According to both Polish and UK government statistics, 2018 turned out to be a record year for trade between our two countries. The tempo of growth, however, was almost flat with both imports and exports barely rising over 2017. Anecdotal evidence from BPCC members suggests that those firms that export to the UK or import from the UK have been engaged in stockpiling from the second half of 2018, while firms not yet doing business bilaterally have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. It is unlikely that 2019 will see growth – after a seven-year run in growing bilateral trade.
With investment flows, it is harder to say. One thing is certain – British firms that have invested in Poland tend to continue to increase their investments here, as they can see the value of being present in the Polish market.
This issue of Contact Magazine Online, coinciding with the deadline originally set when Theresa May triggered Article 50, is intended as an overview of the British presence in the Polish economy; the message is “we are here – we intend to stay”. Looking at the illustrious histories of many of the contributors, which in some cases go back over a couple of centuries, there emerges a picture of continuity, tradition – proven sustainability.
Three interviews open the issue; our chief advisor Michael Dembinski talks to three leaders of major institutions present in Poland – Adam Uszpolewicz, from insurance giant Aviva, Michał Mrożek, from global bank HSBCand Agnieszka Pocztowska, who runs Shell’s shared services centre in Kraków, from where 4,000 people provide business services to Shell around the world.
Contributions from member firms come from across the sectors – from construction and real estate – architects Broadway Malyan and Chapman Taylor, both established in the UK over 60 years ago and present in Poland for nearly 20; Gleeds – a global property and construction consultancy established in 1885 by Richard Gleeds who was one of the founders of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. RICS – which has over 300 members in Poland – has also contributed this article about how Brexit will affect the UK property market).
A company that straddles construction and manufacturing is Flowcrete, which makes resin flooring materials used in shopping centres, car parks, hotels and offices in Warsaw. Other UK manufacturers present in Poland are Imperial Tobacco and aerospace coatings specialists, Poeton.
Two British providers of financial services, whose combined history totals over half a millennium – Lloyd’s of London (established 1686) and Bibby Financial (established 1807) – businesses still named after their eponymous founders; both firms brought innovative financial products with them to Poland.
In the field of environmental protection, we have RSK, the UK’s largest – and Europe’s fastest-growing – consultancy operating in this area.
BP, Poland’s number two when it comes to fuel stations, has contributed massively to Poland’s economy in terms of jobs created, taxes paid and investment in infrastructure.
Technology and new media are a fast-growing part of UK investment in Poland. Known mainly as a defence-sector manufacturer, BAE Systems in Poland has set up a cyber operations hub employing 200 people in Poznań. BBC Studios – as BBC Worldwide has become after its merger with BBC Studios – is bringing high-quality British TV content to Poland via its new channel BBC First. IT and content come together at Cognifide, a UK digital agency that started up in Poznań to deliver outsourced solutions in content management systems. The firm now has offices in London, New York and Bydgoszcz and employs 400 people.
Until last we leave the company at the front line of Polish employers’ biggest challenge right now – staff recruitment and retention. That company is Hays, which recruits employees across most sectors of the Polish economy, and is geared up to tackle the issue with a technology-led strategy.