Opened by the Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, the webinar began with a macro-economic overview. The BPCC’s chief advisor, Michael Dembinski, gave a short presentation on how Poland’s economy had grown over the past three decades, before inviting the chief economists of Santander Bank Polska, and Pekao S.A., Piotr Bielski, and Ernest Pytlarczyk, to outline their forecasts for the short- and medium-term. Poland’s recovery would be driven to a significant degree by a substitution effect as manufacturers seek to make their supply chain more resilient. Although Poland’s labour costs may be higher than those in the Far East, they will remain lower than in Western Europe for many years to come. But the shortening of value chains is not all good for Poland, as a worsening outlook for China is not good news for Germany, the biggest exporter to that market, said Mr Bielski. Poland, being an intrinsic part of Germany’s supply chain, could suffer, so it could be a double-edged sword. The EU’s financial framework for 2021-2027 has earmarked more funds for Poland than had been hoped for. This may well spur ‘green transformation’, said Mr Pytlarczyk. Unemployment is still moderate for the size of downturn Poland experienced in Q2, mainly as the result of labour hoarding by employers, who remain mindful of the difficulties of recruiting again once the economy picks up again.
The second panel was opened by Jan Kamoji-Czapliński, director of the Direct Investment Department at PAIH, who reinforced the message about the global shift from offshoring to nearshoring, a phenomenon witnessed in manufacturing and services. He mentioned the Belarus Harbour visa programme aimed at Belarusian IT workers wanting to move to Poland at this time of political turmoil at home. Mr Kamoji-Czapliński also mentioned the re-investment effect, with foreign investors in Poland sufficiently happy with their experience here that they were continuing to increase their investments year on year. “Industry in Poland has come through Covid-19 well, as has the service sector, where contingency plans have been tested and proved to be robust,” he said.
Focusing on the shared services sector, Finbarr MacCloskey, director – consulting, PwC, said that Poland’s shared-services centres (SSCs) were better at working from home than those located across other parts of the world. Rafał Zakrzewski, partner at Baker & McKenzie and an English solicitor, was an example of how trans-jurisdictional legal activities could be conducted from Poland. He spoke about a major deal he had just concluded on behalf of a client in the Middle East, under English law, all coordinated from Warsaw. Mr Dembinski remarked that with the cost of one office desk in the City of London costing between £10,000 and £15,000 a year, it is clear that businesses will be looking for savings. “If you can work from home in London’s leafy suburbs, you can also do it from Warsaw,” he said.
The final panel presented three case studies of successful investments in Poland. James Sutcliffe, CEO of the Baltic Gateway Container Terminal, gave a presentation about the Deepwater Container Terminal in Gdańsk, which is able to unload the world’s biggest container ships, and about plans to develop a new container terminal in the north-west of Poland that would serve Germany and Scandinavia as well as Poland. Nick Lakin, group director of corporate affairs at Kingfisher plc, which owns the Castorama chain of home-improvement stores in Poland, said that the shops were doing very well under the circumstances. The first half of 2020 saw better trading results than the same period last year – the result of Poles after lockdown making big investments in their homes. But it’s not just about selling to Poland; Kingfisher does more and more sourcing from Polish manufacturers, exporting home-improvement products such as paint, tiles, floorboard, doors and sanitary ware to the UK, France and other markets across Europe. Last year saw a 20% increase in exports from Poland; 70% of Kingfisher’s ‘near-sourcing’ comes from Poland, the rest from Turkey, said Mr Lakin.
Graham Fell, executive vice-president, USA, APAC, EMEA for FlexDev, an IT outsourcer specialising in retail, said his business in Poland was based on a well-educated workforce culturally aligned with the UK and US, strong compliance with GDPR privacy and data security regulations, and political stability. He praised Polish tech developers and coders, saying that outsourcing to Poland was no longer about price, but about quality. With the UK short of up to a million tech workers, he could see Poland as being the answer to many British firms’ need for IT outsourcing. Mr Fell, who chose Poznań for his company’s Polish operation, said that unlike Kraków or Wrocław, the city is not yet over-saturated with SSCs, and that Poznań’s 20 higher-education establishments were delivering ample numbers of tech graduates each year.
Closing remarks were delivered by James Hughes, minister-counsellor for economic affairs at the British Embassy, Warsaw, who spoke of the importance of bilateral trade and investment between the UK and Poland, and the UK’s strong position as a springboard for Polish firms with global ambitions.
Materials from the webinar are available for download here.
Many thanks for your time today to share your expertise and experience. I believe it was a useful event and provided some great insights. Key takeaways from my point of view - manufacturing is going to be crucial for Poland's recovery, and it's great to hear so much supporting evidence that this is happening. The money likely to be earmarked for Poland in the EU's financial framework for 2021-27 is good news, especially for the green economy; good to hear that much will go to support innovative Polish businesses. Although the future of the office as such remains uncertain, Poland is likely to remain an attractive destination for shared services of ever-increasing complexity, including IT and legal services. Near-sourcing and shortening of value chains as global macro-trends are also likely to benefit Poland's economy.