As war unfolded last week, corporate America began canceling, postponing, or moving meetings, as well as rethinking corporate business travel policies.
Chase Automotive Finance, part of JPMorgan Chase, was scheduled to hold a managers meeting in Chase’s corporate headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan this week. Several executives from the company expressed trepidation about holding the meeting in Manhattan, because "Chase is a major U.S. corporation and is an American corporate symbol," says Susana Curbelo, a Chase Automotive Finance meeting planner, based in Garden City, Long Island. And, because Manhattan, like the rest of the country, is at a high terror alert status, she moved the meeting to a small hotel on the North Shore of Long Island. Two managers from Philadelphia and Boston who were originally scheduled to fly to the meeting have opted to drive instead, says Curbelo.
She added that the human resources department of JPMorgan Chase sent a companywide voice mail advising employees where not to travel. It also said that international travel should take place only if absolutely necessary.
Many corporations have directed employees to postpone all non-essential travel. Lake Success, N.Y.-based Canon has canceled all travel until further notice. If an employee feels the travel is absolutely essential, it must be approved by the president of the company, says David A. Hunn, Canon’s senior manager, marketing services.
The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, based in Warren, N.J., issued a statement on its Intranet saying that employees should only schedule essential international travel. When in doubt, they should discuss travel plans with a manager, the statement said. Chubb is encouraging employees to use alternatives like audioconferencing, webconferencing, and videoconferencing as a substitute to international travel when possible. It provided its employees information on how to execute these alternatives.
Mark Schussel, a spokesperson from Chubb, said in many instances travel is being canceled on an individual basis. Nineteen employees from the company were to fly to Newark Liberty International Airport from various points in the United States and abroad for a New Jersey training meeting last Sunday, but it was postponed until June as a result of the war.
Chubb has also provided all of its employees with a copy of "Managing Travel Risks—Tips on International Business Travel," a publication that was prepared for the company by the Ackerman Group, a Miami-based security consulting firm that Chubb works with.
Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Financial is another company that has issued a statement to all of its employees that "all non-critical international travel be delayed if possible." Prudential has always been a proactive company where the safety of its employees is concerned. Kelly Jordan Gatti, a manager, operates as a "safety detective," making sure hotels are safe for Prudential's 54,086 employees. Gatti, who has held various positions in the hotel industry since 1985, joined Prudential in 1998. Since then, she has inspected 1,000 hotels, about half of them in an undercover role.
Prudential Financial has also enlisted the services of iJet, a travel intelligence group linked to more than 6,000 sources worldwide, including embassy personnel, local contacts, and thousands of live webcasts. By sifting through information to identify trouble spots, iJet provides reports about transportation, health risks, crime, and terrorist threats. Prudential’s travel and security managers have access to iJET’s TravelerTracker service, allowing them to locate, monitor, and contact employees during travel. They are notified via e-mail, pager, cell phone, or other wireless device about breaking events and situations worldwide that might impact their trip.