On 26 April I had the honour of fulfilling my final duty as the 2017–18 president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ). This was to deliver my report to the BCCJ Annual General Meeting, held at the Conrad Tokyo Hotel. The purpose of the report is for members to understand what the BCCJ has accomplished over the past year, and also how the chamber has achieved these results. For me, it is this “how”—the process—that makes the BCCJ special, and for that we have to thank our dedicated office team.
There were a number of personnel changes over the past year, and it is testament to the dedication of all involved that the chamber continued to perform consistently well throughout.
Most notably, Lori Henderson MBE returned from maternity leave to resume her leadership role as executive director. In doing so, she took back the reins from Emma Hickinbotham, who had done a marvellous job in her absence. Sam Maddicott joined shortly afterwards, with responsibilities for membership and marketing, and throughout we benefited from the constant and stabilizing presence of our office manager—the indefatigable Sanae Samata. Rightfully, their efforts were unanimously applauded by members.
In terms of activities, I am pleased to report that the BCCJ now hosts more than 40 high-quality events per year, with the number of attendees having more than doubled from 1,060 in 2011–12 to 2,339 in 2017–18. This audience is increasingly diverse, and drawn from across our membership and external public and private sector stakeholders. Attendance and diversity are key measures of performance for the BCCJ, as it is by developing a deeper and wider pool of active participants that we can provide members with a more effective platform for business exchange and networking.
Among the highlights, the British Business Awards is an event now cemented in the calendar as a showcase for UK–Japan commercial success. We welcomed a record 350 guests in 2017, and attracted coverage in national print and online media for our winners. The BCCJ is keen to share successes such as these of its members, and I am delighted to report that efforts to improve the quality of BCCJ online content have led to a 20% increase in traffic to our website over the past year.
To keep the BCCJ at the forefront of chamber activity in Japan, and to ensure that the BCCJ office team is appropriately resourced to support the needs of members, we have reorganised the membership and fee structure to ensure that the financial burden of BCCJ operations is shared more equitably. In doing so, we have reduced the number of membership categories from five to four.
These decisions have not been taken lightly, and whilst the chamber owes a debt of thanks to its office team, there was also a tremendous contribution from the Executive Committee (Excom). It was a privilege to work with such an experienced and capable group of people—an honour eclipsed only by the opportunity I now have to chair the newly elected Excom in the year ahead.