Editorial Dr. Barbara Frei-Spreiter

Agility, flexi­bility and respon­sibility in the new normal

The past 12 months have strongly influenced our perception of the world. As a society, we have had to restrict ourselves and partially and temporarily give up freedoms we took for granted. This is in order to protect ourselves but also others. Agility and flexibility are two important virtues, especially in these times, to deal with changing circumstances.

Swiss Prime Site succeeded well in this in 2020. Despite some major restrictions, the company was able to continue working towards the goals it had set thanks to the adaptability of its processes and the open-mindedness of its employees. At the beginning of 2020, the group company Tertianum was successfully transferred into new hands. It was important that the approximately 5 000 employees continue to be employed by the new owner.

Especially in 2020, the commitment towards a range of stakeholders was fundamental, while protecting the employees was top priority. It is only by having highly-qualified experts that we were able to safeguard our business processes despite the altered, and significantly more challenging, circumstances. In addition, the Board of Directors and Executive Board decided to set up a solidarity fund to help those employees particularly affected by the coronavirus. In the first instance, this was intended to provide quick and effective help to Jelmoli sales staff, who were on short-time work due to the crisis and the prescribed closure of the premium department store, and suffered a loss in wages as a result. The fund was endowed with CHF 450 000 and was financed equally from the Board of Directors’ fees and Executive Board members’ salaries. It was also important to assist our tenants with personal and financial resources and provide them with as much support as possible during this crisis. Many hospitality companies, event organisers, retailers and independent businesses were severely impacted by lockdown and had to stop trading for a period. By offering payment extensions, rent waivers and individual solutions, Swiss Prime Site managed to help nearly all its clients.

The renewal of the executive committees within Swiss Prime Site continued. Since the 2020 Annual General Meeting, Ton Büchner has been the new Chairman of the Board of Directors. As part of the renewal process, the aim is to fill the announced vacant position of Rudolf Huber in the Board of Directors with a suitable successor at the 2021 Annual General Meeting. With Barbara A. Knoflach, the ideal candidate will be proposed to the Annual General Meeeting. At the Executive Board level, there has been a change in the leadership of the core real estate business, with Dr. Martin Kaleja chosen as the ideal appointment. Anastasius Tschopp (CEO Swiss Prime Site Solutions) joined the Executive Board from 2021, reflecting the future strategic importance of real estate asset management for third-parties.

Regarding compensation and incentivisation of the Board of Directors and Executive Board, several key plans were implemented in 2020. One of these was to conduct an external benchmarking analysis. This revealed that, in the context of the size and structure of our company, and in the real estate in­dustry, Swiss Prime Site is within the standard market range. In addition, amendments and clarifications to the management compensation regulations have been made. From 2021, clawback clauses will be introduced for members of the Executive Board. Regarding the compensation of the Board of Directors, the 10% discount for allocated shares has been cancelled and the blocking period has been adjusted from four to the standard three years.

When I write these lines again in a year’s time, agility, flexibility and responsibility will still be at the top of my list of priorities. Nonetheless, my wish for all of us is that we will have passed a bit of the «new normal» and will be able to pursue our tasks again with a little more ease.

Dr. Barbara Frei-Spreiter
Member of the Board of Directors and
Chair of the Nomination and Compensation Committee