Bob Papworth talks to the vice-president and facilities and travel manager EMEA at investment management firm AB
How many frequent travellers do you manage and what is the geographical remit?
I look after travellers from our EMEA region and the hotel programmes that we have across the region for all colleagues to use. There are around 420 people in the region and of them about 150 travel – a lot of them globally, some just within EMEA.
What are the basics of your travel policy, and how do you communicate that policy to your travellers?
We use the standard, cheapest, logical fair policy for flights – over four hours travellers can fly business class. We have corporate hotel and partner deals that travellers are strongly encouraged to use. Our policy is on our intranet and the online booking tool.
I have a council made up of bookers and travellers that meets once a quarter. Holding travel fairs every year with suppliers is another way of communicating policy and where people should be staying and which are our preferred airlines.
Is AB’s policy mandated? What level of compliance do you achieve?
The policy is monitored by our TMC as well as the respective travel manager. Those that have valid business reasons to not follow the policy require line management approval. We tend not to get much policy violation. It helps having corporate cards, as you can keep a very close eye on what goes on them.
How long have you been in your current role? How did you get there?
I have been in facilities since 2001 and with AB from 2010. I took over the travel portfolio about two years ago. I had dabbled in “travel” at a previous firm. I look after our EMEA offices, so I travel quite a bit myself and knew the TMC, routes, etc. It was a natural fit.
As AB is a predominantly “face-to-face” business, to what extent can you reduce travel volumes?
Our IT department has come up with some great video-conferencing and peer-to-peer conferencing solutions, which reduce intra-office travel a lot.
How long has Reed & Mackay been your TMC? Describe your relationship.
We have been working with Reed & Mackay for more than six years – there was a short break when we switched to another TMC, but not everything that had been promised materialised, so we moved back to Reed & Mackay five months later. We have a great team of three dedicated operators and good account management support and they upgraded their solutions. I was very comfortable to return to them.
This is a key partnership and you need to spend time with the TMC to get it right. AB might not have the biggest travel spend, but we are getting an excellent service.
What do you see as your greatest achievement to date?
Reed & Mackay’s IT suite and new Business Intelligence models have been a huge leap forward for us. Being able to look at data in almost real-time is great. Their online tool has been very well received internally and this, in turn, has managed to bring some of the online adoption figures to a reasonable level. Lots of our trips are multi-sector, so the online rate will never be where you would hope it to be, but since moving back to Reed & Mackay we have increased our online adoption by nearly 30 per cent.
What do you see as the next big challenge for AB, and for the wider travel management community?
For AB, understanding what is happening in ever-changing global risk situations. For the wider travel management community, we need to think about how Brexit might impact cross-border European travel. Airlines also need to look at the way they treat the business travelling community. Some appear to be a little apathetic and just assume we will stay loyal.
If you could change one thing about the world of travel, what would it be?
Greener travel – we must find a way to lessen the environmental impact. It’s not just airlines, it’s airports and ground transportation policy. Shuttle buses, for example, could be electric. There are huge easy wins that would make travel more energy-efficient.
How do you unwind after work?
I have been a Special Constable for the past 24 years, I’m a St John Ambulance volunteer and I run a light opera group.
AB (Alliance Bernstein) is a global investment management and research company employing 3,500 people in 48 locations across 22 countries. Alliance Bernstein was established in 2000 when Alliance Capital acquired Sanford C. Bernstein. The company rebranded as AB in 2015.