Reto Conrad was elected as the new swiss active president on November 30, 2022. Although he will probably not yet be known to some in the industry, he is a leader with decades of experience. The “CFO of the year 2011” already took his first steps in the fitness industry a few years ago as Chairman of the Board of update Fitness AG. Now he is returning to take on the new challenge as President of swiss active. We wanted to know more about the new man at the top of the association and invited him for an interview.
FITNESS TRIBUNE: Reto, feel free to introduce yourself briefly.
Reto Conrad: I spent 21 years on the management boards of three international and national groups of companies, 15 of them as CFO and six years in charge of operational units. After ten years as a member of the Executive Board at Coop, the last six of which as Head of IT/Production/Services – a motley mix of IT, production operations, hotels, customer service, and corporate development – I left Coop this summer as part of a reorganization and am now self-employed. I am married, father of a 27-year-old son and have a wide range of interests. People are always at the center of my attention and teamwork is extremely important to me. My hobbies are traveling, sports, friends, family and reading.
FT: In your new role as president of swiss active, you are now taking further steps in the fitness and health industry. What connects you with this industry of the future?
RC: I’m not entirely new to the industry. For the past six years, I have also been Chairman of the Board of update Fitness, among other things, and I also stepped down from this mandate when I resigned from Coop. The fitness industry makes a very important contribution to public health, and fitness centers are a key element in this area. That is why I am convinced that the fitness industry will continue to develop very well in the future.
FT: What were your motivations for choosing to be an association president in our industry?
RC: As Chairman of the Board of Update Fitness, I’ve met a lot of great people in the industry who are dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic, and I’ve seen the joy of the guests in the fitness centers. This has really, really fascinated me. During this time, I have intensively studied the opportunities and challenges of the industry and thus naturally learned about it in greater depth. The fitness industry plays a central role in preventive health care. More than one million Swiss people are members of a provider and that is almost twelve percent of the resident population. This shows how important the fitness industry is for the health sector in general and for the sports sector in particular. At the same time, it also means that 88 percent are not members of a fitness center, so the potential is still huge. It will take a lot of convincing to win even more fans for the fitness industry here. The goal should be that working out becomes as natural as brushing your teeth. And I would like to make a contribution to that.
FT: How do you rate the importance of association work? Why can associations actually make more of a difference than individual companies?
RC: A powerful and credible association is needed to represent the interests of the industry vis-à-vis the authorities, politicians, the media, other associations, health insurers and the public in general, and to help create attractive framework conditions. This cannot be done by a single company alone. The Corona period in particular has shown that a credible and reliable association that consistently and also pragmatically stands up for the interests of its members can achieve a great deal. Thus, the board and in particular also the former managing director Roger Erni (editor’s note: Roger Erni left the management and the board with the elections on Nov. 30, 2022; the board was also newly elected) have intensively exchanged information with the authorities in order to achieve realistic solutions for the entire industry. First-hand information was quickly shared with members so they could prepare for innovations in a timely manner. I think this was really an important time to show that you are stronger together as an industry than if everyone fights alone.
FT: What goals are you personally pursuing with your new function, where do you see the focus of your association work? What would you like to achieve for the Swiss fitness industry and the swiss active association?
RC: I have just been elected and the first thing is to listen to many members and understand even better what their expectations of the association are. Overall, I am convinced that the association is on a good and stable footing and is working on the right issues. So we can
can continue to build on today’s super foundation. There is certainly no lack of topics to develop further. We must ensure that the training of our employees is aligned to our requirements and also receives the recognition it deserves. The employees are a decisive factor for enthusiastic guests who like to come back. In the area of quality, it is also important to ensure that the Qualitop label also meets future requirements and can be implemented pragmatically on the one hand, yet with an appealingly high level of quality on the other. It is also important to maintain contacts with health insurers, to ensure that health insurers will continue to recognize the
and to explore possible extensions of the cooperation with other players.
“swiss active is there for all members! Both small and large; entrepreneur-led fitness businesses as well as fitness chains should feel represented in the association.” Reto Conrad
FT: To what extent do the “key data of the Swiss fitness industry” play a decisive role in achieving these goals – but also the industry goals in general?
RC: We are proud that, together with the German University of Prevention and Health Management (DHfPG), we were able to conduct a study for the first time that represents the entire industry and all providers and shows key figures on the entire industry. We are now in the process of launching the 2023 study and I am convinced that we will gain further exciting insights with the time series.
FT: And where do you see the industry’s potential, also in terms of what the key data tells us?
RC: Basically, it’s really gratifying to see how people want to return to the centers and train after the pandemic. The pandemic itself was a really tough time for providers in the industry. But we’ve also seen that older member groups in particular are struggling with fears
and have not renewed or even cancelled their contracts. These are likely to need further support from fitness operators to alleviate these fears and get them back on track. From what I hear from the industry, these efforts are already proving their worth in that older members are indeed feeling more comfortable and confident again and are also coming back in greater numbers.
FT: Who or which industry members would you like to represent in your work as swiss active president?
RC: What is extremely important to me: swiss active is there for all industry members! In my professional career, I have always had to deal with corporate units of different sizes. Even smaller units must be able to develop freely and entrepreneurially within a network. This is exactly what is important to me for swiss active: small and large, entrepreneurial fitness businesses as well as fitness chains should feel represented in the association.
fitness chains should feel represented in the association, should feel that the association is there for everyone, as it were, and that it advocates the central issues for all members with the relevant players, i.e. authorities, politics, the media, other associations, health insurers and the public. I am convinced that IG Fitness Schweiz respectively swiss active has proven in the last years, especially also during the Corona period, that it is there for all. The board and the former managing director Roger Erni have done great and dedicated work, which I would like to build on.
FT: How would you like to increase the political and social recognition of the industry?
RC: Thanks to the key data study, we now have truly impressive facts and figures on our industry for the first time. We now need to communicate these even more strongly to the outside world. In particular, however, we want to ensure constructive, reliable and committed cooperation in the industries and committees. and committees, as well as reliable cooperation with the authorities, and thus we also want to be a reliable partner.
FT: You are an enthusiastic athlete yourself. How do you personally keep fit?
RC: I’m actually an avid runner, but unfortunately a bit damaged at the moment. Besides that, I try to incorporate exercise everywhere in my daily life and move as much as possible. And finally, I regularly visit a fitness center so that I don’t neglect strengthening and coordination over endurance.
FT: Thank you very much, dear Reto, and good luck!