Executive Vice President, Global Operations, Seagate Technology.
2017-2018 AMCHAM Board President
Remarks at AMCHAM Governor Ball 2018
On Saturday May 5 at Shangri-La Bangkok
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome. And, thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate our 2018 American Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Ball.
It is my honor to welcome our Honorary Chairman of the Board, United States Ambassador Glyn T. Davies, and his wife Jackie to our event this evening. We’re grateful for your strong support of the Chamber and its mission to promote a strong business relationship between the United States and Thailand, a relationship that demonstrates our commitment to both business and community. Ambassador and Mrs. Davies, thank you for being so generous with your time.
The Governor’s Ball is the largest social event the Chamber hosts each year. While the official purpose of tonight’s event is to install the 2018 Board of Governors, we also want to celebrate with our friends and colleagues. Please do have fun. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 2017 board of governors for devoting their time and contributing to the Chamber. And, I would like to thank the US Embassy team for their collaboration and steadfast support for all the activities. We’re all busy with everyday life. So, I greatly appreciate the Board, the Embassy and our members who graciously volunteered their time and effort to make our business and community activities successful. On behalf of everyone here tonight, thank you. Please join me to give them a big hand.
Before I announce the new board of governors for 2018, I would like to provide a brief update on 2017 and our plan for 2018.
Our focus in 2017 revolved around 3 main themes: advocacy, member services and community support. Those themes will continue in 2018. Let me add some color on a few items.
- The Chamber is on a strong financial footing. We’ve built that solid foundation over the years by providing value to our members and prudently managing spend to our budgets. Unlike many other Chambers, we don’t receive government subsidies. Judy Benn, her staff and our members deserve all the credit for building the Chamber into the success it is today.
- In 2017, a large part of our advocacy effort focused on supporting Thailand 4.0, the Eastern Economic Corridor and the shift towards the digital economy. A number of very positive events occurred in the regulatory and business environment. These include improvements in customs laws (Thank you Customs and Excise Committee), IPR protection and enforcement, and ease of doing business. Further, in April 2018, we received much needed clarification on the “definition of work”, specifically around event participation and business travel. All of these are positive steps indicating Thailand is committed to improving the business environment. We will continue to engage with the government to foster a strong economic partnership in Thailand.
- Our 22 Chamber committees and 60 committee leaders drive roughly 80% of the Chamber’s activities. They are the direct connection with our members on their issues and needs. Thank you committee leaders. We will continue to host robust, informative activities to support our members and stakeholders. However, you will note over the last year, we are driving towards fewer, but more impactful events. Quality over quantity. To that end, in 2018, you will see more joint events with the British, Australian, German and other chambers. Collectively, we believe we can make more progress by working together for change, as we have many common interests.
- The last pillar of the Chamber’s mission, Social Responsibility and Community Support, is near and dear to all our hearts. It is part of the American culture and value system: be good corporate citizens. While we’re not perfect and we can do better, we can be proud of the example we set. Last November, at our CSR Excellence Awards, we recognized 59 companies for the good work they are doing to support their communities. Through the AmCham Thailand Foundation, we continue to focus on programs like our Student Scholarship program. To date, we’ve provided 2661 3 year university scholarships to underprivileged Thai students, many of whom have gone on to work for companies here tonight, including Chevron, Esso, Ford, Cargill, and Seagate. We supported 175 students in 2017 and we will continue that in 2018, awarding 76 new recipients. I’ll mention, very importantly, every Baht from tonight’s auction will go towards supporting the AmCham Thailand Foundation and the Student Scholarship program. We appreciate your support and generosity. Your contribution is important. The auction will be open until 10:30pm.
- Lastly, many of us in our careers have learned that it is very hard to drive change without a crisis. Ladies and Gentlemen, AmCham Thailand is not in crisis, far from it. But, the board and I do believe that we must continually review the value of the service we provide, and reinvent ourselves where appropriate. Change brings opportunity, we need to be proactive. We recognize the changing demographics of our member companies. For example, fewer US expats are running large enterprises in Thailand. Why? The world is much flatter. The local, Thai team is very capable. And, we need our Thai colleagues to see value in the Chamber. We recognize communication and interaction conduits are digitizing. We need to modernize how we interact. We recognize that Thai companies are growing, with some investing in the US. They have a voice. We want to have more formal interaction with them. We recognize there is strong business activity beyond the borders of Bangkok. With the advances in digital connectivity, I believe we can add value and support a broader eco-system. The best time to address these new opportunities is when we are in a position of strength. Our goal in 2018 is lay out the Chamber’s strategy to address these new opportunities.
Thanks for listening. One other item before I introduce the Board. We have been very busy over the last 6 months in our search for new Executive Director. I personally have spent a lot of time on this activity. Tom Sorensen, from Boyden, led our search process. Tom, you and your team have been fabulous to work with. Thank you. But, honestly, I hope we don’t have to go through that process again anytime soon. We had several outstanding candidates. From that, I’m happy to say we have a new executive director: Ms. Heidi Gallant. She and her family will be moving to Thailand over the next couple months, with her start date around July 1. She ran the British Chamber in Taipei, Taiwan. Most recently, she was the executive director for the Asia Pacific Seed Association. She and her husband are unable to join us tonight. But, she is very excited about joining the team at AmCham Thailand.
But, that also means that Judy will be leaving AmCham and repatriating to the US. We’re very sad to be losing Judy’s leadership, experience and energy. But, we’re happy for her in her new endeavors. All of us associated with the American Chamber in Thailand owe Judy a huge debt of gratitude. She made the chamber the standard in Thailand that it is today. Over the last 17 years, she grew the membership 5x and put the financials on a solid foundation. She formalized the committees and expanded their sphere of influence. She set in motion the Charitable Foundation. I could go on and on. Net, on behalf of everyone here tonight, Thank You.