I’ve just returned from the TMA Eastern European Conference held at the Czech National Bank in Prague. In its third year, this conference continues to grow by attracting individuals engaged in or interested in turnaround, restructuring, insolvency, and corporate renewal in the Central East European (CEE) region.
It’s no surprise that this conference grows year over year. In the past three years, new TMA chapters have opened across the region to help companies deal with fallout from the Great Recession, the maturing of the post-communist economies, and the impact of economic globalization on these once-isolated nations. Western capital flowed into the CEE after the fall of the Iron Curtain; now, some 25 years later, many of those investments are proving to be challenges.
This year’s TMA Eastern European Conference focused on nonperforming loans (NPLs). In 2015 there were some €140.5 billion ($159 billion) NPL transactions in the European market, but only €9 billion in the CEE. This low number is a result of both the relative size of the economies and the fact that often, countries in the CEE lack the regulatory and legal infrastructure that more mature Western economies use to effectively deal with the problem. This is changing as more and more countries in the CEE update their regulatory and legal systems. At the end of the conference, one attendee remarked to me that what he was hearing reminded him of how it used to be in the United States, back when TMA was first founded.
This observation has been made more than once as I’ve traveled around the world visiting TMA chapters. In December, I visited Seoul to officially welcome TMA Korea into the fold. This chapter was specifically chartered by the South Korean government to help foster and support a spirit of entrepreneurship in the country by allowing companies to have a second chance. During the 2015 TMA Asia Pacific Conference in Singapore last November, presenters spoke of the need to assist companies in the emerging markets of Asia and China, which is perhaps the single largest opportunity and greatest challenge for the turnaround and insolvency industry.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and interdependent, the need for turnaround, restructuring, and insolvency professionals will only increase, and TMA is the only organization that brings the entire industry together in one place. While not all members engage in cross-border work, increasingly cross-border events impact the work of TMA members. If a TMA member working in Singapore or Romania for a private-equity investor that also invests in the U.S. and UK can help that fund rescue a declining investment, then the global economy wins and, more importantly, the industry grows.
Almost 30 years ago, TMA was born in North Carolina as a vehicle to bring together U.S. turnaround professionals. As the economy has globalized, so has TMA, and today there are 57 chapters around the world. TMA members are working in every corner of the globe to save jobs, protect capital, and provide a second chance for entrepreneurs. TMA will continue to work to provide the connections, knowledge, information, and certification to help our members succeed.