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Ask the experts: managing risk


It is sad that travel risk management only appears on the corporate agenda when a crisis is fresh in the minds of business leaders.

Indeed, the topic was properly established following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and has gained momentum after every unfortunate terrorist incident or natural disaster ever since. So far, 2014 has been a particularly traumatic year in terms of geopolitical instability. It has led many growing businesses to consider a travel risk management strategy, while larger organisations are working to refine, audit and update existing policies.

We asked four industry experts about how travel buyers and managers can best tackle the issue of traveller safety:

The buyer

Michelle De Costa, director of global travel and client experience, Sapient

There are two approaches. The fastest and easiest way is to talk to your TMC [travel management company], as they are normally partnered with a risk management company and will have preferential prices. Almost all the data comes from the TMC anyway, and it’s quick and easy to implement a turn-key solution. On the other hand, you can work with procurement on a full-blown RFP [request for proposal] covering everything, from medical and safety to insurance and tracking. Traveller tracking is very important: talk to whoever is responsible for global security, as they might already have something in place. And take a look at the travel policy and work with internal communications, because the programme will only work if people are using the central solution.

When it comes to contract review you’ll need to engage with legal and HR [human resources] from the employee standpoint.

The services you require and your policy will depend a lot on the areas to which you are travelling. We haven’t had any major issues overseas, but having partners on the ground has helped with minor medical situations. Without local support it’s difficult just to walk into a clinic for treatment.

The US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River was the wake-up call for our business. We could not immediately identify if we had staff on the aircraft because there was a lack of compliance. Since then we’ve had a strongly mandated policy.

The security specialists

Matthew Judge, managing director, The Anvil Group

Start by looking at the four key areas of a travel risk management programme: policy; training and communication; monitoring; and response. By understanding what the company has in place, you will find the gaps and be able to prioritise. If you don’t have a traveller-safety policy, it should be your first priority to get one. Gather other stakeholders together, such as HR, global mobility, insurance, health and security, and understand all the issues.

Then you can design a policy to meet everyone’s needs. E-learning modules are a great way to get the message across.

Once a policy is communicated, it needs to be monitored – any good traveller tracking system will be designed to monitor elements of your policy and flag up risk.

This could be when employees book trips to destinations that are high risk, where authorisation is necessary; or it could sound an alarm if too many employees are booked to fly on the same plane. You must also have measures in place to manage safety and stability at your employees’ destinations – the security situation can change on a daily basis.

Steven Burghardt, international health project manager, Europ Assistance

Start with an internal analysis. Talk to HR to find out if there are any pre-existing policies; medical security, to see if there are any agreements with third-party providers; and insurance, to see what cover has already been purchased.

Next, speak to your travel risk specialist. They will help you assess risk and implement the right services. The key element is the travel risk policy, because it defines the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. The traveller tracking system is linked to the policy, which should provide you with information on where they are at all times.

If an employee books a trip to a high-risk country, it will send a questionnaire to make sure they are briefed for travel. You should, as far as possible, be aware of employee profiles, and be able to give them tailored information. It could be employees from the LGBT community or lone female travellers, for example. Work closely with your TMC, and collate all relevant data. Finally, have an audit process in place to make sure you stay on top of everything.

The intermediary

Susan Lancaster, director of global partner relationships, HRG

A risk management strategy mitigates your company’s vulnerability in four key areas: corporate reputation; financial risk; duty-of-care; and legal obligation.

A number of key stakeholders within your organisation need to contribute to the formulation of the strategy. Lawyers must interpret legal obligations country-by -country, which is especially important for regional or global policies. The finance team audits and manages accounts to ensure the implementation process and strategy is understood, and meets local requirements. The company secretary must agree with the legal team on the interpretation of the law.

HR ensures policies are fair, employee rights are considered and data protection laws are observed. All of this happens before you start to build your strategy. You also need to understand how you audit and adjust the policies and processes as new legislation and risk is introduced. Once everything is agreed, policies have to be written, and include employer and employee obligations. Process and communication help employees understand risk management requirements, prevent unnecessary travel to high-risk areas, and reduce risk while travelling.

Measures to track changes in legislation that may affect local legal requirements must be put in place, as well as monitoring and reporting on new security risks, to ensure policies are up to date.

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