City Focus: Zürich, home to a growing startup culture
A European transport hub, Zürich offers top quality education which has incubated an impressive startup culture. Business Chief takes a closer look...
Situated on Lake Zürich's north-western tip is Zürich, the largest city in Switzerland.
With more than 400,000 residents, the city is also the capital of the Zürich region. The entire metro area of Zürich boasts a population of approximately 1.83mn residents.
The city of Zürich is a hub for diverse modes of transportation including quality rail, air traffic road infrastructure, which makes it easier to move people and goods to and from the city.
Zürich Airport is the largest and busiest in Switzerland. Located less than seven miles from Kloten railway station, the airport has its own underground railway station. This connects the airport and its passengers directly to Zürich as well as many of the country's major cities. More than 60 passenger airlines have a presence at the Zürich airport. It is also a hub for Swiss International Air Lines and is served by one cargo airline.
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A number of major roadways pass close to the city. The A1 serves St. Gallen, Geneva and Bern, the A3 connects with Schaffhausen to the north and Altdorf to the south. Here, it also connects with Chiasso via the A2. Driving along the A3 connects residents to Lake Walen, Sargans and Basel.
Passenger numbers on the ZVV (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund) public transportation network, Zürich’s mass transportation system, are among of the largest in the world. Local trains, trolley buses, trams, boats and a cable car are all modes of mass transit widely in use in Zürich. Zürich’s main railway station, the Zürich HB (Hauptbahnhof) is a vital railway hub in Europe and the country's busiest. The number of daily commuters that pass through the station each day amounts to between 350,000 and 500,000, a figure that is especially significant considering the city's overall population. These passengers ride more than 2,900 trains each day.
Switzerland's leading economic centre
According to the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Zürich was the world's 11th most competitive financial centre and the second most competitive in Europe behind London. The Zürich metro area is the economic centre of Switzerland, with numerous international companies making their home there. A significant driver of the city's economy is the service sector which employs nearly four-fifths of Zürich’s workers. Textiles, light industry, tourism and the machine industry are other areas of importance to note.
A high quality of life the key to economic success?
Zürich is known for its high quality of life. In fact, consulting firm Mercer has consistently ranked the city as being the place with the highest quality of life of anywhere in the world. This has also been cited as a contributing factor in the city's economic success. In addition to a distinct separation between recreational and urban areas – thanks to the insight of local planning agencies – Zürich also rates highly when it comes to safety, housing, work and leisure.
The city is the stage for significant investments in education which provide a skilled labour force. With two major universities located in Zürich – the University of Zürich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) – companies have access to technological research, as well as a skilled and highly educated workforce.
Startups in Zürich
Zürich’s high quality of life has proven vital in promoting innovation and startup activity. The city’s liveability thrives in a stable economy that was built on strong banks, and is now shored up by leading academics.
In fact, Zürich has recently become known as a place where tech meets innovation and has given rise to a number of successful startups, including:
Started in 2013, Knip is an app that enables users to keep track of their insurance policies, benefits and premiums while they're on the go. Based in Zürich, with a presence in Belgrade, Serbia and Berlin, Germany, Knip has now grown to more than 100 employees. It was acquired by Digital Insurance Group in 2017.
Trekksoft helps tour and activity companies run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Users can take advantage of tour management software, a robust set of promotional tools including integration with social media and an integrated payment gateway. People interested in services can book them and make payment through the app. As of 2016, the company had secured nearly $3.5mn in equity funding.
Uepaa! was launched by CEO Mathias Haussmann in 2011 after a ski trip. It's designed for people who are traveling and/or living in remote areas so they can quickly summon help from those nearby or from emergency services. It's now found throughout Europe and is also being licensed. The company has raised about $5mn in funding as of 2015 and employs about 20 people.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”