Chris Abel and Heiko Riese are the two new directors on the board of the Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Both of them have been elected by the members during the last Annual General Meeting. We talked with them about their expectations, why they came to Canada and how it is to work for a large Swiss company abroad.
Heiko Riese is Senior Relationship Manager at the UBS Bank Canada. He studied at the Freie Universität Berlin Islamic Studies and Economics and works for the UBS since 2006. He spent the last couple of years in Saudi Arabia in the UBS Advisory Office Riyadh. Since 2016 he calls Vancouver his new home.
Chris Abel is Sales Manager at Lindt & Sprüngli (Canada), responsible for the field sales in Western Canada. He completed the Swiss Business Diploma at the Business School in Zurich. He has been working for Lindt & Sprüngli in Kilchberg/Zurich before he got transferred to Vancouver.
You are the newest director on the SCCC board, what are your expectations for your time on the board? What would you like to contribute to the members of the chamber?
Chris Abel (CA): First off, I am very excited and also honored to be involved at the chamber at a more senior level. My expectations are that I will personally learn more about the different individuals who are members at the chamber, their personal and corporate background and experience and also the companies and sectors that they represent. But equally important, I would like to learn what their expectations are towards the chamber. It would be my wish that I could build some strong and mutually beneficial relationships with the membership at large and the members of the board.
Heiko Riese (HR): First of all, I expect my time on the board to be a great experience and a time of learning. I would like to bring in my strength in networking, which has proven necessary and helpful to settle in in the different countries I have worked before. I will contribute to set up high-profile events in order to meet the expectations of the members of the SCCC: support in their business activities and that we provide useful networking opportunities.
How can you personally benefit from being a member and a director of the Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce?
CA: Personally, I think developing a vibrant and diverse network of contacts, acquaintances and connections is a big benefit, both personally and also professionally. But equally important for me is maintaining a link to Switzerland and also to Swiss and European expats and professionals who reside in Western Canada and people who share similar interests and experiences.
HR: Personally I expect to benefit from working with the other board members on different topics than my professional occupation. I want to broaden my horizon, and I also hope to get to know the SCCC members better.
What brought you to Vancouver?
CA: A long, long time ago, I had come to Vancouver as an ESL student and quickly fell in love with the city, the culture, the geography and the overall west-coast life-style. It had quickly become a dream of mine to, at one point, manage to move to Canada’s west-coast and gain international work and life experience. Ultimately, I was lucky to transfer from Kilchberg/Zurich to Vancouver for Lindt Chocolates and ended up getting fully established, with starting a family and building a network of friends.
HR: My previous work location for UBS was Saudi Arabia, and after having lived in a desert country for 5 years, my family and I were longing for a more beautiful and richer nature. Canada, and in particular Vancouver, seemed like the perfect location. Until now we have not been disappointed. (I was asked not to mention the weather in this interview.)
You’re working for a Swiss company abroad, what are the differences between the business world in Switzerland and Canada?
CA: When I first started to work in Vancouver in 1999 I noticed a few very obvious differences (as an employee: getting 2 paychecks per month, not getting a 13th salary, having income tax deducted at the source, but more importantly, a different, more direct work and communications culture, a considerably quicker decision making process etc.) as well as many smaller, subtle differences to which one adapts almost subconsciously and step by step. I also had to learn to be less judgmental… there are many ways to get things done… not just the Swiss way. 🙂
HR: I don’t see huge differences in terms of business environment between Switzerland and Canada. In both places people are well structured and organized. Maybe Vancouver is a bit more leisure-oriented, but also here you find hard working people. One obvious difference is the size of the country; meeting clients in other cities requires a different level of planning and time.
What is always in your suitcase when you come back from a trip to Switzerland?
CA: Inevitably, there will always be a few Fuenflibers, Zweifraenklers or Zwaenzgerli’s left – sometimes even a “Zwaenzgernoetli” or two – and inevitably, I will forget to bring them back to Switzerland on the next visit…(I have an envelope with a bunch of them…) But there are also a few items that I always bring back consciously: Appenzeller Baerli Biber, Glarner Ankenziger (although I do NOT declare that at customs) – I also buy Rivella in cans or smaller bottles to bring along sometimes and I always buy a few tubes of toothpaste that isn’t available here… Some habits are hard to shake…. 🙂
HR: Ovomaltine cookies (Ovo-Kekse). The best Swiss invention since the Swiss Army Knife.
The SCCC would like to thank our directors Heiko Riese and Chris Abel for their time and effort spent for this interview.