Daniel Eischen, the new chair of the British Chamber of Commerce, says he wants the chamber to adopt a broader, more transversal approach.
Photo: Maison Moderne
The new chair of the British Chamber of Commerce speaks about how the organisation has changed since he joined, and his ambitions for its future.
Daniel Eischen is not the first Luxembourger to be head of the British Chamber of Commerce--François Tesch and André Roelants have both served as chair--and certainly doesn’t think his nationality will give him any advantage in carrying out the role. “I don’t come from that background, I am not an insider like that,” he explains. “Maybe it will help me make connections faster, but that was not one of the arguments that made them ask me to become chair.”
Eischen joined the British Chamber pretty soon after founding Concept Factory and Interact in 1995. “As a young company everything you do is try to find clients. There was no Paperjam Club or Farvest,” he explains. “The chambers--Amcham as well as the British Chamber--were the highlights for networking. It’s completely changed today, nowadays you can go to a quality event every day.”
He has been on the chamber’s council since 2009, when then-chairman Robert Deed asked him to take up the role.
In the early days, Eischen recalls that meetings were attended by senior people in suits and ties from the big four and law firms. Over the years the chamber’s make up has changed significantly, Eischen says. “Now it more reflects the ecosystem of the business world. We have more younger and smaller company members, people who have finished their 20 years at a larger company and have become independent.” But startups are still very hard to attract, he admits. “They haven’t found their way to the more traditional platforms like the British Chamber or Amcham, and they will go to Maison Moderne and Paperjam Club and the more techy events.”
Business and innovation
His first active role was when Peter Faure asked him to be on the committee of the newly formed telecoms, media and technology subgroup, which is now the business and innovation group.
It was the time that new media technology was breaking through, but slowly the committee started to look at how companies and people can use technology. “Indeed, last year we decided it was a bit old-fashioned talking about technology,” says Eischen. “What we have been talking about over the last 2 or 3 years is what has come out of the technology bubble--and that is opportunity.” The group now includes members involved in entrepreneurship, research and innovation.
Eischen says this reflects what he calls “the new normal”, the fact that the world is moving faster. “Companies need to stay in sync with everything that is happening--digital transformation, the sandbox concept of trial and error, fail early, which is something that is not at all in the culture of Luxembourg companies,” he says.
Eischen suggests that joint ventures and collaboration between large, established companies and smaller, newer companies is even replacing traditional research and development departments--a British chamber conference planned for early autumn will address this very issue. “Companies are becoming much more agile, more nimble…all those words being used.”
Other issues the business and innovation group will address include how the country and companies are preparing for the arrival of Google’s planned data center, or any next big thing. The group will be taken over by Andy Adams of Miami University as Eischen focuses on his role as chairman. The business and innovation group has quite by chance been stepping stone to leading the BCC-- two of Eischen’s predecessors, Joanna Denton and John Johnston, were also involved in the group.
Eischen is also keen to point out a common misconception about the British Chamber in Luxembourg, which is that it is linked to the official British Chamber of Commerce in the UK. “We are a neutral, independent membership organisation,” he explains.
The chamber was founded by what Eischen calls “visionary business people” to help bilateral relations between the UK and Luxembourg and to provide value and defend the interests of its members. “The relationship we have with ambassador [John Marshall] is excellent. Very early on in the Brexit process he started holding breakfast briefings for our sustaining members.”
Eischen also cites relationships with Xavier Bettel and other ministers who regularly speak at chamber events as also providing great value for members. “We can have a much closer dialogue than if you would go through official channels. That is where we differ from a normal networking platform.”
While Eischen admits that sometimes “it is good to shake things up”, he does however say he owes a debt to his immediate predecessor, Joanna Denton. “I would not be here if she had not been chair,” he says. Indeed, Eischen was at a point where he didn’t know if he would continue being so involved in the chamber. “She really had a plan. She said, let’s try to rethink why there is a chamber, what value we can bring to our members, to innovate and find new territory.”
The chamber has recently launched a number of new initiatives, such as “my pledge”, which Eischen explains is a requirement to have some equilibrium when it comes to speakers but will also give the chamber access to a new reservoir of speakers from abroad. “This opens up a possibility to have different views than the ones we traditionally have here.”
An internship project with the University of Luxembourg, which may also be extended to Miami University’s John E. Dolibois Center in Differdange, is also being explored.
And Eischen wants internal groups within the chamber to interact more with each other. He sees how much knowledge members have and would like to see them to bring that with the community. “One of the things over the years is that the groups were more in silos. We want a more transversal approach. This broader approach could allow us to share content externally and make real value out of it.”