"Engineer the future as an entrepreneur? Why not." That was the motto of the fourth Credit Suisse Entrepreneurs' Conference, held from November 8–10, 2021. More than 2,500 participants followed the hybrid event in person or via live webcast. The message was clear: The world will be forever changed after the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies need to look to the future and adapt to changing market conditions in order to stay competitive and future-proof.
What opportunities does the huge drive to digitalization offer? How can SMEs benefit from the new working models? And what impact will the failed talks on the Institutional Framework Agreement have for the Swiss economy? In a series of 17 contributions, high-profile experts from the worlds of politics, business, sport, and research discussed the key corporate issues of our time. Various high-profile figures – including President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin, Swiss Ambassador to the US Jacques Pitteloud, and futurologist Mathias Horx – shared their views on Switzerland's economic future at the Entrepreneurs' Congress.
"Entrepreneurs think ahead. And we're with them."
Most markets are enjoying a significant recovery, with the economy expected to grow again in 2022. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet fully over, Switzerland is "out of the woods" in economic terms, according to Peter Derendinger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd. In the opening interview, the Chairman discussed his initial concerns about the economic consequences of the pandemic as well as about the impressive degree of resilience shown by Swiss companies when tackling the COVID-19 crisis.
An online poll of conference participants on the key export markets for Swiss SMEs showed a clear result: Around one third expect the US to become less important. This came as a major surprise to Jacques Pitteloud, Switzerland's Ambassador to the US. Because in reality that is exactly the opposite of what is happening: The Swiss economy now exports more goods to the US than to Germany. What's more, this growth is continuing. In a fascinating breakout session, the Swiss Ambassador to the United States talked about what role the US would have in the new global powerplay and what this means for the investment activities of Swiss companies.
"The US needs high-tech products – and that's good news for Swiss SMEs."
Credit Suisse financial experts attending the Entrepreneurs' Congress gave their views on how the economy will fare post COVID-19. According to Nannette Hechler-Fayd'herbe, Chief Investment Officer for International Wealth Management, real GDP growth will be more than 4% in 2022 – an übertrend in historical terms. Nevertheless, new sources of inflation are likewise expected in the future. Meanwhile, Head of Real Estate Economics Fredy Hasenmaile looked at the structural changes caused by the pandemic: "We're seeing a transition to a new equilibrium."
"Switzerland already has over 300 PropTech firms."
Can virtual reality goggles be used to alleviate chronic pain? What sounds like science fiction may soon be possible thanks to the company SomaRem. Led by Dr. Jasmine Ho, the startup is just one of the many projects that came to fruition thanks to the innovative spirit of the University of Zurich. The university currently has over 300 active patent families, making it a hotbed for innovation but also for future investment opportunities – and the trend is upward.
"We'd already written the press release announcing the death of Offix." In a breakout session on the topic of cyber security, Martin Kelterborn, CEO of Offix Group, gave a chilling account of how dramatic the consequences of a cyber-attack can be for SMEs. Fact is, his company fell victim to the notorious Ryuk ransomware. The growing number of hacking attempts on Swiss SMEs shows that digitalization is both a blessing and a curse, and actively protecting yourself against cyber risks takes a great deal of preparation.
These were just some of the highlights of the fourth Entrepreneurs' Conference, which was devoted to new beginnings. Or, as Hans Baumgartner, Head of Entrepreneurs & Executives Switzerland at Credit Suisse, put it: "We're slowly putting the pandemic behind us." All keynotes, breakout sessions, and discussions at the Entrepreneurs' Conference are available in digital format. Why not stop by and take a look at the videos in your own time. We hope you find them insightful, and look forward to seeing you again at the Entrepreneurs' Conference in 2022.