Today's CFO uses vigorous and proactive risk management to manage the potential economic impact of risk on their business and to implement policies that minimise these risks.
Global connections are a core part of business in many sectors today – and business travel can pose a potential risk to the most robust firm, as each business has a duty of care to ensure the safety of employees travelling for business purposes.
As the recent mistaken missile alert in Hawaii demonstrated, business travel risks can eventuate quickly and in unexpected locations.
Had the threat been real, any firm with staff on the island would have urgently needed accurate contact information to be able to locate them and be assured of their safety.
Any business without this information may be in a difficult situation in the event staff are involved in any sort of security incidence.
This is a pressing matter given current geopolitical risks. According to risk technology company Strafor's Geopolitical Risks for 2018, “deepening collaboration between China and Russia, increasing US unilateralism in trade and Eurozone reform are three of the major trends for this year."
While the risks business travellers face shift all the time, the processes and procedures in place to ensure staff are properly protected need to remain consistent and well understood across the business.
CFOs with their finger on the pulse may find it worthwhile to institute a regular review of business travel risk policies and strategies.
According to the latest Ipsos MORI Global Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018 survey, 72 per cent of Australian business decision makers think travel risks have increased in the past year.
Sally Napper, International SOS and Control Risks' Australasian Security Director explains some of the common risks business travellers face include road safety, crime, terrorism and natural hazards.
“In 2017, 58 per cent of business travellers modified itineraries due to security concerns and 43 per cent adjusted plans due to natural disasters," she says.
But while terrorism and natural disasters capture headlines, and their unpredictable nature is rightly concerning, business travellers face much more preventable and routine threats from medical illnesses, petty criminals and occasionally violent crime.
“Even with terrorism reaching into previously considered low-risk countries and regions, crime continues to be a bigger risk for travellers. The nature of this threat fluctuates depending on travel location and traveller profile," says Napper.
Understanding the environment and how it impacts travellers is the key to proper risk management, Napper says.
She says that building awareness of the environment means travellers can take practical steps to mitigate risks.
“Reviewing risks at the destination and consulting with on-the-ground experts are ways to mitigate risk," says Napper.
“From my experience travelling to higher risk destinations around the world, practical steps include engaging a local guide, using secure transport, installing phone tracking software and having a pre-agreed 'check-in' time so our team can account for each other 24/7," she adds.
When it comes to travel risk management, information is powerful. Access to accurate data about the security environment in the countries business travellers visit will enable companies to make smart decisions about where and when they send travellers, as well as the types of steps they must take to deal with risks.
Having prompt access to this information is critical for rapidly evolving situations – such as during terrorist attacks or natural disasters. These tend to change quickly and can happen at any time, in or out of business hours, which adds additional complexity.
Says Napper: “Along with having access to timely, accurate information, communication is key. This is one of the biggest challenges we see for businesses managing overseas operations or even simply sending individual travellers to uncover new markets or opportunities."
Businesses must be able to communicate with travellers to ensure employee well-being and guide them to the best possible assistance or advice when things go wrong.
Napper's research also found 47 per cent of travel risk professionals said communicating with employees during a crisis is a leading challenge to protecting their mobile workforce.
A recent change is heightened risk for domestic business travellers given incidents on home soil, for instance Sydney's Lindt Café and Melbourne's Federation Square incidents.
Brett Evans, Managing Director of Atlas Wealth Management, is one business owner who has taken this into account and has implemented strategies to help ensure his staff are safe.
Evans says with the advent of social media, it's easier to get information when incidents happen. But his first port of call is the federal government's Smartraveller Twitter feed.
“The alerts are sent to a special folder in my email inbox and when I have a few minutes free I scan them and determine whether they affect me or my staff. If they do, then I read them to find out more."
He points out it's important for managers to be aware not just about terrorism threats, but also about social uprisings, which are becoming more common.
“I've been in situations where you get a sense something's building and the best thing to do is remove yourself from that situation. Use common sense," he explains.
With clients in more than 18 countries, Evans' team travels regularly and he says modern mobile phone plans make it much easier to communicate when abroad.
“Only a few years ago massive data charges meant people would turn off their phones while they were overseas. But it's now much cheaper to keep them switched on when you're travelling and that means you remain informed. That's a big part of being aware of any unfolding situation," he adds.
If staff are in an incident, Evans' team knows to head to the local Australian embassy or consulate.
“These days staff and management can get real-time information and disseminate it quickly. So there's no excuse for not being aware of an incident, especially in more volatile places."
The message to managers is to stay alert of unfolding incidents, ensure staff contact details are up-to-date and have a pre-agreed process staff know to follow if they are caught in an incident.
- Risk management strategies in place could include following the Australian federal government's Smartraveller Twitter handle to remain informed.
- Ensure the business has up-to-date contact details for all staff so you can communicate with them no matter where they are.
- Global mobile phone roaming plans can encourage staff to leave their phones on so they can be contacted in case of emergency.
Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018 https://www.internationalsos.com/-/media/corporate/files/business-resilience-trends-watch-2018---international-sos-ipsos-mori.pdf accessed 19/02/18
 Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018 https://www.internationalsos.com/-/media/corporate/files/business-resilience-trends-watch-2018---international-sos-ipsos-mori.pdf accessed 19/02/18