Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Michael Gips – Principal at Global Insights in Professional Security (US) 
Rodger Cook – Global Director, Security Services at World Travel Protection (Australia)
Sameer Saxena – General Secretary at Global Association for Corporate Services (India)

Key points

Rodger Cooke believes security started off by managing the response to the crisis well. Where travel was essential as was the case in some agriculture and mining businesses a security bubble was created and made to work. In an interesting discussion about Duty of Care Rodger notes that for some organisations business travel is essential. Sometimes giving tasks to local people is possible, but not always, travel has to happen.  One of the early limitations was the poor intelligence provided to the security sector by some commercial companies. The job of security is to enable travel when decided by the business that it needs to happen, and the sector adopted a largely pragmatic approach not giving into fear. There was early recognition that alongside the virus risks there are different travel risks generated by a worsening economic situation, itself balanced by travellers unlikely to be out and about locales in a way that would have previously been common. It has become more essential to know where employees are; and to ensure they are prepared for their journeys via proper education and training. Companies are now more focussed on being traveller centric in their approach and this is to be welcomed. That said he does not expect a quick return to normal, and there will be more requirements imposed by governments and airlines on their behalf which may seriously complicate life for those who travel to multiple destinations. There has never been a more important time to have an effective travel risk management policy.

Sameer Saxena notes that a shift in India to taking the security and safety concerns of employees more seriously has been given impetus by the pandemic; companies have become more responsive to staff welfare generally and this includes when travelling. In India, the advice of the World Health Organisation has been valuable in providing guidance, but there have been two other influences in practice, government regulations (which to complicate matters vary markedly by State), and organisational mandates. In India businesses have kept going and security departments have been asked to think outside the box to enable operations with the governing principle being to communicate and over communicate. This has often been about more local travel, to and from work. Sameer sees restrictions until vaccines are in place, but does not envisage a ‘yellow fever’ type approach. A major challenge international will be the ‘new normal’ adopted by different countries, these are still work in progress and we will need to watch carefully.

Michael Gips points out that one of the learning points from the pandemic is that travel is often unnecessary, Zoom can often work very effectively, this saves money. His own research suggests many companies are still finding their way in determining what policies they will adopt in response to, for example, requirements for vaccine documentation; how to manage staff reluctance to travel because of say concerns about safety and/or underlying health issues, or living with a vulnerable person; and about what will constitute ‘essential’ travel. Similarly, you will hear Michael discuss the relevance of Duty of Care requirements. He also places an emphasis on the need for travel awareness going forward being a much higher priority. As for how soon we will return to ‘normal’, well that is dependent on the roll out of vaccines, how effective they are, but also the approach taken by governments including any view they have about the efficacy of different vaccines.

Rodger emphasises the need to ‘Educate, Locate, Communicate’ which appealed on ‘Chat’ as a good synopsis. The challenge here is that we are entering unknown territory but one where the role of security, as enablers, will be crucial. The panellists raised many points that both spark food for thought but also underline the need that this is a field of activity where the ‘new normal’ has yet to be defined. Watch this space!

Martin Gill
11th February 2021