2020 is the year the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce celebrates its Centenary, ushering months of special events to toast one hundred years of successfully furthering bilateral trade and helping companies in Switzerland and Britain find their way in a fast changing world.
From its origins in Bern in 1920 to its structure today as a member organisation of eight Chapters stretching across six Swiss cities and regions, Liechtenstein, and the UK, the BSCC has become the biggest and most active British chamber of commerce in continental Europe.
From the outset, it has been focused faithfully on the needs of its members. That could be a request for information about new regulations and procedures, knowledge about new developments and technologies, or the simple desire to get to know other like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs through regular networking events.
From the sole trader or independent consultant to the global household name, the BSCC, with members from 12 industry sectors, caters to all, irrespective of size or nationality. Membership is currently around 500, represented by 31 councillors and more than 100 volunteers.
Membership, which comes in various categories depending on the degree of engagement, is handled by the BSCC’s Zurich central team of five full time professionals, supported by consultants in Geneva and London. Our team coordinate and arrange events, manage marketing and membership and form a central point of reference for the Chapters.
Central office also plays a crucial role in managing the BSCC’s close relationship with the British Embassy in Bern and Swiss Embassy in London. That can include exclusive events at the Ambassador’s residence, or co-ordination when it comes to visits by specialised representative for bilateral UK-Swiss trade.
Britain and Switzerland are and will continue to be extremely close partners. Total bilateral trade (imports & exports) amounted to £30.5 billion in 2018. Britain was Switzerland’s sixth biggest export market in 2018, with sales of CHF 9.4 billion, and the country’s eighth biggest source of imports. Almost 60,000 scheduled flights link Switzerland and the UK each year, helping to connect the roughly 31,000 Swiss citizens living in Britain and the 41,000 Britons resident in Switzerland.
What’s in store for BSCC in 2020
The BSCC’s central office team has been particularly busy in 2020, coordinating four gala dinners in Basel, London, Geneva and Zurich being held to celebrate the 100th anniversary. As well as the annual programme, AGM and Parliamentary Dinners, the Chamber also delivers large scale flagship events covering hot topics supporting the business objectives of its members.
June will also usher in change with the election of Sir Andrew Cook, the BSCC’s President Designate. He succeeds Anne-Marie de Weck, a prominent Swiss lawyer and banker, who in her three years in office has made great strides in raising the BSCC’s profile in both Switzerland and the UK.
While the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing needs have proved disruptive, the BSCC has as far as possible pursued business as usual. Among innovations has been the introduction of video conferences to aid continuity and keep members in touch during a time of unprecedented upheaval. It has also invested renewed energy into its marketing campaigns to enhance the membership benefits and to continue to grow its diverse network.
Among the Chamber’s most active – and tech savvy – participants has been the Young Professionals Groups (YPG), a relatively recent initiative already well established in Basel, Geneva, London and Zurich which is targeting professionals under the age of 40.
Created to help engage future business leaders, the YPG’s scope has expanded further this year with the introduction of a Mentoring Programme. Held on a regular one to one basis, these are designed to stimulate members’ professional growth by setting career goals and developing competences. The scheme is expected to form an increasingly important part of the YPG’s activities and help take the BSCC into its second century.