interview Published on September 2, 2018

“The impact of sustainability is getting bigger and bigger”

The Chamber is an excellent platform for sharing knowledge, networking and best practices.

Joanna Erdman, vice-president and board member of ING Bank Śląski, has been a board member of the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce for almost a year. She reflects on the work of the Chamber and on the banking sector as a whole.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
Joanna Erdman: “I am currently a board member of ING Bank Śląski. I started this role in 2013, and I am responsible for cooperation with the biggest corporates and financial institutions. So, from this perspective, it is extremely interesting to see the changes taking place in the economy, and also in the bank. When I started working for the bank in 1996, ING used to be a small branch in Poland. At the time I joined, we had roughly 200 employees, but now we have 8000, and it was fascinating to go through the process of the merger with Bank Śląski and see how the organisations changed, how people changed their roles and developed their careers within the organisation. We have seen a growth in the expectations of the level of service for our clients. We have developed accordingly and this was a very interesting process to go through. This kind of job is inspiring because you are exposed to a variety of sectors and industries, and you see the impact you bring to the market . As for my personal life, I have a husband and three children. My eldest son is nineteen and I have fourteen-year-old twins – a boy and a girl.”

Why did you decide to become active on the board of the NPCC?
“I like working with people and companies, and of course I had heard about the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce previously. We have a Dutch investor who has had close contact with the Chamber for a number of years. We support this very much. We think that it is useful to deploy our local knowledge and network, to share our best practices with other members of the Chamber and also to help those who are looking to start their business operations in Poland. With an organisation that is as professionally run as the NPCC, you can fall back on their support and advice and simply start your professional journey as an investor in a more professional way. They can advise on the cultural differences that may not be so easy to understand, and they can give ideas or contacts to overcome challenges. It is an excellent platform for sharing knowledge, networking and best practices. And since our bank also cooperates with many Dutch companies in Poland, we can bring added value to the Chamber and its members.”

You have been an NPCC board member for almost one year. How do you see the Chamber and where do you see it going?
“My perception of the Chamber is that it’s a platform that helps others to grow their businesses and makes networking environment more comfortable. Going forward, I think that the Chamber will gradually turn to areas that are becoming more and more important for companies and for countries alike, such as sustainability. These are areas where we can also guide and advise our members on which steps to take next, and show them the best practices. In this way, we can help new ideas or new market trends to get rooted in Poland and assist companies to accommodate them. It is also important to create a dialogue, for instance in the form of workshops on creative thinking, on how we should improve, which trends and developments are ongoing and how we should use them in everyday life.”

What was the reason for ING to step in and become a platinum sponsor of the Chamber?
“We like what the Chamber was, and is, doing very much. As a Dutch investor, we have been active in Poland for 27 years and we therefore have a broad experience. We see the market through the eyes of different types of client – private individuals, SMEs, mid-corporates and the largest corporates. We can bring added value to other members because we are usually the first line that notices changes on the market, and which can estimate the impact of new regulations and trends. We also hear many comments and observations from our clients, so why not use this on a broader scale for newcomers seeking the advice of the Chamber in a number of areas?”

The situation on the Polish market for investors in 2018 is completely different from, let’s say, 20 years ago. Is there still a need for the type of platform that the international chambers offer?
“Yes, there is. The country developed very fast back then and the entrepreneurs starting up in Poland in the early days had applied sort of green fields model where they could grow together with the country, learning the specifics about their industries and sectors. Currently, we are going through a different stage of development and of the business life of companies. They are more mature and the role of the Chamber is different. It now has to focus on explaining and sharing best practices, helping companies navigate through difficulties and also creating some positive trends, like the sustainable approach I mentioned before. So I definitely think the Chamber is needed but its role is more advisory than it was at the beginning when it was helping the green fields to grow.”

Both the NPCC and ING have a lot of SME clients. What can we do more for them?

“I think SME companies are more exposed to rapid changes on the market, for example the impact of salary increases is bigger, as they have fewer cushions in their business to absorb them. Therefore, more knowledge, and the fact that we can provide them with access to information before it has an impact on their companies, is an added value that will help them be more prepared. We see that the banking industry as a whole is changing very much and it is providing better support for smaller companies through automation and the simplification of processes. This trend can also be transmitted by the Chamber in somehow making smaller companies more familiar with those opportunities and helping them to get access to them. ”

This interview was published in Bulletin magazine. You can read the full interview here.