ÁNGEL ASENSIO

Spain 2021 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ángel Asensio, President of The Madrid Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services, on centuries of history, ICO credit loans, and priorities for 2021.

The Madrid Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1887, represents, promotes, and defends the general interests of economic agents in the region. Can you tell us about the chamber's mission and vision, and its evolution in recent years?

The chamber has more than 130 years of history and internationalization has been an essential part of our work. Since the beginning, our main goal has been to help all the companies that are based in the Autonomous Community of Madrid become more competitive and adaptive. To that end, the chamber provides essential services such as training, internationalization, and digitalization. On top of this, we have a national arbitration court. In addition, the chamber provides support for the certification process of different licenses and a lab that can support a number of our member's operations. We are a privately-funded organizations, and one of our main targets is to promote public-private collaboration and help both sectors to move toward the same direction. We strive to ensure the government's assistance is received by private companies and produces the intended results. During this entire process, the chamber oversees the implementation of public-sponsored initiatives by private firms.

What is the chamber's assessment regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic environment and what specific actions has it taken to support its members?

The situation is improving. The economy is getting better; however, we still do not foresee the survival of many companies in the short term. Therefore, it is crucial to extend the loan period for some of the government-sponsored loans. Loans that have to be repaid within five years should be extended by two years. This is one fundamental step that can be taken to help companies. Another important factor is the capacity of companies to adapt to different economic cycles. The ERTE for temporary layoffs is an important mechanism that has helped to ensure the survival of many private companies. As for the chamber, we have provided consultancy services amid the pandemic in an attempt to explain to SMEs the main characteristics of the ERTEs. We have reinvented ourselves as well. We have organized virtual meetings to promote services that Madrid-based companies can offer to international clients whilst maintaining some of our international missions. Besides, we have managed to continue offering an outstanding service despite the shift to remote work. The arbitration court has continued to operate despite the health emergency. Our lab has been affected the most because many companies implemented remote work policies and did not send their employees. We continue to host events to help our members. Some of the events were scheduled to be in-person, but we turned them into virtual events.

Financing, labor flexibility, and adequate taxation are three main measures that the chamber has proposed to accelerate the reactivation of the economy. How is the chamber working to advise companies about ICO credit loans?

We are working directly with ICO, which is a government office, in order to clear any doubts companies may have that cannot access ICO credit loans. In addition to resolving some of their concerns, we support them by getting all the necessary documentation in order. The pandemic has dealt a huge liquidity blow, and in such a scenario the ICOs are essential to ensure businesses can cope with the crisis. We are providing advisory services and resolving any concern in an attempt to guarantee that each business will receive an ICO loan.

What requirements must companies meet to join the chamber?

Every company can become a member. We also have an exclusive section through our Club Cámara that offers an extra service. Some of the Club Cámara members are El Corte Inglés, Sabadell, Iberia, and several medium-sized companies.

The chamber offers a personalized talent search service through the internship management portal #Talentoteca de Fundación Universidad-Empresa. How does the chamber help companies find the best available talent?

We believe in training as a method to make companies more competitive. This includes training for individuals who are yet to join a company as well as training for executives that require a better knowledge in some areas. The post-COVID world is going to be more efficient via digital tools. In order to make the most out of those tools, it is necessary that businesses hire the best talent in the market. Since younger individuals already possess a variety of digital skills, we introduced the Talentoteca program to help students enter the job market through internships. Nearly 85% of the people who start internships under the Fundación Universidad-Empresa program go on to work for their companies. Every company can be a part our training programs, including those who are not part of our chamber.

What are your priorities for 2020 and for 2021?

Our aim is to continue focusing on internationalization, training, and arbitration. In the arbitration area, we think that we can help many companies in reaching agreements with their suppliers in order to find an optimal solution for both parties. Digitalization is another one of our focus areas. We intend to continue supporting entrepreneurs, and provide consultancy services for businesspeople. We want businesspeople to feel that the chamber is always there to support them. We know businesses and the problems they face, so we are well positioned to help them resolve current problems and prepare for future challenges.