XXXI. General Assembly Brings Traditional Period Of Renewal
- December 17, 2019
Normally, we think of spring as being a time of renewal, but by long standing tradition, that process at AmCham is centered around the annual assembly in December, when new members are voted onto the board, bringing with them new ideas and energy. And so it is that the chamber has a new first vice president (though not a new face), new secretary treasurer, and two new board members at large.
Edit Bencsik, head of government relations at Tata Consultancy Services (and who has been a AmCham board member at large for the past couple of years, and is also the curator of the AmCham Foundation), won a close-fought contest to be elected first vice president, defeating Sándor Baja, managing director of recruitment company Randstad in Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
Of course, the welcome of new people goes hand-in-hand with saying goodbye to more familiar faces. AmCham’s bylaws allow for a person to be elected to the board for a two-year term, and for that to be extended for a further two years once. The first vice president’s position was vacant because Péter Csucska, the head of Lexmark, was standing down after two years in the role, having spent the two years prior to that as a board member-at-large.
Mike Carlson, a partner at KPMG Hungária Kft., was elected secretary treasurer in an uncontested election, replacing Csaba László of Corvinus University Budapest (and a former finance minister) who was standing down after two terms in the position.
The two new board members-at-large are Tímea Pesti, CEO of LeasePlan Hungária Kft., and Melinda Topolcsik, CEO of Bridgestone Tatabánya Manufacturing Ltd., and vice president of Bridgestone EMEA. They replace Edit Bencsik (who, as stated above, steps up to first vice president) and Dr. Judit Zolnay, head of MetLife Hungary, who steps down after two terms as a board member.
In addition to the usual important aspects of any annual assembly, such as the voting on reports into the chamber’s finances and activities and the work of the AmCham Foundations, there were two standout agenda items.
The Dr. Iván Völgyes Award is presented every year to a person (or persons) deemed to have excelled in the promotion of Hungarian-American business relations. This year, in an extremely popular choice, it went to the man who served AmCham Hungary for more than 18 years, and was its first CEO: Péter Fáth.
The award is named for the man credited by many as being the father of modern lobbying in Hungary. Born in Hungary, he moved to the United States in 1956, where he worked on John F. Kennedy’s election campaign and later as an external consultant to the White House on Central and Eastern Europe. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he became instrumental in bringing numerous U.S. based businesses to Hungary including GE, the Gallup Organization and Reader's Digest.
The other piece of particularly important news was the adoption of new by-laws for the chamber to bring it into line with everyday operational practice and changes to the Civil Code. Similar changes had been proposed at last year’s annual assembly and, although passed, did not get the 75% supermajority needed for such changes.
Introducing the item, David Dederick, managing partner of Bird & Bird, which provides pro bono legal services to the chamber, said the process of updating the regulations went back to 2017 and he likened it to “Star Wars”, referring to the “Return Of The By-laws.” This time there was no such problem, and the 75% supermajority was easily reached.