Prof. Dr. Thomas A. Gutzwiller

Thomas A. Gutzwiller completed his PhD and post-doctoral qualifications at the University of St.Gallen, becoming an associate professor in 2001. In 1988, he and his doctoral supervisor founded the University Start-up Information Management Group, which he led for 18 years, merging it in 2007 with S&T Group PLC Vienna. Since 2006, he has been a delegate of the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law of the University of St.Gallen. He is also a partner of GWPartner AG. Professor Gutzwiller is supervisory board president at St.Galler Kantonalbank AG, EGS Beteiligungen  AG, ELCA Group  SA, hkp/// group AG and Manres  AG, and a member of the supervisory board of Generali Personenversicherungen AG and Generali Allgemeine Versicherungen AG, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ernst Göhner Foundation.

«An SB president who discourages participation disables collective intelligence»

What are your management principles?
For me, management is about the evolution of individuals and organisations. Life is evolution. No evolution, no life. Understanding this gives me the strength to deal with the setbacks I face in management. For me, it is a great privilege to be in management.

As expectations on the supervisory board grow, the position of president is becoming more demanding, both in terms of leadership as well as time. How are you coping with this?
It is important to me as the SB president to be accessible, especially to the CEO. In challenging times, an SB president would do well to encourage participation and tap the potential of this board. An SB president who inhibits participation disables collective intelligence.

How do you ensure that vacancies on the executive board are primarily filled internally? What justifies an external search?
One of the tasks of the supervisory boards is to ensure good succession planning, so that a member of senior management is ready to take over at a moment’s notice, especially in the event of a crisis. In addition, we need to keep our eyes open for external candidates. Since executive boards shape the organisational culture, the supervisory board must under no circumstances delegate the responsibility to fill the top management positions.

What added value do you expect on the supervisory board and in operational management with improved gender diversity?
Gender diversity is a major social concern that must be taken seriously by the supervisory board members. But diversity is also a question of cultural background and education. We must consider as many viewpoints as possible to ensure collective intelligence on the management boards. This applies to both the supervisory board as well as the executive board.

What should businesses, politicians and society do to achieve a better balance between career and family life in Switzerland?
I am particularly impressed with the Scandinavian countries. In those countries, management personnel regularly leave meetings early to collect their children from the nursery. This is completely accepted. There is also room for improvement in childcare services here at home.

Digital transformation is leading to some surprising and disruptive changes in all industries. How are you responding to this challenge at your company?
At St.Galler Kantonalbank, we began building skills in the field of e-research early on. We have hired a digitalisation supervisor and have appointed Andrea Cornelius to the supervisory board. She is an expert on digital business models and has held various management positions at IBM. We even involve the customer in product development. We’ve been at the forefront in this regard for years.

When you look at the market and the megatrends, what challenges do you see for your company in the near future?
The high burden of regulations has a severe impact on customer interaction. We have to be smart in the way we deal with digitalisation to avoid harassing our customers with well-intentioned regulations. Digitalisation is increasing the cost of doing business. Banks have to invest more to stay in business. Small banks are coming under pressure. Due to low interest rates, the pressure is also increasing on banks to be more efficient to avoid passing on the loss of interest to their customers.

The growth of the Swiss economy is expected to continue, but the population is aging and the number of highly qualified immigrants is declining. How are you preparing for the imminent shortages at your company?
Switzerland has always been able to overcome such challenges. There is still no noticeable personnel shortage at St.Galler Kantonalbank. Because St.Gallen covers such a broad geographical area, we are one of the largest and most attractive employers.