Joanna Denton, pictured, came to Luxembourg in 2003. Today she is the chair of the British Chamber of Commerce.
Photo: Maison Moderne
Photo: Maison Moderne
As the British Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg turns 25, new chair Joanna Denton talks to Delano about meeting Jude Law and Brexit.
Jess Bauldry: Tell us a bit about yourself. What brought you to Luxembourg and what do you do?
Joanna Denton: I am originally from Northern Ireland. I came here in 2003 on a 12-month secondment like so many other people. I was working in tax. In the end I decided to stay. I was manager at Deloitte, where I worked my way through the ranks to director. I went to PwC in 2012 as director in the VAT department. I was working primarily to advise companies around VAT in the businesses in the e-commerce sector. I moved from tax in 2014 when the company created an in-house service to coach colleagues who speak at conferences and pitch to clients, a kind of in-house public speaking coach. I left PwC in September 2016 to start up my own business. I now work as a public speaking coach with smart people talking about difficult subjects and I help them translate their technical brilliance into a message that is clear to non-experts.
Why did you decide to stand as chair for the BCC?
They have this philosophy that there is so much more to life than the day to day--looking outside of the job to see what other things can be done and very concrete actions, which is why I started getting actively involved in the British Chamber. I knew it wasn’t just focused on bringing first-class speakers and top events but also about concrete actions we could do.
I joined the BCC in 2012 for the technology, media and telecommunications group. I joined the council in 2016. What always interested me over time is it’s a chamber that gets stuff done. It listens to its members and puts them at the centre. Also, it’s a chamber where we have a rotation of the chairs. There’s no one person at the centre. The strength of the chamber is the sum of all the parts that come together.
When this opportunity arose, I thought ‘what does it take to do this?’. Because it is the sum of all these parts, what the chair needs to do is bring these things together and bring out the best of everyone. It’s been linking people together and finding the best in people and bringing that out. It’s not about knowing all of the answers to every question.
How has the BCC’s role changed over the past 25 years?
We’ve seen an evolution in the chamber over the last 25 years. When it started it had very much big companies at the heart of it. We’ve seen the economy and market place has changed. It’s no longer just the big companies doing business here but there are more and more smaller businesses with the agility and innovation to make things happen. What I find now is that the chamber is a reflection of what the market place is. We’ve that combination of big companies, sustaining members who have supported us enormously over the years, and we’re seeing more and more smaller businesses joining.
Denton cuts the cake with actor Jude Law at the anniversary garden party in June. Photo: British Chamber of Commerce/Steve Eastwood
What challenges do you foresee in the future at the BCC?
In terms of challenges, I think we will always be in an evolving market place, remaining close to our clients. We’re there to serve them and represent our members. It’s about staying close to them, particularly with Brexit, understanding what their needs and concerns are so we can not only bring information and topical events, but as we get to understand their concerns, we can start working on solutions.
How, if at all, has Brexit impacted the work of the BCC in Luxembourg?
One of the things that came up in a survey we did at the beginning of the year with members was a desire to know more about Brexit. How we are handling that is by passing it down to the subject groups so that, through our organised events, we bring out aspects around Brexit. We’ve a tax event in September looking at the VAT and customs part of Brexit. One of the things we clearly need to work on is: what will Brexit mean for our members. It will likely involve speaking to members and understanding what their concerns are.
As a chamber regards Brexit, we take a non-political viewpoint. We’re not there to represent the UK government. Evidence of that is that we had both sides of the debate as different speakers over the years. Because we don’t take a political view we’re able to have a good working relationship with the embassy to provide briefing sessions throughout the year.
The BCC celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with a garden party to which Jude Law was guest of honour. What was that like?
He was a very interesting person. He spent a long time talking to everyone who was there. That was great. What was impressive was the main work that went into that behind the scenes. No only was there Jude Law but we had Anne Faber of Anne’s Kitchen, cocktails, a fabulous brunch and musicians. For me, that event was the epitome of the chamber at its best.