Spotlight: Q&A with WTCA Executive Director-Business Development, Robin van Puyenbroeck

Robin – thank you so much for (virtually) sitting with us today and congratulations again on your new role at the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA). Can you take a moment to briefly discuss your professional background and what attracted you to the WTCA?

Let me first thank everyone at the Association for the warm welcome I received during my first virtual weeks. As to my background, I am a lawyer by training, and have worked at a financial institution in various capacities as a business consultant, and, most recently, as Vice President Business Development at a US-based global retailer. My professional life has always been about relationship management and business development, creating partnerships and, in every capacity, it was about thinking outside of the box. I have always had a passion for international affairs, which is reflected in my leadership engagements at non-profit and intergovernmental organizations that are active in that area. My personal and professional passions to create a meaningful impact and to be purpose-driven comes together at the WTCA through its core mission of facilitating global trade. Additionally, I was impressed with the strategic exercise the organization went through and how engaged the WTCA Board is.

What is your impression of the Association and its Members so far?
I am dedicating quality time engaging with our Members and all of our stakeholders to really get a grasp of the organization’s heartbeat. Throughout this journey, I have encountered so many talented and driven people who truly care about the organization, for whom the WTC is so much more than a brand. Further, the WTCA’s global network of Members has proven very resilient during this challenging time with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we can read from the COVID-19 Hero stories in this issue, our Members have come together in advisory groups and through organizing webcasts, providing resources for each other as well as their local communities. They support each other and are navigating these uncertain times together. That is the uniqueness of being a membership-based organization. I find this very empowering.

As this is a newly created position, what are your priorities?
My priorities are to grow our organization and expand our global footprint, enhancing membership engagement, and strengthening our brand equity. In summary, to make us future-proof. I envision our growth quantitatively and qualitatively with membership engagement and trade services driving both at the core. We are going to have an active voice in the conversation on global trade and be part of various international platforms where that conversation happens. Regarding our global expansion, we will work on expanding the definition of trade to include logistics — moving goods and people — hospitality, and education. We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage this intersection because of the expertise of our Membership base. Imagine the WTCA as a beehive of economic activity and trade services with iconic buildings, airports, seaports, free trade zones, tourism infrastructure, and, yes, also universities located all around the world.

This is certainly a very interesting and challenging time. How do you think international trade and globalization will change for the future, and how must global businesses adapt to these changes?
What the pandemic — and the resulting global economic recession that it has triggered — has shown us is that we need to re-evaluate how we conduct our business, live our lives, and question the sustainability of the current economic model. As we see a new form of globalization unfolding, a digital globalization, the ability for people around the world to connect with one another in a trusted environment has become an essential business necessity. Therefore, our mission is now more important and relevant than ever. This time of crisis also brings to the forefront the importance of sustainability and ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance — principles. These cover how we conduct ourselves, how we treat each other fairly and with dignity, how we care for the environment, and how we operate with good governance. A business strategy that embraces sustainability will make an organization more adaptable to change and gain better tools to become a driver of change.

What do you envision for the future of our Association?
The WTC brand is a globally recognized icon of trust. It brings great credibility as a facilitator of international trade. As an Association, we have a strong heritage with a Board of Directors that is very committed and forward-looking. This will allow us to drive change, be agile, grow, and become a true global leader that brings people together in an environment of trust. I envision the WTCA as a unique cosmos of economic activity — an inspiration and a beacon of rock-solid business connections strengthened by mission-driven partnerships.

Anything else you’d like to share with our Members to get to know you better?
I believe that life is all about challenging our comfort zone so that we can expand, explore, and rejuvenate. The process of change may not always be easy, but when completed, we come out stronger. Insanity is doing the same things over again, but expecting different results.