CONNECTING THE DOTS

Ecuador 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

As a thriving bi-national body, the British Chamber helps firms on both ends of the ocean penetrate the other's most interesting markets.

Nicholas Armstrong
BIOGRAPHY
Nicholas Armstrong has been the President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Guayaquil since 2016. He is also the Vice-President of Agripac, a position he has held since 2013, prior to which he was previously the company’s sales director. Armstrong started his career as a consultant for Michael Page.

What are the main activities of British companies in Ecuador?

The British Chamber in Guayaquil is linked to the British Chamber in Quito, although we work as two independent offices in order to best serve these two culturally different markets. What's more, we do not limit ourselves to working with British companies, as we are a bi-national chamber. The identities of our members sometimes evolve. For example, we work closely with Cervecéria Nacional, which is now a part of AB InBev. Other large companies include Unilever, Group G4S, Intertek, Eurofinsa, PWC, Deloitte, and Agripac.

How does the chamber help its members in the business landscape?

We fulfill multiple roles. We tend to be a point of reference for companies looking to break into the UK with new products. We strive to make it a two-way channel, so it is not just Ecuadorian companies targeting the UK but also an entry point for companies looking to enter Ecuador. This could be in many different fields, from language and higher education to insurance and financial services. We work as an initial point of reference: we guide people and are active in terms of communicating know-how to the business community. This could be in terms of new certification requirements for exporting to Europe and the UK. We also use our position and network of contacts with ministries, and when ministers want to communicate changes to tax and labor laws, they communicate via the chamber. We also have an excellent working relationship with the other bi-national chambers, which allows us to organize events on a larger scale. We strive to make our events relevant and practical rather than just theoretical and informative.

What will be the main impact of the new investment law?

It is not just about creating the right playing field, but also about guaranteeing certain rights and a certain amount of stability. Labor and tax laws are an issue here, as they seem to change constantly. With the previous government, for example, there were 14 different tax reforms in five years. These are the bigger concerns for an investor coming into a country like Ecuador. If companies know how to navigate these changes and read the market, Ecuador can be a very profitable market to operate in.

How are you positioning the chamber for the coming year?

As a chamber we are always looking for ways to add value for our members, not just through conferences, coaching, and networking, but also through sporting activities where we work to promote the practice of very “British” sports such as golf or tennis. Currently, under the banner of “Sport is GREAT,” we are organizing for Britain's ex No.1, Tim Henman, to play a tennis exhibition match against Ecuador's ex No.1, Nico Lapentti. Tennis is big here, so we can use this as a business and networking event as well. For 2019, we strive to gain greater relevance, build up more presence, and diversify our activities.