Travel Buyer Q&A: Simon Robinson, Beazley

Simon Robinson has been at Beazley for 15 years where he manages travel for a diverse workforce across multiple locations. This year he was named Travel Buyer of the Year at the Serviced Apartment Awards

How much does Beazley spend on travel in the UK and US?
We spend around £3 million in the UK and US$3 million in the US. Other regions are negligible.

You’re part of the commercial management team. What does that entail exactly?
The core functions of the team are property management (leases, fit-outs, refurbishment, occupation), global procurement, information security, health and safety, facilities management (reception services, office management, environmental management). Travel should make up around 20 per cent of my role but I probably spend around 10 per cent of my time on it because I have the support of our TMC, Reed & Mackay.

Is Reed & Mackay your TMC for the US as well?
Reed & Mackay helps with some bookings for the US and Canadian travellers whose admins are based in the UK, but most travel is booked by local TMCs. Frosch handles our travel in the US. It used to be part of Reed & Mackay’s Global Specialist Markets, where it had a specialist local TMC supporting in all locations. Frosch and Reed & Mackay have separated and we retained both; they have been supporting Beazley for around ten years.

What are the greatest challenges of your job?
Ensuring I prioritise effectively in a very busy and quickly evolving company. I can be managing a travel tender one minute and a £10 million fit-out of an office the next, while ensuring business as usual and day-to-day activities still support the company effectively. Having a very varied role is exciting, but needs strict discipline to ensure no balls get dropped.

What industry improvements would you like to see to make your job easier?
I would like to see airlines operate and display fares consistently, so there is more transparency for travellers when it comes to comparing air fares.

Regarding travel, what’s next on your agenda?
I would like to transition the business to one TMC within the next two years. Beazley normally specifies companies with the same size, ethics and culture, so ideally, we would look at medium-sized TMCs which are not so small they are a risk and not so big that we aren’t a significant client. We are constantly looking to develop our hotel programme and to ensure we follow our aspiration to use suppliers (airlines, in particular) that have the highest credentials, priorities and initiatives towards improving the global environment.

Beazley is a specialist insurance company and works across professional indemnity, property, marine, accident and life, and political risks and contingency business sectors. It has operations in Europe, the US, Asia, Latin America and Australia, with its UK offices located in Birmingham, Ipswich, Leeds, London and Manchester.

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