ISSUE #60 – Interview with Arnaud Vaissié, Chairman, CEO, International SOS
International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company, pioneering a range of preventive programmes and delivering unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest. It has more than 30 years of experience advising multinational corporate clients, governments and NGO clients on occupational health, safety, and travel health, including more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies.
Every year, International SOS publishes a Travel Risk Map to help organisations better understand the risks in the markets where they operate and travel. Traveller education is an integral part of an organisation’s overall risk mitigation efforts and the duty of care they provide their employees.
More than 11,000 employees who work night and day to protect our clients.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AT INTERNATIONAL SOS?
The International SOS adventure started when I was 30 years old. My childhood friend, Pascal Rey-Herme, a doctor who had recently completed a stint as a medical attaché to the French embassy in Jakarta, came up with the idea to provide multinationals in South East Asia with top-notch medical services for their employees travelling or based overseas. We realised that while these expatriates had insurance coverage, they were not getting the local medical advice and assistance they needed from a preventive perspective.
International SOS is very much the child of internationalisation of business, which started in the 1980s. Since day one, we have had a clear business objective: to deliver medical and other assistance services to the increasing number of expats and business travellers working for companies in the region who wanted international standards of healthcare. It is incredibly rewarding to provide assistance when people need it most and to help protect people from medical and travel security risks.
COULD YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE INTERNATIONAL SOS’ STRATEGY IN ASIA, SPECIFICALLY IN SINGAPORE?
International SOS started small with 15 people, in Singapore and Indonesia. It was in these markets that we pioneered a new industry, set new standards for duty of care and developed innovative integrated solutions with prevention and response capabilities. As our clients went global, we expanded beyond Asia to provide them with global support. Singapore, however, remains a critical and strategic location for thousands of our clients and is one of the leading operational centres within International SOS’ network of 27 Assistance Centres around the world.
Today, we have dual headquarters in London and Singapore, operations in more than 90 countries worldwide and more than 11,000 employees who work night and day to protect our clients. Our global reach and resources are imperative to our ability to react quickly when an international emergency occurs. Our experts are located around the world – they are the eyes and ears of the organisation. Our physical presence in different countries is critical to our ability to quickly react and provide support during emergencies.
Today, we have the means to locate more than 2.5 million travellers thanks to TravelTracker application.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL SOS IN ASIA?
According to a report released by the United Nations, four of the world’s most disaster-prone nations are in Asia. Typhoon Pam and the recent earthquakes in Nepal and Sabah remind us why it is so important that businesses do not wait until the next crisis and have a support plan and network in place, especially in this part of the world. Over the years, a number of major social and natural events in Asia have shaped the services we offer. This has led to the addition of travel security services to our portfolio. International SOS is constantly evolving to meet the needs of clients and support their risk mitigation efforts, developing products and capabilities such as TravelTracker.
Today, organisations rely on TravelTracker to locate and communicate with more than 2.5 million travellers during and in the aftermath of crises. The International SOS Assistance App and platform also received an Honourable Mention at the 2015 Forum for Expatriate Management for “Most Innovative Use of Technology in Global Mobility” in the Asia Pacific region.
WHAT INNOVATIONS HAVE THERE BEEN IN TRAVEL RISK MANAGEMENT OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
International SOS has expanded our services to support travellers and organisations, from improvements to itinerary-based pre-travel advice to alerting travellers on events that could affect their safety or well-being when abroad. We continue to innovate in the field of medical and travel security services to help organisations achieve their goals and operate globally. At the same time, we need to be agile and respond immediately to the risks of today. Technology-based services have become a major part of our offering to clients. We need to be at the forefront of the digitalisation process, as it is fundamental to our ability to provide a truly global service. We are creating new ways for our customers to communicate with us, so they can access our assistance and support quickly, in a manner convenient for them. Just this month, International SOS was named a 2016 CIO Asia Award Honouree organisation for its technology excellence, specifically for the MedTrack mobile application, which provides employees access to personal health records even in remote locations.
AS THIS ISSUE FOCUSES ON SUSTAINABILITY, COULD YOU SHARE WITH US THE LATEST INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN BY INTERNATIONAL SOS IN SINGAPORE AND IN ASIA?
Our approach to sustainability is to enable organisations to understand their duty of care responsibility, implement appropriate policies and educate travellers about the resources available to support them. This year, International SOS commissioned BSI (British Standards Institution) to develop PAS 3001:2016, a code of practice to provide global organisations with a formal standard that describes best practices to mitigate risks and provide duty of care to their international assignees and travellers. The PAS (Publicly Available Specification) will provide best practices on assessing risks to employees abroad and developing policies to prevent those risks.
It is also for this reason that International SOS Foundation was started in 2011. An independent, not-for-profit organisation, it aims to improve the health, safety, security and well-being of people working away from home, internationally and on assignment. A recent “Return on Prevention” study commissioned by the Foundation revealed that organisations that implement pre-travel health checks for business travellers and international assignees are not only meeting their moral and legal responsibilities, they are also making a wise commercial investment. This research received an EMMA Award (Expatriate Management and Mobility Awards) for “Best Thought Leadership – Research or Survey” in the Asia Pacific region.
HOW DOES INTERNATIONAL SOS WORK IN PARTNERSHIP WITH HEALTHCARE, INSURANCE AND LEGAL INDUSTRY PLAYERS TO FURTHER ITS CAUSE?
While insurance is necessary for a business, it is insufficient to fulfil an employer’s duty of care responsibilities when sending their people abroad. Beyond purchasing travel or international private health insurance, there are significant cost savings when organisations invest in additional medical and travel security assistance services. This coordinated and integrated case-management approach creates a win-win-win solution for organisations, assistance providers and insurance companies. Direct membership with International SOS also helps organisations understand potential risks at destination, thereby mitigating their exposure to health and safety-related risks and the costs that could be incurred.
In addition, we partner leading law firms, occupational health agencies and national employers’ federations around the world to develop whitepapers on legal considerations and requirements by country – invaluable tools for helping global organisations understand risk mitigation requirements as they expand their operations. In Asia, we have whitepapers already published in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, India and Myanmar, and more under development in Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
AS A STRONG SUPPORTER OF THE FRENCH CHAMBER, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ITS ROLE TODAY FOR FRENCH COMPANIES IN SINGAPORE?
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, a 50% growth is estimated in mobile workers by 2020. Representing a dynamic business platform of more than 650 companies and individual members, the French Chamber is perfectly positioned to do its part to encourage this growing mobile workforce to build a travel risk management programme to deal with the risks of today and tomorrow.
International SOS’ broad experience in the provision of travel security training, preventive travel assessment and the development of travel security risk policies and evacuation plans can support organisations under the French Chamber’s extensive partner network in understanding their duty of care responsibilities towards their employees.
Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “Green Power” – Issue #2 2016