Putting business travel on the right track at our London Chapter Meeting
The global spend on business travel hit $1.2trillion USD in 2015, growing 5% over 2014, and is forecast to reach 1.3 trillion in 2016 ¬but how can global mobility professionals efficiently manage their programmes?
This was the main focus of a very engaging London Chapter Meeting on the morning of 26 October at KPMG’s offices in Canary Wharf, where we asked: Are business travellers the future of global mobility?
Around 60 attendees joined the breakfast meeting where we heard about business travel from two rather different perspectives: Jessica Smart from FIS shared her experience of running and reviewing an in-house programme and Stephen Curtis and Ed Hobern of KPMG discussed how they design and implement programmes for multinational companies.
Implementing an in-house programme
Jessica Smart, who is currently the Global Mobility Senior Consultant at FIS took the audience through her experience of creating an in-house programme with particular focus on mitigating immigration and tax risks. Jessica worked at SunGuard before its purchase by FIS in 2015, and so her role has developed from implementing the programme to 12,000 employees, to continual assessment of cases and programme enhancement. Jessica was able to explain from first-hand experience the crucial importance of a trial period and the timing of the go-live date.
Jessica also spoke about the necessity of understanding the individual nature and needs of your business, and how that should then shape the development of your business travel programme. With the acquisition of SunGuard by FIS, Jessica now has the opportunity (working with full Global Mobility Team) to consider the redevelopment and implementation of the Global Business Traveller Programme across all areas of the FIS business.
Asking the right questions
In their speaking session, Stephen Curtis, KPMG’s Director of Global Mobility Services and his colleague, Ed Hobern Senior Manager, Global Mobility Services asked the audience a number of questions and with the aid of voting pads, participants were able to see the results relayed live on the screen.
When asked, “Is business traveller compliance a focus for your organisation?” 68% of the audience answered perhaps predictably answered in the affirmative, but then Stephen and Ed drilled down to identify the specific risks and identified the following:
- Safety and security of employees
- Freedom of Movement
- Business registration/licensing
- Corporate tax
- Individual income tax
- Employment and social tax
- Ownership of the process
- Data accuracy and completeness
- Sustainability/flexibility of process
- Internal and external support
- Timely compliance
- Undisclosed tax liability
- Interest, penalties and fines
- Lost corporate tax deductions
- Incorrect financial statements
Identifying the single biggest concern
When asked which single risk is the biggest single concern of your organisation? The top answer was Financial at 45% with Safety the next concern at 25%.
Increased scrutiny by tax authorities and data sharing was cited as one of the main reasons for taking action now and one attendee mentioned the strict tax laws in California, where a business visitor could be liable to pay taxes for a one-day visit, due that day.
Stephen and Ed then looked at the practicalities, and asked what they called the 5 Big Questions: the Who, Where, What, How and When of the matter.
When they asked “Who in your organisation is responsible for business travellers?” it provoked a revealing response about the often ambiguous position of global mobility within organisations. Although the top answer: HR at 29% was unsurprising (with global mobility just behind at 26%), another 26% accounted for “Other” – which seemed to indicate that either responsibility was shared across departments (such as HR, Payroll, Tax or Reward) ̶ or that where that responsibility lay was unclear.
This lack of clear ‘ownership’ was the also reflected in the results of the next question that showed that the biggest barrier to implementing a business traveller programme was that it had “No owner within organisation” (44%). Anecdotally, Ed Hobern added that in the experience of the KPMG team, they had found that the programmes that were most successful were those where a key senior member of staff recognised the need for a robust and detailed programme and pushed it through.
Further issues to explore
Attendees asked a good number of wide-ranging questions and the subject is obviously one that is a pressing issue for global mobility and HR professionals. Surveys show that the probability of converting sales is significantly higher with an in-person meeting than without (World Travel and Tourism Council) so the case for business travel already seems proven, but the best means of managing it are an on-going topic for debate. The use of technology for tracking business travellers and keeping them safe in such an uncertain world was also touched upon and given the fast-evolving nature of technology and the greater adoption of it, we may revisit the topic and widen the discussions at another Chapter meeting in the new year.
FEM would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting and those who contributed questions or shared their own experiences. Special thanks also go to KPMG for so generously hosting the event (and providing such a splendid breakfast).
We are grateful too of course to our excellent speakers for their keen insight and very useful practical points.
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We will be holding another Chapter meeting in December and will announce details soon, but in the meantime, we do hope to see you at our EMEA Summit and EMMAs Awards night on the 10th and 11th November, which this year will be held at the InterContinental, at the O2.
So many ways to engage
We encourage all those with an interest in global mobility to engage, not just at our Events and Chapter meetings but also on our website where we’re adding lots of new features and content, including two new channels: Travel, Health & Security Risk and Real Estate & Corporate Housing. We will be adding more in the coming weeks, so stay in touch.
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