AMCHAM: Please introduce yourself to our readers so you are better known by the AMCHAM community
It’s a pretty complicate exercice but I would simply say that I’m an Italian immigrant born in Belgium who has made his mark in Luxembourg, even though today we would count me an expat or son of expats and not anymore an immigrant. With a successful career in finance and entrepreneurship, the other say from me that I became a prominent figure in the business community. My achievements and contributions during the Covid-19 and my role as spoke person of the independents and startups have earned me a certain recognition, including being elected as one of the five preferred Luxembourgers in 2020, an honor I share with the Prime Minister, without to forget to mention my election of Chairperson of the AMCHAM Entrepreneurial Small Business Committee.
Beyond my professional endeavors, I’m a dedicated family man. I’m the proud father of four children and I’m engaged to be married. My commitment to both, my career and my family is a real daily challenge to balance personal and professional life.
I tend to think that my journey as an immigrant showcases my determination and resilience.
Today I’m running for the communal election of Luxembourg city and which, I hope, will open the way to the legislative election as a Deputy. This election for me has real importance as it’s the pure result of a modern integration. Having established myself in Luxembourg, I hope to serve as an inspiration to others who aspire to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in their adopted homeland.
Please share your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) assessment of Luxembourg
The strength n° 1 of Luxembourg and the most important is its strategic location in the heart of Europe, making it a prime hub for international business and finance.
Along the years Luxembourg has developed a thriving financial sector, including banking, wealth management, and investment funds, which contributes significantly to its economy.
I would say that the 3rd strength is its multilingual workforce with an incredible linguistic diversity which is an advantage for attracting international businesses.
Now speaking about the weaknesses of Luxembourg, I consider that unfortunately when a country does rely too much on international trade, it makes it vulnerable to global economic fluctuations and trade disruptions. Obviously, this fragility has an impact on the domestic market and even more like in Luxembourg when it has a relatively small domestic market due to its small population, which limits the size of the customer base for businesses. Those weaknesses are nothing comparable to the most important challenge that has Luxembourg today, the high cost of living. The high cost of living, which housing cost has the larger part, does pose challenges for both residents and businesses.
In terms of opportunities and threats, I think that both are today separated by a thin line that is the reality. For example, Luxembourg can further develop its fintech sector and embrace technological innovation, attracting startups and investment in emerging technologies. But this opportunity is confronted to the international regulations and tax laws that will have an impact on Luxembourg’s financial industry and its attractiveness as a business destination, like the ATAD 3 directive. The other serious threat is that Luxembourg faces competition from other global financial centers, such as London, Frankfurt, and Zurich, which are doing all to keep the local businesses and seek to attract similar businesses and investments.
The opportunity on which Luxembourg can be proud is the sustainable finance on which Luxembourg did position itself as a leader in green and ethical investments.
My SWOT analysis is the result of 25 years’ experience in overall business, a general overview of the market changes through the years but most importantly the feedback I gathered from local actors and international businesses.
Please tell us about your work supporting independents in Luxembourg
I like to say that I’m a Fixer, you know that kind of person that solves problems and gets things done. Actually, with my new company “Giovanni Patri & Associates” I do advise the independents and startups of strategic moves to apply to save their business or get out of tricky situations. For the independents I negotiated with administrations and debtors. Lately I receive demands of independents on how the Luxembourg state could help them with financial support mechanism to embrace the digital challenge.
What have been the situation and challenges of the independents caused by the past several Covid years?
The past several years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have posed significant challenges for independents and businesses in various sectors. I can provide some general insights into the situations and challenges faced by independents during this period.
The pandemic has had a profound economic impact worldwide, leading to a slowdown of many industries. Independents have experienced reduced client demand with the increase of online acquisitions, but also project cancellations or delays.
The limited access to liquidity facilities and the decrease in income did create financial difficulties for independent workers. They face challenges in managing cash flow, paying operational costs, and even meeting personal financial obligations. The banks are playing in important role in this situation.
Despite these challenges, some independent professionals were able to adapt and find opportunities during the pandemic.
What are the present circumstances of this constituency now that Covid restrictions have; largely been lifted?
The digital transformation and the remote work habits did impose to the independents and retailers to adapt to virtual work environments, leverage digital tools for collaboration and communication, and develop online marketing strategies to stay competitive.
A topic that is rarely raised is the mental health issues that the uncertainties and stresses associated with the pandemic did amplify. Independents are already exposed to a significant among of stress, but the lack of vision and financial pressures did increase stress levels and decreased overall well-being.
What solutions do the independents want from the government and why do the independents feel that have been unequally treated?
The single fact that I had to represent the independents and the startups during the pandemic and defend their rights to get for the government some financial support is the result of independents being treated unequally. A government should have anticipated the necessity of the independents and SME’s.
I consider that the independents should be treated equally with the employees in terms of social security protections. In this aspect I worked with the CSV on the proposition of bill to provide enlarged rights to the independents. There’s a quote that says we are all equal in the face of illness, but it seems that in terms of protection not, thus let’s apply a good sense.
Please tell us your personal experience and lessons learned as a business owner
There are so many lessons I learned from this pandemic crisis, that I don’t really know with which one I can start. Let say that the anticipation and so to listen to the market is the best lesson, because those who were stuck in business practice or habits, did lost a lot. My company PHOENICI for example, had to be confronted to the bankruptcy of important clients and as I anticipated the losses, I did avoid the fatal issue for my company. Obviously, some of my projects and business developments have been put on hold, but being an entrepreneur is also being patient and again anticipate the changes of the market.
I can add that we are in an historical moment in business, as the client approach is changing in the way of consumption. It is a fantastic moment for new opportunities.
What are your goals and initiatives you are working to accomplish as the Chairperson of the AMCHAM Entrepreneurial Small Business Committee
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the Committee members that elected me as Chairperson of the AMCHAM Entrepreneurial Small Business Committee, which is a great honor.
Now this said, my plan does articulate on three pilar:
1.Networking / Collaboration;
2.Advocacy and Policy;
3. Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development.
In a more detailed way, here are the description of the 3 pilar strategy:
1. The idea is to create regular events to facilitating connections and networking opportunities among small business owners, entrepreneurs, and key stakeholders within the American Chamber of Commerce community, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.
2. Based on my experience the government is in need to real world feedback and therefor I would like to produce recommendations to inform the government towards creating a favorable business environment for small businesses by advocating for policies that reduce regulatory burdens, promote entrepreneurship and support innovation.
3. Even though a lot of initiatives are in place I want to challenge government, industry partners to foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, including incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces, which provide resources and support to small businesses and obviously startups.
As a native Luxembourger very involved with the English-speaking international community, please tell our readers your observations regarding the relations between the local population and the international community resident and working in Luxembourg
The relations between the Luxembourger and the English-speaking community is pretty good, but it could definitely be better. I noticed that the communities live excellently close to the each other but we shall be totally “inclusive”, like we say today.
In Luxembourg we should for example recognize that the business language is English, as anyway the French is already an official language.
The Luxembourger by its nature is open to different languages, thus adding English would open even more business opportunities and it would facilitate the administrative tasks, that sometimes can be repulsive. The language inclusivity would definitely be an advantage for the living and working together.
We understand you are a candidate running to become an Alderman of Luxembourg City in the upcoming communal elections. Why have you decided to take on this challenge and why you have picked the CSV as your political party of choice?
It’s a very good and interesting question that I got asked often and on which I’m hapy to enlighten your readers. Being candidate for the election of Luxembourg City was a natural path as a resident of the city of Luxembourg where my kids go to school, where my businesses are located. On the other side it’s also the first step in order to access to the national elections that will take place in fall this year.
In Luxembourg the habits are that the top elected from each city will also run for the national election. This strategy gives a certain comfort to the Partis about the election chances to get the most seats and so to potentially run the country.
As my engagement during the pandemic was on a national level, it is obvious that I look forward to the national election to be able to present my propositions for the benefit of the independent, SME and more widely to the benefit of the Luxembourg economy.
Let’s be honest, it would have been strange to see my name on the list of the DP, the Green or even on the LSAP after all the critics I made against them. By the way the CSV was the Party that consulted me during the pandemic and with whom I build a relation along the time.
With the CSV I really think that we have a business-oriented vision for the future of Luxembourg, which is necessary in this inflation period.
What objectives will you work to achieve if elected?
On the level of Luxembourg city, I’m willing to render the city again attractive for businesses and competitive, but also a friendly place to live for the citizens.
This goal can only be achieved by a more secure city, because the crimes make people avoid coming in the city and for those living it, they avoid staying out, without t to forget the tremendous impact on businesses (independents and finance industry). I really would like to have local shops again, so that you don’t need to take your car when you need to buy milk or any kind of things you need home. If we have proximity shops, we will have people that will interact to each other and thus more life in our city.
Concerning the mobility, I think that we should work more with the objective to have “friendly mobility” between the cars, the motorcycle, the bus and the bicycles.
On the national level I will be short, but I will try to give you enough elements to present you my vision.
I would like to regulate the housing market and commercial market in order to reduce the impact of the real estate costs for the middle classes and the businesses. This will automatically bring the Luxembourg back in the competitiveness. I consider that the real estate speculation/investment market shall be regulated in Luxembourg as an investment product and so separate it from the normal housing and commercial market. This approach will definitely reduce the global raise of all the real estate properties and would give again access to housing to the middle classes.
I want to harmonize the social security approach towards the independents and the employees, so that all have the same kind of protection.
We need also a serious tax reform in order to follow the OECD recommendation, by reducing the corporate tax impact but also adapt the tax schemes for the private person in order to fit the new types of families (single parent, recomposed families, etc.).
And at last, I consider that Luxembourg needs a great education reform to stop with the errors from the past and enter a new area of education for everyone. This goes with listening to the professor’s advice because they see on the day to day what’s not working (dropout, language assimilation, harassment, etc.).
Those are some of my ideas, but I have many more, like some to generate a real touristic attractivity and so generate an new industry, but for this you will have to wait to see if i run for the national elections.