Gordon Kerr moderated a panel of industry leaders, made up of Tad Zurlinden along with Peggy Smith of Worlwide ERC, Terry Head of IAM, Jesse van Sass of FIDI and Steve Cryne of CERC. In addition, we had active participation from the audience, in the form of “instant polling” using the conference app.
The first issue explored was whether global relocation activity is growing (and is our industry growing) in an age of online “self-service” options, Airbnb etc. We started with 3 audience questions:
Compared with 2 years ago, is your relocation business: a) larger, b) smaller or c) about the same size? The clear answer was “larger”.
Compared with 2 years ago, are you being requested to deliver relocation packages which are: a) larger than before, b) meaner than before or c) no change? The answer was “meaner”.
Is your impression that relocation in to your country is: a) increasing, b) shrinking or c) static? The answer was “increasing”.
These answers resonated with the panel, i.e. relocation activity is seen to be growing, but relocation support packages are often less generous than before.
We then moved on to consider whether our industry is becoming more professional? Our audience was asked:
Would you encourage a young person to take up a career in the relocation industry? The answer was 2 to 1 in favour of “yes”.
The view of the panel was that, despite cost pressures, there is a continuing investment in skills and an encouraging take-up of the various accreditations offered by the industry associations represented on the panel. The clear perception is that professional standards continue to rise across the relocation industry.
The next topic of discussion was the rising number of challenging global trends (e.g. new immigration restrictions and trade barriers, personal security concerns, Brexit and Twitter-based foreign policy announcements). While several of these issues have a direct (and often negative) impact on international mobility, the general view of the panel was that, ultimately, global business finds a way through such problems and relocation activity continues.
Finally, we discussed how our industry is coping with compliance issues. In addition to immigration and taxation, we now have a huge focus on protecting the privacy rights of relocating individuals and families. We posed 2 further questions to our audience:
The answer was an overwhelming “harder”.
The answer was that the GDPR was “a price worth paying for privacy”.
The overall view of the panel was that while these compliance issues can hamper global mobility and, indeed, reduce profit margins in our industry, they also create opportunities for relocation businesses which develop robust compliance solutions.