AmCham: Busy Days Behind, More to Come

Conferences

AmCham members vote at the Dec. 4 annual assembly.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary held its 35th general assembly and board elections on Dec. 4. The organization said it was closing an eventful and financially sound year, with 2024 promising to be similarly successful, with the highlight of the 35th anniversary, due in June.

AmCham president Zoltán Szabó underlined a new milestone the organization reached this year: not only is it a unifying voice for its membership community, but it has also become the driving force of a unique cross-chamber advocacy alignment.

“We played a key role in fostering relations between international chambers, resulting in reaching a unified position on critical topics such as education and healthcare,” Szabó said. He drew attention to a joint business forum with Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér, which he said was particularly important in this regard.

Further meetings with political decision-makers and the representatives of chambers and professional organizations led to significant progress in diverse areas, from the pharma tax burden to deductible R&D spending. In addition, AmCham engaged in consultations with other stakeholders on competitiveness, involving then-Minister of Justice Judit Varga and the Embassy of the United States.

A series of professional events were organized throughout the year. The ninth edition of the Business Meets Government Summit, co-hosted by the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency, welcomed renowned experts, high-ranking government officials, and representatives of prestigious think tanks and academia. The conference provided a platform to discuss the most burning questions in energy, workforce, education and healthcare.

Altogether six business forums were organized throughout the year, hosting leading political figures such as Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony, ministers Pintér (internal affairs), Csaba Lantos (energy), Tibor Navracsics (regional development and EU funds) and Péter Szijjártó (foreign affairs and trade), as well as Hungarian Ambassador to the United States Szabolcs Takács.

Beyond Advocacy

Advocacy work was just one, albeit a significant, part of the year’s activities. The community pillar remained strong. The Independence Day Party (July 2) and Thanksgiving Dinner (Nov. 20) were both very popular events.

Knowledge transfer was nurtured on many occasions, too: in the spring, AmCham launched a five-part HR masterclass series. Apart from that, various seminars, webinars and policy forums were held to provide further food for thought for members.

Outgoing secretary-treasurer Mike Carlson delivered his financial report. He reported that AmCham Hungary was stable, having closed the 2022 financial year with a positive result.

AmCham Hungary CEO Írisz Lippai-Nagy gave an overview of what is down the line in the upcoming months in the regular triangle of advocacy, community and knowledge. She noted that next year will be a special one as the chamber celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2024 and will feature special programs, including an anniversary gala and a new platform promoting best practices and knowledge-sharing in diversity and inclusion.

More Collaboration

Preparations for the 35th anniversary on June 7 will coincide with those for Hungary holding the rotating EU presidency. In this regard, AmCham EU’s role can’t be emphasized enough in that it works together with the local national AmCham in the country holding the presidency.

“This will give us even more opportunities for collaboration in the policy field. In fact, AmCham EU is scheduled to pay a visit as early as February to meet with key stakeholders,” Lippai-Nagy said. “Our crown jewel, the Business Meets Government Summit, will be held for the 10th time in 2024, and we are already taking steps to ensure a more regional representation with regard to the Hungarian presidency.”

AmCham Hungary is also working on its annual recommendation package, which will take a new form. It will focus on strategic highlights, and members should be expected to share case studies that can be incorporated into that package.

The upcoming U.S. presidential election in November 2024 will serve as one of the biggest highlights of the coming year, with AmCham providing a platform to discuss expectations and the results of the elections.

The event calendar will be as full as always: committee meetings, seminars, webinars, and policy and business forums will provide ample opportunity for professional development and networking. A career orientation program, Business Services Sector Open Days and board simulation games are on the agenda, too, as are the regular social events such as the July 4th Party or Thanksgiving Dinner.

Edit Bencsik, a member of the board of trustees of the AmCham Foundation, shared the results of AFC’s year. There was much to be proud of as 300-plus kids were impacted, five children’s homes were supported, and donations helped digital education.

In memory of the father of modern lobbying, the Iván Völgyes Award honoring those who contribute most to U.S.-Hungarian relations went to AmCham veteran David Young this year.

The new AmCham board after the December 2023 elections.

New Year, New Board

The general assembly elected several new officials. Ákos Janza, managing director and head of enterprise transformation and global head of offices at MSCI Inc., became first vice president, PwC Hungary partner Ákos Burján was voted secretary-treasurer, and. Judit Budai, co-managing partner of Szecskay Attorneys at Law, is now a member of the Supervisory Board.

Etelka Dobi (The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson) was elected as a board member at large, but an unexpected twist followed when, for the first time in AmCham history, two candidates received the same number of votes for the second such position. A repeated round of voting saw Attila Kövesdy (Deloitte) elected.

The new board is as follows: President Zoltán Szabó, first VP Ákos Janza, second VP István Katona, secretary-treasurer Ákos Burján, board members at large: Edit Bencsik, Etelka Dobi László Kónya, Attila Kövesdy, Dániel Mayer, Mónika Pais, and Veronika Spanarova.

The supervisory board chair is Andrea Jádi Németh, and the supervisory board member is Judit Budai.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of December 15, 2023.

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