Canadian Underwriter

Aon’s approach to post-pandemic travel and entertainment

May 11, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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As business leaders await an easing of pandemic lockdown restrictions, Aon Plc executives suggest that, going forward, they plan to apply the lessons they’ve learned during COVID-19 regarding collaboration.

“We are going to be smart about how we do [travel and entertainment] in the future, as business opens up to in-person meetings,” Aon president Eric Anderson said during a recent earnings call. “It is ultimately a positive step in the global recovery if we can interact, but we have learned a lot.”

Anderson was alluding to the adjustments companies have had to make since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

“Historically, if a client wanted to talk about a situation that was occurring outside of their home country, we would either do a conference call or plan a trip. Now what we do is we open up Webex and we actually have the leader of the issue in that country on the Webex and we can solve the issue right away,” Anderson said Apr. 30.

He was replying to a question from an investment banking analyst about travel and entertainment expenses during a conference call discussing Aon’s financial results for the quarter ending Mar. 30.

“Certainly, there is efficiency and cost advantages to (web conferences versus in-person meetings). But more importantly, I think, there is enormous client value to unlock that expertise in an immediate way, [so that clients] are not getting an interpretation through someone else. [The clients] are talking right to the source [during a virtual conference] and getting that value in real-time. Ultimately, we are going to use what we have learned, and we are going to meet the clients where they want to be met, but I think we have learned a lot and we are going to apply it.”

Aon reported Apr. 30 it had net earnings of US$933 million on revenue of $3.53 billion during the three months ending Mar. 31. That compares to revenue of US$772 million on revenue of 3.22 billion during 2020 Q1.

Travel and entertainment has also been a topic of discussion for Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.

“I am not sure we will go running back to hopping on an airplane to go to Singapore for a $100,000 opportunity,” Marsh & McLannan CEO Dan Glaser said in 2020 during a conference call discussing Marsh & McLennan’s financial results for the second quarter of that year.

At that time, Glaser said travel and entertainment (T&E) spending was down significantly in 2020 Q2, but would rise in the future.

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