Celebrating the Expat CEO Community


Assuming you are reading this on publication day (Friday, January 31), we are still gearing up for the BBJ Expat CEO of the Year awards gala tonight.

Our annual celebration of all that is good about the impact expat CEOs have on Hungary’s economy is being staged for the sixth time, as once again we return to the fantastic venue that is the Grand Ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest.  

At the time of writing, I genuinely have no idea who the winner will be. That decision will only be taken by our professional awards jury in the minutes running up to the start of the gala itself. I don’t sit on the jury, and will be busy with the usual last minute preparations for my duties as MC for the evening. The chances are I still won’t know who the winner is until the name is revealed later tonight.

One thing I do know, however; we will make history on this evening. The short-list of candidates was announced back in October and is: Romke Noordhuis, managing director of ExxonMobil Hungary; Melanie Seymour, head of Blackrock Budapest from 2017-2019, and now Head of Global Client Services; and Charles Wassen, general manager and country lead of Dana Hungary.

In the five years since the launch of the award, we have had three German winners (or two German winners and one Brazilian-German winner, if you want to be hyper accurate), a Spaniard and a Finn (Julia Lammi, last year, who was also the first woman to win the title). But we have never had a Dutchman (Noordhuis), a Brit (Seymour) or a Frenchman (Wassen).  

The gala and the award are, of course, a celebration of the candidates and most especially the winner, the expat CEO who is deemed to have done most for this country’s development and international recognition through his or her professionalism and outstanding achievements.

But it is also a celebration of the multi-layered community they are drawn from, including their CEO peers, but also their partners (without whom no business person can successfully manage life and work), their diplomatic representatives, the chambers of commerce and the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency. Now, that is a community worth celebrating.


Today is not just significant for the Budapest Business Journal and the winner of the Expat CEO of the Year award; it also marks the moment, at precisely 11 p.m., when the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union. Brexit, finally, is done.

Except it isn’t of course, at least not entirely. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have delivered on his promise to take the country out, but he still faces one more ticking clock.

There will be an 11-month transition period in which the two sides try to negotiate their future trading relationship. For now, everyone seems to be saying the timeline is tight, but the will to get a deal done is there, but fail to reach agreement and it is still possible the United Kingdom could exit under basic World Trade Organization rules if nothing else is in place. There is still plenty of tough talking to come, from both sides.

Robin Marshall


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