The BPCC's Annual General Meeting was held at Zielna 37, Warsaw on 25 April 2018. At the meeting, members heard a summary of the chamber's activities over the year from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, voted to approve the minutes and accounts for the year, and had the chance to vote for candidates standing for election to the BPCC's board. I read the report (below) to members. HMA Jonathan Knott summarised the year in Polish-British economic relations, after which BPCC CEO Paweł Siwecki gave a summary of the chamber's activities. Scotland's recently appointed Trade Envoy to Poland, Martyn O'Reilly, explained his role and how he'd be promoting Scotland in Poland.
Minutes and accounts were presented for voting by vice-chairman and honorary secretary, Nicholas Richardson, and passed without comment. There were six candidates standing for the board which had five vacancies. Nicholas Richardson, Barbara Stachowiak-Kowalska and Marzena Richter were re-elected; Aneta Jóźwicka, from Diageo was elected to the board, while Dariusz Kucharski, from HSBC, who had been co-opted to the board since the last AGM, was also elected. Andrzej Ujda, from Rolls-Royce, was co-opted onto the board.
Here is the Chairman’s summary since last AGM
For any business, the Annual General Meeting is a time to take stock, report to stakeholders and look forward to challenges ahead. It's time to make mid-course adjustments taking into account the wider ever-changing economic climate through which the business sails, amid Brexit and global trade concerns.
The BPCC, as a non-governmental organisation reporting to its membership who are in effect its shareholders, has at its core its work on behalf of UK investors in Poland. We help our members engage across the entire Polish business regulations through our policy work which often involves the authorities at national and regional level. We actively promote trade and investment between our two nations, initiate member-to-member B2B cooperation and finally and we work with Polish entrepreneurs in the UK. This year, we are extending our offer along job-function lines, with specific events for CEOs, CFOs/FDs, HR directors, sales & marketing directors etc.
Review of the year
2017 brought long anticipated Silver Jubilee of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce. 26 years ago I personally involved in setting up our organisation and I am proud to see it thriving after all those years.
The Chamber's last AGM took place at the British Embassy in Warsaw in April 2017. HMA Jonathan Knott addressed the members and I was re-elected Chairman of the Board.
In May, the International Group of Chambers of Commerce (IGCC) met with deputy prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki; representatives of the 13 international chambers in Poland were present, including BPCC patrons.
British Standards Institution Group (or BSI) Group became a BPCC Patron in June; together we have been promoting Kitemark and other BSI standards around Poland. Since then, BPCC events in Toruń, Gliwice, Rzeszów, Lublin, Poznań and Łódź have already been used to introduce BSI Group and the Kitemark to Polish manufacturers and exporters.
A major event promoting Poland as a hub for innovation took place that same month at the Polish Embassy in London, with Schneider Group, CBRE and AstraZeneca.
A special printed edition of Contact Magazine to mark the Chamber's Silver Jubilee was published in June; it contained nine exclusive interviews and 65 portraits of BPCC member companies. A total of 1,500 copies of this landmark edition were distributed. Additionally, four online issues of Contact appeared, focusing on HR and professional qualifications (end-April); innovation and technology (September); energy and the environment (December); and construction and real estate (in February). Financial services will be the subject for the next Contact magazine, which appears at the end of this month.
The social highlight of the summer was the Queen's Birthday Party which unusually took place in July at the Łazienki palace in Warsaw. A number of representatives of British investors and I met HRH Prince William during the Royal Couple's visit to Poland.
The BPCC was represented for the first time at the two Polish economic forums that bring together the nation's (and indeed the CEE region's) key decision makers – Krynica (6-7 September) and European Forum for New Ideas in Sopot (28-29 September). Earlier that month, I was invited to represent the BPCC at the first meeting of Polish Entrepreneurship Council. I also represented the BPCC at both of the intergovernmental UK-Polish Belvedere Forum events held in Warsaw (March) and London (November).
A regular social highlight in Wrocław is the International Oktoberfest, held each year in September; this year's event once again attracted nearly a thousand representatives of business and local government. HMA Jonathan Knott joined us on this occasion.
The BPCC sent a letter to deputy finance minister Paweł Gruza in September following member consultations regarding proposed changes to the tax law governing personal and corporate income tax. BPCC members' concerns led to the publication of the letter and a more detailed report to the Ministry of Finance.
Also in September, our Chief Advisor Michael Dembinski supported the visit of an inbound UK mission to the Trako railway industry trade show in Gdańsk, one of Europe's largest events for the rail sector.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh visited Kraków in October, meeting the BPCC there. This led to a partnership with the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, and the signing of mutual cooperation agreement. Through Martyn O’Reilly, our former vice-chairman, Scotland’s new trade envoy to Poland, we will have a regular briefing and contact with Scottish business.
The culmination of our special year came with the Silver Jubilee Gala Dinner, which took place in October with both of our honorary presidents HMA Jonathan Knott and Polish Ambassador to Britain Arkady Rzegocki present, along with special guests: British-Polish historian Adam Zamoyski and BBC World News presenter, Kasia Madera.
UK trade minister Greg Hands visited Poland in November, and met with UK investors at the British Embassy to discuss Brexit and how it may affect businesses. Later that month, the BPCC met the Northern Powerhouse multi-sector trade mission to Poland, with 16 UK firms coming over.
Issues taken up by the BPCC on behalf of its members in 2017/18 included the Sunday trading ban; corporate and personal income taxes (CIT and PIT), reverse VAT in construction sector; promotion of the Single Audit Tax File (JPK in Polish) and split payment of VAT; dealing with new regulations on hospital networks, raising awareness of the General Data Protection Regulations (RODO in Polish).
The BPCC continued to organise meetings at factories across Poland as part of the Manufacturing Industries Group. We visited among others Twinings Tea in Swarzędz; Polaris Industries in Opole; and MacBraida in Rzeszów. A big issue for manufacturers is recruitment and retention of staff, given Poland's current record low unemployment.
People: the BPCC's staff numbers are nine people as of 6 April. This is broken down into Warsaw (seven people), Kraków, covering Silesia, Małopolska and Podkarpacie, and Wrocław, covering Wielkopolska and Lower Silesia. The BPCC is one of the few foreign chambers in Poland to have its own office network outside of Warsaw. Our direct presence in Kraków and Wrocław stretches member benefits beyond those two noble cities including Rzeszów and Upper Silesia as well as Opole and Poznań. Our two UK based board members – Michael Clay and David Buckle support and assist UK investors and Polish Embassy in London.
The BPCC Trade Team was established in 2013 with a grant from the UK government and a remit to take over trade support activities on behalf of British SMEs from the UKTI (now Department of International Trade). For four consecutive years, the BPCC exceeded all the targets set for it by UKTI/DIT. On 31 March this year our involvement in the programme had ended with a transfer of services back to DIT Warsaw. We thank all our members who have contributed to the success of British exporters throughout Poland.
The BPCC’s Warsaw HQ on ul. Zielna 37 will continue to serve us until at least April 2021.
In terms of various events, policy group meetings and training activities, we have delivered 143 events in the following locations:
63 events in Warsaw (45 Policy Groups, 8 BPCC Academies, 10 networking events)
20 events in Kraków & Katowice region
54 events in Wrocław & Poznań region
6 events in London
On average this more than one event every second working day right through the year.
Membership is currently standing at 327 companies with 182 member firms in the corporate class and 145 in SME sector. Patrons' commitment continues unchanged with HSBC, PwC, Tesco, Sage and British Standards Institution becoming a new patron last June.
Trade: Overall, despite lingering Brexit uncertainty, bilateral trade between the UK and Poland in 2017 exceed £15.8 billion, an all-time record, up by 16.3% on 2016. The value of UK goods sold to Poland in 2017 was also a record high, £5.1 billion, up 19.6% on 2016. This has to be taken against the context of a pound weakening by 8% to the zloty over 2017, but it still a very strong result.