Upon becoming President of the National Council at just 31 years old, Pascale Bruderer had a dazzling career. In 2019, she retired from political life to devote herself to entrepreneurship. She has since opted for media discretion, but has agreed to make an exception for swissinfo.ch.
This content was posted on March 18, 2022 – 10:45 AM
swissinfo.ch: How is your start-up Crossiety, an online platform designed to facilitate exchanges and mutual help between residents, developing?
Pascale Bruderer: Crossiety is developing well. In 2021, we welcomed our 100th partner municipality. In addition, the scalability of our technology platform has proven to be excellent and we have reached the break-even point. The penetration of the German market was also crowned with success and this motivates us in the preparation of our Austrian expansion. But as a Swiss start-up, a quick establishment in French-speaking Switzerland is even more important to us.
Born in 1977, Pascale Bruderer studied at the universities of Zurich and Växjö (Sweden). She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, public law, and socio-economic history, as well as a master’s degree in social science.
This socialist Aargau was successively councilor in Baden (1997-2003), member of the Grand Council of Aargau (2001-2002), national councilor (2002-2011; presidency in 2010) and councilor for the states (2011-2019).
After retiring from politics in 2019, she ventured into entrepreneurship as a co-owner and administrator of Crossiety. Additionally, she has become a member of several boards including TX Group, Bernexpo and Galenica.
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Crossiety’s goals are commendable, but you’re not the type of start-up that interests investors.
Our ultimate goal is to serve local communities while being profitable. We do not seek to maximize our profitability. If we did, we would do the opposite, for example by commercially exploiting our users’ data. Being trustworthy and ensuring privacy protection are essential qualities that set us apart from large global companies.
In the context of your business experiences, what have you learned that would be useful to you in the exercise of your legislative mandates?
I have always tried to analyze problems according to different reading prisms, that is, putting myself in the shoes of others, including people without political commitment. Thanks to this approach, I haven’t had any big surprises since becoming an entrepreneur. However, both during my political life and now, I learn every day. I consider it a great privilege and I am very grateful that I can still face everyday tasks that challenge me intellectually and excite me in terms of ideas.
Within Crossiety, relatively few women hold leadership roles. Are you not convinced of the benefits of diversity?
On the contrary, diversity and inclusion are and will always be central themes for me. In addition to gender equality, I am also very attentive to the diversity of professional and personal experiences. Regarding Crossiety, we have gender parity on the board [composé de deux personnes]; in addition, our operational team includes very strong women.
In 2019, why did you leave the political world to reorient yourself to the private sector?
My withdrawal from political life caused astonishment. Many people have wondered why I retired so early. But, after more than twenty years of parliamentary life, I found that my withdrawal intervened rather late. Politics is fascinating and I have always been very dedicated to it. However, two years ago I had the opportunity to choose between running for the Aargau government election or taking on a business venture. I chose the second option.
The timing was ideal because politics allowed me to gain considerable experience. Now that I’m active in the private sector, I can fully utilize all this knowledge. And I also have the opportunity to concretely implement the political values that I have always defended and demanded from the economy.
During your legislative tenures in Bern, did any large companies offer you seats on their boards of directors?
I received many proposals, but I always turned them down to maintain my independence. I also told myself that if companies were interested in anything other than my seat in Parliament, they would come back to me after I retired from politics. And that’s exactly what happened! I also recommend that incumbent federal lawmakers take this same approach.
On boards of directors, there are mainly right-wing politicians. As a socialist, are you really in your shoes?
Times have changed! Themes like sustainability have become a necessity and are at the heart of the economy for good reason. I don’t sit on several boards of directors despite my social-liberal and environmental fibers, but thanks to them.
You belonged to the right wing of the socialist party. Did you no longer feel completely comfortable with the ideas defended by this party?
Before entering politics, I compared the ideas of the socialist party with those of the liberal-radical party. I ended up opting for the socialist party and never regretted it, particularly because I wanted to demonstrate that social-liberal ideas had their place within the socialist party. However, during my parliamentary life, party politics [Parteipolitik] It’s the aspect I liked the least. Fortunately, in the Council of States, substantive policy [Sachpolitik] was in the foreground.
“I don’t sit on several boards of directors despite my social-liberal and environmental fibers, but thanks to them”
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When you joined the National Council at age 24, you were the youngest national councilor. Looking back, do you think your election was too early?
From a social point of view, I don’t think so, because it is important that the younger generation is represented in Parliament. I confess to you that I am proud to have paved the way for other young parliamentarians, including through my election as President of the National Council at the age of 31. Naturally, I am very grateful to the entire Swiss population for the trust placed in me from a young age.
In the United States, each national parliamentarian is assisted by about thirty experts. On the contrary, Swiss federal parliamentarians receive very little help.
I am very much in favor of the Swiss militia system because it guarantees proximity to the people. However, I see two problems. The first is the insufficient foresight of federal parliamentarians; the latter didn’t even have a second pillar! Fortunately, this is partially resolved. The second problem is the lack of parliamentary assistants. A staff – like many other countries – is certainly not necessary, but, for example, part-time assistance would make it possible to increase the quality of parliamentary decisions and reduce the weight of lobbyists.
Is your departure from politics permanent or is it possible to return, for example, to cantonal or federal executive positions?
I’ve never made career plans, and at this point I haven’t changed. On the other hand, I have always dedicated myself with passion to the tasks entrusted to me. For this reason, I am currently fully focused on my entrepreneurial projects. In addition to Crossiety, I am also very involved in digitizing the payments infrastructure in Switzerland.
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