Winner: Immigration Team of the Year 2017

In the face of stiff competition, Relocate’s award for the top immigration team of 2017 went to UK-inbound specialist Smith Stone Walters for innovation, preparedness, and focus on client needs.

Relocate Global Awards 2017 10th Anniversary Immigration Team of the Year Smith Stone Walters winner
This was one of the most hotly contested Relocate Awards categories, attracting entries from across the globe.In the year that gave us Brexit, and with the skills debate of growing international importance, UK-inbound immigration consultancy Smith Stone Walters (SSW) took the trophy by showing how it was constantly evolving in this very demanding arena.SSW, the judges said, had demonstrated innovation and preparedness, with a very strong focus on clients’ needs. An emphasis on continual improvement and investment in internal resources had resulted in staff dedication that had “really paid off”.The judges added, “SSW is also an excellent example of a learning organisation. Keen to disseminate and transfer knowledge, both inside and outside the firm, it clearly highlights a valuable contribution to clients and the immigration services sector as a whole.”SSW director and co-founder James Walters says, “We are delighted to be named Immigration Team of the Year for the second time, and thank the team at Relocate Global for hosting such a wonderful Gala Awards Dinner at London’s fantastic Science Museum.“Winning this award recognises the incredible effort made by the whole SSW team to ensure that the highest levels of client service are consistently achieved at a time when immigration is taking centre stage on the political agenda.”

Creating opportunity from change

SSW numbers among its clients some of the world’s largest corporations, including financial institutions, law firms, and technology and media companies.The 16 years since the firm was set up have seen major global economic transitions and UK immigration changes. The most significant of these to SSW, says James Walters, was the introduction of the points-based system, which meant that visas were approved in home countries before travel.The resulting need for specialist UK-inbound immigration support in key locations worldwide saw SSW open overseas offices, first in New York and then in Hong Kong and Mumbai.Providing expertise locally, and in clients’ own time zones, has proved a winning formula. Clients are supported by a personalised service that includes out-of-hours emergency assistance, pre-application assessment, training and advisory services, as well as compliance services and immigration advice. A bespoke cloud-based immigration case management system provides them with real-time insights into the progress of their applications.A case study from the entry submission – praised by the awards judges as “a good example of a do-whatever-it-takes approach” – highlights SSW’s determination and client responsiveness. When a relocating employee’s paperwork was destroyed in a house fire just days before the assignment, a team member, against all odds, ensured it was replaced in time.

In pursuit of excellence

Excellence, James Walters says, means many things, including never standing still. “It’s also about being innovative in trying to meet and pre-empt client needs and asking how we can do better,” he adds.One recent example of client-focused innovation is SSW’s Brexit Immigration Service. Described by the awards judges as “a highly successful service that has been very much appreciated by those involved with it”, this focuses on educating clients about the UK immigration options currently available to their EEA workforces.SSW’S commitment to excellence extends to staff development, as the judges noted. “We work with people to make the best use of their skillsets,” explains James Walters. “Some may perform better in client-facing roles; others prefer the technical side.“We encourage and support people to develop their skills in these areas, and encourage them to do what it takes to make it a better day in the office. We are quite open-minded in this respect, and it is what enables us to move quickly.”What of the future? “We have over 50 staff now, and expect that number to grow in the future,” James Walters says. “There are two reasons for this. The first is that we are very busy; the second is Brexit. When we know the terms of Brexit and immigration controls – which there will be for 27 countries in Europe – come into force, this will be a game-changer for our business.”

Following this year's innovation-themed gala dinner, the Relocate team is already hard at work to ensure we build on the success of the Relocate Awards 2017 and make next year’s even bigger and better.

Promote your business: Sponsor the Relocate Awards 2018

Watch the video highlights of the Gala Dinner and Awards presentation here

© 2017. This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein.

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