Suzy Bibko is Editor-in-Chief of Families in Business magazine.
Fernando Casado, Managing Director of the IEF, talks about the important role that lobbying plays in Spain
Suzy Bibko (SB): What is the history of family business lobbying in Spain?
Fernando Casado (FC): Family business lobbying started in 1992 as a consequence of conversations held between some Catalonian businessmen in Barcelona. It began under the presidency of Leopoldo Rodés, president of a communications group, and with Alfredo Pastor, a professor at University of Barcelona, acting as general manager of the group. The main target was to create a more favourable judicial framework to preserve the continuity of the family business.
SB: Why is family business lobbying so important in Spain?
FC: Lobbying is important because family businesses represent 65% of the GNP in Spain and they are the most important economic sector of the country. At the same time, it is needed because of the extremely low survival rate of family businesses to the third generation (only 15%). The Instituto de la Empresa Familiar (IEF) has achieved great success in this field.
SB: Who is involved in the effort?
FC: The most significant family business entrepreneurs of the country are involved in the effort, through the board of the IEF (with 17 members) and its three Working Commissions.
SB: What is your role?
FC: As the Managing Director of the IEF, I am responsible for the coordination of the people and activities of the IEF. That is to say, I am responsible for the actions of the lobby (I have regular meetings with the main leaders of the political parties and I defend the position of the IEF), activities (I organise the annual events for the IEF, as well as activities for the Regional Associations) and the academic presence (the creation of Chairs of family business at universities in Spain).
SB: How do you decide what to lobby for?
FC: Once a year the board of directors meet with experts to decide the main topics. We focus mainly on local issues, but we also take into consideration the policies of other countries.
SB: What has been your most successful lobbying accomplishment?
FC: The biggest achievement has been in the field of inheritance and gift tax, where we obtained a 95% reduction in the tax base for the transfer of a family business.
SB: What are you lobbying for now and what do you hope to achieve?
FC: There are several issues for which we are currently lobbying. First of all, we have proposed that the government approve a specific legal framework for family businesses. It is being discussed at the moment by a committee made up of members of both the ministry of economic affairs and the ministry of justice. One of the measures is to extend the non-voting shares, now permitted in public limited companies, to private limited companies. The reason for this is to allow family businesses obtain financing without losing control of the company.
Second, we have made a study of the regulation and supervision of competition in businesses markets, paying special attention to the supervision of company mergers. We insist on the importance of coordination with the Regional Competition Courts, which has been approved but is yet to be created in Spain (except in Barcelona and Madrid).
SB: Are younger members of family businesses involved in lobbying efforts?
FC: Yes, indeed. The IEF has a section called Forum, which consists of the younger sons of our members. They have an annual meeting to exchange experiences and participate in activities.
There is also a section called IEF 2 for future members of the IEF, who already have a position of responsibility in their family companies. Meetings with relevant people in political and economic circles are organised to introduce them to the problems of family business and educate them about the lobbying efforts.