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Ghislain de Kerviler: “Companies underestimate the challenges in mature markets”

Mature markets such as Germany, France, Great Britain or the USA seem culturally very similar to Switzerland. However, this proximity should not cause companies to neglect the duty of care for their employees when traveling to these countries – on the contrary. Ghislain de Kerviler, Managing Director of International SOS Switzerland, explains why good preparation is particularly necessary for these countries.

Ghislain de Kerviler, Managing Director of International SOS Switzerland
Ghislain de Kerviler, Managing Director of International SOS Switzerland

The world is globalizing; companies are always looking for new sales opportunities in new markets and traveling abroad is the order of the day. Employers who send employees on business trips must also take care of their safety – no matter where and for how long the employee is abroad. “Security used not to be an issue, especially for travel within Europe,” explains Ghislain de Kerviler, Managing Director of International SOS Switzerland. His company provides assistance to business travelers in the event of illness, accidents, civil unrest or other incidents abroad. But he says that this awareness has changed: “Attacks in Paris, Brussels and Berlin have opened companies’ eyes. They have also started getting to grips with risk management in mature markets and supposedly safe countries.”   

For companies, it's important to know where employees are and how they can communicate with them if something happens.

But he says that not all employers are paying sufficient attention when it comes to safety in highly developed markets. “Companies underestimate the challenges in mature markets,” says Ghislain de Kerviler. In reality, mature markets are often just as complicated as developing countries; it is just that the risks and challenges are different. “I'll give you an example: When an employee has to go to hospital in the USA, it is often much more complicated than in developing countries. For example, an advance payment must be ensured and credit cards can be charged with large sums.” The challenges can be very complex, stresses Ghislain der Kerviler. “Many companies feel that they have the situation under control. However, the complexity of the different systems must not be underestimated.”

Security in mature markets – four steps for companies

To support business travelers and expats abroad, International SOS recommends that companies clarify the following things to help assess risks in the destination country:

  1. Check the location: In which country, in which city and in which districts will the employee be staying?
  2. Define the risk profile: Who is traveling abroad: age, gender, professional mission?
  3. Time of the journey: On which days is the trip taking place? Do local holidays have to be considered?
  4. Background of the journey: In what context is the journey taking place? What time pressure does the traveler face?

Legal obligation

“Our task is to make companies aware of the various risks and challenges in certain countries and to support them,” says Ghislain de Kerviler of International SOS. “Duty of care is an important issue that is also regulated by law – especially in industrialized countries.” In Switzerland, for example, the duty of care is governed by the Swiss Code of Obligations. “It is important for a company to know where employees are and how they can communicate with them if something happens. Employees also expect this protection – and rightly so!”

About International SOS

Its global network of over 1,000 offices in 92 countries, 26 Assistance Centers and 67 outpatient clinics aid business travelers and expatriates in the event of illness, accidents, civil unrest or other incidents abroad. More than 11,000 employees, including 1,400 physicians, 200 security experts and numerous local experts, work day and night to safeguard International SOS’ customers. The prevention and emergency programs developed by the company ensure the highest international standard of medical care for corporate clients, governments, non-governmental organizations and associations.  

Meet International SOS at the Aussenwirtschaftsforum

Would you like to get some tips on risk management for your employees? Then come to the Aussenwirtschaftsforum in Zurich on 26 March 2019 and exchange ideas with country specialists. At the breakout session given by International SOS, you will also learn more about “Cyber Security, Terrorism, Theft and Natural Disasters: Safety Assistance when Traveling Abroad”. Experts will show what security risks and challenges exist during business trips and how SMEs can prepare for such situations. 

Register now!

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