BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
International SOS’s Arnaud Vaissie talks:
International SOS co-founder, chairman and CEO Arnaud Vaissie sat down with BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West at ISOS’s third annual Duty of Care Summit & Awards to discuss the company’s strategy in a market that has gained a high profile among corporates in the past five years.
BTN: This is International SOS’s third year presenting the Duty of Care Awards. What does the program hope to achieve?
Vaissie: Duty of care has become a massive issue across the world. By creating an event around duty of care, [we want] to steer this concept toward sustainability. Sustainability takes into account all regulatory necessity but also goes far beyond it so that duty of care becomes not only a compliance [measure] and an imposition but goes into something which is seen as positive by the community.
BTN: How has the concept of duty of care changed travel management?
Vaissie: Buying travel was once a combination of finding the best locations, the cost advantage, the cost benefit, optimizing cost benefit. Now, it has morphed into a human resource issue: How does one deal with the safety and security of employees who are traveling? Beyond that, [it has moved toward] making travel an identifiable advantage for corporations. For example, on the West Coast, the travel policy is a differentiator at time of hiring.
BTN: Is this duty of care or just competition for talent?
Vaissie: Clearly tight employment as well as [an improving business market] drive new initiatives, so that’s a given. But, it also is linked to a new generation coming in. The Millennial generation is less exclusively job focused than [others] before it. They are looking for a combination of factors to be happy within a corporation. For a corporation, it is critical to reduce turnover because the new generation is even more [comfortable with] turnover than before and there is a huge cost attached to it. So, like everything with corporations, it’s a combination of interest of the corporation itself as well as creating the right environment [for employees]. You create the right alignment when the new policies actually bring financial reward to the corporation. That’s the sustainability piece.
BTN: BTN has tracked a lot of new entrants in the travel risk management market, particularly technology and data-driven players. How does ISOS view the new competition?
Vaissie: There is far more emphasis right now on security, on information, on the quality of information and, of course, on all kinds of new features helping to track and push information to travelers. Pushing information is one thing, but the reality is what happens once the information has been pushed. This is where we feel that we still have a very strong position. We are the only ones with boots on the ground. Every year, we are adding four, five, six new countries with real subsidiaries, people and capabilities. Our strategy today … is to integrate medical security, technology and telemedicine, which we think is the critical thing.
BTN: Tell me more about ISOS’s telemedicine initiative.
Vaissie: Medicine is the most regulated business in the world. You have to be a registered physician in the country in which the patient is [in order] to have the right to teleconsult or prescribe medicine. ISOS has created telemedicine capabilities already in five countries, and quarter by quarter we are going to have the capability in new countries so that we create a global tele-health capability. It’s the same thing that we have done with security, where we’ve completely distributed our teams around the world. Our philosophy is that technology is an enabler, but there is absolutely no belief that services can be provided from a central point, whether it is in the U.S., the U.K. or somewhere else.
Communications: CJ Group (South Korea)
Education: RMIT University (Vietnam)
Innovation: GSK (U.K.)
Aviation: American Airlines (U.S.)
Thought Leadership: CBM (Germany)
Sustainability: IBM (U.S.)
Resilient Care: Citibank (U.S.)
Ambassador of Duty of Care: Jacobs Engineering’s Joe Olivarez (U.S.)
BTN: What role does the technology play, then?
Vaissie: The technology isn’t going to provide the service in the end. Technology is going to help it and make it faster, drastically improve reporting, improve the planning and the preparation and the prevention, but it is not replacing the management of the case. We see this confusion in the marketplace today where many people are saying that because you have a piece of software, you can manage a travel population worldwide. This is, in my eyes, complete fallacy.
BTN: The midmarket seems ripe for travel risk management opportunities and may be drawn to the tech solutions, considering some see full-service providers as cost prohibitive; are you offering the midmarket anything specific?
Vaissie: If we want to keep growing, we definitely have to go beyond the top 1,000 [largest enterprises]. So, we’ve developed an offering specifically driven at the midmarket, whether it is in Europe or in the U.S. or in Asia. It combines the medical security, the technology and the tele-health as one simple contract. We give them exactly the same benefits as what large corporations get.
BTN: So why wouldn’t an enterprise just go for the midmarket solution?
Vaissie: When you are with the large corporations, you have to significantly adapt your offering to the organization or the company. If you work with British Petroleum, it is not the same as working with Exxon. If you work with Google, it is not the same as working with Apple. They have very strong cultural identities, legacy structures and organizations, and they want our services to fit in within their organization. That is a lot of customization work. The midmarket fundamentally adopts the systems and the solution as it stands, with minimum customization.
BTN: Is business travel getting more dangerous? Perhaps there is an obvious answer.
Vaissie: It is of a different nature. Travel has become a mass-market issue. Travel has become people—you have the very young, the very old—so it is becoming far more eventful. Secondly, the risk side has morphed from complex countries to everywhere because of tourism. And certainly, we can access everywhere. So there are more opportunities for risk because there is more travel and it needs to be managed. Is it more dangerous to travel than it used to be? Frankly, I don’t think so.
BTN: Then why is the corporate market giving so much attention to this issue?
Vaissie: We don’t accept risks as we used to. Not being able to cope with risk is not acceptable; that’s duty of care. Thirty years ago, [if] you were taking risks, bad luck for you.
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