CFO Perspective: Re-imagining the Future of Corporate Travel

by Vanessa Quake, Digital CFO Asia | 26 Feb 2021

92% of business travellers expect negative business consequences as a result of not being able to travel.

While it might not seem like it, CFOs will play a crucial role in the future of corporate travel. In our latest Finance Transformation Webinar, we spoke to CFOs who believed that as a business partner, finance should not only be actively involved in corporate travel policy, but in this “new normal”, they should be leading the initiative.

Firstly, when can we expect travel to go back to normal? No one can know for certain but pundits are estimating that we will be some semblance of new corporate travel “norms” within 6 – 12 months. This is partly because, based on the 2020 Global Business Traveler Report conducted by Wakefield Research, over half of business travelers (51%) anticipate fewer contracts or deals due to a lack of in-person meetings, while more than 2 in 5 (43%) expect declines in new business due to lack of in-person meetings.

But while many business travelers might be ready to return to travel, 97% of them expect a “new normal” with changing norms and practices.

Health and safety is obviously the big issue, with 65% of respondents indicating it as the most important consideration for business travel. They also cited their top concerns as getting themselves sick and infecting their families (53% and 55% respectively).

While business travelers have indicated that they do have some responsibility for their own welfare, they are not letting organisations off the hook, with 18% of respondents indicating that their employers are most responsible. This is a clear indication of the need for updated travel policies, but where does the CFO fit in?

While most pre-pandemic travel policies were largely focused on cost containment, new travel policies will have to face the added complexity of compliance, risk mitigation, and duty of care. CFOs are in a unique position that provides them with visibility of the business strategy, and allows them to work closely with senior management and human resources to revamp these policies while also managing the risk around them.

Travel insurance, for example, was a once seemingly uncomplicated part of travel policy, but it has become increasingly complex. Travel insurance can no longer consider only delayed flights and lost baggage, but it needs to take into account pre- and post- travel activities, while CFOs need to decide on allocating budgets based cost vs coverage from the underwriter. Repatriation, particularly from countries where current healthcare systems may either be not up to scratch or overrun from outbreaks, will also play a considerable part in planning new travel policies. And once in place, travel policies need to be revisited regularly, but those responsible also need to be agile in revisiting and revamping them as the conditions change locally and globally.

Find out more about what CFO need to look out for when planning for the future of corporate travel, and why finance is fundamental in the development of new travel policies in our latest Finance Transformation Webinar series here, where we speak to Mark Wilfred from SAP Concur, Musdalifa Abdullah from dnata, and Zulaifah Abdul Ghani from ISS Global Forwarding.

Click here to watch the webinar on-demand.