Crossing Borders?

Published: March 2015


Globalisation and modern technology have dissolved traditional borders. This process has enabled small companies to extend their operational reach, with many exploring commercial opportunities and sourcing production capabilities in sometimes remote and challenging locations.

In these cross-border trade environments, International SOS’ local knowledge and assistance are proving vital to keeping people safe and well. Here, Kenneth A. Ross (CSP), VP of Corporate EHs & security at The HEICO Companies, LLC (i.e. HEICO), discusses the benefits of the International SOS global network for his company and global travellers.

taxi at night in Hong Kong

HEICO is the parent holding company for a diversified portfolio of over 50 businesses involved in manufacturing, construction and industrial services. since its founding over 30 years ago, the company has been built by reinvesting its earnings into both internal growth and new acquisitions around the world. HEICO currently operates in 16 countries, while buying and selling in over 82 markets and growing.

As with many other companies of its size, HEICO’s global growth has taken it into new areas with varying levels of concern, as Ken Ross explains:

“In the past decade or so we have seen traditional manufacturing borders collapse. Barriers that previously restricted the flow of international trade have been torn down. For companies like HEICO, this means we have been able to start sourcing components globally. Our supply chain has expanded, and we are seeing manufacturing capabilities opening up in continents such as Africa, Central and South America and various countries in the Asia-Pacific region. These locations present great business opportunities, but they involve a much higher degree of medical and security risk than we have encountered in the past.”

Having previously operated mainly in the US, Canada, and Western Europe, today HEICO has between 20 and 30 employees working in potentially high-risk environments at any one time. And as the company continues to expand into geographically strategic areas, it has to assess a whole host of new operational, health, safety and security challenges. "Every region brings its own unique set of issues,” says Ross. “In South America, for example, the security risk can be higher, with criminal activity and express-kidnapping cultures in some countries. On the Indian subcontinent, meanwhile, it’s less about security and more about safety; roads and transport infrastructure are often difficult, so there’s a strong chance of accident and injury among our international travellers.”


Committed to fulfilling its Duty of Care to all global employees, HEICO has been working closely with International SOS since 2007. As part of an extensive programme of support, International SOS has developed and co-branded a web portal for HEICO employees, providing vital pre-travel information and advice that is tied to the same advice if an employee were to call one of the 27 Assistance Centres. In line with International SOS’ focus on prevention, this and other online resources offer a range of trouble-avoidance tips and techniques. Employees are also encouraged to download the International SOS Assistance App – a vital travel risk-mitigation tool which connects overseas employees to the International SOS global assistance network.

“International SOS provides a range of crucial information and assistance services to HEICO,” says Ross. “We monitor their local information feeds on medical and security issues, distribute their pre-trip advice, and generally use their expertise and country intelligence to assess whether or not a trip is worth making. We have also called on International SOS’ rapid response services on a number of occasions.”

During the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, International SOS reached out to three HEICC employees in a building opposite the high-jacked Taj Mahal hotel. International SOS also checked on the whereabouts, health and safety of HEICO staff in Chile following the earthquake of 2010, and in 2011 were prepared to organise emergency evacuation for employees caught in the turmoil of the Egyptian coup and protest.

There are parts of the world HEICO will not send its employees (Iraq and Pakistan, for example), and it has a policy of “never sending anyone anywhere they are not comfortable with.” However, working with International SOS means Ross and his team are confident they have the back-up, intelligence and assistance they need:

“International SOS has been there for us whenever we have needed them. As our world expands we know that we have the support required to provide our employees with the best health care benefits and assistance solutions during  overseas trips and assignments. And we know that if necessary we can get our employees back home quickly and safely.”

Bus on road in Jaipur


International SOS’ cross-border operations are designed to ensure that a client’s business requirements can be met regardless of where in the world they are sending their employees.

And as their clients become more global, so does International SOS. Operating from more than 700 locations in 89 countries, International SOS engages with a client’s corporate office as well as directly with its members in different locations, providing highly responsive and tailored assistance services. As Philippe Arnaud, International SOS’ Group Chief Commercial Officer, describes:

“We are proud of our globally aligned approach and our client’s needs are at the heart of this organisation. We understand their needs because we have first-hand experience of what people encounter when they travel and what to expect at any destination. The most trivial medical issue can sometimes quickly escalate into a more serious problem or security issue, and visa versa, especially in an unfamiliar setting. So when a business traveller arrives at their destination we are there too, and they can really hit the ground running.”

“It is important that our members call the Assistance Centre immediately with any health or travel security concern. Members speak directly – and in a language they are comfortable with - to a medical or security expert who is familiar with the member’s location and will support them from the very beginning right through to conclusion.”

In this way, the benefits of International SOS services are many and varied for rapidly- expanding SMEs like HEICC. Often lacking in global resource and capacity, smaller companies find great solace and reassurance in the 24/7 support provided by International SOS, as Ross confirms: 

“As a small medium sized company, our global footprint would be remiss without International  SOS. Working  across different time zones, it gives me peace of mind to know there’s an international Assistance Centre our people can contact any hour of the day or night. Our business travellers work for a small organisation, so they need a robust network in place – and that is exactly what International SOS provides. Our people can access expert advice to help them implement protocols no matter where they are. It’s good for them, and good for me, to know we have a great resourceful partner standing by our side.”