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Chamber of choice
The British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH) celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Asked what he regards the greatest achievement of this quarter of a century, BCCH Chairman Vazul Tóth tells Diplomacy& Trade it is that the BCCH is among the top three most active bilateral chambers in Hungary.
Diplomacy&Trade online | October 8, 2017

“We are proud that based on feedback, we can say that people consider the BCCH as one of the leading Chambers of Europe and as a chamber of choice. 26 years is a long time, we have been through a great deal, and thus, plenty of achievements: hosting over a thousand events, opening the British Business Centre in Budapest, starting projects such as our uSchool Entrepreneurship Club, which was even featured in the Forbes Magazine, and so on,” the Chairman says.

The Executive Director of BCCH, Csilla Csurgai highlights among the most successful events the celebration, in 2009, of the 150th anniversary of Big Ben, one of London's iconic landmarks and the celebration, last year, of the 25th anniversary of BCCH.

The Chairman revealed that the nature of these events changed in accordance with the demands of the members. “A few years ago, when we started building BCCH 2.0, as I like to call it, we built it on three key pillars. The first is facilitating knowledge transfer from multinational companies to SMEs, who the chamber found ‘were very keen to learn good practices from multinationals and acquire skills to grow to the next level’. This is typified by the SME breakfast series, in which experts of multinational companies are invited to share their experience with Chamber’s SME members. The second pillar is the highly successful CEO dinner series. We found that there was a desire among C-level executives to learn from CEOs in various sectors and to discuss topical issues with them. We are delighted that over the past two years we have been able to host CEOs of significant organizations such as GSK, BT, Vodafone and Budapest Airport to name a few. The third pillar focuses on innovative business models and disruptive technologies.  Working with several local and British organizations we aim to spread a startup mindset to facilitate a rapid change in developing products and services.”

International network

The BCCH (with close to 130 members) has a close working relationship with the British Embassy in Budapest and with other European chambers and business organizations operating in Hungary. The Chamber is also a member of COBCOE (Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe), an umbrella association of all the British Chambers of Commerce operating in Europe. “In all its activities, as the gateway to a global trade and investment business solution, our network of business support services and partnerships with the Department for International Trade (DIT), and the European (COBCOE) and global network of UK Chambers of Commerce gives our members the direct contact and connections they need to succeed, and this is why the BCCH regards its British identity and values as fundamental to its success.”

He adds that the BCCH leadership is convinced that the Chamber still has a far-reaching future, especially if the organization continues its various facets, its mixture of professional interests, friendships, lobbying missions and the desire to give something back to Hungary, “therefore, we keep coming up with new ideas regarding our events and try to tailor them around the current economic and business challenges hence, we can serve our members better.”

Beyond business events, like business breakfasts, luncheons, business seminars and workshops, conferences and exclusive CEO Dinners, BCCH has hosted various networking events throughout the years.

The Executive Director is pleased to mention the professional and networking events. “Our members really like the ‘club-like’ and business friendly atmosphere, primarily the very prestigious British Business Club, held at the Ambassador’s residence; then, the joint BCCH Christmas Party with the Embassy, the Chamber’s Family Day, the Guy Fawkes Night and the great Culture Clubs with exhilarating exhibitions that showed the magnificent works of Rippl-Rónai, Turner, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt or others.”

“One of our greatest values is that we care about the views and opinions of our members and stakeholders that help us to build a powerful multilateral network and increase the capacity and professionalism of the Chamber.” she adds.

Principles and business values

“Our mission is to represent British, Hungarian and international companies with the overarching principles of British business values and promote trade and investment flows between the UK and Hungary. We provide our members with all kinds of opportunities to raise their company’s business profile and strengthen their competitiveness in the local and international market. These opportunities include events and publications (these both are very popular), areas of focus (such as knowledge transfer, SMEs, CR, etc.), international and regional partnerships, as well as special offers and discounts,” Vazul Tóth points out.

Among British business values represented by BCCH, he lists competitiveness, transparency, good governance, accountability and fairness which all play a very important role in the operations of the organization. As to how BCCH can contribute to the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy, the Chairman stresses that    “our membership started growing once again to reach close to 130 members of British, Hungarian and international business people and corporations, and we have a network of over 3,000 contacts from approximately 20 sectors. We started to strengthen our relationship with our existing members and build relationships with new members and partners. We began to create opportunities for British SMEs entering the Hungarian market through our British Business Centre operations, which offers continued export support. If an SME is interested in coming here, the Business Centre will do the market research for them to see what opportunities are available, offer a hot desk opportunity for them during their negotiations and ’scouting trips’, and support their establishment in the Hungarian market. In two-and-a-half years, we have helped 500 British SMEs enter the market; in terms of signed contracts, that’s GBP 0.5 million.”

Vazul Tóth was re-elected as BCCH Chairman earlier this year. For this next term, he wishes to concentrate primarily on three issues: digitalization; British business values; and value added services to BCCH members. “Digitalization is here and is already significantly transforming how organizations trade, build their capabilities and deliver services to their customers. We need to make sure we are supporting this and we are part of this development rather than just jumping on this when it is too late. We will continue to support those business values that I have mentioned, promote the flow of trade between Hungary and the UK and, in terms of events, we continue to focus on current affairs and relevant topics,” he concludes.


With reference to the outcome of the Brexit vote last summer, the BCCH President explains that “as the UK redefines its relationships with the EU, our mission remains the same; promoting trade and investment flow between the UK and Hungary. Brexit is an unprecedented event, and as such, it is very hard to predict the short and long term implications on trade at this point. What we know is that more and more emphasis will be placed on bilateral relationships and synergies. Hungary and the UK have an extremely strong relationship on a trade and political level. I think there will be lots of opportunities to build on that.”

He believes that the role of the British Chamber of Commerce and the British Business Centre will be more important in the new era of trade relations and regulations. British companies will require professional guidance and support of experts from the Chamber when entering the local market. “New exporters may face additional administrative and legal challenges and we will aim to provide clarity and assistance.”

“We currently see good opportunities for trade and investment in the Hungarian market in the Healthcare & Medical, Automotive, Clothing, Footwear and Fashion industries and we will continue to improve and exploit our strong relationship with the UK through our events and promoting the opportunities available in Hungary.”

The market has proved that the BCCH plays a significant part in helping British businesses entering and operating in Hungary. “We firmly believe that whatever the road of Brexit is going to be, the Chamber will stand the test of time and play a key role in redefining and facilitating the new relationship between the UK and Hungary. We have the expertise and good relationships with key stakeholders and the government through which we are well positioned to provide win-win opportunities for our members. As the UK redefines its relationships with the EU, more and more emphasis will be placed on bilateral synergies and we will be here to take part in that.”

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