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Meet the Elite: DHL Global Forwarding’s Mark Slade

DHL Global Forwarding's Managing Director Hong Kong and Macau on the business challenges and opportunities in the two SARs

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Canadian by birth, but I have worked in Asia for the past 20 years and for DHL Global Forwarding for the past 15. Following a role as director of sales at Evergreen Airlines in Singapore, I joined DHL in Singapore and then moved to Japan after nearly five years to take up positions including GM airfreight, chief operating officer before a six-year stint as managing director Japan. I moved to Hong Kong to take up my current role at the start of the year.

Tell us about your business

DHL Global Forwarding is the world’s biggest air freight forwarder, though most people outside the industry only know us for our express division. From Hong Kong, I would say our export business is balanced about a third each to Asia, Europe and the US. Imports, we’re more European-driven. We have a good balance of freight types but we have some traditional strengths – high-tech, engineering, manufacturing, a lot of garments and so on.

Do you have any involvement with cross-border traffic in Hong Kong?

Absolutely. On the outbound side, 95 per cent or more of the volume originates from Southern China. Customers ship here because of the capacity and the flight connections. Inbound, most of the volume is bound for China – but there’s also a real domestic consumption market in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has certain advantages in terms of transhipments and bringing in cargo, not least the free trade agreements. We do a tremendous amount of cross-border trucking, both in and out.

What are the challenges and opportunities for Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is one of the single largest stations in the world and, in terms of a physical consolidation point for air freight export, it remains one of the top cargo markets in the world – so that’s the opportunity. The challenges we face are the cost of property, which is making it an ever-more expensive place to do business. We have quite extensive requirements for office and warehouse space, and that’s presenting a challenge. I don’t see Guangzhou or Shenzhen overtaking Hong Kong anytime soon because of the interconnectivity between passenger and cargo flights. The passenger demand is really here, and so I think Hong Kong will remain a crucial cargo hub for many years to come.

Why Cathay Pacific?

Because it’s got a great mix of belly and main deck capacity. It’s got a great network; we love the number of options that gives us and we love the reliability. It has good special handling products for temperature-controlled goods or, dangerous goods, along with a really good special handling team. Overall the quality is top.

What do you do outside of work?

I am married and I have two daughters, so I’m a fringe minority in my household. So at weekends I’m hanging out with my kids, and I love to read books, read real newspapers, magazines. I’m not a big fan of the web – the only thing I like about the internet is Wikipedia. The rest of it, you can keep. I like a real newspaper, a real book. I don’t like Kindles – I like to pick up a book in my hand.