Veronika Spanarova: ‘Honored, Humbled and Thankful for the Recognition and Trust’


Veronika Spanarova

Photo by Marianna Sárközy

In the wake of winning the Expat CEO of the Year award for 2023, the Budapest Business Journal asked Veronika Spanarova to reflect on what it means.

BBJ: Congratulations on winning the award. What went through your head when you heard your name called?

Veronika Spanarova: It was an amazing moment! I was (and still am) incredibly excited, honored, and humbled. I felt overwhelmingly thankful for the recognition and trust I have been given by being awarded. I started to think of all the people who helped me to achieve this recognition. And I felt a great motivation to continue my work with even greater energy and enthusiasm.

BBJ: As you said in your acceptance speech, business leaders can do nothing without the support of their team. What do you think your award means to them?

VS: Since I received the award last Friday, every day, I have been saying “Thank you:” to my colleagues individually, to smaller groups of colleagues, and even to entire teams. There are still many people to whom I wish to express my gratitude and thanks. I would like everyone to know that it is the whole team’s achievement and recognition for what we all do daily for our clients, colleagues and community. The award is dedicated to the whole team at Citi.

BBJ: Our previous winners have been from Western Europe (Spain, Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Italy). Do you see yourself as a trailblazer for business executives from the CEE region?

VS: Firstly, I would like to congratulate all the previous winners. I read their stories, which are a great source of inspiration for their achievements. I believe that adding the Czech Republic and the Central and Eastern European region to the “list” of winners’ home countries is a testament to the diversity of the expat CEO community in Hungary. It proves that Hungary is an attractive location not only for international companies to invest, but also for executives from all over the world as a great place to work and live.

BBJ: You are also a mother and a wife, as well as a business leader. How important is it to be a role model for women?

VS: I am always very honored when I am asked for advice by women who are in their school years, at the beginning of their working life, or an important point in their professional careers. I am happy to share what I have learned, thanks to many people who have been my role models over the years. At the same time, I always say: “I can share my experience, things which have worked for me. But we are all different, and the most important thing is staying true to yourself; whichever direction you decide to go in, it has to work for you.”

BBJ: Given the multiple hats you wear, how do you achieve a work/life balance?

VS: I have a great team at work and a very supportive (and understanding) family. There are days and weeks when the “life” part of the balance is on the minority side, but I am mindful of it and try to compensate during my more relaxed time, at weekends and holidays. Earlier in my career, I heard a quote: “Work-life balance does not always have to be achieved every single day, but we have to make sure that it is achieved within a reasonable timeframe.” This is the balance that I am trying to keep as an essential factor of overall well-being.

BBJ: You weren’t the only winner on March 24. What did you think of Andrea Solti Istenes (president of HBLF and country chair of Shell Hungary) being presented with the inaugural The Community Award?

VS: I was so happy that she received the Community Award; this is such well-deserved recognition. Andrea is a model as a leader who holds a very high-ranking and demanding role in a global company, and in addition to that, she is able to give so much to the community, both on the business and on the social side. The Hungarian Business Leaders Forum is a long-term partner of Citi, so I have seen her work firsthand, and it is absolutely fabulous: so many projects related to leadership, diversity, and women empowerment, which are visible, innovative and impactful. Big congratulations: a great award given to a very inspirational leader.

BBJ: Finally, do you have a word for the two runners-up to you, Andreas Szakácsi (managing director of Claas Hungária) and Matt Zeller (country president of Novartis Hungary)?

VS: Yes, and thank you for the question! Dear Andreas, Dear Matt, my sincere congratulations and immense respect for your remarkable achievements, your success in the leadership of your companies, and your contributions to the business environment and community. It has been an honor to be nominated alongside you, and I look forward to staying in touch to strengthen the business community here in Hungary further.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of April 11, 2023.

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