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The Warsaw Voice » Business » April 28, 2011
Business & Economy
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Great Story to Tell
April 28, 2011   
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Alan Jarman, Chairman, British Polish Chamber of Commerce:

Alan Jarman, Chief Executive Officer,HSBC Bank PolandAlan, age 42, has been BPCC Chairman since January 2011. Currently he is Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Bank Polska, which is the local subsidiary of HSBC Bank plc. His current role involves leadership of all business lines across Poland: Personal Finance Services, Commercial Banking, Global Banking and Markets, together with the support functions such as Finance, Operations, Marketing, IT and Human Resources.

With a career at HSBC spanning 24 years, Alan has direct experience in 10 countries, as well as indirect experience in a further 15 markets across Europe, Asia, Middle East and South America.

An associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Alan was educated at Loughborough University in the UK. He is interested in current economic and political affairs and is a dedicated sports fan, particularly golf, football, rugby and cricket. He is married to Sue and has a 5-year-old son, Sion.

For the UK, Poland is fast becoming an increasingly important trade partner; bilateral trade between the two countries continues to surge. The value of goods traded between Poland and the UK has quadrupled in a decade, from £2.4 billion to nearly £10 billion. Poland is now the UK’s 15th largest export market and 17th largest import source. For Poland, the UK is even more important, having last year overtaken Italy as its third-largest export market (after Germany and France), and is currently Poland’s eighth-largest source of imports. And Poland has a larger trade surplus with the UK than with any other trading partner.The story in terms of investment, however, is not so rosy. The UK is the world’s second-largest foreign investor, and yet in Poland, according to Poland’s inward investment agency, PAIiIZ, the UK is only in ninth place. Traditionally, British investments have tended to flow towards the English-speaking world or countries with a similar legal system. The code-based legal system prevalent across Continental Europe—and the resultant bureaucracy—can be off-putting to entrepreneurs used to the ease of setting up business, employing people, paying taxes, obtaining planning permission or licenses.Yet despite the fact that it’s not the easiest place on earth to do business, Poland has a great story to tell. This is the story of a high-growth market within the EU, that offers the right balance between high business opportunity and low business risk. It is a country strategically placed in the heart of the European continent, significant in terms of its market size; it is economically and politically stable. Poland’s GDP is double the size of countries like Malaysia, Egypt or Nigeria. It is a country of skilled, highly-motivated people. And over the past two decades, Poland has been moving away from simply being a low-cost manufacturing base—its future is rather in higher value-added manufacturing and services. It is moving from basic call-center activity towards knowledge process outsourcing, research and development, high-tech engineering and life sciences. For the past 20 years, Poland’s economy has been growing at twice the rate of the UK’s economy. And, according to HSBC analysts, over the next 40 years, Poland’s GDP per capita will continue to grow at twice the rate of the UK. Yet even with 60 years of the pace of growth outstripping that of the UK, Poland’s GDP per capita will still only be around 75 percent of the UK’s, which suggests that Poland will remain competitive with those of western Europe. But Poland does not just make sense as an investment destination alone—it is also a consumer market worthy of note. During the global recession, consumer spending in Poland continued to grow faster than in any other EU market. British companies that have to date been unaware of it have left Poland—which boasts more consumers than the other seven CEE countries put together—to their international competitors. As a consumer market, Poland is easy to reach—less than two days by road from the UK, within the Schengen zone (so trucks don’t even have to stop at the Polish-German border), and most importantly, Poland’s burgeoning middle classes are concentrated mainly in several high-growth agglomerations.

International trade is becoming increasingly important to Poland, growing twice as fast as GDP over the past decade as it becomes more and more embedded in the global economy. A significant share of Poland’s exports is generated by foreign investors, who in recent years have set up factories producing goods in the automotive, aerospace, IT, food processing, white goods, FMCG and household electronic sectors.

British companies need to have their attention drawn to the opportunities that Poland continues to offer. In particular, medium-sized and larger firms that are already doing good business in continental Europe that have not yet taken a closer look at the Polish market should do so. These companies need to consider Poland very seriously, either as a high-growth market for their goods and services, or as a competitively priced destination for high value added investment activities.

Another area where the UK has not proved itself very active in Poland is infrastructure. British taxpayers pour billions of pounds into the Polish economy via EU transfers. Yet the percentage of that money won back by British firms in terms of contracts won for EU-funded infrastructure work is low—just 13 percent (compared to 97 percent in the case of Austria, 64 percent for Germany, 43 percent for Denmark and 41 percent for Sweden). British firms need to be more proactive when it comes to competing for public sector tenders in Poland.Yet Britain has more on offer than just investment capital and exports; Britain is a world-class source of know-how. The adoption of English as the global language of business is something that its chartered professional institutions have been quick to exploit. Delivering professional services and training around the world for management accountants, surveyors, marketers and HR managers in English and in native languages, British institutions have an edge over their competitors from other European countries. The BPCC, as a bilateral chamber, works with Polish as well as British exporters, promoting business best practice, networking companies and working to ease administrative barriers to trade and investment. Promoting Poland in the UK is a very important part of our work, but so is promoting British firms active on the Polish market, supporting Polish exporters striving to enter the UK market, and cooperating with Polish entrepreneurs active in the UK.A central tool that the BPCC uses in communicating with its members, potential investors and exporters, is its portal, www.bpcc.org.pl. This contains rich resources in English and Polish concerning a wide range of business information, from macroeconomic data, company formation, real estate, recruitment, manufacturing, plus contacts to people who can help companies grow their business effectively in both countries. The portal has three levels; by becoming a registered user, you have access to far more information and company contacts than casual browsers, while BPCC members have full access to all information (as well as the right to upload their own articles to the portal).
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