My 23 year journey with the British Chamber

Having experienced BritCham first as a Member before becoming involved with the Committees and now serving on the Board, long-standing member Andrew Vine shares his personal perspective of how the Chamber has met his changing professional needs

By Andrew Vine, Board Member of the British Chamber; Founder & Managing Director of The Insight Bureau
 

Last month an initially baffling burst of messages popped up on my screens from LinkedIn – twice in fact. Firstly I was being applauded for 23 years as a Member of the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. Next I was being congratulated on 10 years as the founder and CEO of The Insight Bureau. It hadn’t occurred to me that such milestones were really that important, yet it has certainly given me reason to pause and reflect, just at the very time when I had been invited to share my profile in The Orient and the journey that brought me here.
 

I suppose the start of the journey was 1988: the career I had yearned for throughout my youth to be an RAF pilot nosedived (quite literally) mid-way through my flying training. Armed, however, with an economics degree (I knew that might come in handy one day), I resigned Her Majesty’s commission with more than a tinge of regret and set off around the world, where to and why I am not convinced I ever really knew. Bravely or foolishly – perhaps a bit of both – I did it with the utter conviction that it was simply the right thing to do. I never actually returned from that adventure - I am still on it! Although I worked in Australia and Hong Kong, the truth was that work was a way to fuel my primary objective: travel. A serendipitous meeting in a tiny village near Guilin in China of all places somehow led to my new role at The Economist group, based in Singapore, a job that quickly turned into a thirteen year career, at the sharp-end of its conference and peer group business, perfectly fueling my passion to be at the interface of economics, business and Asia. I had arrived in Singapore full of energy, but little else, but things quickly fell into place. I found love, joint-ventured a family and forged a thirteen year career in the world of business intelligence and networking. By 2006 ‘the why’ that had driven me all these years at The Economist Group had started to wane and I left, to everyone’s shock, to set up a brand new business, The Insight Bureau, to represent top level professional speakers in Asia. Again, bravely or foolishly -- perhaps a bit of both – I did it with the utter conviction that it was the right thing to do.
 

So as I reflect upon my time in Singapore, I am acutely aware that two institutions were there faithfully supporting me throughout this journey; The British Club and The British Chamber of Commerce. Most significantly of all, I realise how as I developed, both offered me different sets of benefits along the way.
 

When I first stepped into the British Club up on Bukit Tinggi I was 30, single and my club life simply revolved around squash. I cared little about what happened in the main club house as everything I needed at that time was catered for at the sports section. But things quickly changed. I married Aneetha and produced three babies in three years. Suddenly the Club for me changed; this was literally our second home and became a safe, exciting adventure playground for our three children. Progressively I became more involved in the running of the Club; Squash Convenor, serving on the Main Committee as chairman of Membership, and Secretary, before being elected President in 2011. The Club for me had changed again. Later, having stood down from Club responsibilities up on the hill to do more with the Chamber down town, and as my children were growing into young adults no longer interested in the Club, the Club has changed for us yet again, a place we go as a family for special occasions or to invite guests. At every turn, The Club has been constantly there as an integral part of my life in Singapore. I joke that it’s almost as if I have enjoyed three or four membership categories during that time!
 

And the British Chamber has, in a very complementary way, been a parallel resource. I had arrived from Hong Kong, 30, and still pretty inexperienced. I was hired to grow an important executive business for The Economist Group, and I realized I needed to grow in my role fast, and BritCham was one of the most obvious and compelling vehicles to achieve my basic needs. Soon I got promoted, became responsible for a team across Asia, managing a major business across five cities in Asia, and I needed to step up again. BritCham became important to me in terms of understanding the region, interacting at a more senior level, and for me to get my team involved and to network with the right people. I started to get involved in some of its business groups, volunteered my time on Membership Committee, which I later chaired when I started to serve on the Board. I was also elected to the position of Vice President of the Chamber for two years, and today remain active as a Board member. The Chamber again started to mean something different, and provided higher level networking. Along the way, I had unshackled myself from the corporate world -- and unclipped the safety net -- to pioneer my new business. After 13 years with a globally recognized brand, with superb intellectual resources and very loyal clients, the big challenge was to make this start-up business a success, without any of these resources. I needed to leverage my own brand, re-develop my own network without the power of the ‘red box’. Besides the challenges of this, don’t underestimate how relatively lonely this can be. Who do you turn to for advice, to get support? And so in a reasonably significant way, the Chamber again was offering me something new and valuable as an entrepreneur small business owner. And today, ten years in, we can no long be called a ‘start-up’ but we remain a small, ‘niche’ business. The nature of our work -- placing top level economists, strategists, futurists etc. – requires me to stay abreast of global affairs, economics and business trends, and of course, networking with international business leaders, politicians and bureaucrats has also been valuable.
 

So, in writing this profile to mark our ten year anniversary, I wanted above all to express my gratitude to both the British Club and the British Chamber as they have continued to remain relevant and valuable, and to offer different sets of benefits as I have grown personally and professionally.

 


 

About the Author

 

Andrew Vine has been a member of the British Chamber for over 20 years and currently serves as a Board Member. He is the Founder and Managing Director of The Insight Bureau, a global resource network of speakers, presenters and moderators who support conferences, client events and internal company briefings. Andrew is also a past President of The British Club.
 

For more information visit www.insightbureau.com

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