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39 (134) 2019
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Chairman Note

Chairman’s Note

by Antoni F. Reczek, chairman of the board, British Polish Chamber of Commerce
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At the chamber’s Annual General Meeting, held on 29 May 2019, members voted unanimously to restructure the BPCC from an English Company Limited by Guarantee to a Polish employer’s organisation, and to to accept the accounts for the last financial year.

I would like to thank Her Majesty’s Ambassador Jonathan Knott for his address to the members. I would also like to extend a warm invitation to everyone to continue to engage in, and support the work of, the BPCC.  

At the board meeting following the AGM, I was re-elected as BPCC’s chairman, while Nicholas Richardson continues in his dual capacity of honorary secretary and vice-chairman. David Buckle was promoted to vice-chairman in recognition of the great work he is doing for the chamber in the UK. [Click here for the composition of the board.]

Here is my report for the year since April 2018; please read!

Chairman Report

For any business, the AGM is a time to take stock, report to stakeholders and look forward to the challenges ahead. It's time to make mid-course adjustments, taking into account the wider ever-changing economic climate that the business must contend with, amid continued Brexit uncertainty 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.

Business development and business environment

We help our members engage with the Polish regulatory environment through our policy work which often involves the authorities at national and regional level.  We actively promote trade and investment between our two nations, initiating member-to-member cooperation and facilitating high-quality B2B networking at events and online, and finally and we work with Polish entrepreneurs in the UK. This year, we have extended our offer along job-function lines, with specific events for CEOs, CFOs/FDs, HR directors, sales & marketing directors etc.

People

BPCC's staff has remained constant in number for the past year, with eight people working for the Chamber. The only personnel change is our new policy groups manager Hanna Pieńczykowska who joined us last September, taking the helm of policy groups, government and stakeholder engagements. I expect that almost everyone has experienced the excellent work that Hanna does. Her knowledge of the Polish (and indeed EU) legislative system is outstanding. The BPCC remains one of the few foreign chambers in Poland to have its own office network outside of Warsaw. Our direct presence in Kraków and Wrocław extends beyond those two cities, including Rzeszów and the Aviation Valley, and the industrial heartlands of Upper Silesia, Opole and Poznań. Ilona Chodorowska and Urszula Kwaśniewska are the regional directors. David Buckle, our UK-based board member supports and assists UK companies and the Polish Embassy in London.      

Strategy review

  • Strategy review – the BPCC team spent three days outside of the office last May, challenging every area of our operations, to select and focus on areas of excellence and value-added services. Every aspect was analysed, from our membership services, to our regional operations and policy groups work, from media to admin. We compared the BPCC and what we offer to members with that of the other major foreign chambers of commerce present in Poland. In particular, the strength of our Chamber stems from the practical business insights that come from peer-to-peer contacts across our 12 policy group areas and across job functions.

  • Operational improvements – new ideas have been shared with the board members for review and the August board meeting has fully committed to the suggested improvements.

  • Having in mind Brexit uncertainty, the dual structure of the BPCC, the weakening pound, double taxation and all other related costs, the board was unanimous in its decision to drive the fundamental change of the Chamber’s legal structure. The arrangements, set up over 25 years ago, no longer meet the Chamber’s and members’ current needs. The new structure we are proposing will simplify our operations and significantly reduce our costs.   

  • An Extraordinary General Meeting took place on 30 October 2018 with members voting in favour of liquidation of the English Company Limited by Guarantee and its replacement with a Polish employers’ organisation (‘organizacja pracodawców’).

Membership activities

This area is directly managed by Dorota Kierbiedź, our membership director with 22 years of experience at the BPCC. In terms of various events, policy group meetings and training activities, we have delivered 147 events in the following locations:   

  • 65 events in Warsaw (47 Policy Groups, 9 BPCC Academies, 9 networking events)

  • 23 events in Kraków, Rzeszów &  Katowice region

  • 55 events in Wrocław &  Poznań region

  • 4 events BPCC events in the UK

We were also involved in four events for Polish entrepreneurs in the UK, with business-owners’ association PBLink.co.uk, including the Fifth Congress of Polish Entrepreneurs in the UK, and the third Polish-British Construction Forum.

On average this equates to more than one event every second working day, right across the year!

In terms of our most important policy engagements, the BPCC has been active in the following areas:  

  • Improving taxation in Poland (with HMRC and British Embassy)

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations, or RODO in Polish)

  • Automation and manufacturing efficiency  

  • Occupational health and safety

  • Labour market in Poland

  • Real estate investment and market trends

  • Employees’ Capital Plans (or PPK in Polish)

  • Exporting Polish IT services to the UK (with Polish Embassy and PAIH)

  • Upcoming technology regulations – blockchain, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence  

The BPCC is continuously involved in the policy-making area. In a joint IGCC format, we take part in tax consultations throughout the year. The consultations involved several legislative projects focused on withholding tax, the new tax ordinance and the simplified advanced pricing agreement, where finance and tax specialists from our member companies could get involved in a discussion with the Ministry of Finance officials representing the Tax System Department and the Transfer Pricing Department. The BPCC represented the interests of our member companies in other consultative processes such as the new anti-usury law and excise on tobacco products. A broad consultation of the legislative proposal on the liability of the collective entities (in Polish) was organised and involved a dozen of the largest British investors in Poland. In February, the BPCC held a conference on the tax administration and its approach to the taxpayers, in cooperation with the British Embassy and the HM Revenues & Customs, where our members and invited IGCC guests could discuss the topic with key people from the National Revenue Administration (KAS). The project produced a report with recommendations for the Polish tax system that we shall build upon in the upcoming year.

Hanna Pieńczykowska regularly tracks upcoming legislation, especially in the areas of tax policy, business environment and Brexit preparedness of the Polish government. The BPCC staff remains in contact with members to identify the legislative projects that are of importance for our membership.

Highlights for social engagements:

  • Robert Burns Night with Ivan McKee, Scotland’s Trade Minister and HMA Jonathan Knott  

  • International Oktoberfest in Wrocław

  • International Christmas Evenings in Wrocław, Poznań and London and Christmas Carols in Warsaw

  • Regular networking events in Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław, Kraków and London  

Brexit

The BPCC is actively engaged in communicating with members and other stakeholders on the Brexit process by explaining the potential impact of various scenarios on Polish and international businesses. Our chief advisor, Michael Dembinski has spoken at five industry summits (airports, automotive manufacturers, road transport, automotive supply chain and maritime logistics) and at many smaller events aimed at Polish exporters across the country, to share practical understanding of how each sector or industry could be affected by Brexit. BPCC staff have attended each consultative meeting organised by the Ministry of Enterprise and Technology where the impact of a possible no-deal Brexit on Polish exporters has been discussed, as well as briefings on Brexit organised by the British Embassy.  Michael Dembinski continues to be the BPCC’s media star with more than 50 engagements on TV, radio and in print each year. We are definitely seen and heard as an expert advisor. Michael regularly visits our members across the UK and Polish regions to advise and respond to challenges.

Membership is currently standing at 300 companies, with 176 member firms in the corporate class and 124 from the SME sector. While the overall number of members remains stable, there is a clear shift towards larger firms in membership. HSBC, PwC, Tesco, and Sage continue their commitment as BPCC patrons, joined by Aviva which replaced BSI Group in January 2019. Paweł Siwecki, our CEO, is leading the Excellence in Patronage initiative in addition to his managerial responsibilities.  

Media

Kuba Piegat, our Media Manager is ensuring day-to-day media and database efficiency.  

We have launched two new sections on the BPCC portal – Get Connected with Poland for British and international investors, and Brexit section for Polish firms to access specialist information in Polish, a unique resource of great relevance to exporters, as the UK remains Poland’s second largest foreign market.

The BPCC became an institutional partner for a new report dedicated to the impact of British investors on Polish economy. The partnership was initiated by the British Embassy, participating investors and Deloitte’s Sustainable Development Goals practice. The report will be promoted at this year’s Krynica Economic Forum.   

Administration and premises

Monika Sierańska is providing maternity cover for her sister, being head of administration until September when Paulina Sierańska will be back.

The Kraków office has changed address to the Business Link office at ul. Pawia 9 in Kraków. The BPCC’s HQ on ul. Zielna 37 will continue to serve us until at least April 2021

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