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ASSISTANCE & REPATRIATION REVIEW 2018


Every second counts


In an ever more dangerous world, greater awareness of legal and moral obligations to employees and the need for seamless responses are driving trends in the security assistance sector, leading players tell David Kernek


Te lives of your client’s employees are at stake. Te pressure is on, you’re getting information and acting on it, every second counts. Te last thing you want – but it’s what you get – is a call from an employer who’s not your client. With staff at risk in the same emergency, its assistance provider can’t cope; can you help? It’s not a scenario Charlie LeBlanc, Vice-President, Global Risk and Client Management at UnitedHealthcare Global (UHC Global), headquartered in the US, needs to imagine; it’s what actually happens, and not rarely. “We get calls from these companies all the time during a crisis – someone else calling in and saying their security company can’t help them,” he says. “I feel bad about it. We want to help them, but we have our own customers to take care of. I don’t know them, they don’t have a contract with us, there’s a lot of administrative stuff that has to be done before I can work directly with them and, by the way, I’ve got three hurricanes riding up the Caribbean right now.” Talking to ITIJ, he recalls the old Roman warning Caveat Emptor (‘Let the buyer beware’). “We have seen a growth in recent years in the number of security providers. Being new to this space is not a bad thing, but being new yet not experienced or deep enough to handle a large-scale crisis is going to inevitably fall back on you, the customer. I think it’s important for employers to really


I 12 | International Travel & Health Insurance Journal


magine this: you're a specialist in security assistance handling a major operation.


do their due diligence on those providers if they’re being attached to an assistance programme. Te time to find out if your security provider is not as robust as you thought they were is not during the crisis. You want to find that out sooner.” Many security companies don’t really get activated until there’s a crisis, continued LeBlanc. “We have a saying here in the States: Break glass in case of war. Before you break that glass, you want to make sure there’s something behind it. If you don’t have that, you’re in scramble mode, so taking those extra steps to vet a security company will pay off hugely.” Usually, a traveller is going to need assistance services more often than security services. Te chances of a traveller getting sick or hurt while travelling are much higher than being caught up in a natural disaster, a political situation or a terrorist attack. As such, buyers tend to focus on the assistance company, and not think that little bit around the corner, says LeBlanc: “OK, they can handle my medical requirements, but when I have to break that glass, who’s going to respond to my security needs, and if it’s a company with just one or two consultants, buyer beware! How are they going to respond to your needs when you’ve got 200 people in an attack in Paris or Las Vegas?” His advice is echoed sharply by Ted Jones, CEO of Northcott Global Solutions, headquartered in the UK. “Standard travel and medical assistance companies should choose who they


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