2 Febuary 2021
InfoGlobal: Interview with FIDI 

Magali Horbert 

Marketing & Communications Manager at FIDI 

A couple of months ago we set down with FIDI and interviewed one of their own, Magali Horbert. In our chat, we covered the pandemic, the future of our industry, what does an association bring to the movers, and other fascinating subjects. 

Who are you and what’s your role at FIDI Global Alliance?

I am what some would call a TCK (third-culture kid), global nomad, serial expat, citizen of the world, or whatever fancy way you would qualify anybody whose roots span various continents, and who calls home wherever the wind takes her. 

Currently, I call Brussels my home (the perfect home for global wanderers). I am Marketing & Communications Manager at FIDI Global Alliance – meaning that I am in charge of running FIDI’s communication channels and activities, both internally for our membership and externally for the global audience.

How does FIDI Global Alliance add value to the moving industry? 

FIDI is the oldest international organisation for moving and relocation companies, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020. The big differentiator we offer to our membership is the FAIM Quality label – the only quality certification specifically developed for the international moving and relocation industry. The FAIM Certification has now become globally recognized by partners and corporate customers alike, as proof of consistent quality of service.

The FAIM Standard is updated every three years, to include industry-relevant requirements, such as data and privacy protection, risk and supply chain management, etc. The regular on-site audits are performed by specially trained, independent, auditors from EY. Every FIDI affiliated company has to undergo an extensive onsite audit every three years – meaning that all of our members work according to the same high standard all the time, and we can prove it!

FIDI has gained international recognition as setting the standard in the international moving industry. One example of this is the adoption of the FIDI Professional Cooperation Guidelines (FIDI PCGs) by other industry organisations, such as LACMA, the IAM, and recently PAIMA. This is one of FIDI’s main purposes (and in my opinion, its main added value to our industry): setting the standard for quality services in our industry. Increased standardisation is hugely beneficial for the industry as a whole, ultimately protecting both the customers and the movers.   

What was your reaction when you first heard about COVID?

My first reaction was that of the enlightened ostrich: “It can’t be that bad, let’s wait for it to blow over in a couple of weeks and keep reading the newspapers.” Well, let’s just say I had to pull my head out of the sand pretty quickly… Even though lockdown meant that most of our members had to stop all activity as of March, within our organisation (and especially in the communications department), things went into overdrive. We had to adjust to working from home full-time, adapt our services and planned activities to the online environment, figure out what assistance our members needed from us immediately and in the long-run, create reliable news updates on the COVID-19 situation on a global scale, etc.

What changes did you implement that you are proud of in relation to COVID? 

Even before COVID-19 hit, we were thinking about how we could establish more direct and two-way communication channels with our members. Our membership of over 600 companies spans the entire globe, making in-person meetings difficult and cumbersome.

One positive side effect of the pandemic is that we all had to get to grips with Zoom, Teams, and other online tools very fast. This made it easy for us to create new types of meeting spaces. We organised our General Assembly online and, since March, have hosted different types of meetings with our Affiliates, our partners, have organised online panel discussions, webinars, online training. The feedback has been so positive that we are now developing a permanent online events calendar, allowing our entire membership to be engaged with FIDI projects on a regular basis.  

With hindsight, what would you do differently in response to news of COVID? 

The first reaction is the knee-jerk effect: find solutions to the immediate problems at hand and act on them. That is normal and necessary, of course. But with hindsight, I would have taken more time, right at the beginning, to take a strategic step back and look at the big picture: what are the immediate steps that need to be implemented? What can wait until we have a clearer picture of how the pandemic will affect our industry and membership? How can we help our members now and in the long run, and how do we effectively communicate this to them? How does this crisis affect our organisation’s mid-and long-term strategy, and what do we need to do to adapt? How do we maintain active two-way communication with our membership, to find out how they are really doing, what challenges they are facing, and what we can do to assist them?

It is easy to be caught up in reactive mode – but taking a moment to breathe and analyse the situation pro-actively helps to keep oneself grounded in reality!

Which part of the current moving process do you think can benefit most from advances in technology? 

What sets the international moving process apart from other industries is that it is inherently based on longstanding relationships. The company acting as your supplier today might be your booker tomorrow. Even though the supply chain is very fragmented, most stakeholders know each other rather well. That’s our industry’s strength and weakness at the same time: we can rely on long-term business relations, but that also means that our industry does not embrace change enthusiastically…

I think that one big pain point that could be greatly helped by technology is data transfer between agents. Take the simple task of transmitting the assignee's date of birth: this (personal and sensitive) piece of data is transferred repeatedly, recorded manually into different systems various times along the way. Imagine the data moving from the USA (mm/dd/yyyy) to mainland Europe (dd/mm/yyyy)… and you can see where the problem starts. Technology could help in standardising simple data transfer processes, greatly cutting out the mistakes linked to manual input. This would also help with the protection of personal data, something we feel very strongly about in FIDI. 

Where do you see the greatest need for innovation in the moving industry? 

I think more than innovation, our industry needs standardisation, across the board. Our industry is greatly weighed down by outdated, fragmented processes – leading to unnecessary admin and paperwork, which could largely be automated. If we could all agree to a common set of framework standards for the international relocation process, it would make everybody’s life so much easier! The technology and know-how already exists, the customers (and international regulations) are demanding it – we just need to bring everybody together and define the common groundworks. It sounds easy on paper, but the path is fraught with complications!.

Paint us a picture of how you think the industry will look in a year from now (ie; moving companies, laws, global movement of people etc) 

One year is a short time, and I think that we will still be at the very beginning of the transition phase to whatever the “new normal” will be. It will be too soon to see clearly the profound shifts, but I do think that most immediate changes will be linked to technology: most international moving companies will have embraced digital transformation to a certain extent. The younger generation will be more actively involved in defining company strategies and adapting processes to a more digital environment. Business-wise, most companies will have developed a more diverse portfolio of activities, as international moves were particularly hard-hit during the lockdown.

People will start relocating again soon. The need for a global workforce has not disappeared, but we might see an increased focus on more comprehensive duty of care in relocation policies, and greater attention to family well-being. More and more corporate customers will look deeper into compliance and will demand proof of quality – giving companies with recognized certification (such as FAIM) a definite competitive advantage!

If you had one wish for today’s moving industry, what would it be?

One wish, right now? That we will all be able to meet in person again, very soon. What makes our industry so special are the people behind it – and I for one dearly miss the human interaction. Moving as an activity will always exist; and our industry has survived many crises and upheavals in the past. I think that if we stick together and rely on our networks, all while not being afraid to embrace change, we will come out of this stronger. 

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