Minimising risks

6 Mar 2009

An experienced business traveller can be just as unwary about risks as the first timer.

Tony Ridley, regional security director for Asia-Pacific of International SOS and Australian Army veteran, classifies these two ends of the client spectrum that they service as the most vulnerable categories.  “First time travellers are very inexperienced. Everything is new and exciting. Then, there are the are long-term expatriates, frequent travellers who’d say: ‘Don’t tell me, I’ve been doing this for 20 years.

“In our risk demographics, it’s those 20 percent in the beginning and at the end who are at most risk because when things change suddenly, they are the last to see what is happening.”

So focused are these individuals on their business activities, rushing from one appointment to another, he says, they may not notice that the city is shutting down due to a terrorist attack or a typhoon. “They over look the little things and doing so, may expose themselves unecessarily to danger.”

Ridley’s company International SOS started out providing medical assistance and international healthcare – aspects it is still associated with – until the events of 9/11 and the globalisation of economies ramped up travel, especially to emerging destinations where political and social conditions are not always predictable. This prompted International SOS to strengthen its security consultancy skills.

“Nowadays, companies see their people as valuable assets (that have to be protected),” says Ridley, who has observed more and more companies keen to put into place safety and security policies for their mobile professionals. Besides 9/11, incidents such as the Bali bombing and lately Mumbai attacks and closure of the Bangkok airport have highlighted the importance of executive monitoring.

Run from headquarters in Singapore and London, International SOS claims to work with over 7,700 corporate clients, including “88 percent of the Fortune Global 100 and 64 percent of the Fortune Global 500” as well as governments and non-profit organisations. Its 6,000 staff, 33 percent of which are medical professionals, are deployed to 12 regional centres.

Membership is available on a company and individual level, with corresponding value-added features, says Ridley.

Once out of a comfort zone, it’s easy for a business traveler to fall victim to a scam or get into a precarious situation. Ridley says the rule is “not to take anything for granted, adapt to the environment and be aware of what’s appropriate in the place you are in”.

“Just by the way you carry yourself, criminals know if you’re an easy target or not. And don’t think bad things will never happen to you.”

For more details, visit

Margie T Logarta

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