2018 Presidents’ Report IBN Switzerland

It is that time of year again when we take time to reflect on the past twelve months and set our goals and plans for the coming year and beyond. Although 2018 has been a year of great change for the IBN Switzerland, our mission to strengthen and support the Irish business community in Switzerland and facilitate Irish companies’ growth in this market remains steadfast.

The Network founded by Valerie Gürthler-Doyle in 2008 now has over 820 members with several new additions each month. After 10 years at the helm, Valerie decided to step back from active presidency and a new 2018-2019 committee of 13 volunteers was elected at the June AGM. The job-sharing model which works so well for the Basel chapter was extended to the presidency and other chapter lead roles.

June was indeed an active month. As well as our first AGM, both the Basel and Zurich chapters hosted very lively, Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) funded events on the theme of “Integrating in Switzerland while maintaining your Irish Roots”. The Basel event was held in the famous Markthalle in Basel city. The Basel chapter was very fortunate to have two excellent and engaging speakers from contrasting industries, Jehr Collins from Novartis and Denis Hourigan from Dufry’s. Both spoke openly about their personal experiences and what it meant for them to live in Switzerland whilst maintaining their Irish roots. In Zurich, a panel discussion with John Kelly and Jane Deane Babb explored the soft skills so evident in Irish culture that are highly valued in today’s business world, as well as discussing strategies for keeping a strong connection to Ireland while living away from home.

We also supported numerous Enterprise Ireland events throughout the year and facilitated introductions of innovative Irish companies to key decision makers here. Switzerland remains a key market for the Irish economy and our assistance has a positive impact.

To celebrate the 10 year IBN anniversary and acknowledge Valerie’s vision and contribution, Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly together with Enterprise Ireland kindly hosted a reception early October to coincide with Minister Pat Breen’s (Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection) visit. Valerie gave a very inspirational talk recounting both the foundation of the network and memorable events over the years and accepted a gift as a token of our appreciation for her work. She particularly enjoyed chatting with so many friends and colleagues that evening.

Sadly, Valerie passed away on November 12. Several of us joined her family, neighbours and friends for a beautiful funeral service with eulogies celebrating her extremely vibrant personal and professional life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

The committee is compiling a booklet of tributes to her to share with her family. If you would like to join in this gesture you may still do so by sending your thoughts, memories, quotes, images or short stories in reply to this email by Dec. 31, 2018.

Thank you for the tremendous and rich response to our member survey. You provided plenty of material to shape our future programmes. We received very clear feedback that you would appreciate the opportunity to be more involved and key areas of interest include:Business NetworkingIrish Connection – business, community, culture, entertainment Integration – especially finances; language, culture, children Continuing Education – entrepreneurship, personal development Current Topics – impact of new technologies, innovation, marketing, politics…We will provide more feedback in Q1 2019 and a member of the committee will contact each of you who kindly agreed that we may.

Our ESP funding for 2019 continues the Integration theme with a focus on Education and we are currently planning events in Zurich and the Suisse Romande for H1 2019. Other events will be planned based on the survey results.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very peaceful, restorative and fulfilling holiday season and a healthy and prosperous 2019. We thank you for all your support in 2018 and look forward to continuing to support each other in the Irish Business Network Switzerland.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Brigid O’Donovan & Geraldine O’Grady
Co-Presidents IBN Switzerland