Belgian spearheads Swedish Chamber of Commerce China as its new General Manager

Mr. Martin Vercouter, who is already know to many in the Chinese-Swedish business community, is as of 1 April 2017 the new General Manager for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China (Swedcham China), Beijing.

He was recently an Anders Wall scholarship winner, based at the Swedcham Shanghai office for six month, and who has now, for the second time, struck luck about his Sweden-China connection.

Mr. Vercouter, is a Belgian citizen who resided in Sweden before heading for China and the Anders Wall Shanghai scholarship. He completed a double Masters in Sweden, following a bachelor in Science from Université de Namur, Belgium.

He holds a Master of Science from the University of Stockholm and a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management from KTH, The Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm Sweden). He has several years’ experience of executive and board governance, in both non-profits and corporations.

“Both when he reported interest and during the interviews Martin presented a clear vision for the Swedish Chamber’s future, and how he would shape its development. I as chairman of the main board believe that we have found the most suitable candidate to take on our current GM role and in a targeted and focused manner lead the chamber through our 20 year anniversary in 2018 and forward into the 2020´s,” Lars-Åke Severin wrote in a statement.

Ten candidates had been selected for interviews.

“Martin Vercouter has a solid Swedish Academic education, his Swedish is impressive, and he was simply the best candidate,” he tells ScandAsia.

“Martin had early in the interviews a very interesting strategy around his view on the development strategy work and the necessary steps needed as part of this. We saw his background, energy and visionary orientation as strong advantages.”

“It is a difficult task that awaits and of course I look forward to it. Choosing a young candidate is not always obvious, but I am convinced that I will be able to deliver satisfying results. It is also important for the Chamber to be able to look ahead and therefore reassuring that the organization has the open, confident attitude. I am therefore particularly pleased for both myself and for the Chamber of Commerce’s sake,” comments Martin.

Martin replaced Karin Roos who left SwedCham at the end of February when she also left China.

“The recruitment is a result of her departure. Martin Vercouter’s mission is to continue the work to further strengthen the chamber’s role as one of the main partners for Swedish enterprises in China.”

“Like other organisations, Swedcham China changes over time. Today we have many more Chinese managers in our Swedish member companies, as well as Chinese middle managers and other team members who are in various ways are involved in our activities. This means that we today must have an even more must have an offer that makes the chamber attractive. Through the choice of Martin Vercouter, our active chapter boards and our mainboard we will strongly drive the necessary change around communication and digitization. The new communication processes being developed in China affect us, like everyone else. Not being a part of that obviously does not benefit our members,” Lars-Åke Severin comments on the chamber’s evolvement to keep up with the times and meet new needs.

Martin’s vision for Swedcham China is based on three objectives: “Clear membership value, a modern image and efficient organization. In all three respects, we have some parts in place and some to work further on. The changes in the business environment and the internal demographics that we see among our members naturally also runs as a red thread through the whole process runs. In the end it’s about not only being relevant, but also self-given. I look forward to presenting at the upcoming annual meeting how to achieve this.”

The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China today has just under 300 member companies and has in recent years pursued a change process where they have worked extensively with issues surrounding the member value, strategy and advocacy work on issues concerning China. New members who enter today are mostly smaller companies, SME’s with few employees and often within the environmental or technology sector.

On how Martin Vercouter ended up first in Sweden and now in China he commented: “I felt at home in Sweden, since day one. I moved to Stockholm as a 20-year-old with a bachelor’s degree in my pocket, and the plan was to study a master’s degree in biophysics. But gradually I came to realize that a life in the lab was not my calling, so I added a Master in Entrepreneurship at KTH. By then I was already settle, with a job, friends and eventually an own business. During all that time it seemed natural that I would grow and develop further in Sweden. Although I live in China and in all probability will move again in the future, my base is in Stockholm.”

“China attracted me for a number of reasons. I never liked to take the easy path, or to go with the flow, and somehow China felt like the ultimate challenge. With thousands of years of history and culture, there is always something new to learn here. Meanwhile, China’s importance is enormous and ever-growing weight in the world’s development. Many people have a reasonably good understanding of that, but unfortunately there is still a broad lack of knowledge about the country as such, both in Sweden as well as the rest of the West. Coming here was the only way to build one’s own solid understanding.”


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