After more than 17 years of service and dedication, our Chief Executive, Marcel Claes, will retire from AmCham Belgium at the end of April. Under his leadership, the Chamber has grown to become one of the most trusted and influential business organizations in the country. We all owe him a debt of gratitude, and we are committed to building on the foundation he has laid.
Before he leaves, we sat down with Marcel to hear his reflections on his time at AmCham Belgium and his plans for the future.
Looking back at the past 17 years that you’ve led AmCham Belgium, what is your favorite memory? And your proudest accomplishment?
I look back with particular fondness to AmCham Belgium’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2008 at the Brussels Stock Exchange. We had Prime Minister Verhofstadt as Chairman of the Jury for our Transatlantic Award. This award was won by the late Toots Tielemans, who also played some of his well-known tunes.
Overall, I am most proud that we have been able, together with a constantly evolving team of highly motivated and engaged colleagues, to significantly increase AmCham’s policy impact, while at the same time making AmCham Belgium a financially stronger organization, tripling our financial reserves.
In our team, we have also provided an excellent platform for many high potential young people to develop their skills and prepare for important career steps with top companies. And, finally, we have moved the Chamber administratively and systems-wise from a paper-based to a largely automated organization.
In your view, what makes AmCham Belgium so special?
As the representative of the transatlantic business community and the largest foreign investor base in Belgium, AmCham Belgium has a special place and authority in the economic and policy landscape in the country. Such a position cannot be taken for granted and requires a lot of intense and focused activities and engagement.
The world has changed profoundly since you arrived at AmCham in 2004, when George W. Bush was US President and Guy Verhofstadt was the Belgian Prime Minister. Looking ahead, what is your hope for the future of US-Belgium relations?
Indeed, I have worked with seven Belgian Prime Ministers and eight US Ambassadors, serving four US Presidents, and we have seen highs and lows in the US-Belgium and US-Europe relationships during my 17-plus years at the helm of AmCham Belgium.
Currently, we are clearly in an upward trend towards more and more intense collaboration, unfortunately also inspired by the severe crisis in Ukraine. I sincerely hope that this trend towards a closer engagement will continue and that AmCham Belgium will be able to continue to work hand-in-hand with the US Embassy, which has always been a very loyal and supportive partner for the Chamber.
Before joining AmCham, you had the opportunity to work in Switzerland and the US. Do you have any advice for young professionals who want to pursue an international career?
I would like to encourage young people to keep an open mind towards the world and proactively pursue international experiences and opportunities. As I see it, such an experience will in most cases not only be positive for one’s own development and career but will almost certainly also enrich the experience and opportunities for the family and especially the children.
What’s next for you, Marcel?
I do not intend to sit still and retire completely but will pursue punctual opportunities, albeit at a Board or through project work, where my 40+ years of network and policy experience could be of value. And, in any case, I am planning to spend more time with my family and in particular our grandchildren… and expand our travelling frequency through some long-term stay trips in different corners of the world.
Thank you, Marcel! We wish you all the best in this next chapter!
Stéphanie Rutten, AmCham Belgium’s new CEO, will officially take up her duties on May 2, 2022.