Railways, education, banks and businesses
It may be hard to believe nowadays, but Switzerland was a poor country in 1819. Indeed, there were famines in some regions. In the course of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated from Switzerland in search of a better life.
Today, 200 years later, Switzerland is among the world’s wealthiest, most innovative and most competitive nations, and one of the most attractive countries for top talent.
Who, or what, was responsible for this spectacular progress? Alfred Escher, who would have celebrated his 200th birthday on February 20, 2019, was without doubt a key figure. He was instrumental in the creation of Switzerland’s railway network and the university now known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), and he founded the Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, today’s Credit Suisse. As historian Joseph Jung points out, Escher’s support for railways, education and banks made Switzerland an attractive location for international businesses (p. 4).
Escher ranks among the greatest business leaders in history. But this Bulletin special issue, which marks the 200th anniversary of Escher’s birth, is not limited to a discussion of the past. It also takes a look into the future. Escher’s formula for success is as relevant today as it was in his day. A country needs infrastructure to achieve prosperity and progress. It needs education and research. It needs banks to provide loans and facilitate growth. And it needs entrepreneurs with the courage and vision to create new things.
Focusing on these four areas, this issue profiles people and projects that are shaping our future. They include 21 young female entrepreneurs from five continents who are moving the world forward (p. 10), as well as the New Silk Road, a monumental project designed to forge closer economic ties between Asia and Europe (p. 26).
This Bulletin special issue also contains something new: the first Credit Suisse Progress Barometer (p. 55), which reveals how the Swiss view social and economic progress. One thing is clear: There is still widespread popular support for visionary projects like those undertaken by Escher.
I hope you will find this issue both interesting and informative. Urs Rohner
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse Group
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