GE Hungary’s Jörg Bauer, the winner of the 2017 Budapest Business Journal Expat CEO of the Year award, enjoys life in Hungary. Having known this country for two decades, he says he sees positive changes. In our interview, he shares why he thinks that GE is a good place to work and how Hungary could be successful as a digital industrial country.
From a strong shortlist, you were chosen as the most influential foreign CEO in Hungary this year. What are you the most proud of, and why do you think you won?
It is a great honor to receive this prestigious award, particularly following the first two outstanding CEOs [Bosch chief Javier González Pareja and Budapest Airport’s Jost Lammers] in the previous years. I do believe GE Hungary has earned influential recognition for its continuous investments to strengthen GE’s digital industrial footprint in the country, and its commitment to common growth in partnership with Hungary.
What does responsible company management mean to you, be it strategy or daily work?
We believe in the value of diversity and equal opportunities and strive to create an environment where, as one example, no mother or father has to decide between family and children and working at his or her best in the company. As a large company, we believe that we have a large responsibility for our employees and their families, our suppliers and partners.
In your thank you speech, you briefly switched to Hungarian. This language must be a challenge for foreigners. Do you use Hungarian in your daily work, too?
Hungarian is a language that requires a substantial investment before one is able to freely formulate sentences. English, in contrast, starts easy and gets more challenging as the learner progresses. I have had two months at some point that I could fully dedicate to learn the language, which helped a lot. Unfortunately, I do not speak Hungarian regularly, but there are situations where I use Hungarian for meetings or in a few cases for presentations.
Twenty years ago, you had already spent a year in Hungary as a student, and since then you have lived here several on several separate occasions. Do you like living here?
I believe Hungary is an amazing, very livable country with lots of opportunities. Being German, but living in Hungary for 20 years, it feels like my chosen second home.
What do you see as the most significant changes in Hungary between 1997 and 2017 either in a professional and a personal way?
When I first came here, Budapest was a city of dark buildings; the Parliament, the Bazilika and Mátyás Templom were all almost black – but still it had a very special charm and atmosphere, which I very much liked. Budapest and a lot of other cities, like Győr, Debrecen and Balatonfüred, just to name a few, have seen tremendous improvements in infrastructure and renovation. Today, Hungary is not by chance a very attractive location for tourists.
GE Hungary signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Hungarian government in 2012. Are you content with the compliance of the agreement? I mean especially the governmental promise on rearranging the training aid system and GE’s commitment to increase the number of its Hungarian suppliers up to 2,000.
The strategic partnership is a mutual commitment on partnering to jointly develop Hungary. It is publicly available and does not contain very specific details; however, we take it very seriously and act according to our commitment. We work very closely with public and private partners to support our local suppliers getting access to global markets via GE’s global network and providing insight into today’s and future needs of the industry.
GE is one of Hungary’s biggest employers with more than 10,000 employees, 12 factories, five R&D centers, three business headquarters and present in 13 cities. How do you find the local workforce? Do you experience any major difficulties or regional differences when recruiting new labor?
We experience that the labor market has changed in the recent years and became more candidate-friendly. The quality of Hungarian professionals is widely acknowledged, companies need to compete more actively to attract and retain talents, who are key accelerators of GE’s digital transformation. We are proud of our company culture, which enables us to become an employer of choice in the country and in the broader Central and Eastern European region.
How do you consider the Hungarian regulatory environment regarding predictability and investor friendliness?
Hungary is an attractive place for GE to invest. The business environment and the cooperation with the government have been supportive of our efforts and operations. Due to the central, globally competitive location and the great IT talent base, GE has opened one of its six global digital hubs in Budapest, which is considered one of the main digital industrial bases for the company in Europe. With this investment, GE in Hungary has now arrived at the core of GE’s future strategy to be the world’s premier digital industrial company. We believe, based on its strong supply chain base and its competitive IT sector, that Hungary could be one of the world’s premier digital industrial countries.