Archive

Tag Archives: business

Although those headlines that tell you robots are going to steal your job can be disheartening, the overarching message that came from last week’s panel was a positive one. Though the term Artificial Intelligence may seem scary, the panel reminded us that we actually already use A.I everyday – when we search Google, choose from recommendations on Netflix or Spotify or find more similar products on Amazon. Overall, the discussion made it clear that as automation advances, it will be the most human-centric skills that become the most valuable.

Expert Panel_3

On the 12th February, our Chief Executive Glenn Vaughan chaired an expert panel discussion on automation at The British School of Brussels, in collaboration with AmCham Belgium. Discussing the ‘Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: workforce transitions in an age of automation’ McKinsey Global Institute report from 2017, the panel provided a great insight for the future workfoce – the students from BSB and other local schools – as well as the current one – parents and corporate representatives from across Brussels.

Key note speaker Jacques Bughin, Director of MGI and co-author of the report, gave the message that instead of fearing this new technology and worrying about what jobs it might take away, it is better to view these new advancements as opportunities and seize each one. Jacques’ confidence that it is not that today’s jobs will all disappear, that instead they will transition as they have done in the past and it is up to us to decide how these transitions unfold, was an aspirational takeaway for the audience.

Catherine Stewart, Senior Advisor at Interel Group, was clear that there are still ways to stay ahead of the automation trend. Though machines and A.I are advancing in cognitive tasks related to memory and learning new information, they lack our people skills and emotional intelligence. Catherine’s advice to the future workforce, and also to the current one, is “learn to be clear, constructive, creative and adaptable, learn to listen and to challenge in a positive way” in order to thrive.

‘The high-skill, high-pay jobs of the future may involve skills better measured by EQs (a measure of emotional intelligence) than IQs’

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England

Angela Dong, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Research & Innovation, Solvay, is witnessing the A.I transition first hand, and advised the audience that in fact, not everyone needs to master the potentials from A.I and new technology, but to stand out you will need to understand what it is that it can help you achieve.

Melanie Warnes, Principal and CEO of The British School of Brussels, concluded the panel discussion in agreement with the other panellists that the way the future workforce interact with each other, human to human, will be crucial, and that an optimistic view on the topic remains important.

Expert Panel_4

Though automation may be on the rise, the take home message of the night was to take a positive outlook – the robots won’t beat us yet!

‘The future is not predictable, it is to be shaped’

Jacques Bughin

 

 

Accreditation logo - option 2

The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

We’ve been speaking to BNP Paribas Fortis on what they think the biggest issues are for business when joining the Belgian market.

994508000000097324

Which 3 questions should companies looking to do business in Belgium ask themselves?

You cannot enter a market without thoroughly analysing it first and having a clear idea of its main players and competitors. Which leads us quite nicely to the first question: What does my target market look like, and what are my market timing, KPIs and objectives going to be? Once you have answered this rather basic but essential question, you will need to determine how you are going to enter the market. Will you set out on your own, or do you appeal to a specialized partner to help you access the market more efficiently and reduce your time-to-market? Finally, you need to determine where in Belgium you will set up your business. Many factors will influence this decision, such as the exact nature of your activities, what federal or regional incentives may apply to your company, the need for logistical and transport hubs, the need to find qualified personnel, etc. And once again, it is important to decide in advance if you will make this choice alone or in concert with a partner familiar with local regulation, culture, business habits and recruitment.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in or entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

Efforts continue apace to encourage entrepreneurship and attract foreign investors or companies. This is done in various ways, for instance by reducing or streamlining regulation, installing specific and advantageous tax systems, providing well-situated infrastructure and office space, investing in high-quality and internationally-oriented education, etc. All of these measures are intended to make it easier for your company to enter the Belgian market, but it will take some time and research to familiarize yourself with them.

Additionally, a great many aids and grants are available from federal and local authorities. We advise you to contact one of the dedicated investment agencies, such as the Brussels Enterprise Agency (BEA), Flanders Investment & Trade or the Office for Foreign Investors (OFI) in Wallonia , who will be more than happy to tell you which aids or incentives apply to your company.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you

Most importantly, for a seamless continuation of service.  Thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis being part of a global group, both your mother company and your Belgian activities can work with a single bank and enjoy the same service offer. Put more concretely, your relationship manager in Belgium will be in contact with the British BNP Paribas team, allowing for a better understanding of your specific needs, central reporting and an effective service level.

Through us, you also have access to an extensive offering of digital banking services and innovative solutions covering all your banking and financing needs, including international cash management, global trade solutions, factoring, fleet management, expat services, etc. Wherever you decide to establish your subsidiary in Belgium, you will receive a dedicated relationship manager from a central corporate bankers team in Brussels or from one of 16 local business centres.

Last but not least, we are quite experienced in servicing Belgian subsidiaries of foreign groups, which explains why over 3,300 foreign groups have chosen us as their bank in Belgium.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

This week, our team spoke to Karelle Lambert – Senior Area Director for Europe at AWEX; the Wallonia Export & Investment Agency.

What are the top-4 questions companies looking to do business in Belgium should be asking?

 1. Why Belgium?

Belgium offers a market of 10 million consumers but our country should be considered as a launching platform for your export activities in Continental Europe.  Indeed, within 4 hour truck drive, you may reach 60 million consumers with a high purchasing power.

Belgium is a perfect assessment market. Belgium is often used a test market by large companies, such as Coca Cola or H&M, to test new products.   Considered as neutral, Belgium is the perfect location to reach European key markets.

2. What is the corporate tax level?

Nominative corporate tax level in Belgium is 33,99%.  However, due to numerous tax incentive measures, the average effective corporate tax level is  26,3%.

3. What is the availability and cost of real estate and labour force?

Belgium benefits from a cost-effective office and industrial areas market.  Belgium offers among the lowest prices in real estate in Europe.  The same trend applies for industrial building as well as for equipped greenfield lands in economic parks.  Availability of office, existing facilities and large greenfield plots is high in Belgium.

Prime education and the use of languages makes Belgium the perfect place to develop your international activities. Belgian universities and management schools, among the top worldwide ranking, offer high quality graduates on the market.

The Belgian Government has taken several measures in order to stimulate business environment:

The Tax Shift Law provides for a decrease of the employer social security contributions from 33% to 25%. Eurostat statistics already show that Belgium has a substantially lower rise of salary costs than the other countries.

As of the 1st of January 2016, the current reduction in social contributions related to first hirings were increased in two ways:

  • full exemption from employers’ contributions for the first hiring, unlimited in duration;
  • reduction in contributions for the six first hirings.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in/entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

The business environment in Wallonia is enhanced through the new Marshall Plan 4.0 aiming at:

  • Considering Human capital as an asset and strengthening links between training and education,
  • Supporting the industry development, in a technological proactive perspective, including ever more and better SME’s,
  • Considering our territory as an essential resource for our economic development,
  • Supporting energy efficiency,
  • Supporting the digital innovation, integrating this new dimension within social and industrial practices.

Wallonia decided to strengthen its industrial policy and economic development through a clustering approach.  The Competitiveness clusters confirm the willingness to turn Wallonia into a competitive industrial area on a world-wide scale.  The clusters cover areas such as Transport & Logistics, Aeronautics & Aerospace, Sustainable & Eco construction, Green technologies, Energy & Sustainable development, Health & Biotech, Agro-food industry, ICT, Mechanical Engineering, Plastics processing, Digital industry.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you?

Wallonia Export & Investment is the governmental organization taking care of Foreign Investors and we assure you of our total commitment to help you in your enquiries and steps to set up or develop in Belgium – Wallonia.  We may help you on different aspects including the search of real estate, information on the cash grants available in the Region, availability and costs of personnel, etc.  In short, investment and R&D grants, attractive fiscal measures, employment incentives are all available.  At any time, we may organize visits locally and have you meet key partners for your project. All our services are free of charge and treated confidentially.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

Our Tax, Finance & Legal Task Force is in search of a new chair. The task force consists of experts from member companies – in the fields of tax, finance, and legal matters – and aims to help chamber members understand the practical issues of doing business in Belgium, including new regulatory developments.

As our President Thomas Spiller highlighted a few weeks ago, the benefits of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation are multiple and potentially highly impactful; not only will it increase visibility for your company, it will also raise your personal profile and extend your network even further. As the chair of the Tax, Finance & Legal Task Force, which plans 8-10 seminars per year, you have a substantial direct influence when it comes to shaping the chamber’s programme of business events. Furthermore, you will have a seat on the chamber’s Business Development Committee where the high-level planning of 40-50 chamber events takes place annually.

IMG_0672

Under the steady stewardship of incumbent chair Marc Quaghebeur (De Broeck Van Laere & Partners), the task force has consistently delivered high-quality seminars on a variety of practical aspects of doing business in Belgium. Recent seminar topics have included ‘Antitrust law for trade associations’, ‘International mobility’, ‘Commercial real estate’, ‘Pensions for the self-employed, ‘Data protection law’, ‘Belgian tax shift and international exchange of information’, ‘Managing a flexible workforce’, and ‘Brexit: what would it mean for my business?’ Furthermore, the task force launched the Expat Financial Affairs exhibition, now in its fourth annual edition, as a new flagship event for the British Chamber.

SONY DSC

The task force consists of experts from member companies in the fields of tax, finance, and legal matters – current members represented include: De Boeck Van Laere & Partners, The Fry Group Belgium, BDO, ING, White & Case, Eryv, PwC, BNP Paribas Fortis, Santa Fe Relocation Services, and Claeys & Engels.

Applications will close on 24 June, so if you think this role might be the next leadership step for you, please do get in touch with me at glenn@britishchamber.be for an informal conversation about the chair role and the selection process.

Ahead of our Diversity Dialogues event on Feb 29th, we asked Prof. Cecile Wright, Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham to give us an insight into the challenges we face in eliminating discrimination in the workplace. It’s probably the most important read of your week.

All the woman are white, all the men are black but some of us are brave

This statement points to the tendency for the lives and experiences of black and ethnic minority (BME) women to be missing from discourses of race and gender. In relation to the debate concerning women’s positionality in the labour market it is necessary to invoke the notion of “intersectionality”, namely ‘visualising the combined discrimination experienced by being black and ethnic minority and a women’ (Kimberle Crenshaw,1989). For instance, there is a plethora of research which explores the notion that black and ethnic minority women is subject to multiple disadvantage in the labour market and within workplaces as a result of their ethnicity and gender. While there is literature which seeks to locate this situation within the developing literature on gender and globalization ,this multiple disadvantage will be addressed with respect to Britain. Focusing on black and ethnic minority women’s position in the labour market and the wage gaps.

High levels of unemployment and job segmentation experienced by black and ethnic minority women are well recorded. This is despite the fact that within the UK there is an over representation of young black and ethnic people in higher education compared to their presence in the population.  In the second decade of the century, following the worldwide recession and the imposition of austerity policies in Britain, especially cuts to public-sector employment, it is becoming apparent that women in general, and black and ethnic minority women in particular, have suffered disproportionately. While considerable attention has focused on women as victims of the recession, it can be argued that the plight of black and ethnic women has been somewhat overlooked.

The Runnymede Trust report (2014) for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community, showed that women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are twice as likely to be unemployed than white women.

The report found women from black and ethnic minorities face discrimination at “every stage” of the recruitment process. For instance, women reported having to ‘Westernise’ their names to improve their employment prospects. Indeed, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently called for employers to adopt name – blind applications to address discrimination and unconscious bias, following research showing that people with traditionally British -sounding names are nearly twice as likely to be called for a job interview than candidates from other backgrounds.

Cecile Wright

The unnaturally high unemployment rates of women in black and minority ethnic communities has considerable implications for families and society as a whole – particularly given the situation that for large numbers of black and ethnic minority families the mother is the sole earner.

Research on the patterns of women’s employment reveals patterns of gender and ethnic segmentation . Findings of a European commission report(2014)show the pay gap between men and women at 16.4% across the EU, with the UK still one of the worst offenders despite having slightly narrowed its disparity to 19%. Ethnic and gender penalties may intersect insofar that in the UK white people earn more than people from ethnic minorities on average. It is argued that the wage gap therefore derives in significant measure from occupational segregation. This occurs because ethnic minorities tend to cluster into low-paying occupations. Thus, the pay gap for black and ethnic minority women has the double dimensions of both gender and ethnicity.

With a quarter of the UK’s population projected to come from a black and ethnic minority background by 2051, in particular employers’ need to address the specificities of patterns of gender and ethnic discrimination in the labour market. This includes practical steps to increasing diversity in professional occupations ensuring they are recruiting from black and ethnic minority women and other underrepresented groups, removing barriers and creating future approaches to increasing business engagement with policies ,tackling discrimination and supporting employees as an urgent priority.

References:

Crenshaw, K.(1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and sex. University of Chicago.

Runneymede Trust(2014) ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community Ethnic Minority Female Unemployment: Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Heritage Women’

European Commission (2014) ‘Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union’, European Commission

Professor Cecile Wright, University of Nottingham,UK . 12, February,2016

Professor Wright lectures in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham and has previously made appearances on BBC East Midlands, BBC News Online and the Sunday Politics show.

Since the terror threat in Brussels, leading to the subsequent lock-down which then inspired Mr Trump to dub the city a ‘hellhole’, not to mention last week’s EU reform negotiations and the tabloid media storm that ensued: It’s fair to say that Belgium and Brussels has had it’s fair share of attention this winter, and it’s been all but rosy. We’ll be setting all that straight this week though as Glenn, our CEO, tells us it’s really not all that bad.

IMG_1349

Belgium is a valuable market and an attractive place to invest, and do business. With only 11 million people it’s roughly equal with China as a market for British exports and an ideal launch pad to the rest of the EU.

The security emergency at the end of 2015 gave us all a reminder that there are real threats to the prosperity and security that most Europeans take as normal. Even Belgium is not immune. That’s why I have been keen to work with our friends at AmCham Belgium and the Belgium Japan Association to make sure that business in our own countries, and worldwide, are well informed about the situation here. Tomorrow, we’ll published an open letter, with the support of 13 other national chambers of commerce in Belgium, highlighting the continued attractiveness of Belgium.

The importance of business between Belgium and Britain is no flash in the pan. The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium was founded here in 1898 and bilateral business continues to grow. To see that, you only have to look at the successful British and Belgian companies (large and small) recognised in our Golden Bridge Export Awards in recent times.

British investment, and that of the wider international business community, makes a big contribution to jobs and prosperity. With their many nationalities, the British Chamber’s member companies are a great representation of that international business community, directly employing more than 120,000 people here.

IMG_1464

While we all want and expect emerging economies to become more important trading partners in the future, Europe will continue to be hugely important to Britain for a very long time. To illustrate the point, Belgium recently jumped back above China (if only temporarily) as Britain’s 6th largest export market.

Since just Belgium on its own is so important to the UK, it’s no surprise that a clear majority of our members worry that leaving the EU would be bad for the British economy. Our job here in Brussels is to provide a platform that ensures our members understand the debate and its implications, and can plan how they will respond.

We’re planning an active programme of events over the period up to the referendum and plenty of opportunities for members to share their views with, and learn from, their peers.

Keep an eye out this week for a full press release!

James Stevens

Over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing from some of our organising committee chairs on what they’re planning for our members in 2016. This week, EU Committee Chair James Stevens tells us what to expect over the next 12 months

A quick scan of the newspapers at this time of year provides you with a veritable smorgasbord of predictions for the year ahead. And the great thing about divining the future is that whether you’re informed, misinformed or uninformed, your predictions are as valid as the next man’s. It’s also pretty unlikely that you will get called upon them in twelve months’ time. Even if Danish physicist Niels Bohr is right and “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”, when all said and done it probably does not matter too much.

So, while the likes of Wolfgang Munchau rift on the existential crisis faced by the European Union or a former Swedish foreign minister reflects on everything affecting the global economy, I have one confident and bold prediction that I am happy for you to hold me to at the end of the year. The British Chamber in Brussels will be the place for international business in Brussels to gain insights, build relationships and engage in the debates that matter in 2016.

Why is my crystal ball so clear? Five reasons; four are external to the Chamber, one internal. Here they are:

  1. Legislation is back

Providing insights and a platform for debate on legislation is what the British Chamber does best. And in many key areas, it’s time to get legislative. Vice President Šefčovič’s State of the Energy Union highlighted 2016 as the year of legislative action. Much of the Digital Single Market legislation is already proposed and will create some huge bun-fights. 54 new legislative and non-legislative measures relating to the Circular Economy were outlined just in time for Christmas. Not to mention the Single Market Strategy and of course continued action in areas like trade and competition. In 2016, we’ll have a full programme of events to help our members understand these developments.

  1. External challenges will continue to provoke new debates

We may be British in origin, but we are international in outlook. Most obviously 2016 will bring change in the US, as a successor to Barack Obama is elected. That much is a known. Unknown is what will be the latest iteration of the waves of crises lapping on the EU’s shores. No doubt sovereign debt, migration and security will remain subjects of debate. Whatever our next misfortune, the Chamber will be providing a platform for views and voices from both inside the Brussels Bubble and outside it to ensure our members get a fully rounded view on what it all means for them.

  1. UK referendum will make the British Chamber in Brussels more relevant than ever

The members of the British Chamber in Brussels are clear. We believe that the UK is better off in the EU, and the EU is better off with it in. In the run up to the UK’s referendum we’ll be providing a platform for the views of all actors on what kind of EU business and EU citizens need in the future. And irrespective of the result of the referendum, the British Chamber will remain a place where companies and individuals from all of Europe can contribute to a debate on the issues that matter to them in Brussels.

  1. Europe will need to come up with solutions

The strength of the British Chamber in Brussels is that its 240+ members are diverse both in terms of sectors and geographical footprint. Our members range from the likes of BASF, Facebook and Hitachi, to BT, Barclays and Rolls Royce. With the complexity and severity of the challenges facing Europe, only an approach which brings together the views and experiences of such a diverse range of actors is likely to bear fruit.

  1. The Chamber is in good health

With our new President, Thomas Spiller of the Walt Disney Company, starting his first full year, we’re in a great position to provide the increasing value that members so keenly want from the Chamber. Members have noticed over recent years an increased professionalization of the Chamber, led by our Chief Executive Glenn Vaughan, both in terms of staff and facilities. As a result, we’ve attracted new members in 2015 including BMW, KBC , Deloitte and Sodexo. In 2016 existing members can expect more value from a packed programme. New members can expect a warm welcome.

Of course, in the words of Abraham Lincoln “the best way to predict your future is to create it”. I would invite all members of the British Chamber to join me in 2016 to ensure that my prediction comes true. After all, as I repeat on a regular basis at events, it’s your Chamber not mine.

James Stevens

Chair of the EU Committee

Next week, you’ll be hearing from Amelie Coulet, Chair of our young professionals network, Brussels New Generation.

%d bloggers like this: