Catastrophic Financial Tsunami!


The relocation market has been stressed financially like no one could imagine prior to COVID. This is after years of pressure on profits, increased compliance, and investment in areas such as technology which we cover in our Technology Race to where blog. It was not unusual for companies to run at a loss during the quiet times and replenish their finances during the peak months. How are those companies faring now?

Cashflow is a key factor for companies across the relocation spectrum, so are we facing a series of companies running out of cash followed by the wider impact this would have across the market? Or are companies though impacted, still healthy and ready to take advantage of the increase in mobility when COVID is under control?

It is surely a mixture of the two scenarios but given the financial stress in the market, refinancing, mergers, and acquisitions are surely being discussed along with new investors looking to enter the market.

So, we are facing a time of uncertainty, consolidation and potentially companies leaving the relocation scene. But this could be an exciting time for the mobility industry as companies focus on their core strengths, potentially stop trying to be everything to everyone! Our Ecosystem The Future blog covers the potential benefits of working with multiple providers who each focus on key areas of the service delivery that you need for your program.

Is it dangerous to presume the financial state of any size of company in our industry from wide- ranging service portfolio to niche? Or can we just look at a companies’ history for any reassurance on how they will fare in this new world we are living in?

Is size and scale the saviour? Are larger relocation companies better placed to weather the Covid storm which has devastated revenues and profits? Yes, they control more business but also have higher overheads and maybe are slower to react in the rapidly changing market and to the needs of their clients.

Mid-sized to smaller relocation companies and the niche players still have the same issues as the larger companies but on different scales. Niche can be good if your niche is in demand or you are able to diversify affectively, but what happens if the niche isn’t in demand? Are small to mid-sized companies better able to make decisions quickly and effectively adapt to new market conditions?

Potentially, but I believe this can be more effectively evaluated by looking at the structure of any sized company, the senior management, their track record of making quick and affective decisions to evolve their companies. Critically when decisions have been made how long did it take for those actions to become reality and did, they add value?

Private Equity has invested in many relocation companies, but what is their appetite for continued investment, with potentially no or little return in the short term? If private equity investors decide to pull out and invest elsewhere it will be a huge disruptor for the industry.

The challenge for many relocation companies, for example destination services or household goods moving providers is their reliance on being part of the supply chain for the larger to mid-sized relocation companies that control a large market share. What if a large or even mid-sized relocation company ran out of cash and went into liquidation! This would have a quick and dramatic effect on their supply chain with the consequence of taking some of these providers into liquidation as well. This scenario would affect many relocation companies as it is common for multiple relocation companies to use the same providers in their supply chain.

In challenging times some companies do well as they find themselves in the right place at the right time! Look at the tech solution companies with Benivo continuing the evolution of their technology platform, Perchpeek as a new player in the market has seen expansion and a new $2m investment. So, it shows that investors still see the Global Mobility industry as a good investment but is this only in certain segments?

On a more positive note, Covid has driven rapid change on all sides of our industry. For example, we had to adapt to remote working, dealing with closed borders, immigration delays, managing a home search virtually, getting household goods moves transported around the world in a pandemic. Who would have thought remote and virtual working would have taken up so much of everyone's time as multinational companies struggled with the concept, whilst many of their senior managers did not understand the compliance challenges!

Even though COVID has been painful for Global Mobility, it was also a moment in time that opened the door to the amazing quality of talent and expertise in Global Mobility that led the business to embrace Global Mobility as a true partner at the table. Global Mobility professionals should congratulate themselves on what they have achieved in such challenging times and realise that COVID was a pivotal moment that changed Global Mobility positively in many ways.

So, what can you do? My advice is to take time to ask the right questions of your providers, get regular financial updates and ensure you check their supply chain. I am available to share my experience and knowledge to help you evaluate if your provider and their supply chain are secure.

Written by Paul Barnes, Director, Inspire Global Mobility Consulting.

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