Technology and the global marketplace have created vast opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses, and many have expanded not just nationally but worldwide. With the opportunity comes risk with the world increasingly vulnerable to political and social unrest, disease and weather-related incidents.
Bryan Tedford is Executive Vice President of ACE Foreign Casualty, a specialist in insurance cover for US businesses that travel or operate overseas. He says that it’s essential that businesses have robust plans and procedures for employees traveling or working abroad:
“Companies should have a plan to communicate possible threats and reciprocal actions to staff, provide medical and repatriation costs back to the U.S.” he says.
As well as protecting its people, a business also needs to be aware of other risks from operating globally including climate change and regulatory compliance. Tedford says:
“Businesses may face exposure to local financial responsibility laws like automobile liability insurance in the country where they are conducting business, and mandatory employers’ liability coverage on local and visiting employees.” There is also the possibility of claims such as negligence which would require specialist legal advice in the country where the claim is made.
With so many challenges of expanding overseas, SMEs are often unaware and unprepared for the risks involved. While traveling for example, business owners or employees may believe they are at no more risk than if they were tourists, however laws are frequently different for business travel, requirements for visas being one area where people get caught out.
“SME’s do not always appreciate the additional risk factor in its entirety. As an example, an SME may be selling products over the Internet which often allows them to ship products globally. Many of these businesses do not appreciate that this international transaction may create additional risks for credit, loss of property or products liability which arise outside of the U.S.” warns Tedford.
One of the current international risks is the Ebola outbreak in Africa but has ACE seen an increase in concern about this threat to safety? Tedford says: “The overall trend is a steady increase in inquires for international programs worldwide as SME’s continue to expand globally.” ACE offers a travel app for clients to access up to date information and emergency contacts.
Bryan Tedford recognizes the huge value that agents and brokers have in advising clients on overseas travel and operations: “The agent and broker have a vested interest in considering the coverages of a client. These producers will likely be the first ones to receive a call from their client who may be hurt, sick or stranded overseas and looking for a solution to get them home. Having a plan/coverage in place before these types of calls happen is critical.”
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