CFOs and travel Special Feature part 1: Start preparing long before take-off, says Ravi Singh
With so many companies having multinational or multi-provincial operations, it's unsurprising that "willingness to travel" is a headline job requirement for CFOs. Four finance executives who apply their strategic thinking to the business travel journey as much to the destination, shared their travel tips and tricks with Kate Ferreira.
In an increasingly globalised business environment, regular travel is a given for your average CFO. And this climbs to monthly and weekly excursions for executives reporting into international headquarters or overseeing multinational divisions. CFO South Africa asked four professionals from our network to tell us (and you) how they manage the miles and make the travel time fly – both personally and professionally.
Ravi Singh is the CFO of Liberty Africa Insurance, part of the Liberty Group. This entails overseeing the finance of 12 different business units and serving on a number of boards, including as chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), so he characterises his work-related travel as “extensive”.
For business travel, his preparation starts long before takeoff. First, be sure you check yourself in, rather than relying on the travel agent to do so, he says. “This not only gives you peace of mind, but you can also ensure that your preferential seat is booked.” Along the same lines is double checking your travel documents: “Always check the number of pages left in your passport as well as the rules around the required number of pages. I've been turned away from a flight before, even though I thought that the space in my passport was still sufficient.” He also confirms that his phone is set up to make and receive calls (with data roaming switched off).
Ravi suggests frequent travellers invest in quality travel gear, including hand luggage and laptop bags, and wireless headphones. “Ensure these are fully charged before flying. And keep your music playlists updated; music is great for passing the hours on a flight, especially while you’re working.” If you prefer to take in the entertainment, Ravi suggests pre-downloading series or movies. “As a frequent flyer, the same in-flight movie may play a few times on your trips, and having your own selection makes the flight more comfortable.”
Choosing – and paying for – comfort is a strategy that comes up repeatedly from our CFOs. For example, Ravi says, “Make full use of the airport lounges, even if you have to pay for access at times. They provide comfort and a good place to work in, along with catering, thus relieving the frustration of the wait before flights.”
The same applies to personal travel, he says. “But I will add, keep all the relevant family documents handy and easily accessible as you will be asked a few times to produce birth certificates and passports for the kids, and a quality sleeping pillow that supports your neck is vital for the whole family, irrespective of how old the kids are.”
Lastly, he offers a word of caution:
“Never underestimate the roads, especially for early morning flights out of SA. Always leave early – period!”