Q&A: Maureen Masuku, RMB head: travel and marketing sourcing and GBTA chair

Q: What drew you to the GBTA as an association and how have you benefited from your involvement over the years?


A: What attracted me to the GBTA was that it’s an international association. I was drawn to how it unpacked real-time issues the industry was facing at the time. At that stage, I was working for the IDC. The networking platform it provided meant that I could meet with key suppliers and industry peers from government and the private sector to discuss challenges, ask questions and get advice. When I was facing a problem, I could call GBTA who could suggest a contact to help me.


Q: You’ve stepped up your involvement as time has gone by – how did that come about?


A: I got more involved when the issues around the new government travel policy came up. At that stage, no industry association was addressing government topics. People spoke a lot about risk and technology, and while that’s important and practical, the key challenges we were facing as government travel managers were not being addressed. GBTA hosted a workshop at the IDC, which I helped to facilitate. It focused on government’s new travel framework to help travel managers interpret and unpack the various issues our peers were facing.


Q: Soon after that you moved over to corporate and joined RMB. What does your role entail?


A: It’s my second year at RMB and I am responsible for the RMB Campus, which includes Ashburton and RMB Morgan Stanley. I look at the strategy side of things, do the marketing sourcing and look after RMB Global. Since I joined the bank, I opened its in-house Travelhub where our TMC is located. Employees who want to book online can send emails using a smart form, or they can meet the consultants face to face. We have also just issued a global tender for one TMC that we will work with around the world. So if you’re in London, you’ll experience the same service that you’ll get in South Africa.  


Q:  Do you still face some similar issues in your new role and can organisations learn from the process government has gone through?


A: Yes, corporates can learn from government. When you look at corporate policies and frameworks there are many grey areas. At times it works, but in today’s world, corporates can learn from Treasury’s framework because travellers know exactly how much they can spend, which hotels they are allowed to stay at etc. Everything is clear.


Q:  What is your stance on corporate travel policies and how do you communicate it to your travellers?


A: The flexibility of your travel policy depends very much on the nature of the business, but it should be customised and without grey areas. Governance and compliance should be considered, because if you leave things open to interpretation you won’t have uniform processes in place.


At RMB, we have a challenge because if there is a potential deal in New York and the client is staying at a five-star hotel and wants to meet there, I can’t tell the client to stay at a three-star hotel because of our travel policy.


Coming from a background of well-structured and compliance-focused policies, I had to study the culture of the bank and do a lot of stakeholder engagement to establish expectations. I then put these findings together and presented it to the board, who provided additional inputs for a new travel guideline document. To communicate this, last year we held a travel indaba with our key suppliers and RMB employees. We issued snapshots two weeks before the event with ‘Did you know?’ information on various parts of the policy. On the day of the event, staff could win prizes from travel suppliers by answering questions about the snapshots.


Q: What would you say is your greatest achievement in terms of your job so far?


A: The launch of the Travelhub and the approval of the strategy for the global TMC tender. Also, getting the framework approved, because I wanted to get a uniform guideline in place for our offices around the world.


Q: What are some of the industry challenges you’re hoping to tackle as chair of the GBTA?


A: I have noticed that levels of customer care have dropped in the industry. We need to go back to basics where we understand that the customer is always right. There has been no pushback from customers in terms of demanding a certain level of service in the past. I would like to focus my attention on educating new entrants to the industry to understand that you cannot be a shining example of a travel manager without focusing on customer care. From the hotel receptionist to check-in counter staff at airports, there needs to be a change.


Watch the video below to find out a bit more about Maureen Masuku. 

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