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Interview: Roberta Iorizzo’s secrets to rolling out a global travel policy

March 30, 2020 / Europe

Roberta Iorizzo has been working at SCOR since 2005 and became the company’s Global Travel and Expense Manager in 2016. She successfully met the challenge of rolling out a global travel policy across SCOR’s international offices.

Roberta was recognized as a rising star in travel management at this year’s ITM Achievement Awards. When you read through this interview, you’ll understand why.

Let’s hear it from her:

I am a financial accountant and I have been dealing with budgets and forecasts for about 20 years, working from home when my child was young and having little contact with anything but numbers. This is why I decided to take a CIPD qualification in Human Resources and to learn about policy writing and mainly dealing with people instead of figures.

I am a very sociable person and an accountancy role wasn’t really what I wanted to do long-term. I have a genuine interest in travel and when the opportunity to lead a new project came about, I jumped at it. To build a brand new managed travel platform for a large global company was just the challenge I was hoping for.

It might sound cliché but what I most enjoy is travelling. As an Italian, living in the UK, with a half-Iranian daughter and a South African partner, I very much feel a citizen of the world. Walking around, talking to people and taking pictures while admiring the diverse beauty of our planet is definitely what I enjoy most! …And a plate of pasta with friends during a Sunday lunch, of course.

Rolling out a global travel policy

1. When it comes to managing travel, what’s your biggest priority?

My biggest priority is striking the “right balance”.

I need to deliver a travel program that meets the expectations of my travellers, keeping them comfortable, safe and happy at any stage of the process—from booking to claiming back expenses. But I also need to give good value to my company, making sure that we save where possible and develop a sustainable strategy that keeps everybody happy whilst evolving with the technology and the times.

I look at costs first. It might sound harsh but there is no point in looking at solutions that I have no budget to implement. If I strongly feel the value of something I cannot afford to buy, I will liaise with the providers and see if I can compromise somewhere or even get a free trial to show management what could be achieved with an investment, and get the buy-in on the basis of sound numbers—here the accountant in me comes out.

Building good working relationships is key to success in our (and any) jobs, and this is part of the “right balance” for me. I have a brilliant extended team made of my Local Travel Managers, my travellers and my suppliers. I even include my direct line of management in this larger team concept. The aim is offering the right service at the right price and we are all in it, working towards the same goal.

2. What do you love most about the work you do?

The diverse nature of it and the ever-changing structure. No working day is the same.

I am a naturally curious individual and I love looking out for new solutions, improvements, problem-solving and contacts with people everywhere. I love my job and I feel greatly privileged to spend so much time doing something I actually enjoy.

3. SCOR has a global presence, with nearly 40 offices around the world. How did you roll out a global travel policy? What were the main challenges?

Not without difficulties. Defining the overall principle of Travel & Expenses, overruling the local guidelines and still being compliant with legal requirements is a big challenge.

We built a project team with local expertise, and we had to go back to the drawing board many times. Eventually, interviewing frequent travellers was the best approach. We learned the hard way that travel policies should be written by the people who travel most.

We understood that the trust placed on the employees is more important than any perks, and high achievers and our best talent viewed the global travel policy like the core of their partnership with the company. The stakes are high and companies cannot afford to get it wrong.

4. There are some things to look out when rolling out a new policy on a global level. How were you able to match global requirements with specific local needs?

We have general rules covering the class of travel and maximum allowed expenditures. We have also had to allow local exceptions (i.e. flexible allowance in Germany, different exchange rate thresholds in Asia, no lodge cards in the US).

The important thing was to establish a process to request such exceptions with documentation and have one person (such as the Global Travel Manager/Group COO) in charge of all amendments so to have a clear audit trail and easy monitoring of local practices.

5. What are your secrets to communicating and making sure key decision-makers listen when you ?

The secret to communicating well is to communicate soon. I believe that nobody is interested in old news.

“If we need to get the decision-makers on board, we need to have a financial reference for everything. We need to translate the ideas into numbers and graphs so that the language appeals to them.”

Roberta Iorizzo, Global Travel & Expense Manager, SCOR

Sometimes, and especially when talking about sustainability, wellbeing, safety and similar topics, it can be hard to show ROI—but we are getting increasingly better at estimating these kinds of benefits.

6. What changes have you noticed during your time in the industry?

Definitely a shift from trying to make financial savings/getting good rates/securing rebates, to making sure people are safe, comfortable and mentally sound whilst travelling.

A greener flight can be better than a cheaper one—even management gets this now—and a virtual meeting is definitely better than a flight.

The tools are moving fast towards a user-friendly experience that allows people to make the right choices, and do everything (or nearly everything) on the phone. And for travel managers, the choice of partners is influenced by technology and ethical reasons just as much as price.

7. How has Uber for Business helped you improve your business travel management?

The SCOR Global Uber for Business account is linked to our booking tool and not only provides employees with easy, quick rides at their fingertips, but the payment is taken directly from the company credit card, the expense line is created for them and the receipt sent to their profile and linked to the expense.

It’s really easy for anyone to order a ride and claim a reimbursement in two clicks!

We have gained an insight into an area that was pretty grey for us. We now have a clear and transparent view of our ground transportation expenses, we know which cities, what time, where and why our people book rides, and of course we know in a couple of clicks how much this is costing us.

The dashboard is a brilliant tool that we got for free, which is yet another example of capitalising on the technology of our partners. We especially like to use Uber Green where available.

8. What’s one story about managing corporate travel during your career that stands out?

One of our executives asked for the people on particular routes in Asia to be allowed business class travel whatever the length of flights. He mentioned a very different service from local airlines, with chickens and all sorts being allowed on board.

We took his feedback on board, but with a bit of scepticism (this was a very VIP manager) and didn’t really believe the story… until I found myself sitting beside a group of men with live chickens in an airport lounge during an implementation trip! The chickens were noisy, feathery and rather smelly. I took some pictures for my line management, and we all remembered the advice we received at policy writing time.

9. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Ask questions and really listen to what others have to say. Only a good listener can hope that key decision-makers will listen back.

10. Many global issues affect business travel—sustainability, Gen Z, new tech, health issues. What do you think will have the biggest impact over the next 10 years?

I think we are living it right now: business travel at the time of Coronavirus.

We are all working from home, hosting virtual conferences, not travelling at all and using a different type of ground transportation to avoid public transport. This is a massive revolution and an unplanned trial run for a new way of living and travelling.

I expect changes in the type of investments made by all players in the industry and I expect less travel in better conditions for the future. It will be essential travel and quality over quantity.

Roberta Iorizzo webinar on how to roll out a global travel policy

Want more?

Roberta Iorizzo spoke about how to roll out a global travel policy in an Uber x ITM webinar. You can access the recording here.