– En­tre­pre­neur Franziska Tschudi Sauber “I would like to see a lit­tle more op­ti­mism.”

The co-owner and CEO of the Wei­d­mann Group is one the Swiss econ­omy’s most pow­er­ful women. Franziska Tschudi Sauber on dig­i­tal­iza­tion, trade tar­iffs and the re­silience of the Swiss.

Bulletin - - Contents - In­ter­view by Manuel Ry­bach

Ms. Tschudi Sauber, un­em­ploy­ment has been the top-ranked worry through­out the his­tory of the Worry Barom­e­ter. And yet this year, it only ranked sixth on the list of Switzer­land’s big­gest problems (see page 54). Why is that?

I as­sume that peo­ple have a feel­ing of se­cu­rity be­cause of the good eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and the low un­em­ploy­ment – at 2.4 per­cent, it has fallen to a level last seen a decade ago. Mi­gra­tion is on the de­cline in Switzer­land com­pared to re­cent years, and pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures have helped to curb glob­al­ism some­what. Both of these trends could have helped mit­i­gate peo­ple’s fears of los­ing their jobs to global com­pe­ti­tion.

The view of the fu­ture is also op­ti­mistic. Of those sur­veyed, 75 per­cent con­sider it “un­likely” that they will lose their job due to new tech­nolo­gies. Are we un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the dan­gers of au­to­ma­tion?

If the sur­vey par­tic­i­pants are re­fer­ring to the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, then I share their con­fi­dence. In the short term, our jobs are not in jeop­ardy. And yet I am con­cerned that we are un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the long-term con­se­quences of new tech­nolo­gies. New tech­nolo­gies are not sim­ply robots but rather com­pletely new value cre­ation mod­els that will ac­com­pany dig­i­tal­iza­tion. These changes will trans­form our la­bor mar­ket, and it is crit­i­cal that we re­act promptly. Right now we should be train­ing young peo­ple and re­train­ing our work­ers for the fu­ture.

There seems to be a kind of am­biva­lence about the im­pact of these new tech­nolo­gies on our so­ci­ety. Tech­nol­ogy im­proves the qual­ity of life, makes peo­ple feel

com­pla­cent and makes it eas­ier for the state to ex­ert control: these three state­ments all gar­ner strong sup­port.

That’s a dis­cern­ing as­sess­ment. And so the real ques­tion is how we as a so­ci­ety deal with this. In my opin­ion, the ben­e­fits out­weigh the dis­ad­van­tages. In­stead of skep­ti­cism, I would like to see a lit­tle more courage and op­ti­mism con­cern­ing the is­sue of dig­i­tal­iza­tion. Es­pe­cially from politi­cians. I have the im­pres­sion that other coun­tries are much more proac­tive, such as in dig­i­tal­iza­tion of pro­cesses and ser­vices.

Con­cerns about “new poverty” and “wages” are on the rise. Do you feel that this is a re­ac­tion to a grow­ing eco­nomic dis­par­ity?

The me­dia is full of these types of re­ports. But the fact is that in­come and wealth in­equal­ity in Switzer­land has re­mained sta­ble over the long term. The gap has not widened to the ex­tent that it has in other coun­tries. Still, we have to take these new con­cerns se­ri­ously. They are both likely re­lated to the fact that wages have re­mained some­what stag­nant in re­cent years, and the mid­dle class, most of all, feels un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure. In ad­di­tion, I sus­pect that con­cerns about pen­sions are also play­ing a role here – the fear of be­ing un­able to main­tain the ac­cus­tomed lifestyle in re­tire­ment.

Re­sponses dif­fered when it came to con­cerns about re­tire­ment pro­vi­sion. The third pil­lar showed the best re­sults, while the first pil­lar had the worst. Why are peo­ple hap­pier with pri­vate pen­sion pro­vi­sion?

The Swiss value se­cu­rity, and I think that we prefer those in­stru­ments that we can

Photo: Wei­d­mann Hold­ing AG

Franziska Tschudi Sauber ( 59) is co-owner and CEO of Wei­d­mann (for­merly Wi­cor) Hold­ing AG in Rap­per­swil. The group spe­cial­izes in high-volt­age in­su­la­tion, nat­u­ral fiber and plas­tic tech­nol­ogy and em­ploys a work­force of 3,200 world­wide. Tschudi Sauber is on the boards of di­rec­tors of Swiss Life and Biomed and is a mem­ber of the man­age­ment boards of Economiesu­isse and Swiss­mem.

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