International removals: moving with the times

In this tech- and talent-driven age, people are returning to the heart of relocation. FIDI Global Alliance’s Magali Horbert caught up with Ruth Holmes to talk customer experience, the new accreditation for destination service providers and the body’s new direction and leadership.

Relocate magazine summer 2019 issue
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.FIDI Global Alliance, the international not-for-profit organisation representing professional international moving and relocation companies, will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. Over the past seven decades, it has grown to represent more than 600 international removals companies (FIDI Affiliates) that hold the coveted FAIM accreditation and undergo its rigorous and regularly updated compliance cycle. FAIM holders have earned a sought-after mark of quality for corporate RFPs and RFIs after being fully assessed and independently audited by EY every three years; every year between those times internally; and now annually for financial stability, a project launched this year in consultation with its members.

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Flying the flag for quality relocation service providers

The FAIM mark has arguably never been more relevant. During uncertain times, there are few guarantees. Knowing your relocation supply chain is strong, compliant and operating to a consistently high and independently assessed standard globally offers great peace of mind to mobility professionals and assignees alike.“Relocation has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years,” says Magali Horbert, from FIDI’s Brussels office. “In the past, there was direct contact between a mover and the end-customer. Now there is a whole eco-system of stakeholders, from relocation and destination services specialists to the corporate side of HR and global mobility that often have a whole department for managing packages and benefits.“This can break down the contact between the client and the relocation management company. For us, this is when standardisation service providers and the body’s new direction and leadership and quality
 certification come 
in. It is easy to lose 
track of responsibilities, quality and due diligence
 when there are so many
 elements in the supply chain. FAIM’s focus is the assurance that key standards are in play to ensure quality.”

Moving people and adapting to demographic change

FIDI’s member network extends to more than 100 countries over all continents and ranges from small, family-run operations to the largest international groups offering a variety of services. “We, therefore, have a very good and global view of what is happening,” says Horbert. Asked how the geopolitical climate is impacting international removals, she says that, “change has always existed – the biggest challenge today are the social shifts we are seeing.”“There are huge changes in the expatriate identity,” says Horbert. “Relocations used to be long-term and ‘heirloom’ moves. Family furniture was packed up, moved and delivered to the new overseas address. Now there is much more flexibility and variety.“Millennial expats have completely different expectations when preparing for overseas relocation. They are much more informed thanks to the Internet and there are more short-term assignments. We’re also continuing to see lump-sum allowances, which changes the whole concept of a relocation assignment from our point of view. This goes hand in hand with the shift in the relocation ecosystem where there are more stakeholders involved,” continues Horbert.“Our mid-sized movers who specialise in international moves are finding it hardest to adapt to these changes and the reality of the global mobility world at the moment. There’s pressure on all sides, from big RMCs pressing down on price and the scope of services to competition from small, very digitally active companies who have a very good presence on the Internet, but not the technical know-how of the actual move. Our members are in the middle of all this. They have the know-how, but not necessarily the flexibility to adapt to this change in dynamics,” she adds.

Leading the way with agile responses

Continuing work started under FIDI’s previous president and now under the leadership of its new president Ebru Demirel – also the first female to take on this role – FIDI is developing ways for its members to become far more agile in their response, both for corporate clients and people managing their own move.To help FIDI members remain movers of choice for cost-conscious corporate and self-managed movers, FIDI is developing its digital presence to support all assignees. For example, the publication of country-specific customs guides and encouraging members to be more marketing-minded.Significantly, as well as looking at the impact of technology and developing new approaches to help members become more digitally aware, FIDI is developing brand-new certification for FIDI members’ own destination services activities (DSPs).“More and more moving companies are branching out towards destination service provision,” explains Horbert. “Up to now, DSP hasn’t been included in FAIM accreditation and it hasn’t been possible to prove or certify their quality compared to competitors – something our colleagues in global mobility have been asking for in our conversations with them.“What FIDI can do through our existing quality certification and auditing is develop the checks, quality standards and due diligence our clients and assignees rely on, but specifically for DSPs, so assignees don’t get sold a dream from online service providers who don’t deliver.”

Creating positive change and meeting the challenges

This new scheme comes as FIDI looks to widen the scope of engagement with global mobility, while continuing to work with members to continue to share best practice. Backed by studies into areas its members want to see, FIDI’s Academy offers training programmes for members to continue their professional development. It is supported by interest groups, including FIDI 39 Club for members aged under 40.“We are trying to implement change and awareness in the relocation world,” says Horbert. “The starting point is that an international assignment is one of the most emotionally distressing experiences in a person’s life – even if it is ultimately positive. You’re not moving goods, you’re actually moving a home.“Managing transitions and expectations is really important. A good move starts with the packing and moving company. If you start cutting the cost at the base of the assignment – the physical moving of personal items – then relocations can go horribly, horribly wrong.“Our job at FIDI through the whole compliance procedure and the FAIM audit is to weed out the best of the best removals providers, who can prove they have compliance and supply chain management procedures in place.”

Developing greater transparency and accountability through collaboration

Digging down into the detail of disruptors to the international removals sector, Horbert believes that while tech is important, people are the most important influence today. “Today, expats expect much more assistance. They rely on RMCs to know about work permits, visas, education and how to handle the expectations of partners and family members; especially with the rise of dual-career and same-sex couples relocating. There are so many more elements RMCs have to be aware of and equipped to manage.”As well as headlining demographic change as a hot topic in the Academy and the plans to offer DSP accreditation, FIDI’s annual four-day conference helps to ensure the body remains relevant, future-focused and in direct contact with its 600 members and partners as a democratically accountable umbrella organisation.This year’s keynote speaker was business futurist and influential commentator Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Underlining the supporting role technology has to play in smooth moves, he spoke to guests about disruptive innovation and how relocation and moving companies can adapt in innovative ways, for example with blockchain.

Could blockchain be the future?

“Patrick talked about blockchain not just as a way of streamlining, but to allow for a transparent process,” said Horbert. “Global mobility typically has lots of steps and it is easy to lose sight of who has accountability and responsibility at a certain point when moving people’s goods from A to B. You have customs officials, freight forwarders, destination service providers and agents at origin and destination. Everybody is working on their own processes.“Blockchain offers the opportunity for us to develop common operating standards that could cover the whole move and ensure fluid payments, smoothing the process for the assignee and individual service providers.“At FIDI, we live and breathe standards, so this is exciting for us as an opportunity to work with other actors in our sector to create interoperability standards. It’s still very much in a conceptual stage, but definitely something we are working on at the moment.”

The way ahead?

For FIDI, collaboration is key to bringing all of its plans together. “The global mobility and relocation worlds are known for all working in their own corners,” says Horbert. “We are all part of the same world and have very few overlapping projects.”Horbert concludes, “We all share the same interest in helping expats have a smooth relocation experience and face the same challenges as people working in global mobility. It’s about how we can adapt to a fast-changing world and develop expertise together.”For more information, visit
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