, always protectionists. From Washington onwards, they believed that the only way US industry, because it was an agrarian country. So the only way you could start industry here was to protect it from competition, from imports from the UK or from France or from Spain or wherever it was. And that’s how they built their industrial base here, through a very, very high levels of tariff. And it was very popular.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:43:56 – 00:44:14]
It was not really disputed. And while the UK went through the free trade revolution in the 19th century, the US did not. And anyway, we’ll see. It’s not going to be the thing that people are thinking about. The average Americans thinking about when they go into the ballot box, they’re going to be thinking about inflation.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:44:14 – 00:44:42]
That is the one thing that will drive people are thinking, has my living standard gone up or down over the last four years after I’ve paid for my housing, my car, my food, my holiday, my mobile phone, etcetera, insurance, thatll be what drives. And incumbent governments, whether theyre to the left or the right, are going to feel some heat, I think, in this round of elections.

Richard Taylor:
[00:44:42 – 00:44:46]
I think youre spot on. And I think its unfair in a way.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:44:46 – 00:44:50]
Yes, theres not much they could do about the inflation, but youll still be punished for it.

Richard Taylor:
[00:44:50 – 00:45:08]
Well, here in the US, the inflation was partly caused by Trump, partly caused by Biden, and partly caused by a whole lot of things we cant even, you know. But I think Biden has done a good job on many respects, and it’s certainly been less chaotic. But I think this inflation issue is going to obscure everything. I’m sure. Same for you.

Richard Taylor:
[00:45:08 – 00:45:30]
Your weekly bills have gone through the roof and people don’t see past that, and they’ll just point the finger. Here’s a question for you. Based on what you said about protectionism and the history here, you’re in the business of open trade. It seems, based on the last few years and what you’ve just said, that the world seems to be turning in on itself again day to day. Are you seeing that or are you seeing.

Richard Taylor:
[00:45:30 – 00:45:33]
There’s a rhetoric, but we still have a global outlook.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:45:33 – 00:46:00]
The problem is, instinctively, we believe in free trade and open access, but the only way that works is if countries comply with the rules that go along with that. So no government subsidies. It’s fair competition. You build something, and if you can build it better and cheaper, great. But not if doing that is driven by government subsidy, that therefore enables you to build something cheaper, and so on.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:46:00 – 00:46:34]
And so most of the worry about this has been driven by China, which has repeatedly not abided by the rules of the WTO. And this is what’s driving change. So there isn’t a large company in the world that hasn’t been rethinking its exposure to China. So every large company that has been making things in China has been rethinking whether that’s sensible and to what extent they should be exposed to that. And that’s meant a lot of movement out of China to, frankly, to other low cost destinations.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:46:34 – 00:47:04]
So Indonesia, Philippines, India has been a huge beneficiary of this change. So to a less risky place. So, yeah, I mean, there is definitely the decoupling, as they call it, between China and America is real. And that, together with both the impact of the Ukraine war and Covid, has led to some deglobalization. So at the start of COVID it was only when something super bad happens that people kind of understand the way that the economy has worked to the global supply trade.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:47:04 – 00:47:30]
And so countries like the US and the UK realized all of the painkillers that they sell, aspirin, analgesics, whatever, all of the painkillers that they sell in the UK and the US are made in China. And so you think, bloody hell. And all of the surgical gowns and the PPE, all of that was made in China. I said it didn’t have any. When suddenly you needed it and you needed painkillers or antibiotics.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:47:30 – 00:48:09]
We didn’t make any in the US and we didn’t make any in the UK. And people are thinking, well, is that right? It’s only when you get tested at the extreme that these things come into real focus. And so I don’t think either the US, the UK or the EU is ever going to allow itself to be in a position where at the extreme of events, war, pandemic, you can’t feed your country, you can’t provide your country with the right drugs and healthcare. This was why under the Trump administration, the steel tariffs were put in place, because there was no steel manufacturing left in the US, because steel was cheaper to buy from China or Korea.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:48:09 – 00:48:57]
And so you think, was that national security issue? Well, not most of the time, but if something disastrous happened and you can’t make steel, or you don’t have any capability of making steel because they’ve all closed down, then it’s a problem. So these issues are so nuanced. But to answer your question, unfortunately, we’re going through a trend which is absolutely clear towards greater protection of local jobs, local industries, reshoring of industries that had been outsourced to cheaper economies, particularly those that have been outsourced to more risky geopolitical economies, like China being the main one. The US is leading, that EU is doing similar things and the UK is doing similar things too.

Richard Taylor:
[00:48:57 – 00:49:06]
Hopefully it’s a case of one step back to take two steps forward. Because I think if this trend continues indefinitely, excessive inward looking ends in disaster.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:49:06 – 00:49:49]
And by the way, the US has talked about this as well as reshoring. People have been talking about friend shoring, or ally shoring, as they call it. This was this concept that if youre going to bring supply chains back from high risk environments like China and other places like that, then they dont necessarily need to come back to the US, but they could go to an allied country or a country where you have a very close and relatively risk free relationship, like the UK, or in theory, the EU, Canada, these kinds of countries where, okay, the chances of us not being able to buy steel or semiconductors or analgesics from the UK is pretty low.

Richard Taylor:
[00:49:49 – 00:49:50]
It’s like the five eyes thing, isn’t it?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:49:50 – 00:50:15]
It is like the five eyes, yeah. Who do you trust? And the UK is in a good position there, and the UK continues to be by far the most important ally to the US when it comes to hard security and intelligence issues. The five eyes. Within the five eyes, there are three eyes that the US, the UK and Australia, and then sort of Canada and New Zealand are on more of the periphery.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:50:15 – 00:50:48]
And within the three eyes, it’s really the US and the UK that have the real capability for military intelligence. Things like GCHQ in the UK is the world’s most advanced electronic spying facility. Listening to Internet chatter and understanding what’s going on in the world. And that’s a hugely valuable asset to the US. So they’re absolutely locked together, the military, intelligence and security teams in the US and the UK, and that kind of transcends who might be in number ten or the White House.

Richard Taylor:
[00:50:48 – 00:50:52]
Good. As we wrap up here, where can people find you and or the BAB?

Duncan Edwards:
[00:50:52 – 00:51:10]
So you can find us@www.BABinc.org. and you can also find us at British American business on LinkedIn. We are super active on LinkedIn. We post all of our activity there. So you’ll be able to see what we’re up to there or just give us a call.

Richard Taylor:
[00:51:11 – 00:51:33]
Okay. I endorsed that message we joined a while ago. It’s been a great resource for us. I met some great people and I’m excited to where this journey will take us. And if you are thinking of coming to the US, go and check out this trade and investment guide because I tell you, if they can help you understand what you need to know, and more importantly, in some ways, the people and the firms that you should be speaking to to help you, that is invaluable.

Richard Taylor:
[00:51:33 – 00:51:35]
So thank you, Duncan, I appreciate it.

Duncan Edwards:
[00:51:35 – 00:51:37]
Thanks, Richard. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Richard Taylor:
[00:51:37 – 00:51:48]
Me too. Bye bye. Alright, folks, that’s another episode of we’re the Brits in America under our belts. Thank you for listening. I appreciate it and I appreciate you.

Richard Taylor:
[00:51:48 – 00:52:11]
If you’re enjoying the show and would like to support the mission, which is to help Brits thrive in America, I’d ask you to subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen and also consider leaving a rating and a review. This stuff really does matter. Please help us get this information to the people who need it. That is your fellow Brits living in America. Just a quick reminder that this show is brought to you by planned first wealth.

Richard Taylor:
[00:52:11 – 00:52:37]
We are a US based US UK cross border financial planning and wealth management firm. And we help successful British expatriates living across the US to make the most of their opportunity and ultimately to retire happier. So if you’re a British expat living in America and you’d like to know more about what we do for people on you. You can find us at our website, www.planfirstwealth.com, or you can look me up on LinkedIn. Do get in touch.

Richard Taylor:
[00:52:37 – 00:52:45]
We’d love to hear from you. As always, thank you to Sam Nash and the podcast guys for their help producing this episode and the entire show. See you next time.

Retire Happier.

Plan First Wealth Is A US/UK Wealth Management Firm Serving Successful British Expats in America With at Least $1M net worth Make the Most of their Opportunity.

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