Since the regional currency crisis broke, Asians have been regularly lectured by many outsiders about the inherent failures of their business style, which they are told lends itself to corruption, cowboy regulations and corporate irresponsibility. With Western vulture funds shopping for distressed assets and some United States investment banks stepping up their presence in the region, it seems the way of doing business in Asia may increasingly be recast in a Western - particularly American - mould. Not so, said Tetsuo Yamashita, the head of Core Pacific-Yamaichi International, the Hong Kong unit of the Taiwan financial group, one of the few Asian companies that is expanding its profile even as markets languish. In fact, the possibility of an American invasion makes Mr Yamashita all the more determined to keep doing Asian business in the Asian style. 'There isn't the same chemistry, the feeling of being as a family,' he said of the relations between Western investment banks and Asian client companies. 'I know that doesn't sound quantifiable, scientific, but it's very important.' Core Pacific splashed out about US$90 million in December last year to acquire the Hong Kong subsidiary of Japan's failed Yamaichi Securities. At the time, it promised to retain its about 150 employees. Corporate communications president Lily Yau said this commitment to the firm's staff symbolised the different styles of Asian and non-Asian operators. 'They bought some assets,' she said of Merrill Lynch, which took over the Yamaichi franchise in Japan. 'We bought the assets and liabilities.' Merrill also took on many Yamaichi employees, but it let others go and retrained some employees. 'Horrible culture clash,' Mr Yamashita said of the deal. 'It will be very hard for them to work for the Americans.' A believer in business friendships forged over copious consumption of Japanese wine sake, he equated 'connection' with 'commitment'. 'Mr Sheen has good connections,' he said, pointing to the Core Pacific Group's founder and chairman, Sheen Ching-jing, with admiration for assiduously building contacts in the mainland. 'He visits there all the time. Relationships are something you build up over time.' Mr Yamashita feels his group has an edge in underwriting mainland-based equity deals because the firm is culturally closer to mainland clients. 'The Westerners, they get baffled dealing in China, they're more likely to back out of a deal at the last minute,' he said. Perhaps his reference is to Jardine Fleming's decision to postpone last month's listing of B share Worldbest Kama Machinery, citing tough market conditions. Core Pacific-Yamaichi took over the issue and was able to help the company raise US$76 million earlier this month. Ironically though, Core Pacific is keen to emulate at least some of the Merrill approach, hoping to build a business that spans both institutional and retail trade. In the past few days, it has opened two retail branches in Hong Kong and Mr Yamashita said several more branches were planned over the next few months. 'We want to be the Asian Merrill Lynch,' Ms Yau said. With its two seats on mainland stock exchanges, which allow it to trade the 'foreigner-only' B shares, an expansive retail branch network in Taiwan, and a growing Hong Kong business, Core Pacific hopes to be dominant in Greater China. It also recently strengthened its corporate finance team to go after mainland equity and regional distressed-debt deals. Having played a role in privatising government-controlled businesses in Taiwan, Core Pacific feels it is a strong candidate to underwrite B-share issues and the like as more state industries in the mainland are listed. What they will have to convince future clients is that they have enough strength on the distribution side. Yamaichi started in Hong Kong selling Japanese equities to investors. As Hong Kong's market grew, it developed a strong franchise selling Hong Kong equities to Japanese fund managers. The Japanese connection is not as weighty as in the past, and as all the capital seems to be in Europe and Wall Street these days, Mr Yamashita recognises the weakness. 'We need to improve our distribution,' he said, pointing to the opening of new offices in New York and London. 'My job is to internationalise,' he said. 'But to do so in an Asian way.'