SwissCham Singapore ramping up activities

SWISSCHAM Singapore has just launched 4 new sub­committees and added new industry expertise to its board to serve its members better as it ramps up activities with the return to normalcy in the business world following the relaxation of Covid-­19 restrictions.

It formally announced the launch of its new sub­committees on Climate­Tech, Digital Transformation, International Relations Asia, and Hospitality at its in­-person annual general meeting held at the EHL Campus (Singapore) in May.

"We aim to drive new exchanges on more diverse topics and professionally connect SwissCham member companies and individuals based on these common sets of interests with the various exchange platforms that the chamber provides," says SwissCham's newly re­elected chairman George von Wattenwyl. He was first elected to the position in 2019.

While the chamber's board was largely re­elected at the 33rd Annual General Meeting on May 23, two vacated seats were filled with new members representing fresh industry expertise. Furthermore, as both new board members are women, this takes the female representation to 4 out of a total of 10 board seats.

The 2 new board members are Sabrina Winter, senior director, regional sales South­east Asia & Pacific at Swiss International Air Lines, who represents the travel industry, and Lisa Schroder, director for business management at vestr, who was appointed chair of the chamber's Young Professionals sub­committee in March this year.

More purposeful

The SwissCham chief says the chamber is trying to be more purposeful in the current economy.

The pandemic pushed the chamber to shift most of the engagements online. SwissCham finally migrated to a new website at the end of last year; that has been an enormous project for the team in the past years when we sourced and talked with different service providers until we made the final decision to go with the Glue­up software platform, commonly used by chambers around the region.

"Our members can now access the chamber's latest updates on news and events, and exchange business contacts with one another at their fingertips with the free mobile app. The new interface has also made managing our membership database and finances more efficient than before as now the two systems have integrated into one."

In addition to the new digitalisation and member engagement platform, the sub­committees and the 2 new board members will lend more visibility and weight to the members' representatives from a wider range of industry. The chamber over the past year had also initiated collaborations with 13 regional Swiss chambers. This is so as to have a united voice linking the regional chambers with the Switzerland Global Enterprise, in the spirit of enhancing benefits for SwissCham Singapore's members.

"We conducted online dialogues with the APAC Swiss Chambers on a monthly basis, co­organised a few webinars on topics related to sustainability for businesses, which were part of the Swiss Weeks 2022 events," Wattenwyl tells BT. The chamber also participated in the Singapore FinTech Festival in November last year.

A highlight for SwissCham over the past year was its flagship Business Excellence Awards 2021, at which 2 grand prizes were given out. Netcetera was the overall winner of the Digital Transformation Award, while DKSH Singapore was the winner of the People & Skills Development Award.

"Every society is as strong as its members, and we are proud to have over 300 actively involved members. We are certainly happy to see that more and more members come to us to form focus groups and sub­committees in order to drive more initiatives and help grow this community," Wattenwyl says.

Looking ahead, however, there could be unexpected headwinds. "While we exit Covid, a new realm of uncertainty provoked by the Ukraine crisis, global supply chain disruptions and a pressing need to fight climate change threatens our return to normalcy. However, I'm led to believe that Singapore is ready to face these challenges by capturing opportunities to bring massphysical events back in order to facilitate the business needs of the community," the SwissCham chief says.

"The chamber will be a platform to address the important topics for our companies and members. Furthermore, we are excited to be hosting the business community with a series of networking and large­scale events in­person again. Events in the pipeline are our monthly Business Apero, quarterly chairman's luncheons, Gala Dinner on Oct 29, and the year­-end event on Dec 1.

"Switzerland has been named the most innovative country in Europe for 2021 by the European Commission. Our flagship event, the Gala Dinner, will be a perfect occasion for us to celebrate Switzerland's leading position in innovation and promote the proudest and foremost innovative presentations from Switzerland and Singapore. Our guests will be treated to an evening packed with innovative elements and inspiring presentations from the chamber's partners and sponsors."

The SwissCham chief says that he sees new promising areas for Swiss­-Singapore businesses going forward. Singapore is stronger than ever and had done a good job in opening up its border early to support business needs. "Connectivity is key for many of our members in Singapore as they want to become very active again, with the easing of travel restrictions.

"On the other hand, there are a lot of challenges in recruiting talent with the current labour market which our members struggle with. Switzerland continues to innovate as most businesses have adapted to the circumstances by relying heavily on digital technology, showing

creativity and innovation, while developing sustainable activities in new formats, with numerous virtual and hybrid events...

“We believe this trend will continue to grow and thus our role in advocating for our members' interests has become even more significant and we are pleased to see that our regular, constructive dialogues with the local authorities together with the Swiss Embassy have brought about concrete initiatives to assist our members."

Business services, Medtech, Foodtech, logistics and ICT investments have grown in recent years. This is in line with Swiss companies leveraging Singapore's position as a hub into South-­east Asia and the larger Asia­-Pacific region, he adds.

The promising area of fintech offers an opportunity for Swiss­-Singapore collaboration to grow. "One chief driver would be Singapore's finance and insurance industry, where the city's fintech scene is attracting major investments. According to the Swiss National Bank, investments into Singapore yielded the highest rate of return of 32 per cent of any Swiss investment destination.

Recent highlight

It is noteworthy that 91 Swiss fintechs including Crealogix, Ti&M, Apiax, Algo Trader, Metaco, vestr, Additiv, F10 and Crypto Finance have already established a presence in Singapore as it is a premium city for fintech, with 1,350 of them in total operating here," says Wattenwyl.

The SwissCham chief says that a recent highlight for the chamber's members was the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in May, during which they had the opportunity to exchange ideas with him.

"Based on a collaboration between Switzerland and Singapore, the Point Zero Forum was to take place from 21 to 23 Jun, 2022 in Zurich. The conference was planned to be a platform for the discussion of current and future fintech regulatory frameworks, developments in Web 3, embedded finance and sustainable finance," he says.

"It is also aimed at driving investment activity between the two regions by bringing together relevant stakeholders, and the DPM was invited by Switzerland to attend the forum in person." In May, Heng invited C­level representatives of Swiss global industrial companies such as ABB, Adecco, Nestle, Givaudan and Schindler in Singapore for a broad exchange of views with a focus on talent management and innovation, in preparation for his work trip.

"We certainly hope that this dialogue with the local government will be organised more frequently, showing that collectively we can potentially create a better ecosystem for the two nations," he adds.