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International meetings: tackling the regulatory compliance challenge

Si-Yeon Kim, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer, American Express Global Business Travel

By Si-Yeon Kim, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer, American Express Global Business Travel

If there was ever a time when planning a corporate meeting simply involved choosing the perfect location and coordinating guests, that time has long passed. Today, the roles and responsibilities of meeting planners are becoming increasingly important as a result of ever-changing and highly complex compliance standards.

In recent years, the regulatory pressures on multinational corporations have intensified, especially when operating in foreign jurisdictions. Due to such pressures, meeting planners are facing increased scrutiny around third party outsourcing, information security, data privacy and corruption-related risks.

In addition, globalisation continues to drive frequent changes in foreign regulations, forcing international meeting planners to constantly educate themselves on the newest rules abroad so they can make the right compliance decisions. To make matters more difficult, companies operating globally are often faced with overlapping and sometimes conflicting regulations and pressures from multiple enforcement agencies from various jurisdictions.

For meeting planners – especially those operating globally – there are some obstacles that can prove particularly complex in the planning process. However, by being mindful of certain issues, meeting planners can accomplish their goals efficiently, within the bounds of regulatory compliance.

One key issue receiving more attention lately from meeting planners and regulators alike is corruption. Over the last few years, the meetings and events space has been the focus of anti-corruption investigations by regulators worldwide.

Considering the heightened scrutiny of the meetings and events space, even meeting planners who are meeting compliance standards may encounter questions along the way. The best way to defend your company - and quickly address any accusation of wrongdoing - is by managing expenses and maintaining an accurate reporting system, thereby ensuring your meetings and events programme is both transparent and compliant at all times.

Emerging markets, which may often equal high-risk jurisdictions from an anti-corruption perspective, continue to present challenges for many global corporations, where growth opportunities and the need for in-person training or conferences can be greater. When planning meetings and events in emerging markets, internal compliance departments are often called upon for final approval to ensure compliance is being met. In addition, internal compliance departments are establishing new layers of control, such as review of the agenda as well as control over the attendance list, per attendee spending, and budgets. Compliance teams are now monitoring meeting activities, and it is not uncommon for them to review spending, attendance and other key metrics after each meeting or event. Regulated industries such as the pharmaceutical industry have strict reporting requirements when it comes to such spending.

Considering compliance is such an integral part of any meeting planning process, meeting planners and internal compliance departments should work together to develop an integrated approach to planning meetings. By doing so, everyone involved in the process will understand at what point compliance needs to weigh in, thereby ensuring transparency and efficiency from beginning to end.

Duty of Care
Duty of care – bringing employees home safely and protecting company assets – is another vital issue that corporations must consider. Understanding global security is crucial when it comes to fulfilling duty of care obligations.

Security issues vary from country to country and it is essential that planners are up to date on specific security regulations and issues to meet compliance requirements and ensure traveller safety. The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth’s website is a useful resource for ensuring that a meeting takes place in a location that meets the security needs of a client. In countries where it is common for social unrest or other political issues to arise, a strong force majeure clause is important in a contract and can help ensure that you are able to cancel the meeting without penalty if a security issue arises.

Local security officials can also be a valuable resource for planners who would like to become more familiar with local issues that may impact transportation and security. Local officials can also provide additional background on the venue, which can help planners identify potential challenges to security.

Ultimately, the more information planners can gather on the location selected for the meeting, the better equipped they will be in navigating compliance and upholding duty of care for travellers.

Information Security
Whilst meeting planners can be sure of some consistency across markets when it comes to technology, information security remains an important area to consider, as there may be different nuances to bear in mind in each market.

Before anyone packs their briefcase, meeting planners should meet with internal compliance and their information security teams to:

Establish a general set of data security guidelines for all travellers. Determine if the country/region where the meeting or event is taking place has unique risks. This is where the compliance and technology teams might be particularly valuable, as they may have more knowledge concerning global data security.

Decide if the country/region hosting the meeting or event does warrant additional security measures, and what they should be.

As meeting planners continue to face new and rapidly changing regulations, it’s essential to take an integrated approach to planning and take measures to address anti-corruption, duty of care and information security challenges. Transparency, preparation and cooperation with other teams, both local and global, will ensure compliance – and a great event.

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