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SMG Forum: Forward!

SMG Forum: Forward!

08. Nov 2023
59. SMG Forum

It has been apparent for some time that the future is more complex than the world we have lived in up to now. But fortunately, nature, like us humans, has in common the characteristic of developing potential. We possess the power to evolve with enthusiasm and curiosity, to adapt to a changing environment, to react, to innovate and to adapt again and again. At the 59th SMG Forum, we want to focus on how even the most demanding challenges can be transformed into unimagined opportunities.

Headwind as drive! Innovations for a sustainable future.

Business as usual? Are our business models still adequate or do they belong in the antiquarian bookshop?

Leadership 5.0. Are our current leadership models outdated or do they need an update?

Generation clash? How do we ensure fruitful interaction between the generations?

Goodbye to gardening! How do we successfully increase our impact with collaborations, networking ecosystems and value chains?

These are some of the topics we would like to address at the 59th SMG Forum and discuss with exciting experts from Germany and abroad.

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Arrival of registered lunch participants (ground floor)


Optional lunch at restaurant AURA


Arrival of the Forum participants (at the event hall foyer, first floor)


by Sarah Kreienbühl, President SMG

Open Champions - The Basis of a Prosperous National Economy
Kerstin Hochmüller, CEO Marantec

Future Banking
Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär, Marianne Wildi, Dr. Adriel Jost, Anke Bridge Haux

The bird world - ideal sparring partner for business?
Dr. Matthias Kestenholz

Can't be done, doesn't exist.
Helene Niedhart


Networking Break


AI - a question of "to be or not to be"?
Dr. Sean Kask

Dekarbonisierung: Probleme lösen sich nicht in Luft auf. Aber in
Dr. Sopna Sury

Pragmatism and speed
Dr. Sopna Sury, Patrick Huber

Always forward - even if you can't see the horizon
Anja Blacha


by Sarah Kreienbühl, President SMG, and Catrin Wetzel, Managing Director SMG


End of the event

Kerstin Hochmüller, CEO Marantec Group

«If we want to go 'Forward!', we need a pioneering spirit, courage and power again. And above all, we need a new, desirable vision for which it is worth expanding our comfort zone.»

Kerstin Hochmüller is CEO and shareholder of Marantec Group GmbH & Co. KG. For years, her professional focus has been on innovation and change processes in medium-sized industrial companies. In 1999 she was co-founder of kopfstand GbR and until the end of 2014 was responsible for marketing strategy and innovation projects for various, well-known companies and start-ups. In parallel, she worked as a trainer for creativity techniques and innovation management and accompanied numerous companies and organizations in their projects. In 2013, she completed the generation change in the Marantec Group and has since been transforming the company into a network organization. In doing so, she is a pioneer and initiator of cooperative business models in the sense of the sharing economy. For the transformation of the Marantec Group, she and her co-CEO Andreas Schiemann developed the Open Champions methodology. With the Best of Hidden Champions, Open Innovation, Cooperation and Leadership, they want to rebuild the future of medium-sized businesses. With this in mind, she is also a co-founder of the freshly established Open Champion GmbH. From idea to innovation. Through the uncompromising co-creation approach, she initiates sustainable companies and wants to prove that new entrepreneurship is possible and successful. It is also involved in networks such as Maschinenraum and New Mittelstand. She was named one of Germany's top 50 female entrepreneurs in 2022 by Handelsblatt. After studying business administration at the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld and continuing her education in the areas of innovation and change management, she completed her MBA studies at DUW in Berlin, which is now part of Steinbeis University Berlin.

Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär, , Professor for DLT (Blockchain) and Fintech, University of Basel

«I associate the term 'Forward!' with the idea of using new technologies to strengthen liberal foundations and democracy.»

Fabian Schär is Professor for Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) and Fintech at the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Basel. In addition, he is the Managing Director of the University’s Center for Innovative Finance and a Technical advisor at the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructure (CPMI). He has a PhD in Cryptoassets and Blockchain economics, co-authored the bestselling book “Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptoassets”, published by MIT Press and several publications in scientific journals. His research is at the intersection of economics and computer science, with a particular focus on public Blockchains, Cryptoassets and Decentralized Finance protocols. His work has been featured in the Economist, the Financial Times and Forbes, and he has been listed in the NZZ ranking of the most influential economists in Switzerland. He is the organizer of the “Blockchain Symposium”, the “Blockchain Challenge”, member of the organizing committee of a conference with the Swiss National Bank and co-initiator of a project to secure academic credentials on a Blockchain. In addition, he is an advisor to the Multichain Asset Managers Association and Blockchain for Europe, a member of various World Economic Forum working groups, and an invited expert to hearings by numerours Central Banks, BIS, G20, IMF, FSB, World Bank, OECD, and IOSCO. He spoke at over 100 conferences. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant in various positions at banks and bank-related companies.

Marianne Wildi, DCEO, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg AG

«For me, "forward" means keeping your eyes open and thinking outside the box. Innovative ideas and new business models often emerge from cross-sector partnerships - the current buzzword is 'embedded finance'.»

Marianne Wildi has been CEO of Hypothekarbank Lenzburg AG since 2010. She launched her professional career in 1984 as a programmer at Hypothekarbank Lenzburg after graduating from commercial college. From 1995 onwards, Marianne Wildi took on special assignments and projects at Hypothekarbank Lenzburg and at third-party banks in the context of IT development. Parallel to her activities, Wildi completed her studies in business administration at the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich in 1995 and obtained the Swiss Federal Diploma for Banking Experts in 2000, which she supplemented with various Advanced Executive Programs. From 2001 to 2006, Wildi advanced to deputy head of IT at Hypothekarbank Lenzburg. From 2007 to 2017, she was a member of the Executive Board of the Services, IT and Logistics division. Under Wildi's leadership, the bank increasingly invested in technical innovations, which earned it the "most digital bank in Switzerland" award from the industry platform "Finews" in 2016. In 2021, Marianne Wildi was presented with the Diamond Star Award in the Women in Banking & Fintech category at the Handelsblatt Banking Summit.

Adriel Jost, Economist

«The situation is hopeless, so let's get on with it.»

Adriel Jost studied economics in St. Gallen, Singapore and Perth and holds a PhD in International Affairs and Political Economy from the University of St. Gallen. After eight years at the Swiss National Bank, three of them as advisor to the Vice President of the Governing Board, he joined Wellershoff & Partners as Chief Economist in 2018. From 2020 to 2022, he was a partner and CEO of the consulting firm WPuls AG. He is currently building a new start-up. Adriel Jost is a Fellow at the Institute for Swiss Economic Policy (IWP) at the University of Lucerne, President of the think tank Liberethica and regularly appears in the media as an economic expert.

Anke Bridge Haux, CEO, LGT Bank Switzerland

«If we want to go 'Forward!', we need a pioneering spirit, courage and power again. And above all, we need a new, desirable vision for which it is worth expanding our comfort zone.»

Anke Bridge Haux joined LGT on 1 September and assumes the role of CEO of LGT Bank Switzerland as of 1 November 2023. Over the past twelve years, she has held various management positions in the Swiss unit of Credit Suisse. In 2022, as Head Personal & Business Banking, she assumed responsibility for consumer banking and corporate clients, including the online banking app CSX. Prior to that, she led the expansion of the digital banking business as Head Digital Banking from 2019 and Head Digitalization & Products from 2018 for all areas of the Swiss Business Unit. In 2018, she was appointed as a member of the Executive Board of Credit Suisse (Switzerland). Her previous positions included UBS, where she worked in Investment Banking and Wealth Management from 2005 to 2010. Anke Bridge Haux holds a Master's degree in Finance and Economics from the University of St. Gallen and is a graduate of the General Management Program at Harvard Business School, USA.

Matthias Kestenholz, Chairman of the Institute Management, Swiss Ornithological Institute

«Only with a forward strategy can we help the Swiss bird world to thrive and preserve our country's biodiversity for future generations.»

Dr Matthias Kestenholz is an ornithologist and has been a member of the Management of the Swiss Ornithological Institute Sempach since 2008 and its Chairman since 2020. He is responsible for communication and fundraising at the non-profit foundation for the study and conservation of birds, which is supported by the general public. Previously, he headed the national bird ringing centre and served as Vice-Chairman of EURING. Matthias Kestenholz studied biology at the University of Basel and holds a PhD in zoology. He also holds a postgraduate degree in business management for non-profit organisations from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland.

Helene Niedhart , Chairman of the Board and Founder, CAT Aviation AG

«Passion is the best motivation for me to always move forward, to recognize opportunities in challenges challenges and turn them and turning them into opportunities.»

Helene Niedhart founded CAT Aviation AG in 1987 and has been leading the company as CEO and President since then. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of 5-Star Aviation AG and Cat Airservice AG. Niedhart is also a member of the Board of Directors of Bern Airport and a board member of Aerosuisse, the European and the Swiss Business Aviation Association. She began her professional career after completing her commercial training in the banking industry, deepened her expertise in various areas abroad and supplemented this with studies at the HSG in St. Gallen. Her further professional stations also included the Diogenes publishing house and the Daniel Keel Gallery, where she was responsible for financial accounting. The dream of flying grew in Helene Niedhart during a sightseeing flight over the Grand Canyon, and so she completed her private and airline pilot training. Lacking an employment opportunity with a major airline, Helene Niedhart founded her own private airline for business customers. Today CAT Aviation AG comprises a fleet of 7 business jets and a team of over 70 employees.

Dr. Sean Kask, Chief AI Strategy Officer, SAP

« Both large enterprises and also SMEs have tremendous oppor­ tunities to leverage the latest AI innovations to create value, reshape industries, and drive our entire economy forward. »

Dr. Sean Kask is the Chief AI Strategy Officer in SAP’s central AI Unit. Previously he led SAP’s EMEA Machine Learning Solution Management team and held client-facing roles. Prior to SAP he worked for the Spanish National Research Council, Gartner, a tech startup, and as a chemist, among other roles. Sean holds a BSc, an MBA, and PhD in strategic management. For the past several years he has been teaching an MSc class on AI and lecturing at several business schools.

Sopna Sury, Chief Operating Officer Hydrogen, RWE Generation SE

«Without hydrogen, no energy transition. The molecule is part of a future-oriented, climate-neutral solution for industry and for security of supply. But forward success already requires pragmatism and speed.»

Dr. Sopna Sury holds a degree in Business Economics and a Doctorate from the University of Witten/Herdecke. She started her career in management consultancy at McKinsey & Company. She mainly served clients in the financial services industry and later focused on transformation topics. In 2011, Sopna moved to the energy industry working at E.ON. She held various positions including managing the sales area of technical services for conventional and renewable plants (Director Energy Solutions), managing the portfolio strategy for renewables (Director Business Development & Business Affairs) and also served as a member of the management team of the inhouse consulting team. Between 2016-2019, Sopna was responsible for both global sales of technical services and the investment management gas infrastructure at Uniper. Between October 2019 and February 2021, she has shaped the strategy, regulatory management and integration of RWE’s renewables business as Director Strategy & Regulatory Affairs. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer Hydrogen on the Executive Board of RWE Generation SE and is responsible for the group-wide coordination and expansion of RWE's hydrogen activities. Under her leadership, RWE has set a growth target of 2 GW electrolyser capacity by 2030, supported by a 10 GW project pipeline. Dr. Sopna Sury has been Chair of the Hydrogen Europe association since April 2023. In May 2023, she started her mandate as a member of the Hydrogen Delivery Council.

Patrick Huber, Chairman of H2 Energy Holding AG

«If sustainability is excluded from your path forward, you will always end up in a dead end.»

Patrick Huber is the Chairman of H2 Energy Holding AG, a business innovator for renewables with the ambition to play an active role in stopping climate change and establishing hydrogen and fuel cell technology as a key pillar of our energy system. Patrick has been named group CEO in 2018. Since then, H2 Energy has established various Joint Ventures with different industry leaders such as Trafigura, Hyundai Motors, Linde, Philipps 66 and others. Patrick believes in an eco-system approach for hydrogen solutions and in the importance on the commercial viability and scalability of projects. In 2021 Patrick has been appointed as Chairman of H2 Energy Holding AG. He has served as a Board Member of Hydrogen Europe from 2020 to 2023 and is a member of the Governance Board of the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking since 2021. Prior to joining H2 Energy, Patrick has worked in the financial industry in London, Frankfurt and Zurich. He holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Zurich.

Anja Blacha, Mountaineer and polar explorer

«To me, forward means: Let’s dial our compass and lead the way towards new horizons. »

When Anja skied solo and unsupported from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole, she set a world record. Moreover, she has climbed five of the world’s highest mountains – such as K2 and Nanga Parbat – without bottled oxygen, and stood atop Mount Everest twice, setting several national records along the way. She shares the insights from her expeditions as a speaker, and uses her voice to inspire diversity and sustainability, for instance as an investor and ambassador for corporate climate education startup Glacier, or through the award-winning campaign “Not Bad for a Girl”. Anja has a professional background in telecommunications and project management, having worked for Vodafone, Swisscom, and the Project Management Institute. She holds an MA Philosophy from the University of London alongside a BSc Business Administration from the University of Mannheim.

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Event venue
AURA event location (old Stock Exchange)
Bleicherweg 5
8001 Zurich

Event organiser
Swiss Management Association SMG
Zeltweg 48, 8032 Zurich,
Telefon + 41 44 202 23 25

By public transport
Trams nos. 6, 7, 11 and 13 travel directly from the Bahnhofstrasse stop at the main station to Paradeplatz. Walk along Bleicherweg towards Enge station. After approx. 50 m, you will find the AURA event location on the left.

By car
Please use the public parking garages in Zurich city centre. 

We recommend using public transport.

Route planner: How to find us.

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