The 2015 GGI European Regional Conference took place in the magnificent city of Lausanne, Switzerland, between 23 and 26 of April, 2015 also celebrating GGI’s 20th anniversary. The event was hosted by the GGI member firm Fiduciaire FIDAG SA and welcomed over 200 delegates from all around the world staying at the spectacular Beau Rivage Palace, located on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The conference kicked off with a very well-attended meeting of the International Taxation Practice Group on Thursday afternoon, prior to the formal start of the Conference. The welcome dinner took place later in the evening at the Olympic Museum, where all delegates could also enjoy a private tour of the museum itself. During the dinner, Michael Reiss von Filski, Global CEO of GGI, introduced the various new members and candidates who were attending a GGI conference for the first time.
The Friday programme started with a welcome speech delivered by Claudio G. Cocca, President and Founder of GGI, and featured a series of interesting contributions by the two keynote speakers.
Prof Benoît Dubuis discussed innovation as the new currency of competition. He analysed the current situation in Switzerland, facing times of great change and transition. The country produces many winners as a result of its innate ability to channel its passion into action and turn involving ideas into successful businesses. During his contribution, Prof Dubuis explored sustainability strategies that are required to maintain this status, as well as associated threats and opportunities.
The second keynote speaker scheduled for the morning session was General Peter E. Regli, who delivered a speech regarding the current threats to Swiss homeland security. The topic of safety is becoming ever more important today. Finding the perfect balance between personal freedom and data protection versus security, precaution measures and observation is difficult and causes much debate. General Regli recalled the security developments of the last 14 months and assessed the importance of the war in Ukraine, Islamic State and the cyber war, as well as their importance for Europe and our countries. Lastly, he gave a presentation on the Swiss security system and the geopolitical scenarios likely to occur in the near future.
On Friday afternoon, two rounds of various practice groups took place, during which experts from all over the world exchanged technical knowledge and visions as well as exploring opportunities for future joint business projects. After a very interactive day, member delegates were invited to a dinner cruise on Lake Geneva, enjoying the stunning sunset view and delicious Swiss food.
The Saturday session featured further meeting opportunities. Randall S. Leff and Gary Freedman (Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP, USA) led the session “Creating and sustaining an environment that stimulates business development activities”. The workshop focused on the challenges of creating and sustaining an environment that stimulates business development activities. It featured lively discussions about the cultural differences between European and North American cultures, including which models work best and where, and what each can learn from the other. As part of this process, the importance of creating a positive cultural perspective within the firms and stimulating an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity were discussed, together with the details of how Ervin Cohen & Jessup has implemented such a programme and the results that have been achieved so far.
During the workshop “CPA firm growth: selling HR”, Wim Cox (Cox 360, Netherlands) presented a human resources (HR) model which enables an accountant to navigate clients through the complete HR value chain, from selecting the most promising candidates in the recruiting and assessment process to predicting attrition and identifying the characteristics of successful leaders. The unique HR model can be applied universally and helps in selling proposed HR measures, such as investment needs, learning development and hiring plans.
“The Post FATCA Form W-8: how to help your clients to correctly complete this form” was the topic introduced by Galia Antebi (Ruchelman P.L.L.C., USA). In today’s world, no bank or investment fund will open an account or maintain an existing account without obtaining Form W-8 or equivalent from the institution. It is therefore essential to know how to complete it correctly. This was the main topic of the session.
Oliver Biernat (Benefitax GmbH, Germany) and Dr Karl Friedrich Dumoulin (FPS, Germany) led the “What can we learn from people with charisma?” workshop. Charisma is a trait associated with many historic figures, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Winston Churchill, and leaders in religion, politics, cultural life or economics. However, there are also darker connotations to charisma, which link to evil throughout the world. This workshop explored the positive lessons that can be learnt from people with charisma. It also tried to answer the question: what constitutes charisma, confidence, optimism, emotion, empathy, intelligence and interaction? The aim was to determine how these elements can be transposed into the daily lives of GGI professionals.
Domizia Badodi (Studio Legale Baldi, Italy) led the workshop “Across the Atlantic: U.S. Chapter 11 and Italian composition with creditors proceeding”, which explored the features of the Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and provided examples of famous companies, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Napster and General Motors, which took advantage of it. She also provided an overview of the consequences and benefits for Italian companies. The workshop was an active forum where participants could discuss actual and practical cases and compare the respective national rules.
The last workshop scheduled for the morning was held by Michael Reiss von Filski who, with his “Understanding GGI” session (compulsory for new members and candidates), provided an interactive overview offering a better understanding of the daily life of GGI, membership criteria, selection of members, conferences, workshops, practice groups, charter and the functioning of Head Office, Regional Offices and Executive Committee.
During the second half of the day, delegates and accompanying persons could enjoy a variety of sightseeing options such as visiting the Chillon Castle, a tasting of Swiss wines, a little time out at the hottest thermal baths in Switzerland, the Les brains de Lavey, or the Salt Mines of Bex to discover the various techniques of salt mining from 1684 to the present day.
The conference ended on a high with a gala dinner at the Beau Rivage Palace, featuring entertaining activities such as acrobatic performances on a flag pole, a magic show by Federico Soldati, former winner of Italy’s Got Talent, and a dancing session with the Irish band Spring Break. All delegates attending this fantastic black tie event enjoyed themselves as the conference came to a successful end.
The 2016 GGI European Conference will take place in Warsaw, Poland, between 21 and 24 of April (tbc). GGI is pleased to invite all the members to this event to enjoy another splendid meeting together.