Worldwide ERC® Conference: Focus on Asia Pacific |

Worldwide ERC® Conference: Focus on Asia Pacific

Andrea Martins shares her experiences of attending a conference that she didn't expect would be as it was. Find out more.

Posted on

9 March 2015

Last updated on 28 June 2017
Worldwide ERC® Conference: Focus on Asia Pacific

Have you ever made a last-minute decision to attend a conference and then found yourself having such a wonderful time you wondered why you had never attended before?

That happened to me recently at the Worldwide ERC® conference in Hong Kong, thanks to the fantastic array of friendly, welcoming, interesting and 'relevant' people who made networking at the conference a real treat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Worldwide ERC®, it is a premier Workforce Mobility Association for professionals who oversee, manager or support (mainly U.S.) domestic and international employee transfer, and it has been around since 1964.

Interesting Conference Insights

Here are some interesting insights that I would like to share with you from the conference:

• Martin Leese, HR manager for Citigroup (48,000 employees), commented that he is seeing a decrease in the acceptance rate of job offers – including for graduate jobs (which he noted was a general financial services trend in the United States right now).

• HR issue regarding expatriates: offering incentives that are 'sustainable'. Various HR managers commented on their push to make expat job offers more consistent and their need to stop throwing incentives to expatriate employees that are not sustainable in the long-term.

• There was a general trend that 'local plus' packages (that is, local packages with some, but not all, extra/expatriate benefits).

• Last year, US$560 billion of residential property sold in China – which was an 80% increase from the year before – and clearly demonstrates the heightened activity in China at the moment. (Jasper Becker)

• The wealth of most of the richest residents in China is property-related, versus only 7 out of 100 on the US's rich list being property-related. (Jasper Becker)

• Brendan Ryan (MD Operations for Fragomen Global) said that in his twenty years of working in the field of immigration law and visas, he had never seen such a worldwide trend to both tighten and enforce immigration policies.

• Tax equalisation: Talk of more and more companies providing expat packages that are 'tax neutral' – that is, you do not lose if you move to a higher-tax country with your employer, but you do not win either (on the tax aspect at least... this discussion talked about 'other' benefits separately), if you move to a lower-tax country.

It goes without saying that not everyone agreed with everything (me included), but it was interesting to hear HR trends and listen to the perspectives of HR managers, who, it should be remembered, are constantly under pressure to reduce resource expenditure yet improve their company's bottom line.

5 Mistakes When Managing Expatriates During Challenging Times

From the AIRINC (Associates for International Research Inc.) exhibition stand, I collected some interesting advisory reports.

One of them was entitled "Managing Expatriates During Challenging Times: Five Mistakes – And What To Do About Them!" by Morgan Crosby, an AIRINC Senior Manager. Morgan provides advice on the following five key corporate mistakes:

1. Treating each assignment the same way

2. Implementing across-the-board cuts

3. Assuming localisation is cheaper and simpler

4. Not tracking the difference between written policy and actual practice/costs, and

5. An ad hoc approach to international assignments


She warns organizations against a "making reactive 'penny wise but pound foolish' decisions, which will negatively impact those organizations in the long-term."

Top 3 Global Mobility Challenges

Another slightly older but still interesting AIRINC report, entitled "Global Mobility in 2009: The Top Three Challenges", by Morgan Crosby and her colleague Brooke Zwarg, highlighted the following three challenges as 2009's biggest challenges:

1. Cost Control
   a. Namely reductions in housing, home sale assistance, premiums and cost-of-living adjustment

2. Localisation
   a. Localisation from Expatriate Status
   b. Direct International Move to Local Terms
   c. Local/Local Plus Packages for Temporary Moves, and
   d. Exchange rates, and

3. Rental Deflation

General Conference Overview

For many of us, the primary value of being at the conference was the opportunity to network with our peers in the fields of relocation and global mobility.

However, that said, there were still many interesting conference sessions, as per the following conference session list:

  • The New China (Opening Plenary)

  • Managing Talenti in the New Economy

  • The HR Discipline of Measuring ROI

  • The Effect of Global Economics on Workforce Mobility and Mobility Benefits

  • Survive and Thrive in the 'New Normal' - Policy Trends Update and Interactive Workshop

  • GLobaly Mobility Benchmarking Workshop for Corporate HR Professionals

  • GLobal Thought Leaders: Senior Strategists Dialogue

  • Solutions Workshop: Alignment of Talent, Mobility, and Business Strategies

  • Focus on Assignments in Indonesia

  • Mobility Compensation Issues and Practices in Asia

  • Understanding Localisation and 'Local Plus'

  • India: Trends in Workforce Mobility

  • Exploring Comuter and Short-Term Assignments

  • The War for Talent in China: Benefits, Challenges

  • Schooling Solutions for the Assignee's Family

  • Legal Update: Labour and Immigration Hot Issues

  • Turn Obstacles into Opportunities Through Hope and Humour (Closing Plenary)


Closing Keynote Speaker

To conclude the conference, we were treated to an inspirational talk from Catherine De Vrye, a former HR Manager for IBM's Asia Pacific Headquarters in Tokyo who was responsible for over 600 expat families, and is now a motivational speaker and the author of seven best-selling books translated into over a dozen languages.

Catherine shared with us her own rollercoaster ride of life's challenges and victories. With her heart-warming stories and the music and images of her Olympic Torch run for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, you left feeling uplifted and convinced that 'if she can do it, I can too'. Thanks Catherine.

Andrea Martins was the co-founder of Expat Women and is now the co-founder of GreenSocks - for lawn mowing services in Australia. Andrea also founded Launched & Noticed and Story Resumes. You can find her on Twitter at @andreaexpat.