Traders across borders: who and where?

Agnieszka Nowińska*, Jean François Marie André Hennart, Svetla Marinova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The authors revisit the literature on the use of expatriates and specifically Boyacigiller (1990) and examine whether OW Bunker, a Danish bunker oil trader, filled positions at its foreign units with traders transferred from its other units (expatriates). The authors test the generalizability and robustness of past findings on this topic by using a different dependent variable, sample, and methodology. Design/methodology/approach: By searching the traders' LinkedIn profiles and consulting secondary sources, the authors obtain data on current and previous positions and work location and type of customer handled (global or local). Using qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), the authors analyze 236 hiring decisions made between 1983 and 2014. Findings: The authors find that OW transferred expatriates, principally home-country nationals, to handle global customers in its large foreign subsidiaries located in high-income countries. In another clear pattern, expatriates were used to start new foreign subsidiaries. These results generally confirm those of Boyacigiller. However, and contrary to her findings, none of our scenarios for internal transfers feature expatriates being sent to culturally and institutionally distant subsidiaries unless it is to serve global customers, casting doubt on the idea that a major reason for using expatriates is to remedy a local shortage of skills or to handle political risk. Originality/value: The authors test the generalizability of Boyacigiller’s (1990) findings and confirm a large part of it. They extend her study by demonstrating that MNEs deploy expatriates not only to distant countries but also to close ones.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Global Mobility
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)437-457
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Editorial support for this paper was provided by the project ‘Enhancing Value Creation and Value Capture through Business Model Configuration: An Ecosystem Perspective (ENHANCE)’, number 327110, funded by NOS-HS Nordic Council of Ministers, Project Lead Svetla T. Marinova, as part of the project's research network dissemination activities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Expatriates
  • Hiring
  • Replication
  • Staffing
  • fsQCA


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