It is a long-standing BPCC tradition to invite a panel of CEOs to discuss prospects for the year ahead for business in Poland. This year – the BPCC’s 30th anniversary – was no exception. Like last year, the event was held online; this at least allows those who missed the event to watch the recording on YouTube. As is the case each year, the CEO Briefing gives participants the chance to hear how the Polish economy is expected to fare in terms of new investments with a focus on the key macroeconomic indicators and investor perception of Poland as a location for business.
The green transformation, recovery from the pandemic and its aftermath, the geopolitical stability of the CEE region, and the Polish government’s flagship tax reform programme, Polski Ład (‘the Polish deal’) were also specifically discussed in this year’s CEO Briefing.
The panellists were (in alphabetical order) Mateusz Bonca, CEO, JLL Polska, Marc Burrage, CEO, Hays Polska, Bogdan Kucharski, CEO of BP Polska, Paweł Kusiak, deputy CEO, HSBC Polska, and Prof Witold Orłowski, PwC Poland’s chief economic advisor.
Prof Orłowski began with a macroeconomic overview of the issues facing the Polish economy, starting with the two ‘known unknowns’, the pandemic and Russia’s threatening military posture. He also said that the government’s long-term policy, which has been stimulating demand, has not helped the supply side. With unemployment effectively at zero, and inflation being stoked by supply-side capacity constraints, rising oil and gas prices and negative interest rates, Poland’s deficit is growing rapidly. With the central bank facing a loss of credibility, an inflationary spiral is affecting the exchange rate. Polish Mittelstand is discouraged from investing; how inflation will look at the end of this year is increasingly unclear; we could see a gradual reduction from 7-8% to around 3% – equally, we could see it increasing to above 10%.
Paweł Kusiak from HSBC said that the deficit and inflation are fuelling consumption rather than investment; with limited access of EU funds, Poland’s competitiveness will suffer as the energy mix required for green transformation requires billions of euros of investment. On the positive side, Poland remains in the global top three for shared-service centres. The continued interest in shared services and business-process outsourcing is creating a boom for the real-estate sector, said Mateusz Bonca from JLL, though this is tempered by uncertainty as to how much of the workforce will continue with remote working after the pandemic has eased. Marc Burrage from Hays, referred to a survey his company conducted, in which 95% of employers reported an increase in hiring and 74% reporting problems in recruiting. Hays has had three record quarters in a row, he said, with demand now exceeding the talent available in engineering, manufacturing and technology. Polski Ład is creating much confusion.
BP’s Bogdan Kucharski said that Poland is severely lagging behind on energy transformation, with a starting point way behind Western economies. It has to move at a greater pace, he said, concerned that the Polish offshore wind project, heavily dependent on state-owned firms, will not happen quickly. They lack the capital, the expertise and the supply chains – delays are inevitable, he said.
All the panellists were unanimous in saying that a major problem Poland has is with the sudden and unpredictable nature of its legislation. Investor confidence is not helped by abrupt changes in the law that generally favour the state’s dominant position. While Poland is still seen as being on balance a business-friendly country offering relatively good value for money, investors are taking notice of the rule-of-law dispute between Poland and the EU, the recent issue with broadcaster TVN, and perceived hostility around LGBT issues. If Polish manufacturers don’t up their game in terms of green credentials, they may find themselves taken off the supply list in future. A dialogue with politicians to explain these points was seen as a useful follow-up to the discussion.
Mateusz Bonca, managing director of JLL in Poland
An expert in strategic management, Mateusz has been the managing director of JLL in Poland since November 2020, where he leads the team responsible for business and transaction consultancy, managing the entirety of the company’s operations on the Polish market. He also supervises the activities of teams supporting clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and implementing projects for other JLL units in the EMEA region. Before joining JLL, Mateusz Bonca was the president of the management board of Grupa Lotos, a leading Polish fuel business. Previously, he worked at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, at Peppers and Rogers Group in the UAE, and at McKinsey in Poland.
Marc Burrage, CEO, Hays Polska
Charismatic leader with over 20 years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry and passionate about Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. Marc has previously managed businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Malaysia. At Hays since 2011 and managing director for Hays Poland since 2019, where he has been leading and successfully growing the business to become the number one agency on the Polish white-collar recruitment market. Prior to working in the recruitment industry, Marc held various sales and marketing management positions in the automotive industry.
Bogdan Kucharski, CEO, BP Polska
A senior leader with an international corporate experience in general management, supply, optimisation, logistics, strategy, sales, retail and finance. Since 1998 he has been working for BP in Poland, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, gaining broad multinational experience. As of January 2021, he is VP Commercial Development, Mobility & Convenience Europe & Southern Africa, responsible for strategy and portfolio in Europe, while remaining head of country for BP in Poland. Bogdan graduated from University of Economy in Krakow with a Master of International Trade and MBA from Maastricht School of Management.
Paweł Kusiak, deputy CEO, Head of Coverage, HSBC in Poland
Pawel has 25 years of banking experience gained from front line, operations and risk roles mainly across corporate and institutional banking businesses at national and regional level. Pawel joined HSBC in Poland in 2006 after nine years in CitiBank Handlowy and developed HSBC’s wholesale platform as head of corporate banking before pursuing an international career within HSBC Group. He has worked in Spain, Italy, UK and Channel Islands before returning to Poland in 2021. He believes in the importance of diversity and Inclusion in building successful teams in the modern world.
Prof Witold Orłowski, chief economic adviser for PwC in Poland.
Director of the Warsaw University of Technology Business School, he graduated with a PhD in Economics from the University of Łódź and later Harvard University. From 1993 to 1997 he worked in the World Bank (Department for Central Europe). He was adviser to Poland’s finance minister and head of the Economic Advisory Council to the Polish president.