Veronika Spanarova Wins Expat CEO of the Year Award 2023


Veronika Spanarova

Citi's Veronika Spanarova won the Expat CEO of the Year title at the Budapest Business Journal’s annual awards gala, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest on March 24, 2023.

The exclusive, invitation-only black-tie event was held for the ninth time, with a prestigious crowd of business leaders, their other halves, diplomats, and decision-makers gathering at the hotel to witness the award ceremony.

The BBJ Expat CEO Award is given to the foreign business head working and living in Hungary who is considered to have contributed most to the development of the Hungarian economy and its international recognition in the previous year. The first gala was held in 2015.

“The BBJ is Hungary’s only English-language economic bi-weekly and has always played an important role in providing information for expat CEOs working and living in Hungary. That is why we decided to found an award to recognize their efforts annually,” said Balázs Román, the CEO of the Budapest Business Journal.

The Expat CEO of the Year is picked by a professional jury of five just 30 minutes before the gala starts. The panel this year consisted of American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary CEO Írisz Lippai-Nagy, who has been involved since the beginning, HIPA CEO István Joó, German-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president András Sávos and BBJ CEO Balázs Román. The fifth seat on the jury is taken by the previous year’s title winner, meaning Giacomo Pedranzini had a voice in picking his successor.

“Why Expat? Well, when we launched this award, there was plenty of recognition for Hungarian CEOs, many of whom are exceptional and fully deserving of those awards, and some of whom are in this room tonight, but there was nothing for the community of expat leaders. We wanted to fix that. And that word "community" is essential here, for those of us who are expats in Hungary don't just do business here; we also live here,” BBJ editor-in-chief Robin Marshall explained to the audience after opening the gala.

Furthermore, the Budapest Business Journal has introduced a new prize, the Community Award, presented for the first time at the Expat CEO of the Year Gala. The award recognizes a company leader or head of a foundation or business organization for their efforts in diversity, inclusivity, disability, or sustainability.

The first-ever Community Award went to Andrea Solti Istenes, president of HBLF and country chair of Shell Hungary.

Nine Years of Recognizing the Efforts of the Expat Business Community

After the guests completed the gala dinner’s main course, the evening’s host, BBJ editor-in-chief Robin Marshall, introduced this year’s nominees: Veronika Spanarova, managing director and country head Hungary at Citi; Andreas Szakácsi, CLAAS Hungária’s managing director and speaker of the board; and Novartis Hungary country president Matt Zeller.

Marshall also paid tribute to the previous title holders, noting that last year saw the first Italian winner of the award, Giacomo Pedranzini, the CEO of Kometa 99 Zrt. After a COVID-induced delay to the gala of 18 months, Erik Slooten, CEO of Deutsche Telekom IT Solutions Hungary, was the 2021 Expat CEO of the year. His immediate predecessor, albeit one named in January 2020, was BlackRock’s Melanie Seymour. Taira-Julia Lammi, CEO of ABB Hungary Kft., won the award in 2019, while in 2018, the title went to Marc de Bastos Eckstein, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Components Technology Hungary Kft. In 2017, it was Jörg Bauer, then of GE Hungary; in 2016, it was Jost Ernst Lammers of Budapest Airport Zrt., and the inaugural award was presented in 2015 to Javier González Pareja of Bosch Magyarország.

Veronika Spanarova Triumphs at the 2023 Expat CEO Gala

Arriving on the stage after the screening of three videos showcasing each of the shortlisted 2023 candidates, last year’s winner Giacomo Pedranzini carried an envelope containing the winner’s name. Excitement reached its highest point of the evening as he opened the envelope, revealing the name of the ninth Expat CEO of the Year.

Amid a flurry of applause, Veronika Spanarova made her way to the stage to accept the award.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to receive this award. Citi was the first to open among the Central European countries in 1985, and it is one of the largest operations in the wider Europe and EMEA region. So I have been very fortunate to be part of the continuous growth of the investments which we made into technology, into R&D, into innovation, and also to be part of the success of our clients, many of them are foreign investors,” noted Spanarova.

“Every award is a recognition of a team. I believe that nobody can achieve anything just by themselves without the support of the network and the people around them. We have been able to be successful here thanks to the open economy and welcoming business environment, our clients, and the great people and the team which we are working with here. So, I would like to say thank you. I would like to say thank you to our public sector partners, HIPA, the American Chamber of Commerce, Business Associations, the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum, and the Budapest Business Journal. I would like to say thank you also to our clients,” Spanarova said.

The gala continued into the night, with ample networking opportunities for the guests in the foyer, who continued to enjoy the hospitality of Corinthia, sampling mouth-watering desserts and drinks until well past midnight, with a special performance by legendary Hungarian pianist Károly Nyári and his daughter Aliz further adding to the atmosphere.

The event was sponsored by Penny, PwC, Mercedes, Citi, Legrand, Continental, Phoenix Pharma, Heineken, UniCredit, and Taylor Wessing. The Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA) acted as the ceremony’s official event partner.

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