40 Years SEC: Origin and History of the Senior Expert Contact (SEC)

SEC was celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019. To showcase the history of SEC, we illustrate its highlights on a timeline. Browse through exciting contributions related to our anniversary of years of existence.

Jubilee Posts
H.E. Stettbacher als Experte im Einsatz im NEC, NTTF Electronics Center in Bangalore, Indien.

The Senior Expert Corps (SEC), an initiative of management consultant Heini Stettbacher and Swissair pilot Theo Schwarzenbach, was initially implemented by Swisscontact for a trial period of two years.


Caption: H.E. Stettbacher as an expert at the NEC, NTTF Electronics Center in Bangalore, India.


Excerpt of the interview with Theo Schwarzenbach, initiator SEC, on the founding of SEC in 2007 (10 min., German)

Link YouTube Video


The first assignments are promising, and the echo is positive: SEC is permanently continued in 1983.

SEC presents itself as follows:

  • 10 to 15 assignments per year.
  • 180 retired specialists in the database.
  • Hans Schneider is the director of operations and likewise a retired expert.
  • Swisscontact provides finances and infrastructure.

Pioneers of SEC

Hans Schneider has given SEC a boost as head of Operations. He was Operations Manager from 1982 to 1987.


Erika Heusser, the first woman to head operations, expanded SEC. “Working for the Senior Expert Corps was an enrichment for me.”


SEC expert Walter Keller, the practitioner of the first hour – uncomplicated, humorous and highly appreciated by clients. SEC expert from 1980 to 1993. Shown in this picture working with craftsmen in Costa Rica.

Growth thanks to SDC’s contribution: Since 1993, SDC supported SEC financially.

  • Focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • The number of assignments increases to 54 per year.
  • Business class flights for experts are abolished.

The 20th anniversary is celebrated with 300 guests.

  • 106 consultancy assignments per year: 90% for SMEs and 10% for training institutions.
  • SEC is further expanded.
  • SEC goes East with the Eastern Europe program financed by SDC.

Caption: Cartoon by Nico, 1999

Senior experts in action – a film with Elsbeth Fopp and Alois Russheim from 1999. (German)


Assignments primarily with SMEs

Retired professionals advise SMEs

  • in the preparation of business plans, in marketing,
  • in the development and introduction of new products and services,
  • in the improvement of product design and quality,
  • in operational planning and cost control,
  • in training staff.

Caption: SEC expert Giuseppe Bazzani on assignment in Peru.

GUATEMALA – a market for cheese – a film with Albert Ottiger from 2004. (German)

Link YouTube Video


13th Senior Expert Service (SES) World Conference in Zurich in 2007

Caption: SEC expert Maja Ilg in a felt assignment in Nepal.

Focus country Nepal

A third of the SEC assignments take place in Nepal. The assignments contribute primarily to the creation and preservation of jobs.

NEPAL – Felt flourishes – a film with Maja Ilg from 2004. (German)

Link YouTube Video

Einsatzbeispiel Senior Expert Corps (SEC) Schweiz

External Evaluation

An external evaluation in 2012 shows that the consulting assignments of senior experts make an important contribution to companies.

Results of the 2012 evaluation

The external evaluation demonstrates that SEC achieves sustainable positive outcomes with the SMEs it advises. The following modifications were observed in the SMEs advised by SEC experts:

  • 49% increased their profits.
  • 39% created new jobs.
  • 82% registered a general improvement in quality.
  • 77% indicated sustainable improvements of their employees’ know-how.
  • 77% were more competitive in the market.

External return study

A study on the experts’ return confirms that the senior experts have high-level cultural competences and play an important role in raising awareness in Switzerland.

Caption: SEC expert Josef Böhni on a consultancy assignment in Panama in 2014.


3 372 assignments since its inception

The initial idea of promoting SMEs with retired consultants has proved to be worthwhile and continues to gain popularity.

Caption: SEC expert Thomas Wiederkehr in a consulting assignment at a printing company in Kosovo in 2018.