After four years as the Chairman of the SCC, Béatrice Engström-Bondy has now passed the torch to Jan Olsson, CEO of the Nordic Region at renowned Deutsche Bank. Jan has been a Member of the network for many years and told the LINK that he is now excited about taking on the challenge of heading the next chapter in the SCC’s history.
For Jan, the SCC represents tradition and history and a meeting place for business as well as politics and Swedish culture. During his time as the Chairman he wants to ensure that the Chamber continues to strengthen the existing strong partnership between Sweden and the UK and he wants to further grow the network and get more businesses involved.
However, he also wants to make sure that the Chamber is seen as the fun and modern organisation it is and that businesses of all sizes and industries are well-represented.
Jan said about his new role: “I would first like to honour Béatrice, she has done a fantastic job together with Ulla Nilsson over the past four years. During my time, I would like to continue that but I would like to put my own imprint on it and continue to move the Chamber in the right direction.”
“For me the Chamber is a meeting spot for business, politics and society and so on. But also, very importantly, the Chamber is there to help smaller companies get established in the UK and we should not forget that. I of course represent a big business so I should not forget that. I think the most important thing as a Chairman is to get that right, the mix of events, the mix of Members and small and large businesses. It is important to make sure that we cater to all Members and that will very much be a focus during my reign.”
Jan also spoke about the importance of including new up-and-coming sectors that are fast growing but that he believes are currently underrepresented in the network.
“We have to make sure we move into the new world. We shouldn’t look to the past, we should look forward,” he told the LINK.
Looking to the future, the UK is facing some uncertain times politically after the Brexit vote in 2016 and the snap election earlier this year.
The negotiations on the UK’s departure from the European Union are currently ongoing but Jan said he is “quite relaxed” about the implications the exit will have on the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business.
“I do not believe it is going to discourage Swedish people and companies from coming to the UK. I will also fight for that not to happen. I believe there are lots of opportunities in the UK, with or without Brexit and I think the UK will continue to strive.”
Jan said the SCC will have an even bigger role to play as a result of the UK leaving the European Union and will become an even more important platform for Swedish businesses to share knowledge and experiences.
Jan, who has studied in both the US and the UK has worked at Deutsche Bank since 1988 and now heads up the bank’s business in the Nordic region. The best things about his job at the bank he said is the very international environment and that it is very fast moving with a lot of change.
He is now based in the UK but said he travels pretty much every day and had returned to London from Stockholm just a few hours before the interview with the LINK. Maybe not a lifestyle that suits everybody but Jan said he loves the travelling which is easy to believe when he tells the LINK that he has lived in 11 countries and speak five languages fluently.
About the UK and London that he now calls home, he said: “What is great about the UK is the open society that especially London is. It is tremendously international. London is a world leader there and I don’t know any city that is as multicultural and international as London is.”
Speaking about the best things about Sweden, Jan among other things mentioned “the international attitude, the professionalism and the cultural environment” within businesses which he believes some British companies could benefit from copying, although he noted that the UK has been improving on that part over the last years.
Despite being a small country, Sweden has generated several companies that have done extremely well internationally, including some “mega brands”.
Jan said: “Being a small country, historically companies have had to look outside of Sweden. Often these companies have been extremely international with a small percentage of their turnover coming from Sweden and the rest internationally.
“But I also want to put up a warning sign to companies that the world is not sleeping around Sweden and we have seen tremendous success in other countries now in lots of industries. If you look at some of the major Swedish and Nordic companies, on a percentage scale they are actually becoming smaller internationally.
He said that some Swedish companies are unfortunately risk averse and have become “a little bit stale because they rather say no than yes”.
“So, Swedes have to be more fast moving and corporate decisions take time. So if you want to be agile and fast moving, sometimes you have to make fast decisions, in M&A for example and you have to take tremendous risks.”