When General Electric Co. hired Charles Cao in 2005, it may not have realized all it was getting. With his many years running treasury operations in China for French telecom giant Alcatel and before that, heading up corporate banking for Credit Agricole Indosuez from there and Paris, Cao clearly embodied all the much sought-after qualities of the elusive finance job candidate for China--bilingual, familiar with both Western and Chinese treasury and banking practices and hands-on experience dealing with both. As it turned out, he represented a ticket to bringing progressive treasury practices to GE's Chinese operations.
Admittedly, the GE name and extensive business presence was no small factor: GE manufactures in China, exports to China and imports from China; its NBC subsidiary is now preparing to broadcast the 2008 Olympics from Beijing. But by installing Cao to run the multinational's three-person treasury team out of Shanghai, GE was recognizing a key component of a best-practices finance strategy for operating in China: a company needs on-the-ground expertise with a track record of doing business with the Chinese banking establishment and regulators.