In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Michael Nole, Executive Vice President Sales And Marketing At World Travel Protection. They discussed in detail the range of travel risk management services on offer from World Travel Protection, and how they provide vital support for business travellers and expats.
Please introduce yourself and background in the international private medical insurance market:
I am Mike Nole, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, at World Travel Protection. I am based in North America. I joined WTP in March 2022 from Cigna Global, where I spent 12 years, most recently as the Head of Business Development for the Americas. I was responsible for growing the global IPMI business through broker distribution and strategic partnerships. During my time at Cigna, I worked as a Business Development Manager for the Western US and Canada with Global IPMI and as a New Business Manager for the Individual and Family Plan Segment from 2009 to 2013. Before my time at Cigna, I worked as an insurance broker at Health Benefits Direct and was a school teacher prior to that.
In March 2022, you were appointed as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at World Travel Protection. Congratulations! What does the role involve?
I lead a rapidly expanding marketing and sales team across Australia, North America and EMEA, providing the best in-class class travel risk management solutions to businesses, governments, scholastic travellers and NGOs.
As travel returns in 2022, it is our job to prepare and support organisations in the changed travelling landscape since the pandemic. Travellers face increased risk globally, from personal health and wellbeing concerns to a rise in criminal activity and terrorism as well as growing incidences of climatic and natural disasters.
World Travel Protection’s expertise and world-class technological solutions allows us to protect and keep travelling teams safe. Our over-arching vision is to provide the best possible service to our customers and this is what gets me out of bed every day.
Who is World Travel Protection?
World Travel Protection is a leading global travel risk management company - part of the Zurich Insurance Group. We deliver world class technological solutions to organisations, supported by our 24/7 emergency assistances, which help and support over 20 million travellers a year via our Command Centres in London, Brisbane, Toronto, and Buenos Aires (via our sister company Universal Assistance),
We provide travel assistance to both leisure and business travellers, giving them access to 24/7 emergency medical, security and travel assistance services. Emergency assistance encompasses medical case management, evacuation and repatriation together with providing access to virtual care services (telehealth) and security intelligence. Our Global Care Network gives our customers access to over 20,000 providers worldwide.
In addition to support services for medical, travel, and security emergencies, World Travel Protection educates and trains businesses before travel to limit the risks associated with travelling abroad.
Can you walk us through the core service offerings World Travel Protection provides to international private medical and travel insurance markets?
Travel risk management companies go above and beyond traditional travel insurance providers to provide vital support for their business travellers and expatriates.
Our global medical, travel and security assistance services can be split into eight core offerings as detailed below:
Medical and Travel Assistance: Our global services provide travellers with access to 24/7 medical and travel support using the best-in-class medical personnel, resources and procedures.
Security Assistance: Our security experts continually monitor global threats to help prevent or mitigate risks and keep our travellers safe. In the event of a security incident, we will evacuate travellers.
Travel Risk Management Tools: Our Travel Assist App and Travel Assist Portal help to keep travellers – and those responsible for them – safe and informed using real-time global updates and alerts on their destination.
24/7 Emergency Assistance: Our Command Centres help travellers in need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When an emergency arises, our team of practising medical professionals and security experts are immediately on hand.
Trauma Counselling: In the event that a traveller is exposed to a traumatic incident while travelling, we are here to provide counselling and care through our sister company Benestar who offer telephone trauma counselling and access to experienced clinicians.
Telemedicine: Our telemedicine service helps travellers resolve non-urgent medical issues from the privacy of their hotel bedrooms, if they choose. We connect travellers with doctors who can provide medical support via phone or video call or help locate a suitable nearby medical facility if required.
Medical Cost Containment: Thanks to our pre-negotiated discounts and global buying power, we can provide quality medical care and pass on savings.
Inbound Assistance Services: Other medical and security assistance providers often use us to deliver their assistance services because of our established capabilities, global footprint and over three decades’ experience.
World Travel Protection is seen as a leader in Travel Risk Management. But what exactly is Travel Risk Management?
When it comes to corporate travel, there are a lot of moving parts, many of which are out of a traveller’s control, and unfortunately things can and do go wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken leg or a cancelled flight to being caught up in a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, unforeseen issues can adversely affect even the best planned business trip.
Travel risk management companies offer services and care that go beyond traditional business travel insurance policies, which often only cover costs in the event of an accident or incident. They also take on the responsibility of foreseeing where incidents may occur in addition to providing medical, travel and security assistance in case of an emergency.
For companies or institutions with a culture that goes beyond basic duty of care, corporate travel risk management companies help provide vital support for their business travellers, expatriates and employees.
Our travel risk management solutions support, protect and keep travellers safe on the ground, and the risk managers responsible for their safety and wellbeing. Travel risk management companies help reduce stress for both risk managers and travellers by supporting them pre-, during and post-travel.
How can technology and digitisation improve the Travel Risk Management journey?
For companies and institutions with travelling employees or personnel, it’s incredibly important HR or risk managers know exactly where their travellers are at all times. If they don’t provide this duty of care, it’s hard for them to know if their travellers are in imminent danger should a security threat or natural disaster happen.
World Travel Protection’s geo-location technology allows travel risk managers to know exactly where their travellers are. Using our Travel Assist Portal and App, risk managers and their travelling personnel can communicate with each other as well as our team to help ensure they receive the support they need.
Our travel risk management app gives travellers 24/7 access to our emergency assistance Command Centres and location-specific travel alerts. The Command Centres are constantly monitoring international threats and will alert travellers of any potential risks based on their uploaded itinerary and geo-location feeds, helping them to travel safely. Also, by simply pressing the ‘emergency’ button, travellers can reach our team immediately if they feel in danger.
We also provide organisations with pre-travel information, using our intelligence on a country or specific location, allowing informed assessments to be made of whether its people are safe to travel there in the first place and what preparations should be taken if they do.
As we return to travel in 2022, what are the major risks travellers and organisations are facing?
Perhaps the greatest take-away from the pandemic is how quickly situations can change. Receiving accurate and timely information is more important than ever to ensure traveller safety. At World Travel Protection, we can help travellers and their risk managers make wise and confident decisions.
COVID has altered the risk profile for many parts of the world, particularly those suffering economically. It’s important this is identified during a general and COVID travel risk assessment – especially for business travellers – so the appropriate travel safety precautions can be put in place.
One risk, for instance, that has risen exponentially is cybercrime. A UK-based fraud awareness leader, Crowe, estimates that cybercrime has risen by 90% during the pandemic. For instance, we are advising our travellers to take extra care to reduce the threat of cyber-crime, to not use Wi-Fi hotspots, and to be very careful about giving away personal data. Vigilance is more important than ever to ensure that travellers are not scammed or fall foul of more sinister online attacks.
COVID 19 has had an unprecedented impact on travel and global mobility? How do we live with COVID 19?
For travellers, it’s essential that they know and understand the rules on COVID-19 in the area they are visiting, as they can differ even within a country. Travellers need to know, for instance, the entry rules and requirements as well as the rules around mask wearing and social distancing. It is important that travellers act lawfully as well as respectfully, as some countries have suffered greatly during the pandemic.
We describe this as the ‘COVID culture’ of a country, whereby depending on its own experience of dealing with COVID new social norms have developed. It’s essential to follow this new etiquette to ensure that no offence is given to locals and business associates while travelling. For instance, not maintaining social distance could be perceived as rudeness as well as extending a hand to shake in greeting.
It’s also important to remember that COVID-19 hotspots can still emerge very quickly and restrictions introduced with little or no notice. Last-minute travel amendments may become the norm for all travellers.
We had a case not long ago where one of our business travellers was mid-flight when their destination country announced new quarantine measures for people arriving in the country. We were able to reach the traveller before they had exited the transit area and book them on another flight. If they had exited, they would have been put in quarantine. Having the support of an emergency travel assistance organisation, like World Travel Protection, allows travellers to stay ahead of potential issues during this ever-changing environment.
Are Governments and Organisations prepared for the next pandemic or global catastrophe?
Very few organisations were prepared for COVID and those who were caught out need to learn from their mistakes.
Two years ago as the world started to be impacted, many organisations dusted off their business continuity plans only to realise they hadn’t been tested in years and they didn’t work. Leadership who had steadily ignored the need to test themselves in a crisis situation opted to bury their head in the sand and hope that the Corona Virus would go away. Those same companies that struggled to manage the response to COVID are no better placed now.
Those organisations who did manage their response to COVID well had a system in place. They had a defined process to follow and leaders who could make informed decisions. The successful companies engaged subject matter experts to inform their decisions and developed recovery plans to help them return to business as usual when the opportunity presented.
Many have referred to COVID as a 1 in 100-year happening. If that is to be believed then the next catastrophic event is likely to be a natural disaster or a manmade event such as terrorism or a major economic downturn. With the myopic nature of many organisations, all future events (in the short-med term) will be seen through the prism of their response to COVID and they will find that the response they used to a global health crisis won’t be sufficient.
For many governments their key metric for how well they managed COVID was how popular their decisions were. It became the hallmark of conservatives to follow the "freedom" model, whilst progressives went with much tighter measures. No one country got it right.
Some of the infrastructure developed during COVID can be used by governments, should we be exposed to another global pandemic, but any event other than this type will feel like a fresh set of challenges. Governments move slowly and learn selectively, the focus on economics will also hamper any response in the short term.
Now from a healthcare perspective, yes governments and organisations are more prepared due to the global pandemic nature of COVID. Previous outbreaks of Coronavirus SARS (e.g., swine or bird flu), Ebola were geographically localised epidemics, rather than global.
COVID has affected the healthcare spectrum namely:
- Vaccine development speed;
- Public Health directives e.g. PPE / Testing / Isolation and Quarantine / Disease tracking with Tech (mobile Apps);
- Hospital surge capacity / different ways of working (virtual care) / rapid field hospital establishment;
- BAU while battling the pandemic, albeit with cancellation of elective surgery / outpatients etc.;
- Novel follow-up ways and virtual wards;
- Multi-national / International co-operation re vaccines, healthcare strategies and treatment guidelines.
Finally: if you could live anywhere in the world, on land or at sea, where would it be?
Vancouver, I just love it there.