Nicole Fonzari - Cummins focuses on Africa

HAVING recently taken over the role of travel manager for Cummins Africa, Nicole Fonzari has already put in place a number of exciting new initiatives across the organisation. While the new role is her first as a buyer, Fonzari is no stranger to corporate travel. She began her career at Lloyds Travel in Bryanston almost 20 years ago after completing a diploma in travel. Three years later the travel bug bit, leading her on a gap year to the US and UK, where she got the opportunity to really experience life. The next phase of her career began at Seekers Travel in Wynberg under the guidance and direction of the Geldenhuys brothers. In the years to follow, Fonzari grew her career across the Seekers and American Express Travel Services (Amex) brands, gaining years of experience in the corporate travel space, including in-house experience with the likes of Dimension Data. During this time she also explored the property industry, as well as again heading overseas to travel and live new experiences. This journey led her to the position of key account manager for Amex where Cummins was one of her global clients. “Then last year, Kovilan Naidoo, the former travel manager for Cummins, informed me that his position would be opening up and suggested that I apply. My application was successful and I started in October.” She reveals that the transition from TMC to “corporate client” has been both challenging and exciting. “Cummins is an amazing brand, and dynamic company. Management is open to new ideas and ways to make our travel policy more effective.”

Local nuances
When it comes to the Cummins travel programme, Fonzari says she views the company’s 300- plus travellers as her clients. In Africa, the company’s travel management is something of a hybrid. While travel in South Africa and the rest of Africa is managed centrally, its travel in Nigeria is managed by Amex in Nigeria. She explains that her mandate with regard to the travel policy is to manage suppliers according to the lowest total cost of ownership. Domestic travel is currently booked using Amadeus’s booking solution, AETM. While it is mandatory for travellers to use the online booking tool for domestic travel, they are encouraged to rather use the company’s TMC partner for more complex routings. Amex travel agents, who operate offsite, will then assist with these. In house, the travel team consists of travel support and a travel analyst, who both report to Fonzari. Interestingly, one of the travel analyst’s primary roles is to assist with data management. Fonzari says Cummins is governed by a global policy but one of her major drives at the moment is to update its local policy to include clauses more relevant to the local context. She says the company is fairly open to investigating changes or additions to the local policy if they will enhance the employees’ well-being and travel experience – as long as these changes aren’t less restrictive than the global policy. Fonzari emphasises the importance of understanding the nuances surrounding travel in Africa and guiding global teams in their understanding of these unique challenges. She notes that, during her time at Amex, she had the opportunity to travel to both Ghana and Nigeria, allowing her to experience some of the difficulties travellers face on the continent.

Data accuracy
Data accuracy is one of the travel team’s greatest challenges, reveals Fonzari. This relates particularly to the collation of relevant and upto-date data. “It’s a challenge when it comes to global versus local data and making sure that these match up.” Expense management has a significant part to play in this. Employees who travel for Cummins more than twice annually should apply for a company credit card. At the moment, company credit cards are then manually expensed by the employees on a monthly basis and employees are responsible for submitting all expenses within 10 days of statement cut-off. However, Fonzari says that Cummins has plans to introduce new technology that will help improve the collation of this data. She explains that the company has plans to roll out Concur’s automated expense management system across the business in South Africa by the end of the year. “This will definitely help us in more effectively monitoring our travel spend.” Another way in which Cummins plans to improve its data accuracy is through “traveller profile clean-ups” which will immediately provide the company with more accurate information on its travellers. 

Traveller tracking
Data leakage is part of the challenge – and Fonzari says this tends to happen when travellers bypass the TMC when booking itineraries. She reveals that Cummins has a Safe and Secure Programme and that, as part of the programme, Amex feeds traveller data to risk management company, iJet, which then tracks those travellers. However, should travellers book outside of the policy this doesn’t happen. “At Cummins we believe strongly in safety and security so we need to make sure that this happens,” Fonzari comments, adding that the company’s global security director is dedicated to this cause and keeps well up to date with potential risk threats and levels. One of the ways in which the travel team endeavour to curb rogue travellers is through monitoring the current expense process. “When travellers later expense their travel, we can see whether or not they have booked through the TMC and in so doing monitor noncompliance,” she explains. In terms of the nature of the policy itself, Fonzari notes that it is quite strict. She says, however, that Cummins is very aware that its deliverables should not be compromised by this. “The nature of our business means that, at any given time there might be an engine that needs to be replaced in a remote location and as such our policy has to allow for urgent business travel.” When asked how Cummins Africa differentiated between last-minute travel for urgent business and that which was a result of disorganisation, she responded by saying that compliance within the organisation was a project that she has plans to focus on. In particular, the travel team has emphasised the importance of better compliance to the credit card policy and ensuring that travellers are expensing correctly. “However, to a point we have to accept that travel is ever changing and one cannot always account for this,” she maintains.

Consolidating spend
Another project that Fonzari has been tackling since her appointment in October has been the consolidation of Cummins’ hotel spend. She reveals that this was previously negotiated on a local basis. The consolidation of this information is particularly important for Africa. The company makes use of a hotel tool called Lanyon – this provides Cummins’ TMC partners with access to hotels used by the company across the world. “Cummins is experiencing huge growth into Africa and it’s important for our employees to have access to safe and vetted hotels,” Fonzari says. This also means increased buying power across the continent. She furthermore reveals that the travel team at Cummins is in the process of putting together two major RFPs for visa companies and transfer companies, noting that the company will look to consolidate that spend as well.

One-stop online community
Fonzari reveals more about one of the company’s most innovative new projects. Cummins has an intranet called Cummins Connect. Leveraging off of this, the travel team is now working on an online community that will serve as a one-stop travel shop for the company’s travellers, providing them with access to everything they need to know about travel, including all processes and visa requirements. 

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