From the SwissAir skies to the Buchberg vines: Heinz Albrecht
Meet Mr. Heinz Albrecht. The man who negotiated several crucial agreements between SwissAir and Crossair and retired in 1997 as the Vice President of SwissAir, after spending 34 years with this world-renowned company.
We met him at his country home in Buchberg, where he has also been Deputy President of the community council for the last 12 years. He’s short, has salt and pepper hair and a bright spark in his eyes. When we sat down to talk to him, it didn’t feel like there was any difference in our ages, although there was the constant realisation of his wealth of experience.
Towards the end of a long and successful career with Swissair, Mr. Albrecht took on a volunteer position with his home community and is responsible for education and social welfare on the community council. In this capacity over the last twelve years, he has been in charge of also looking into cases where people are in acute financial distress and is responsible for authorising either aid or low-interest loans to tide them over rough times. This sort of long term thinking or holistic perspective is a trait that Mr. Albrecht has practised throughout his life.
He says, “Each solution has manifold perspectives, including the social and human aspects in addition to the business ones.” In this context he brings up a business decision, which needed to be taken by Swissair (SA) while he was responsible for their flight network.
The question was whether SA’s long haul flights to Geneva should be discontinued, as they weren’t breaking even monetarily. While the bookkeepers insisted that it should be closed down, Mr. Albrecht believed that the macro-economic repercussions to the French speaking part of Switzerland would be adverse. He lost this battle, but hasn’t lost his strong belief in social responsibility or the need for a long-term view in business decisions.
So me of this thinking was shaped when he went on two traineeships with AIESEC. The first one was with Bowater Scoot Paper in Philadelphia, USA and the second was with the Union Trading Company in Accra, Ghana. This two quick succession of two such different cultures and external realities gave him a lot of food for thought. Being confronted by two different value systems and life philosophies, Mr. Albrecht crystallised his own values.
The world today is confronted with deepening disparities while the phenomenon’s of globalisation builds world corporations that are larger than nation states. “If at the end, we want a better world with less war, less poor and less disparity, then we must cooperate on atleast three levels: economies, politics and science.” Mr. Albrecht concludes, “ We can only make progress if we can talk to and understand each other. This is why inter-cultural experiences and AIESEC are vital to the world. If George Bush had done a traineeship in Asia, things might have been different.”
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