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BCCH Director Csilla Csurgai and Chairman Vazul Tóth | Dávid Harangozó

Chamber of choice

D&T
October 8, 2017

The British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH) celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Asked what he regards the greatest achievement of this quarter of a century, BCCH Chairman Vazul Tóth tells Diplomacy& Trade it is that the BCCH is among the top three most active bilateral chambers in Hungary.

“We are proud that based on
feedback, we can say that people consider the BCCH as one of the leading
Chambers of Europe and as a chamber of choice. 26 years is a long time, we have
been through a great deal, and thus, plenty of achievements: hosting over a
thousand events, opening the British Business Centre in Budapest, starting
projects such as our uSchool Entrepreneurship Club, which was even featured in
the Forbes Magazine, and so on,” the Chairman says.

The Executive Director of
BCCH, Csilla Csurgai highlights among the most successful events the
celebration, in 2009, of the 150th anniversary of Big Ben, one of London's
iconic landmarks and the celebration, last year, of the 25th anniversary of
BCCH.

The Chairman revealed that the
nature of these events changed in accordance with the demands of the members. “A
few years ago, when we started building BCCH 2.0, as I like to call it, we
built it on three key pillars. The first is facilitating knowledge transfer from
multinational companies to SMEs, who the chamber found ‘were very keen to learn
good practices from multinationals and acquire skills to grow to the next level’.
This is typified by the SME breakfast series, in which experts of multinational
companies are invited to share their experience with Chamber’s SME members. The
second pillar is the highly successful CEO dinner series. We found that there
was a desire among C-level executives to learn from CEOs in various sectors and
to discuss topical issues with them. We are delighted that over the past two
years we have been able to host CEOs of significant organizations such as GSK,
BT, Vodafone and Budapest Airport to name a few. The third pillar focuses on
innovative business models and disruptive technologies.  Working with several local and British organizations
we aim to spread a startup mindset to facilitate a rapid change in developing
products and services.”

International network

The BCCH (with close to 130 members)
has a close working relationship with the British Embassy in Budapest and with
other European chambers and business organizations operating in Hungary. The
Chamber is also a member of COBCOE (Council of British Chambers of Commerce in
Europe), an umbrella association of all the British Chambers of Commerce
operating in Europe. “In all its activities, as the gateway to a global trade
and investment business solution, our network of business support services and
partnerships with the Department for International Trade (DIT), and the
European (COBCOE) and global network of UK Chambers of Commerce gives our
members the direct contact and connections they need to succeed, and this is why
the BCCH regards its British identity and values as fundamental to its
success.”

He adds that the BCCH
leadership is convinced that the Chamber still has a far-reaching future,
especially if the organization continues its various facets, its mixture of
professional interests, friendships, lobbying missions and the desire to give
something back to Hungary, “therefore, we keep coming up with new ideas
regarding our events and try to tailor them around the current economic and
business challenges hence, we can serve our members better.”

Beyond business events, like
business breakfasts, luncheons, business seminars and workshops, conferences
and exclusive CEO Dinners, BCCH has hosted various networking events throughout
the years.

The Executive Director is
pleased to mention the professional and networking events. “Our members really
like the ‘club-like’ and business friendly atmosphere, primarily the very
prestigious British Business Club, held at the Ambassador’s residence; then, the
joint BCCH Christmas Party with the Embassy, the Chamber’s Family Day, the Guy
Fawkes Night and the great Culture Clubs with exhilarating exhibitions that
showed the magnificent works of Rippl-Rónai, Turner, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt
or others.”

“One of our greatest values is that we care about the views
and opinions of our members and stakeholders that help us to
build a powerful multilateral network and increase the capacity and
professionalism of the Chamber.” she adds.

Principles and business values

“Our mission is to represent
British, Hungarian and international companies with the overarching principles
of British business values and promote trade and investment flows between the
UK and Hungary. We provide our members with all kinds of opportunities to raise
their company’s business profile and strengthen their competitiveness in the
local and international market. These opportunities include events and
publications (these both are very popular), areas of focus (such as knowledge
transfer, SMEs, CR, etc.), international and regional partnerships, as well as
special offers and discounts,” Vazul Tóth points out.

Among British business values
represented by BCCH, he lists competitiveness, transparency, good governance,
accountability and fairness which all play a very important role in the
operations of the organization. As to how BCCH can contribute to the competitiveness
of the Hungarian economy, the Chairman stresses that    “our membership started growing once again
to reach close to 130 members of British, Hungarian and international business
people and corporations, and we have a network of over 3,000 contacts from
approximately 20 sectors. We started to strengthen our relationship with our
existing members and build relationships with new members and partners. We
began to create opportunities for British SMEs entering the Hungarian market
through our British Business Centre operations, which offers continued export
support. If an SME is interested in coming here, the Business Centre will do
the market research for them to see what opportunities are available, offer a hot
desk opportunity for them during their negotiations and ’scouting trips’, and
support their establishment in the Hungarian market. In two-and-a-half years,
we have helped 500 British SMEs enter the market; in terms of signed contracts,
that’s GBP 0.5 million.”

Vazul Tóth was re-elected as
BCCH Chairman earlier this year. For this next term, he wishes to concentrate
primarily on three issues: digitalization; British business values; and value
added services to BCCH members. “Digitalization is here and is already
significantly transforming how organizations trade, build their capabilities
and deliver services to their customers. We need to make sure we are supporting
this and we are part of this development rather than just jumping on this when
it is too late. We will continue to support those business values that I have
mentioned, promote the flow of trade between Hungary and the UK and, in terms
of events, we continue to focus on current affairs and relevant topics,” he
concludes.

Brexit

With reference to the outcome
of the Brexit vote last summer, the BCCH President explains that “as the UK
redefines its relationships with the EU, our mission remains the same;
promoting trade and investment flow between the UK and Hungary. Brexit is an
unprecedented event, and as such, it is very hard to predict the short and long
term implications on trade at this point. What we know is that more and more
emphasis will be placed on bilateral relationships and synergies. Hungary and
the UK have an extremely strong relationship on a trade and political level. I
think there will be lots of opportunities to build on that.”

He believes that the role of
the British Chamber of Commerce and the British Business Centre will be more
important in the new era of trade relations and regulations. British companies
will require professional guidance and support of experts from the Chamber when
entering the local market. “New exporters may face additional administrative
and legal challenges and we will aim to provide clarity and assistance.”

“We currently see good
opportunities for trade and investment in the Hungarian market in the
Healthcare & Medical, Automotive, Clothing, Footwear and Fashion industries
and we will continue to improve and exploit our strong relationship with the UK
through our events and promoting the opportunities available in Hungary.”

The market has proved that the
BCCH plays a significant part in helping British businesses entering and
operating in Hungary. “We firmly believe that whatever the road of Brexit is
going to be, the Chamber will stand the test of time and play a key role in
redefining and facilitating the new relationship between the UK and Hungary. We
have the expertise and good relationships with key stakeholders and the
government through which we are well positioned to provide win-win
opportunities for our members. As the UK redefines its relationships with the EU,
more and more emphasis will be placed on bilateral synergies and we will be
here to take part in that.”

D&T

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