Marco Piermartiri: a BSL Alumnus appointed COO of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce

marcoMarco Piermartiri, one of our EMBA Alumni, was recently appointed as Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, after an exciting career going from consultancy and entrepreneurship to telecom and digital transformation. Marco had already valuable touch-points with Chamber of Commerce, having collaborated with them as a Telecom and Digital transformation expert respectively in 2003 and in 2017. A professional marriage that was meant to happen?

Graduated from Business School Lausanne in 2000, Marco is a seasoned B2B and Digital transformation expert with a background in engineering who started his career with Swisscom when the company was still State-owned, climbing to the Director position of Enterprise Solutions in 1999.

Throughout his career, Marco covered executive roles as well as the role of entrepreneur: In 2005 he was Vice-President of Integrated Solutions (a local IT services company), selling the company and running the executive operations of the bigger buying firm, Business&Decision, where he managed to raise the numbers by three times (revenues, profits, collaborators) and to open subsidiaries in various cities throughout Switzerland. An important milestone in his career that set up the foundation for his own business consulting firm, ONDACO, which saw the light of the day in 2012.

Since a few weeks, a new chapter of his professional career has started, taking the lead on the business operations of the Chamber of Commerce in Geneva. The most exciting challenge is for him to transition from consulting to action, this new position will be a great way to provide tangible help to established companies, as well as recently launched enterprises and young entrepreneurs. Considering that the Geneva Chamber of Commerce is an absolutely independent and private economic association, although having a non-profit status, it actually operates as any private company does.

BSL congratulates Marco on this new adventure, being positive that once again he will keep our flag flying high.

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

An exotic Internship between BSL & Sumba Hospitality Foundation

In 2017, Business School Lausanne (BSL) and Sumba Hospitality Foundation (SHF) in Indonesia co-created an Internship program tailor-made for BSL students called Sustainable Development Internship.

You may wonder, what is Sumba? And what do they do? So, let us share a brief presentation of this Foundation. SHF offers a vocational training in hospitality for Sumbanese underprivileged youth. The holistic education program provides students with general courses and enables them to graduate in Culinary, Food & Beverage Service, Housekeeping or Front office. To allow the students to apply and train their skills, SHF has opened ten luxury guest pavilions, a SPA as well as a restaurant & bar to the public. Education, environmental awareness and sustainability are the three most important principles of the foundation. It is in the belief of the foundation that tourism can be a positive force in poverty-stricken regions particularly when its community is involved in the process. The goal of the foundation is to assist in providing viable employment to Sumba’s young inhabitants and break the cycle of poverty while also protecting the environment and their culture.

A large part of the campus is dedicated to the growth and maintenance of a sustainable, organic farm, created with the precepts of the burgeoning field of permaculture in mind. Produce from the land are used in the restaurant and the students are taught current farming methods with guidelines to better cultivate their land. SHF aims to raise the students’ awareness of their environment. The school is powered entirely by solar energy allowing SHF to be completely off the grid and re-uses wastewater for irrigation.

One of our BSL students on Sumba Island, Morgan Manin, is doing his internship as part of his Capstone Project (Master of International Business); I took the opportunity to ask him via email for a preliminary description of his internship, to share with our community.

BSL internship

“Reading about SHF on the website and social media made me choose it to do my internship, as my values match perfectly with the foundation’s values and I believe that I will be learning a lot during my Sustainable Development Internship. After the first week, I have identified areas where I could be helpful and learn, which I can summarize with three main tasks and responsibilities. The first one is to analyze the financials at SHF and therefore create a budget for each department meaning the actual school, the administration, the hotel, sustainability and the F&B, including an indication of Capex by departments. I will also guide the SHF finance team towards greater transparency and define cost improvement initiatives.

The second main responsibility I have is to create a Triple Bottom Line Reporting (TBL). TBL is a progressive mode of reporting and seems suited to the SHF. Sustainability centric practices are deeply entrenched in the DNA of the SHF business model. Environmental and social responsibility sit at the core of daily practices and this alongside the true cost of these operationalized initiatives must be reported. I will then gather information to facilitate understanding around the social, environmental and economic practices of SHF. I will conduct research into TBL, using these understandings and research knowledge, with the aim to create a presentation that highlights sound reasoning and justifies or rejects TBL as a means of reporting at SHF. If TBL is found to be preferred mode of reporting, the presentation will include a step-by-step guide detailing a prescribed pathway toward the implementation of TBL reporting at SHF, and then create the strategy that details how to implement TBL as the reporting mechanism for SHF. In the event that SHF management decides to implement TBL as their primary mode of reporting, I will then begin the process of implementation.

To finish, I will be the IT ‘go-to’ person for the team, helping everyone out on Excel, Word, etc.

I will also consider improved ways of using IT for communication for the SHF team.

Before I arrived here, it was planned that I would have to formulate a business plan to be shared with others wanting to duplicate the model of the SHF. I will, therefore, formulate a business plan, constructed in such a way that it has the capacity to facilitate like-minded operators wanting to duplicate the SHF model.

In addition to my primary tasks and responsibilities, I will have ad-hoc tasks set by the Executive Director, I will take care of the students during their study hours and exams as well as shepherding them at night and being in charge of sport activities for the students; also, I will monitor Community English classes for young Sumbanese children living in the neighborhood.

I strongly believe that I will learn so much through this experience, being in a different environment, living in this community, having multiple tasks matching with what I have learned at BSL, and matching the BSL values”.

Morgan, we are all proud of you, we wish you a great experience and let’s see if we can come visit you at some point on that amazing island!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

Is sustainable finance becoming mainstream?

The Swiss newspaper Le Temps published a very interesting article on June 20 by Emmanuel Garessus on the topic of sustainable finance.

Based on a study published by Morgan Stanley the day before, sustainable investments worldwide reached a total amount of 22’800 billion dollars, and can no longer be considered a niche market. This means that a quarter of total investments made by professionals are following ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria.

The annual growth rate of sustainable investments currently amounts to 11.9 % and continues to grow.

The majority of institutional investors, such as pension funds, foundations, insurance companies and sovereign funds, are now investing in this field, which used to be a niche a few years ago. Hedge funds are an exception to this trend.

Europe (12’000 billion dollars) and the United States (8’800 billion dollars) are major players in this field. Theme wise, climate change occupies the top position, ahead of inclusive growth and gender diversity.

Risk mitigation and potential return on investment are the main reasons why professionals invest in sustainable finance.

When I read the article in Le Temps, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is very encouraging to see how quickly sustainable investments are increasing all over the world. On the other, we should remain aware that there are different levels of commitment from investors with regards to sustainable investments. A first level is exclusion (we just choose not to invest in the tobacco industry or in casinos, e.g.). A second level is the so-called “Best in class” approach where we decide to invest in company A instead of company B, because the former one has a better rating according to ESG criteria, even if we invest in non-renewable energy sources. The third level is impact investing where we select companies, which bring a real progress to the world, by addressing environmental or social issues and contributing to reach the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give any indication on the way the total amount of sustainable investment is shared between these different levels.

My personal opinion on this topic is that a shift towards more progressive and impactful levels of sustainable investments is as important as the total amount of these investments.

For that reason, the world needs more and more finance professionals with a solid background in sustainability, both at investing companies or institutions and at rating companies.

Philippe Du Pasquier, President of the Board

The Great Decline of the Swiss Franc

The Tough Years

The consensus among financial analysts during last 6-7 years is that the Swiss currency has been significantly overvalued and still is. Historically, EUR100 could be converted into more than CHF120, but in spring 2015, there was a remarkable currency movement and the Franc raised to unprecedented levels. Much at the joy of Swiss consumers traveling and purchasing abroad, but at the same time causing even more serious problems for Swiss companies and institutions having to increase their prices with up to 20% for clients abroad.

At the time, the Swiss National Bank was very aware of the issues a strong Swiss Franc would cause to exporting business and visitors to Switzerland, and therefore for a long time tempted to keep the EUR-CHF exchange rate above 1.20 (EUR1 = CHF1.20). To achieve this goal the Swiss National Bank sold CHF against EUR and also lowered interest rates, making it less attractive to change your money into Francs and to invest money here. The pressure however was big and too many foreign companies and investors continued to purchase Swiss Francs. In spring 2015, in an abrupt move, the Swiss National Bank went away from the first part of their strategy and stopped selling Francs to defend a level of 1.20. The reaction in financial markets was immediate, and the Swiss Franc went straight up and stabilized at level of EUR1 = 1CHF, even though the short-term interest rates at the same time were dropped to -0.75% (you actually received money if you took a loan in CHF) as a last desperate measure to park money in the Swiss mountains. 2015 and 2016 were tough years for many exporting companies. When a currency jumps by 20% overnight this translates into 20% more expensive prices of your goods when sold abroad and 20% higher costs on all goods and services bought outside Switzerland. Sales went down, margins went down, salaries were cut. Misery in short.

The Swiss Franc Is Becoming Cheaper

Few things – other than diamonds – last forever. Slowly since 2015, negative interest rates have helped equilibrate the Franc back into a downward trend. As can be seen on the graph below, the Swiss Franc has gradually gone down since, and is now after four years of continuous weakening coming back down and through the important threshold of 1.20. Analysts at UBS predict that the trend is not over, but will continue and in the shorter term already reach a level of 1.25. A tendency the president of the Swiss National Bank, Thomas Jordan, welcomes. He sees no reason to discontinue the decline by adjusting monetary policy. This is good and a fine guarantee for a continued depreciation of the Franc.

The great decline of the Swiss Franc is good news for Swiss exporting companies and visitors coming to Switzerland. In line with a weaker CHF companies can raise their export prices. It is also great news for future and current students at BSL who, through the new currency reality, get a 20% (soon to be 25%) discount compared to spring 2015!

A consequence of the weakening Franc is that interest rates are increased into positive territory. The opinion of the international financial sector is still that the Swiss Franc even today still is too strong. This and the fact that near-term risk appetite for equity investments is high – as the world economies are growing at a satisfying pace – will keep the CHF low and push it even lower.  

I welcome the trend and we hope for all of us that the next level will be 1.30 (EUR1 = CHF1.30). Breaking that threshold would certainly be bad news for Swiss consumers, having to pay higher prices for imported goods. However, given the dependency of Switzerland on exports (pharmaceuticals, machinery, clocks and chemicals), the country currently is, in my opinion, better off with an even weaker currency.

 

Author:

Dr. Jan Erik Meidell, Professor