The Birmingham Chamber has launched a new club for its members.
The Birmingham Chamber Executive Club (CEC) has been established through one of its satellites, the Institute of Asian Businesses (IAB), but Paul Bassi, the Chamber’s president, explained that the new enterprise is aimed at providing opportunities all round.
And the move represents a breakthrough for the Chamber because it is offering membership to individuals rather than companies, the tradition in its 197-year history.
At the launch at the Hyatt Hotel, Mr Bassi, chairman of property investment company Bond Wolfe, said: “The CEC is about providing all professionals and entrepreneurs with opportunities.
“It will not have a committee or a board, there will not be annual elections, there will be no presidents, vice-presidents and no politics to go with it.
“The Chamber will put together a number of events and will provide you with what you want. There will be networking, providing business opportunities as part of a pool of talent.
“The Executive Club is for all who are committed to progress personally and professionally and who want to progress through merit, talent and good old fashioined hard work.
“My only regret is that this club was not around 28 years ago when we set up – I’m sure it would have added value to our business.”
Mr Bassi explained that the IAB was formed over 20 years ago following the Handsworth and Aston riots out of a desire to provide the Asian community with access to professional advisers, government grants and help with language issues.
He added: “Over the years, the IAB has made a worthy contribution to the success of the Asian business community. However, there is no doubt that the IAB and the market that it seeks to serve requires a fundamental review.
“The world has changed since the Handsworth and Aston riots and the IAB needs to change.”
Mr Bassi said there were mixed views about the need for an Asian business group in a multi-cultural community like the West Midlands. As a result, the Chamber engaged with Birmingham City University to conduct independent research into the future of the IAB, funded by Business Link, aimed at understanding the needs of today’s market place.
He went on: “The research revealed that today’s Asian community of professionals and entrepreneurs still wanted to be part of an organisation.”
Mr Bassi said that the Chamber had responded by establishing an offer which had three key benefits:
Networking to grow businesses and to enhance personal development
Access to the mainstream business community regardless of colour or ethnicity
Making a contribution to the wider business community, providing a talent pool for companies seeking to appoint executives, non-executives to public and private committees and boards on merit not ethnicity.
He said that the research exposed as a myth that the Asian community was not fairly represented in bigger roles.
Mr Bassi, himself High Sheriff of the West Midlands and Deputy Lieutenant for the region as well as being made a CBE in the New Year’s honours, listed several Asians in the Birmingham community who have made “significant progress” and who hold senior offices.
“This demonstrates that we are engaged and involved in the business and professional community and make a valid contribution to this region. But there is so much more work to do and the purpose of the Executive Club will be to achieve the objectives of the university research.”