After London and Brussels, is Geneva becoming the most important corporate affairs hub in Europe? This may well be the case as demand for skilled communicators will increase in the coming years (due to intense competition for a larger share of voice in public policy debates), and an improved reputation is becoming a priority for many Geneva-based organisations, whether for profit or not-for-profit.
There are two distinct sets of opportunities for corporate affairs professionals in Switzerland. The first is in ‘International Geneva’. This particular eco-system gathers over 30 international organisations, 250 NGOs, 165 governmental representations, dozens of trade associations, and influencer platforms such as the World Economic Forum. All of these entities have one thing in common: they’re located in the Geneva area to shape the Global Policy Agenda and secure funding for their programmes.
Officially there are no lobbyists in Geneva. People do “Advocacy” or “Resource Mobilisation” on development issues, public health or technological standards. In reality, these titles simply reflect an ancient fear of mixing the world of global development and the world of business. The ‘International Geneva’ is however increasingly opening up to the concept of moving from the corporate world to NGOs and vice-versa. The simple reason is that organisations need people who can understand and connect with “the other side”.
The second set of opportunities for corporate affairs professionals is Switzerland at-large. Scores of multinationals have their European Headquarters somewhere between the Lake Geneva area and Zurich or Basel. Food, Pharma, Biotech, MedTech, FMCG, Chemicals, you name them! Switzerland is host to one of the highest concentration of multinationals in Europe and many headquarter functions are located there including Heads of Corporate Affairs, Communications and Public Affairs.
According to a survey published by Amcham Switzerland and BCG,
Switzerland offers an array of advantages to multinational companies: a central location in Europe, a stable political and fiscal environment, a well-developed infrastructure, a good quality of life, a highly skilled and multilingual workforce, an attractive tax system, and a business-friendly government, in addition to a long-standing focus on innovation and investment in R&D.
This ideal vision has been somewhat damaged recently with friction over labour and tax issues between Switzerland and the EU, as mentioned in this report by KPMG and IMD.
All that said, it appears that Swiss employees remain the best paid in Europe according to a study carried out in 2016/2017, so if you add all things up, Geneva and Switzerland might be the new El Dorado!