What a way to kick the year off…..

Expat Academy What a way to kick the year off.....

2018 started with a bang at our first Symposium Network Huddle on the 9th January hosted by Aviva in their Hoxton Digital Garage.

The agenda was packed to capacity covering tax, policy developments, vendor management and operational challenges.

The flow of discussion covered member led agenda points and was interspersed with corporate updates from three of our members Gavin Cockburn, BAT, Lizzie Boddington, Capco and Priscilla Monticelli, Sapient on their priorities and challenges.

So, what on earth did we find to talk about all day?

The first session focussed on priorities for 2018. Many common themes came through in the discussion including: policy review with a focus on core benefits and flexible elements, compliance and GDPR, stronger links with talent, technology and the dreaded business travellers.

We then leapt into a lively conversation on HMRC tax refunds and how this is managed. Interestingly, PwC have developed a tool so Finance can manage this rather than GM, which sounds hopeful…

Greg Smith, Lockheed Martin needed some practical help on moving people to Saudi, so we put a number of questions on hardship allowances, moving families, driving, and challenges for women to the floor. There was a wealth of experience in the room and comments clearly identified challenges for this host location. If you are moving families to Saudi this requires careful thought and you may need to consider incentives for assignees.

Next up was Gavin Cockburn’s update from BAT on their developments over the last 18 months. They have restructured their regions, moved to shared services in Bucharest and reviewed their vendors and service delivery. This led to a great roundtable session on service delivery and whether by always driving down cost there comes a point that service levels suffer. Key themes emerging were transparency of costs and process, two way communication, the importance of relationships (from the RFP, through implementation and ongoing), investing time and tying in account managers.

Fuelled with sandwiches, everyone had a chance to listen to an update from Lizzie Boddington at Capco and her new role. Her organisation has enjoyed 37% growth since April 2017 and the infrastructure is catching up! Lizzie has been tasked with setting up the GM function and writing policies from scratch to manage the significant number of employees Capco have working overseas. Lizzie posed a question to the members around permanent transfers and the levels of support provided to the family depending on whether the move was business or employee initiated.

This was followed by an animated, emotive and thought-provoking discussion on core and flex policies. There were wide and differing opinions on what is practical and fair, which no doubt will be explored more at our next Symposium Huddle on 10 May 2018 (click here to book your place).

There was a quick fire question raised by Sally Chapman at Novartis around best practice for exception approval and a number of members shared their process. Exception tracking was definitely key and the higher the sign off required, the greater the exception deterrent!!

The buzzing atmosphere died down for a brief moment until Stuart Ferguson, Deloitte asked what other members are doing to improve diversity and Caroline Fyfe, Arup asked “How can we make an assignment accessible to all (including maternity/paternity provision whilst on assignment)?”  which again led to lively debate with opposing views! The discussion centred around educating the business and line managers and opinion differed on the sensitive management of dealing with maternity leave mid assignment.

After refreshments, renewed with fresh coffee, we headed into discussion around talent management, when discussions should take place and whether it was the business or assignees responsibility.  A number of companies felt they have some positive measures in place such as identifying owning managers during assignment, meetings with HRBPs and HRDs regarding assignees in post and having talent teams dedicated to senior assignees.

We listened to an update from Priscilla Monticelli, Sapient. We learnt how Priscilla and her team manage the Global Mobility challenges of their project based business and how she plans to grow out her team in 2018.

The day wrapped up with a session on technology, from tracking compensation through to automation, robotics and AI.

Thank you immensely to our members for your brilliant agenda contributions. Everyone who attended participated with emotion, tenacity and thought and those who presented made the day really productive and engaging.


“For me this was the best huddle I have been to yet. The questions were all really relevant to what it seems everyone was looking at, they were well grouped into sections so there were some great discussions and points made and it felt like we were all part of all of the sessions”. Gavin Cockburn, BAT

“Thanks for a really great and productive day yesterday. I came away with a lot of useful information that I can apply in my day to day work and there were some excellent discussions”. Lizzie Boddington, Capco

Thought the day went well and the content was full and challenging. Appreciate the informal nature of the day….. rest of it as always was pucker!!! Chris Blair, Aviva

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