Peter Sewell, recipient of the 2017 FEM EMEA EMMA for his Outstanding Contribution to Global Mobility

At the 2017 EMEA EMMAs, FEM’s Event & Membership Director, Iyla MacIntyre was delighted to announce Peter Sewell of Crown World Mobility as this year’s recipient of the EMMA for an Outstanding Contribution to Global Mobility.

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Having worked on both the corporate and supplier side of global mobility, Peter Sewell was asked about his career to date by FEM’s Head of Content, Claire Tennant-Scull:

CTS: How did you begin your career in global mobility and did you know that such a thing existed when you started out on your career?

PS: I started my career at Marks and Spencer and was the HR Manager for the Menswear Group when the business was re-structured and I was moved to become the International HR Manager – only because I had previously helped out with some overseas moves. There was one part time administrator left in the department and I was quickly contacted by our tax provider who offered to meet me. Following the meeting, I was rather surprised to receive an invoice for their time, and so my journey into Mobility began! At the time, M&S had 120 expats, a franchise business, Brooks Brothers and Kings supermarkets in the US and a number of overseas subsidiaries and buying/sourcing functions. I really enjoyed learning the role and the variety that came with it. From this experience, I felt that there was a role for someone to sit in-between the various Service Providers and HR to co-ordinate the various activities and ease the burden. After just over a year I was lucky enough to be offered a position doing this at Andersen and my career in mobility had begun.

CTS:  You’ve been involved in efforts to promote talent development and greater diversity. Can you tell us why this important and what more you think business needs to do in this area?

PS: There has been a lot of talk in the industry around moving Mobility under the talent function and the opportunity came at Tesco to move into a newly formed Head of Talent role. This also encompassed the Diversity Agenda and by linking both it gave me a very strategic view of how businesses should plan for the future. Organisations need to invest in their talent over the long term and this can include international assignments. By building in an assignment to a long term career plan, the expectation moves to the experience and development as opposed to the cash benefit that an assignee might have previously expected. My experience in the Diversity role really opened my mind up to everyone’s contribution and to just treat others how you would expect to be treated yourself. Whilst I may not have been the stereotypical vision of someone championing equal opportunities, I had no agenda and was able to speak freely on the topic. The aim must be to have a world where we don’t feel the need to champion causes and just experience equality as a given. I see this coming up through the younger generations, so I’m sure it will happen.

CTS:  Can you tell us about your experience of working with Tesco in Thailand?

PS: I positioned the possibility of setting a Global Employment Company in Thailand for the senior hires from Countries where Tesco didn’t have a presence. Prior to this, they were employed through the UK, which made no sense when they were never going to work there. The time in Thailand ended up being like a commuter assignment and it was a fantastic opportunity to travel across the region. I learnt a lot about working in a different culture and appreciating different values. It taught me patience (some may be surprised to hear this!) and to look at service delivery from a different perspective.

CTS:  How have the expats and assignees changed over the course of your career so far?

PS: We’ve seen the decline of the traditional expat and the list of challenging locations has shrunk considerably. Relocating to another Country has become more normal and something that more people want to do rather than have to be persuaded to do. Technology is having a major impact and although the mobility sector was arguably a late adopter, the disrupters have arrived and the industry is now changing faster than it has ever done. As a result, we’re seeing more assignments but at a lower cost. We’re also seeing more people relocate from Countries where previously they would have been a net importer of resource. The world is shrinking every day.

CTS:  You have worked on both the corporate and supplier side of global mobility – how can we bridge the gap between the two?

PS: It’s important when choosing a supplier that the client is absolutely clear on what they want and are looking to achieve. It’s also important that corporates don’t look to outsource a problem and expect it to go away – it will just get worse. Equally suppliers shouldn’t oversell their capabilities – be honest and don’t pitch for everything, just what will work for your organisation. It’s then important that both sides continue to invest in the relationship – a new car still needs to be serviced at regular intervals. Both sides need to go on the journey together and should ultimately have the same aim.

CTS:  What would you say have been your greatest challenges and your key achievements in your career so far?

PS: The greatest challenge was getting the buy in and setting up Tesco Global Employment Company in Thailand. Getting Board Approval to do something different in such a large organisation and then bringing it to reality was an incredible journey. The constant challenge for Mobility though is about demonstrating the function’s value add and making sure that you have a voice at the table.

CTS:  What do you enjoy most about your job?

PS: It’s about providing a great service and adding value to the business. I also love to see people grow and that’s one of the great things about the Mobility industry as you regularly meet up with people as they progress their careers. On the vendor side, it obviously also about winning.

CTS:  How do you think the discipline has changed and how do you think it can gain more recognition as distinct ‘profession’?

PS: I think that Mobility has been slow to change and as such there are now a number of disrupters in the market place that are forcing the change to happen. The key for the Mobility profession as a whole is to look forward and to drive the change agenda. The profession needs to move on from delivering a service to defining a service and demonstrating its value beyond the tactical to being part of the strategy.

CTS:  What does being awarded the 2017 FEM EMEA EMMA for the Outstanding Contribution to Global Mobility mean to you?

PS: It shows that my passion for the function has shone through. I moved out of Mobility for a couple of years to try something new in the talent arena, but came back, so clearly I made the right decision. By being the first vendor to receive the award, it also shows that you don’t have to be on the client side to receive this award and I hope that it opens the way for more people to work on both sides of the industry.

(left to right) EMMAs host, comedian Danny Wallace, Gareth Davies, Head of Global Mobility, Rolls-Royce and recipient of the award in 2016, Peter Sewell, Regional Director, Northern Europe, Crown World Mobility, Iyla MacIntyre, Event & Membership Director, FEM 

See all the winners of FEM's EMEA EMMAs

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