Are you sure?

Excellent Expat CEOs on Parade

At around ten tonight, as long as I have kept things running to schedule throughout the evening, the fourth BBJ Expat CEO of the Year will be named at our gala at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. 

Once again, an impressive shortlist has been put together by our jury, with the final selection to be made from: Thomas Narbeshuber, executive director, BASF Hungária Kft.; Minas Agelidis, general manager, Coca-Cola HBC Magyarország Kft.; Christian Wolff, executive director, Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary Kft.; David Wiernik, president, NNG Kft.; and Marc de Bastos Eckstein, executive director, Thyssenkrupp Components Technology Hungary Kft.

It is an international field of excellence, and truly reflects the talent pool of expat bosses here in Hungary.

When the decision to launch the award was taken five years ago, Hungarian public discourse did not always treat multinational companies or those who run them as organizations and people that add value. The rhetoric often concentrated on what was taken from the country (usually in terms of repatriated profits), rather than what was added to it.

It won’t, perhaps, surprise you to learn that was a vision of Hungarian business life we did not share. I am perfectly certain there have been bad expat CEOs, just as there are poor Hungarian CEOs. I am equally convinced - because I have been fortunate enough to meet and interview many of them in my 20 years here - that there are many outstanding expat bosses, just as they have outstanding Hungarian peers. Exhibit one in my case? Why, the shortlisted candidates for this year’s award.

So, we set about creating an award that acknowledges the good that the very best expat CEOs bring to Hungary. The benefits that come from their different cultural backgrounds, their diverse skill sets and experience. Not better, note, but different. We never attempted to suggest that expat CEOs were better than Hungarian CEOs; we just felt the very best deserved proper recognition. 

That the event has grown in stature and size with each successive year is an indication that we were right when we spotted that hole, and that expat CEOs themselves have been increasingly happy to come along and show their support for their colleagues. It doesn’t hurt that it is quite a good party, too! 

And it is very much more than an excuse to partake in some self-indulgent back slapping. What expat CEOs do, in raising awareness of Hungary and its talented workforce at their home HQ, wherever that may be, is important in its own right. More even than that, in achieving all important bottom line progress, these bosses bring the sort of value-added jobs that keep Hungarians happy to work in this country, and might even attract some back home.

So, who will join our roll call of Javier González Pareja (then CEO of Bosch Magyarország, before he was promoted and left the country), Jost Lammers (of Budapest Airport), and last year’s winner Jörg Bauer, then GE Hungary President? We will tell you the answer to that in our next issue, and perhaps reveal a little more about the secrets of their success. One thing is guaranteed; we will have our first winner whose forename doesn’t start with the letter “J”.