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Corporate Programs Virtual Client Forum Part 2

Good afternoon. On behalf of the U.S. Bank team, I'd like to welcome our participants. And thank you all for joining today's virtual client forum. We really appreciate that you're here with us today.

So this is the second virtual installment, and the fourth overall installment of what started in February as an in-person client forum series, which was intended to be held over a number of cities across the country. And we were able to actually have the first two sessions in person. And the first one was in Charlotte. The second one was in Seattle.

And that's about the time that things started really rapidly changing with the environment. So we pivoted to this virtual format and focused the topic more specifically on COVID-19, since we're all sort of navigating these crazy times together.

So with today's meeting, we're lucky and honored to welcome our panelist, Tessa Boone with Ford Motor Company, Tom Wagner with Micron Technology, and Ken Brown with Takeda Pharmaceuticals. And to our panelists, just really want to take the opportunity to thank you all so much for agreeing to talk to the group today about what you're experiencing and what your organizations are experiencing in today's environment, and sort of how you're responding or reacting to some of the challenges that we're facing in relocation.

I know you've got a lot of tremendous insights and valuable feedback. So you know, we just want to thank you for your willingness to share.

Before we go into our panel discussion, I'd also like to introduce Bob Burns, who's the President of Red Sky Services. Red Sky is a national appraisal vendor and wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Bank. And during our last virtual meeting, which I guess was a couple of weeks ago now, there were several questions that came up as it relates to the impact that COVID is having on appraisal inspection and property values overall.

We thought we'd invite Bob to kind of open up our discussion today and spend the first few minutes just giving an overview of his insights on appraisals in general, what the industry is experiencing, and how the industry is reacting to some of the challenges.

So with that, Bob, thank you for being here. And I'm going to hand it over to you.

Thanks, Wendy. And certainly honored to be here. I'm excited to talk about appraisals. Like you said, Red Sky is a direct, wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Bank. We've got about 280 employees in the organization. And we fulfill just a little over 32,000 residential valuations per month across the country.

I'll talk a little bit about the appraisal industry. And it'll kind of lead up to some of the COVID impacts for today's discussion.

If we look back at the number of professionally credentialed appraisers over the last 15 years, there's been a gradual decline. And part of that has been somewhat market driven. But more so around the gradual aging of that profession.

But if we look back, 15 years ago, there were, compared to today, there's about a 38% decline in residential field-producing appraisers. Much like we've seen over the last 10 years, this is our third refinance boom in the last 10. There was one in 2012, one in 2016.

And when those refinance booms hit, it, in some markets, exposes an undersupply of those field-producing appraisers. Pre-COVID environment, this particular refi boom was on a track to really dwarf the prior two. So we have a declining population of appraisers. We have, you know, an exceeding demand for their services. So it creates a little bit of a challenge on the availability.

Appraisers, as recent as four to six months ago, that would typically get three to four requests per day, in many cases are receiving 20 or more requests for their services each day. So that population of appraisers now is in a position where they have to pick and choose which assignments they'll accept. And more importantly, when they can get those assignments completed.

Then we have the COVID pandemic that introduced itself throughout the course of this year. And that adds additional challenges.

Now, what I don't want to do is paint a picture of gloom and doom in the appraisal industry. In fact, it's not nearly that bad. We have an average age in that profession, again, of 59 years old. Very few new entrants coming into that profession.

And quite frankly, we're trying to look out for the best interest of that supply chain as they are so vital to what we all do. We have provided our appraisers on our panel across the country guidance, both guidance on how to best protect their personal health interests, and we've leveraged some language from the Center for Disease Control, some really common sense things, right? Masks, gloves.

And that it's OK to have some intimate conversations with consumers or agents when they're attempting to establish that inspection. It's OK to ask folks, are they ill. Has anyone in their home been ill? Have they been exposed?

And we've coached our appraiser panel to expect similar questions from homeowners and agents. A very reasonable conversation to have in this current environment.

We have seen some trepidation around appraisers performing inspections. We've seen objections from agents or consumers that they don't want to necessarily let somebody into their home in this environment. So it's kind of been a mixed bag of reactions.

And I'm pleased to say, from an appraiser standpoint, the ones that we work with across the country, despite shelter in place orders, or different activities, different initiatives by jurisdiction, many appraisers view themselves as they are, right? They're essential. Or they play a role in an essential feature throughout the country, to keep the economy rolling.

And even in some of the most challenged markets, we've seen appraisers, in the face of shelter in place orders, being willing to take those precautions, to have those conversations, to prepare themselves appropriately with masks and booties, and to go out and perform that service.

We have seen some instances, of course, right, where there's been a little resistance. And as an enterprise, at U.S. Bank, we have embraced the alternative valuation guidance that was published by Fannie and Freddie, as well as FHA. So if and when we encounter those objections to the interior inspection, we do have some alternative approaches. And they do vary a little bit, of course, between purchase and refinance transactions. But in large part, the transactions are moving forward.

However, we have seen some delays. Right? If we step back and think about the refinance boom, we have an increased demand for a relatively finite supply chain's services.

So just by the nature of the refinance boom, and the increased volume, we are seeing some challenges with service levels. Now, I'm pleased to report, on the purchase side, the acquisition side, generally speaking, a very broad brush, our average turn time to complete an appraisal is about 1 and 1/2 to two days longer than we typically would experience.

So when you draw up the perfect storm in a refinance boom, combined with a pandemic, that's, for me, really an exciting number to share.

On the refinance side, a little bit different story. Generally, it's taking about a week or so longer. And that's good news, because really in the purchase side of the business, appraisers really understand that there's a contract involved. There's contingency dates. There's moving vans, right? So thankfully, our supply chain puts emphasis on that as well.

Now, I'll say a little bit more about the Fannie, Freddie, FHA guidance. While that is in place, not every transaction fits the parameters for that guidance. We, as an enterprise, have also adopted similar guidance on the portfolio side. So for some jumbo transactions, things that may not make it to the saleable path, we do have some alternatives there that help keep these things moving.

So the other question I'm sure that's top of mind for folks really comes in to if there's a pandemic, a refi boom, unemployment numbers-- we've all unfortunately read about those recently. What impact is that going to have on property values? What do absorption rates look like?

So far, and, granted, it's early into this, the duration of the pandemic and the environment that we're in, we've not seen a tremendous shift in absorption rates yet. We've not seen property values-- there may be a few pockets here and there-- but we've not seen property values deteriorate.

The good news is, inventory was relatively low, speaking about current context compared to prior months and prior years. And I've read some articles in some publications where listing agents in certain markets are pulling things off the MLS.

So I think the inventory is working to our favor to some degree in maintaining property values. That certainly could change if unemployment becomes-- if it worsens, if the duration of that unemployment extends. I think there's some natural economic forces that'll play out that may impact property values.

But so far, we've not seen it. We're hoping that we have a recovery, economically speaking, in the near term. And we can mitigate that risk.

But you know, as I've been talking here, I did see that we have a poll question that came up. And the poll question, do you have any contingent policy provisions in place for potential post-COVID market changes? So I would ask the attendees, let us know what you're thinking about this by choosing one of those options through the poll.

Wendy, that may be the point where I kick it back to you.

Great. Well, Bob, thank you again so much. I think you shared some really important insights that really impact everything that we do in relocation. And you know, you guys have just been tremendous partners. So thank you for all the transparency. Half the battle is just knowing what to expect so we can set appropriate expectations with our clients and our customers. So thanks for that.

Next, I'm going to turn it to John Sculley. And most of you know John. He's an experienced, well-respected veteran of the relocation industry. And he's been working with our team as an independent consultant kind of from the beginning on the development of our client forum series.

So he is going to be our moderator today. And with that, John, I will turn it over to you.

Thank you, Wendy, for the kind words. And I think at the outset, I'd like to express appreciation for all that U.S. Bank has done to take a leadership position on sharing peer education around this entire episode. Because we all have so much to learn and a fast learning curve on which to do it. So I applaud that opportunity and feel privileged to be able to work with your distinguished panel today.

One of the start points, I think, would be to create some context for the comments of our panelists as we go forward today. So I'm going to, in turn, further introduce them. And ask each in turn to give us a description of their respective transferee and assignee populations. Just how big is that? And what does the global footprint for those people look like?

Let me start that with Ken Brown, who holds a GPHR certification and is the global mobility lead at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Ken, can you tell us a bit about your program?

Sure thing, John. Thanks for handing it off.

At Takeda, we have about, all said, about 800 active move cases a year. About 400 US relocations, about 200 international relocations, and then, additional about 200 international assignees at any one time.

We are headquartered in Japan. And then we also have hubs in Massachusetts in the United States, in Switzerland, and in Singapore. So those are the four key geographies that we are sending or receiving people from for the most part.

Certainly some challenging locations.

Yes.

Then let me next turn to Tessa Boone, who's Manager of International Service, Global Policy, Vendor Management, and Tax-- quite a handful, Tessa-- at Ford Motor Company. And Tesas, can you tell us a bit about your international program there at Ford Motor?

Yeah. Thanks, John. So we have, as far as our assignee population is concerned, our international movement, we have about 400 active today. Our transferee population-- so our US and Canada movement, is usually somewhere around 800 to 850 a year. Maybe a little bit more.

It's a little lower this year with the circumstances that we have today. And our global footprint-- we are in 30 countries. So we work together with 30 payrolls.

And we have regional hubs, one of course in Dearborn, Michigan, which is our world headquarters. We have an office for our global mobility team in Mexico City, an office in Cologne, Germany. We also have representatives of our team in Chennai, India, and in Shanghai, China.

My goodness. Quite a handful, to be sure. Also with us today, we have Tom Wagner, who's Director of Global Talent, Mobility and Immigration at Micron Technology. Tom, how big is your program? And where are your people these days?

Our people are all over the place these days. Good morning, everyone, or good afternoon, wherever you are.

We have typically anywhere between 1,500 and 1,800 open files with our RMC at any given time, primarily in Asia and the US. We have a little bit of activity in the EMEA area, Italy, specifically, which has been a challenge recently.

A lot of activity in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Malaysia. Some smatterings in China and Korea, other areas mostly in Asia though.

Our team sits in nine different locations around the world, 14 of us. So we've got the globe very well covered and good perspectives and support everywhere.

Tom, while we're speaking with you, maybe we can jump ahead into our next, more topical question. We're interested in hearing what steps you may have taken at Micron to manage how COVID-19 is impacting your mobility program. You have some new initiatives that you're taking there in that regard?

We've been following the course of the task force that was put in place late last year and really took off mid-January. Because of our presence in China, this was an early threat for us, mostly from our supply chain perspective. And we got pulled into that, following along. We haven't changed any of our policies or anything.

We have done a pretty significant halt on relocations and assignments, et cetera, with everything having to be running through special approvals. So that's been the challenge for us. Every day is a new challenge. Every day we hear something new.

Today I heard somebody say they're excited to talk about appraisals. So that was new to me. Sorry, Bob. I couldn't resist that shot.

But it's been interesting. Mobility was hit early with trying to figure out what to do with the people that are out there. And now that's kind of tapered off a little bit. And now we're getting hit pretty hard from the immigration standpoint as to what to do about these ongoing issues. And I think we have questions to talk about those a little bit more later on.

Thank you for that. By the way, our panel represents not only very diverse companies, but also differing areas of responsibility within those companies. And that's very much by design today so that we can have on hand expertise touching the broad range of mobility issues that we're hoping to be able to cover.

So that it may result in, not everyone having a comment on every one of the issues we raise. But taken together, I think you'll find that we've got a great deal of panel expertise to share with you today.

That in mind, let me turn next to Tessa, if I may. I understand that Ford Motor has taking some rather extraordinary measures to come to terms with the impacts of COVID-19. Can you tell us a bit about yours?

Sure. So we have also had a task force. We've had a task force in place. It is our, sort of a crisis management group. Global threat assessment, they're called. And this has been in place for years and years with Ford.

And so this team mobilized pretty quickly. This is, the travel group participates in here. We have Ford Medical in this group. Global mobility is in here. Security. Legal. And then, of course, as we are expanding the return to work scenarios for the various manufacturing facilities and offices globally for Ford, all of the facilities, from the manufacturing as well as the operations side are involved in this group.

And so, as Tom mentioned, we were impacted really early on the global mobility side and engaged with this group. We have had great support, especially with the China team. They have given us a great deal of lessons learned. And we have based much of the work and the assistance that we have provided in other markets based on our experiences in China.

We also have put a halt on any sort of new movement. So we have a lot of sequential assignments at Ford, what we call a back to back. And those are on hold today, any new movement, as well as repatriation. There's often folks that can't get home right now due to travel restrictions or other sorts of local market restrictions.

On the transferee side, we have also seen some limits there, movement within the US. We still are trying to move those high critical positions. And still trying to, especially those that are internal to Ford, as far as new hires are concerned, those are on hold right now.

But we're still trying to manage the day-to-day cases. We've had cases of COVID-positive expats, and so we have had to navigate through some of those cases. And so yes, like Tom said, it's every day brings something new.

It sure does. And Tessa, your comments remind me of a recurring pattern we've heard over the course of our sessions to date with U.S. Bank. And that is that even though this is a global problem, there are again and again, no sweeping universal answers.

And time after time, it comes down to case-by-case considerations for individual and business circumstances to come up with the best solution. And I hear that in what you had to say.

Yes, that's very true.

Let's turn to Ken as well. What are you doing at Takeda, Ken, in order to maintain or stabilize your mobility program?

Thanks, John. Similar to Tom and Tessa, our global crisis management team got engaged very early and were very active. Being headquartered in Japan and being a pharmaceutical company, this was something that was on our radar. And once it started taking off, we actioned it quickly.

I've been working with that team from a mobility standpoint to give them perspective on the additional issues, concerns, worries that a mobile employee might have. As part of that, we have mobility provided guidance similar to what Tessa was saying as well, that on the assignee side, we have been trying to-- if somebody hasn't started their assignment yet, we're asking the question, is it truly necessary to start the assignment. We're asking to postpone where necessary.

If somebody's assignment is coming to an end, we want to make sure that the employee, as well as the receiving location are both able and ready to receive the employee back. We're doing a lot more check-ins to make sure, in that case, is the housing ready to go. Are they working from home? Will they need any IT differences working from home, based on where they are? Kind of we're doing a little more check-in now to make sure, if they want to return from their assignment, that it will work and that it's viable.

From a relocation standpoint, those as well we've kind of asked to postpone, unless something is critical. We are trying to hold off any relocations until things open up and countries are more open, locations are more open. And really, our biggest stance has been, we can provide the employee the best support to make the employee experience what it should be if they're going through a relocation now.

And that includes our vendors. That includes our own internal services. That we want to make sure that this time-- is already a stressful enough time for a person relocating, that if we postpone it, we can at least decrease the stress right now related to the COVID situation.

And John, as you said, you hit it on the head. We've been asked for the silver bullet to try and solve all the problems and give a clean answer to the entire company. And that doesn't really exist. We've explained several times that it's case by case. It's looking at the country accommodations, the nationalities of the employees involved.

We kind of need to dig into each one to see what our options are. And then from what our options are, what's the best case scenario. What's the best for the employee? Looking at it with a more empathetic eye than just saying, look, what's the business want, and what do they need right now.

Ken, let me stay with you for the next question I'd like to introduce, because I think it's--

John? John, this is Colleen. If we could just remind everybody that the poll is open on the right-hand side. If they wanted to answer questions about the impact to their organizations as well. And you can segue into your next question.

Yes, thank you.

If I could just add real quick to Ken's comment there about the silver bullet. That's a really interesting point, Ken. Thanks for bringing that up. And I think that that's shifted in a lot of different ways for us.

At the beginning, when we had a mass of files to really look at, we were able to blanket a little bit more of an overall sort of process that worked for 80% of them. And now that's gone away. So it is-- so the silver bullet, it was kind of a tarnished brass bullet. But it worked a little bit. But now it's gone.

Afraid so. And I think since we're dealing not only with volatile issues in the business environment, in the world health environment, and in the HR setting, then we get the additional wrinkle of shifting compliance issues. And one of the most recent of those was the immigration announcement that has suspended at least temporarily in the US, the ability of foreign nationals to seek a permanent residency here.

That may very well be impacting some fraction of your population. Ken, do you have people that are in those circumstances? And any plans yet as to how to address it?

Right now, luckily, we have reviewed all of our cases. And we don't have anyone stuck right now, is the term I've been using. A very technical term.

As part of our review of all of our open moves right now, and all of our active moves, we have kind of reached out to every employee just to make sure what are their concerns, anything we can help them with. And once this announcement came out too, we had already pulled together the information on everyone's current immigration status.

So we went back to our immigration counsel to do a second review, just to make sure, you know, with this new guidance, has this changed anything. Luckily for us, it hasn't impacted anyone. But I'll state that, as of today, we are very anxious and curious about the next potential wave of immigration reform. Not just here in the US, but around the world. Because it does feel like it's something that might be coming.

Depending on how things shake out in the global environment with opening up borders, we're getting a little more anxious as the days go on with no answers. But right now, luckily, we haven't been impacted.

I think there is a growing concern that we may end up with a subpopulation of countryless people that have no place that they're welcome, which would be a certainly challenging outcome.

Tom, how about at Micron? Do you have anybody who falls into this foreign national seeking permanent residence category?

So I think for the team and myself, there was more impact from the actual tweet than the executive order. You know, executives on our team going into a bit of a tizzy trying to figure out what this was going to mean to us. And two days later it comes out that it really means nothing.

The order itself affects-- we have about 805 people in process for green cards. And only one is being affected by this. And they're not even eligible to apply just quite yet.

And you know, if you look at the details of the order itself, it states that only folks who are applying at consulates outside of the US are suspended. You can still apply inside of the US. And those consulates are all closed right now anyway.

So really, it shouldn't have an effect on anybody to any profound level. What the concern with this situation is, we need to start thinking strategically in the future. Because there's two issues that are a real concern to us right now.

One is that only about, I think it's 13% of employment-based applications are submitted at foreign consulates. So not that big of a deal. But 94% of family-based applications are submitted at foreign consulates.

So if you push that up against-- and go back in your memory a couple of months and remember a thing called DACA, and if you push it up against what you know about DACA, then it becomes very concerning. And agendas become a little more clear.

So that's one area that we're concerned about in the future. And the other area that we're concerned about is that though this didn't go through the way that President Trump wanted it to-- or that he originally had stated it was going to-- he was able to direct the Department of Labor to examine their temporary immigration processes. H1B's, F1's, et cetera, within the next 30 days.

And that was a week ago. So 23 days from now, we may have another entire concern to worry about. So those are the things that are more concerning than this actual executive order itself. I think it's more of a sign than anything else.

This might be the mine canary for other regulatory change to come. So--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

At least attempts at it.

You're all viewing immigration as a moving target and one that will have to be closely monitored not only for compliance, but for impact on different populations moving forward. I think one of those populations may be the H1B's, because we're hearing at least anecdotally of more frequent denials of requested extensions.

Let me make that a jump ball to the panel. Is anybody running into those extension denials? And if so, are you contemplating or providing any financial help for the affected people?

We haven't had-- this is Tom at Micron. We haven't had extension denials yet. But we have had issues with folks not making it through the lottery. And a handful of them [INAUDIBLE] previous F1 visa holders. And they've run out of time. So they can't apply again.

And we have a couple of people that are not able to go back to their home countries right now either. What we've done is provided them with visitor's visas. So under which we can't give them any sort of financial assistance, because that would appear to be paying them on a visitor's visa, which is not legal.

So as far as the H1B extensions go, we haven't had. But other little areas that are of concern do crop up from the similar situations.

Very good. Ken or Tessa, either of you have any experience with this that you want to share?

I can say for Ford, we have also not seen any extension denials. And we don't have anyone that is in a situation where they are in an overstay. [INAUDIBLE] this has not hit us yet.

Let's hope that it doesn't.

Same with us, actually. We, this year, had a higher percentage of approvals than we've seen in a while. We kind of laughed. We thought, that worked out in our favor in that regard.

So right now, we're knocking on wood and hoping that we don't have any of these cases either. But I haven't seen one yet.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

It's interesting, Ken. we had a higher level of approvals than we've ever had as well too, from a percentage. And there's speculation also that we may get a second chance at them, because some of those who were approved may not be here any longer and may not be pushing through and getting those H1B's. So they may open it up again for a second round.

Very good.

Yeah.

One other issue that's emerged-- away from the immigration issues for the moment-- is that with this upsurge out of necessity toward much more working at home, we're interested in finding out if companies are reconsidering work at home as an ongoing arrangement, in lieu of what might otherwise have been relocations, or even international assignments.

So I'd be interested in hearing from anyone on the panel as to whether you're diverting any would-be relocations into ongoing work at home situations instead.

Hey, this is Ken.

And John, I'd just like to point out again, real quick. We have a poll question about the work from home arrangements. If everybody that's attending would like to join in that conversation as well.

Thank you, Colleen.

This is Ken. I'll take that one first. So Takeda is going through, we're seeing two monumental changes going on right now.

One is the obvious, COVID is affecting everyone. And that's affecting us from the outside. From the inside, Takeda Pharmaceuticals acquired Shire Pharmaceuticals in 2019 and essentially doubled the size of the company.

As part of that doubling of the company, the new strategy of locations was put in place and announced in 2019. And we've been actively working towards resetting our employees where they're located, reappointing people to new locations.

And because of that, we've still been pushing forward with the idea of these locations that are our new hubs, our new strategic locations, need to still be fully staffed. And we need to continue with moving employees there as needed.

The big caveat to that one, though, is we have a weekly leadership meeting where Q&A is-- with [INAUDIBLE] Q&As. And every week for the last three weeks, the question has come up of the potential of extending work from home, or work at home arrangements, and making it more of a vital part of the employee proposition as opposed to just being something that is a benefit for some people at some times.

So at this point, we're still pushing forward with our full relocations. And that's based on our strategy. But employees are asking for it more. So it's something that we're going to have to look at as this goes forward. And potentially if this lasts, again, into the next few months, or hopefully not too far into next year. But right now we are still pushing forward our strategy to continue relocations.

That's a very interesting insight. Tom or Tessa, any experience around the work at home strategy and what the future might bring?

So I can speak for Ford that we are, today, similar to Ken, we are not looking to cancel, basically, relocations or cancel international assignments and manage this on a work at home situation. But that could change. And a lot of things are fluid. There's a lot of different considerations.

We also have, as I mentioned, return-to-work scenarios now for the different manufacturing facilities for Ford, the different buildings support and administrative services in different buildings.

And that is going to stretch well into the summer, well through June, July into August for some of those groups. So we might see that this is looked at a little bit more closely and considered. But today, it is not the case where we are going to forego a relocation or forego an international assignment for a work at home situation.

A lot depends on the situation and the location as well. You know, I'm sure Ford and Takeda have the same issues that we do. We've got labs and fabs. And you simply can't work from home if you work in a lab or a fab. So depending on which location you work in, you can't work from home.

Those of us who can will sustain as long as we can. And I believe that there will be some sort of a rotation. It'll become more acceptable. And we're seeing, especially with our population in Asia, that have never understood the concept of being able to be productive in a work from home environment are now seeing that you can.

So it's becoming more acceptable as a whole for the group. We've actually implemented an entire virtual intern program that we're going to launch this year. Will that stick for next year? I don't know.

Part of it may. Part of it may not. We've got all all except for, I think, maybe a half a dozen of our interns are going to be doing their internships from home. We've created a curriculum with our Micron University folks and rotating through different educational opportunities for them.

The area that we need to be concerned with from an international standpoint is the compliance issue of working from home. If you're in one country, working to benefit an entity that's in another country, you're going to run into PE issues.

So those have to be considered. Within the US, state-to-state tax. We may not be able to submit or create W-2's for states that we don't have a presence. So those are the concerns around keeping this work from home arrangement happening.

So I would say we're not diverting. We are delaying, for sure. We're delaying as much as we can. But as far as diverting on a permanent basis, I don't see that happening on a large scale at all.

Thanks for that, Tom. You know, I've got to say, as I listen to this panel today, I feel like I've been given windows into three very different industries, and three very different corporate cultures. And it's fascinating to look at how we're all evolving in our processes and policies as we go along, given the moving targets we're all being asked to address.

But I think with that, though, I'd like to give our audience today an opportunity to ask their questions of the panel as well. So I would like to relinquish to Colleen the lead on that. And let's see what we are hearing from our audience today as well. Colleen?

Sure. Yeah. Just a quick reminder. We do a poll question up there. We'll be closing that in a moment. And if you wanted to submit a Q&A in the Q&A panel, you can do that and I'll read it off. If you'd like to ask your question live, click your raise hand icon and our WebEx producer will un-mute your line.

We do have a few questions that have come in. John, we do have a question here about protocol for transferees or assignees or even family members. If they become positive for COVID-19 after a move has begun, we're wondering if there are any policies in place for handling those positive cases. So wondering if we can have that addressed.

Anyone on the panel experiencing like cases?

We did have a case. It was not someone at the start, necessarily of their assignment. But they were on assignment in Thailand. And became ill. And were COVID positive, tested COVID positive.

And this particular assignee was alone. So without family there. Family was not in the host location.

And so it was a bit challenging. It's a bit frightening in that situation. We have of course international health insurance. And they were actively engaged. But in certain markets, the international health insurance works together with private hospitals and private clinics.

But in these situations, often those private clinics and private hospitals are not seeing COVID positive patients. They don't want COVID positive patients. They're not treating and are not equipped to treat.

And so they are using public facilities in Thailand, for example. It was also the same in China. And so this was also a bit of a concern for our expat there. But he was transported to a public facility in Bangkok and received care, and is now thankfully discharged and on the mend.

But it's definitely something that you have to-- we were thankfully prepared with the international health insurance and have a good working relationship with our vendor partner there. And they were able to assist. But it's certainly something that you have to manage as it comes. Again, that's the point of a case by case. And manage those situations as they come.

That's a great example, too, I think, Tessa of duty of care or actually going beyond providing insurances that would normally be adequate. Because if the resources don't exist, then it's a matter of sourcing what's required, even if it's outside--

Exactly.

--the expected [INAUDIBLE].

Exactly right. Yep.

We've taken an extremely aggressive and conservative approach to this whole thing. And as I'm sure Ford and Takeda have as well with the strong presence in Asia, having to get on it early and stay on it, as a company, we've exceeded the protocol requirements for any government anywhere right now, and plan on doing the same thing in reverse going back down again.

We've got 37,000 team members around the world and have, I think, less than 20 cases. And I believe only two of those have actually been exposed on site. So we've gotten through this relatively unscathed because of some really strong leadership.

And one of those areas, we have not seen any expats in move or relo's in move, but we do have a requirement that if anybody moves from point A to point B, no matter how or where, they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days before they can come on site. So I think that's been really helpful as a preventative measure. No exceptions.

Well done.

And we have the same here that Tom just said. If anyone's traveling internationally-- and we've put a halt on all international travel through the end of May. That's been in place for since mid-March.

If there is any essential travel and that needs to be reviewed, they still are required to do a 14-day at home quarantine before they can go into the office environment. And for us, again, our offices have closed where possible and all work from home is in place, except in the lab environment, except where needed, you know, R&D, where they need to be present.

But even in those locations, we have changed the protocol to make sure that there is staggered working hours, more adherence to spacing. All the government requirements, but also making sure that we are thinking of the employees too.

The way I put it is to say that we've always been concerned about care and feeding, but right now care and feeding is taking the top of our mindsets, making sure that we take care of our employees and that we are covering those basic needs to make sure that they are a little more comfortable.

From a relocation and assignment standpoint, we haven't had anyone, luckily, that's tested positive. And we think it might be because of our delays and because of our protocols where people have to remain at home if possible, that we just haven't had that experience yet. But we have open dialogues already with our international health vendor, with our local HRs where we do have our largest populations of people coming into countries, to make sure that contingency plans are being discussed and hopefully it doesn't happen, but if it does happen, we've had some dialogues and had some plans in place to take care of them if we do see a case.

It certainly sounds like at least at minimum, all three of your companies have successively flattened, at least an internal curve for exposures, regardless of what might be going on in the external environment. And that I think shows great, as you say, care and feeding for the long-term investment in your people. Speaks well for each of you.

Colleen, what else do you have for us?

Yeah, sure. So we have a couple of questions kind of related. Someone would like to know if any of these panelists have implemented, if their company has implemented an across the board global salary reduction. How have you applied this to assignee populations? And then just kind of another general question. If there have been any just general compensation challenges with expats.

This is Ken. We have not had any furloughs or any compensation reductions at this time. What we see with the expats is the availability of f to start assignments. And for new hires, the availability of them to join the company. And there has been some cases where we had to hire somebody in a different country, or hire them, put them directly on assignment just because where they're physically located. And we couldn't get them into their new country because of travel restrictions. So we're getting more creative in our-- I won't call it assignment types, but the way mobility supports some of our employees and some of our new hires.

And we are investigating new ideas and new ways of trying to bring people on board when we have some complications based on government restrictions and immigration restrictions. But at this time, again, we haven't had to furlough anyone or reduce anyone's compensation.

So we have seen furloughs at Ford. We've seen furloughs in many of the European countries. And we've also seen some executive compensation deferrals.

And so it's been really very challenging. There are different employment laws and regulations in every market, with different legal restrictions. And there is sign-off required for the different changes that are made to compensation in a furlough situation or in a compensation deferral situation.

So it's been very interesting navigating these waters. This has-- there's added complexity there for sure.

And so working together, what I would recommend to you as we have done, is working very closely together with your legal group, and ensuring that-- and of course with the executive compensation to ensure that all of these things are approached correctly and in a compliant way, so that you're not sort of violating anyone's employment rights as-- navigating this.

Thank you, Tessa. That's awakened me to the notion that not only are there compliance differences for these various jurisdictions, but does it create issues of perceived inequity among your population, where someone in one environment might be legally protected from a reduction and someone in another environment is vulnerable to that?

So we haven't come across that from an expat perspective. Ultimately, if that particular local market is furloughed, or if that particular local market makes the determination that there will be salary deferrals, then that impacts all of those employees in that market, as well as the expats that are from that market. It's usually a home market perspective.

So there really hasn't been, you know, if that has been an initiative implemented, then everyone sort of follows through. We're not [INAUDIBLE]

They're on board then. That's good.

Yeah.

I wonder if I can sneak in, at this point, one final question for our panel. Thinking of your move volumes, both domestic and internationally last year, how do you think at the end of 2020, this year's move volume is going to compare to the year before?

Do you want a percentage?

[LAUGHTER]

Whatever.

Or a fraction?

Yeah, this is [INAUDIBLE] It's not high science at all. I'm looking for--

Right. Obviously. Obviously it's going to have a massive impact on our volume. Just right now, we've been talking about this for the last half an hour about how we're delaying moves and now we're seeing them start to get canceled. And our concern at first was this sort of backlog of moves that were going to happen when everything started opening up again.

But I'm seeing that backlog even get reduced to some degree, so that getting canceled. And we're coming into a slumping economy as well, to be honest. And so what's one of the first things that happens during slumping economies is they start cutting back on mobility.

So I think our volume will be, by the end of 2020, it will be greatly reduced to what we had in 2019. And that's unfortunate for everybody in the supply chain.

We will also see reductions across our programs. And to Tom's point, we thought we would have this backlog, and there was going to be all this-- we were just kind of stockpiling all of these assignments. And now it seems that the business is looking to save cash, and they're looking to make some structural changes that might not necessitate that particular international movement because they're expensive.

So there is-- I think we will see a lower, much lower volume of moves this year.

I actually will be-- I'll be the center here. We are, because of our strategy from the acquisition and our new hubs, we are-- I still expect the numbers to be up there. We have not had any cancelations yet. A lot of delays. But those delays, as Tom and Tessa were saying-- those have created a backlog that, assuming that opens up in a few months, OK, it'll be a very big rush.

But if we're talking six months of stalled activity, then I can't speak to how things will change then. But at this point, we definitely are going to go forward with our strategic relocation plans. And the delays are going to be a backlog, but we're not going to stop at this point.

And that answer could easily change if things still stay stagnant in different governments and restrictions are still in place come summertime, come the end of the summer. But that would be a bigger problem.

Ken, thank you for showing us a ray of hope in [INAUDIBLE] a pretty dismal picture in many other respects. We're about up on time. So I would just like to thank my panel of Ken, Tessa and Tom for all your extraordinary insights that you gave us today. It was a privilege to help to host this event.

And with that, I would like to pass back to Wendy Morell.

Thanks, John. Yeah, I would echo that. Ken, thank you for the silver lining at the end of this discussion. So no, in all seriousness, I thought there were certainly a lot of great insights, but also a lot of positive things that we're coming away from. And obviously, you know, it is very fluid, as I think was mentioned many times.

So quickly, just a virtual round of applause for our panelists and for our speakers. I want to thank our participants. And our goal is to bring value through these sessions. So we welcome your honest feedback and suggestions for future sessions.

So please stay safe and healthy. We look forward to seeing you virtually again very soon. Thank you. 

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Webinar – Mobility responses during COVID-19 crisis focus on employees’ unique needs

Tags: COVID-19
Published: May 29, 2020

U.S. Bank hosted its second virtual client advisory forum on April 29, 2020 to discuss how the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent challenges continue to impact mobility programs and influence the way they are managed. As a follow-up to the April 1 forum, this session, designed for mobility and relocation specialists, revealed emerging trends in adapting mobility programs to new and changing circumstances.

The panel discussion, moderated by John Sculley, SCRP ®, Mobility Consultant, Sculley Consulting, shed light on changes taking place within the global workforce. Panelists underscored the current challenges facing mobility specialists and acknowledged there is no one-size-fits-all solution to accommodate employees preparing to move. Speaker, Robert Burns, President, Red Sky Risk Services, kicked off the discussion with insights surrounding changes in the appraisal process and developments in property values.

The forum featured three mobility specialists:

  • Tessa Boon
    Manage, International Service Global Policy, Vendor Management & Tax
    Ford Motor Company
  • Tom Wagner
    Director, Global Talent Mobility & Immigration
    Micron Technology
  • Ken Brown, GPHR®

    Global Mobility Lead
  • Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Read the full summary of the forum. 

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