October 22, 2021

Look Inwards to Expand Outwards: Timothy Williams

Overcoming pandemic-related obstacles mean more than hurling hurriedly developed technology solutions at them. Regional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of FCM Travel Timothy Williams shares the need for businesses to have a comprehensive long-term strategy more than anything else.

Tatiyana Emylia | 13 October 2021

Timothy Williams

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of FCM Travel

It has been almost two years since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic. By now, Zoom calls are a well-integrated routine, loungewear is on trend again, and regurgitations of the phrase “the new normal” spur jaded eye rolls rather than looks of trepidation.

Where many have been—and are still—cooped up at home, some industries have been hit harder than most: it’s not unusual to see yet another restaurant or travel agency buckling under the pressure. What may be unusual though, would be the sight of global business travel management business FCM Travel thriving instead, where the company recently announced plans for further expansion into Japan just last month. Regional CFO Timothy Williams spoke to DigitalCFO Asia on how they made it happen.

Answering the calls of their customers

FCM Travel has long positioned themselves as a business with a major focus on global data and analytics. With a number of technology platforms already in the works, COVID-19 was not a catalyst but an accelerator for their launch to meet ever-evolving client demands. They recently rolled out the FCM Traveller Hub, a web portal for managing and booking travel while accommodating traveller preferences, travel policies, and approval hierarchies. The interactive resource is a one-stop shop for clients to get real-time updates and information on corporate travel plans.

Beyond literal travel, the firm also rolled out a Travel Policy Benchmarking tool, which had been in the works long before the pandemic washed up on our shores. The tool enables clients to compare the efficiency and success of their own travel management programs against those of their peers globally to see where they stand and which elements they may want to reevaluate. FCM Travel also launched its AI reporting tool just last year. Comparable to a chatbot, the natural language processing tool can answer questions concerning travel data for answers in the form of actionable insights.

FCM Travel’s ‘Airport-like’ Office Concept – PHOTO BY: Qinthara Fasya

The secret lies in stabilisation

FCM Travel was able to stay afloat thanks to their strong foundation laid by their long-term strategy. Rather than come up with reactionary and ultimately weak measures in response to the pandemic, it was treated as just another “blip on the radar”, albeit a long-term one. The firm stuck to their strategy and worked around COVID-19 rather than let it change their goals. While the path to accomplishing them certainly got longer, sticking to their guns kept FCM Travel focused and enabled them to hone in on what they already had been pre-pandemic.

Knee-jerk measurements are asking for trouble

Digitalisation is definitely hot on everyone’s lips, but if businesses are only thinking of transforming and changing things right now as a reaction to the pandemic, such a strategy may be doomed from the start. Rather than chasing a boat they may have already missed, the key thing businesses need during this sink-or-swim period is to have a long term strategic plan for the business—and ensuring that all leadership are fully committed to it. A long term plan, Williams explained, should be everything-proof: the strategy should be able to counter pandemics, economic cycles, even government turmoil—the business should not deviate from it regardless of the obstacle.

“When it comes to COVID, we don’t sit there and whine and complain, because we can’t do anything about it. What we can do is keep on the mission we were always on,” he said.

With a roadmap set in stone, the main principle businesses should abide by is to keep optimising it. Whether this means streamlining processes or growing the capabilities of their team, there is no end beyond the horizon: good can always be better.