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Rodd Zolkos

Train employees and plan for emergencies to reduce overseas travel risks

May 25, 2014 - 6:00am


CHICAGO — Training employees who travel internationally on business, tracking them when they do so, and having plans in place for responding to emergencies that might occur are essential to reducing international travel risks, but many companies sending employees abroad remain challenged by the some of the risks those travels present, according to some experts.

Gail Meyer, corporate risk manager for Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria, Illinois, said her company has been an international business since the 1950s. “One of the most important things is making sure our employees are educated on employee travel,” Ms. Meyer said.

“We're also very big on employee tracking,” she said, adding that credit cards, flight bookings and itineraries are among the ways Caterpillar tracks employees' international travels.

The company's website includes information about various locations, and if employees are traveling to a destination that's considered risky, they must have a company sponsor in that locale to advise them and meet them at the airport.

Caterpillar employees take annual surveys to determine the appropriate training for them about international travel, Ms. Meyer said. And the company's travel booking site blocks employees from booking travel into prohibited countries, she said while speaking last week on a panel examining international travel risks at the 2014 Harold H. Hines Jr. Memorial Symposium in Chicago.

Another panelist, Jonny Gray, senior vice president and managing director at Control Risks Group Holdings Ltd. in Los Angeles, said he thinks the new challenge in international travel is “a slightly broader interpretation of travel security issues.”

Compliance with such legislative and regulatory requirements as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is one of the new challenges, he said. “Broadly speaking what we're seeing is companies running afoul of these things,” he said. “They're doing things in these emerging markets in a way they never would here.”

Managing that risk requires training employees who will be involved with overseas counterparties and auditing their activities, Mr. Gray said.

The other emerging international travel issue is cyber security, according to Mr. Gray. “Going into China with your laptop with all your company's information on it — that is not advisable,” he said.

Discussing companies' duty of care for traveling employees, panelist Michal Gnatek, leader of Lockton Cos. L.L.C.'s technology and government contractor practice in Washington, said there are generally three areas of potential corporate liability.

One involves local laws and regulations that might specify a higher duty of care than in the U.S., while another would be potential tort liability if the company hadn't done all it could to protect the well-being of a traveling employee.

The third area is the potential for reputational risk, Mr. Gnatek said. “If something goes very poorly with employees in a particular region, how does that get translated into damage to brand?” he said.

Mr. Gnatek said “something as simple as just putting a matrix together on a spreadsheet” of possible events vs. how the company is prepared to respond can be “an eye-opening exercise” in getting a better understanding of a company's international travel exposures.

Presented by the Chicago Chapter of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. and Business Insurance, the annual symposium honors Harold H. Hines Jr., who worked in the insurance and risk management community for over 30 years and, at the time of his death in 1984, was president and CEO of Rollins Burdick Hunter Co., now part of Aon P.L.C.

Gavin Souter, editor of Business Insurance, moderated the event.

 



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