The British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Sweden celebrates its 70th anniversary as an organisation in 2024. The Chamber has promoted bi-lateral trade and investment between the United Kingdom and Sweden since 1954. This year will be a time for celebration of our Platinum Jubilee, to remember our origins and to prepare for the future.

The British-Swedish Chamber Establishment

Founded in 1954, the Chamber emerged as a testament to the enduring spirit of partnership between the United Kingdom and Sweden. Over the years, it has evolved into a cornerstone of economic collaboration, facilitating dialogue, fostering connections, and driving innovation. Throughout our history, the Chamber has navigated the ever-changing landscapes of international trade, weathered challenges, and embraced opportunities. It has been a beacon of resilience, adapting to the dynamics of global commerce while remaining true to its mission of promoting prosperity and friendship.

The need for a chamber of commerce to promote and protect commercial and industrial relations between Sweden and the United Kingdom had been discussed since before World War II. Sweden alongside the Netherlands represented the largest export markets in Europe for British industry at the time. As exports from Germany to Sweden were catching up and overtaking British exports to Sweden, a sense of urgency grew in British industry. The year was also considered to be of importance as it marked the 300th anniversary of the treaty of friendship and amity signed between Sweden and Great Britain in 1654.

Plans to form a British chamber of commerce in Sweden was promoted and initiated by the British ambassador to Sweden, Sir Roger Stevens, and a group of British businessmen led by inter alia Sir Charles Hambro of Hambros Bank and Sir George Binney of United Steel Companies.

As the British presence in Sweden was considered to be of insufficient size to support a purely British chamber of commerce, Swedish industry was invited to participate in the formation of the Chamber. On the Swedish side, Marcus Wallenberg, Managing Director of Stockholms Enskilda Bank, was a key promotor and organiser of the Chamber.

On 21 April 1954, a group of some 50 British founder subscribers (corporates and financial institutions) to a starting fund for the Chamber held a meeting in the offices of the Federation of British Industries. In excess of GBP 3,000 was collected in donations from this group, which together with the GBP 5,000 contributed by Swedish members would cover the expected expense of GBP 8,000 (GBP 270,000 or SEK 3.5m in today’s value) to set up the Chamber. The draft statutes of the Chamber were approved by the founder subscribers, a list of 20 names nominated as British board members and the agenda for the constituent meeting set.

The statues for the Chamber were modelled on the French Chamber of Commerce in Sweden, the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Sweden as well as the Swedish chambers of commerce in the United Kingdom and in New York (both formed in 1906).

The constituent meeting of BSCC took place on 29 April 1954 in the offices of Stockholms Handelskammare at 9 Västra Trädgårdsgatan. The board was formed on a 50/50 basis with 20 British and 20 Swedish directors each representing large corporates and financial institutions. It was decided that the Chamber should start its activities on 1 May.

Marcus Wallenberg was elected as the first President of the Chamber. Two Vice Presidents were also elected: one Swedish, K.R Bökmark of Svenska Lloyd, and one British, Sir Harold Wernher, chairman of Electrolux Ltd., Ericsson Telephones Ltd. and the Anglo-Swedish Society in London.

The Chamber employed a British national, Mr. A.R Wernly, Managing Director of Thomas E. Ward (Scandinavia) AB, as its Secretary on a three-year contract.

Premises for the Chamber were leased in the former British Consulate in Hovslagaregatan 5 B on Blasieholmen. The premises required refurbishment and could only be opened officially later in the year. The Council of Industrial Design was approached to stimulate interest amongst British manufacturers to supply the Chamber with first class British furnishings and fittings on special terms.

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