Travel Buyer Q&A: James Finnie, NES Global Talent

Bob Papworth talks to the global travel relationship manager at recruitment specialist NES Global Talent

What’s the scale of NES Global Talent’s travel management task?
NES has 7,000 contractors on its books and 500 permanent staff. Not everyone travels, of course, and from a contractor perspective, travel requirements will depend on the job location and terms and conditions of their contract. We are booking travel from 14 of our offices and it can be to and from literally anywhere. Destinations include Ghana, Iraq, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and Kazakhstan. About 85 per cent of our bookings are flights as clients often provide onsite accommodation, or contractors take long-term stays.

How long have you been in your current role? How did you get there?
I’ve been with NES for four-and-a-half years and in my current role for just over two years. My first job from university was with Travelbag where I was booking tailor-made, luxury, round-the-world trips. After I moved into business travel with Carlson Wagonlit, progressing from travel consultant to operations manager in my nine years there.

What are the basics of NES’s travel policy? How do you communicate it and achieve compliance?
If we are booking travel for contractors, we will work to the client-specific requirements to ensure we can invoice our expenses correctly. In terms of our staff, all travel is pre-approved by our senior management team. We have dedicated NES travel bookers in all locations who ensure compliance to the policy. Lowest logical fare is the basis of the policy and the class of service is approved dependent on the length of the overall trip, the turnaround time and the requirements of the traveller and the business.

Do your travellers understand/ appreciate the value of the policy?
I believe so. NES is a global company but with a local feel. Despite the variety of locations, we work closely together across all of our offices. The senior management team is supportive of the travel programme and helps ensure the objectives of the policy are understood.

How long has Corporate Travel Management (CTM) been your TMC? Describe your relationship.
We’ve been with CTM for a little over a year. They won the global tender that we undertook in 2016 and we felt that they matched us best in terms of culture and global location match up. Our relationship with them is good – as with any relationship there are challenges, but CTM has always been focused on partnering with us for the long term. They sort out issues quickly and effectively and they’re flexible in their approach. My business manager Louise Eames is patient and takes the time to understand our business and how we work.

To what extent is ‘travel avoidance’ an option, given the nature of the recruitment business?
There is nothing like meeting people face-to-face and I don’t think that will ever change regardless of how technology advances. That said, every company can be smarter when managing their travel costs and deciding on which trips are important and which can be done via different means. With recruitment, it’s important to meet clients and contractors regularly face-to-face.

What have been the greatest challenges in your role, and what are your greatest achievements to date?
Turning NES’s travel programme from localised offerings to a global offering would be my biggest achievement but it has also been my biggest challenge. You don’t want to disrupt something that is working well, but you need to put in process and practices that meet the requirements of a global organisation like NES.

In a wider sense, what do you see as the biggest issues facing the travel management community?
IATA’s New Distribution Capability is a challenge as most TMCs still focus their technology around the GDS. Booking travel is easier now, but one of the biggest issues is staying ahead of the game and continuing to add value to a company’s travel programme.

NES Global Talent is a manpower specialist that provides candidates across the oil & gas, energy, life sciences, manufacturing, chemicals, mining, construction & infrastructure and IT sectors worldwide. It has 50 offices in 28 countries.

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