International SOS founder looks at bright future for Aspire Lifestyles

ARNAUD Vaissié is the co-founder of International SOS, the world’s foremost provider of medical and security services to global businesses. The most recent offshoot of the industry leading company is Aspire Lifestyles, which emerged to take over the rapidly expanding Concierge services portion of International SOS’s professional repertoire. But, Aspire Lifestyles is no ordinary Concierge service provider — they go above and beyond to fulfill their customers’ every wish. Such requests have included some as mundane as having a favorite meal delivered to a customer’s home and others as extravagant as the donation of an elephant to a temple in Thailand. For Aspire Lifestyles, it’s all about providing a unique travel experience tailored to fit individual needs. Shanghai Daily sat down with Vaissié to discuss his latest business venture.

Q: Could you describe the development of International SOS and how it broke off into Aspire Lifestyles?

A: International SOS was launched 30 years ago. It was the idea of my co-founder, Dr. Pascal Rey-Herme, who was the medical attaché of the French embassy in Indonesia. He realized there was a gap in Asia for medical evacuation capabilities and emergency medical work. We started as an emergency medical company, and we established clinics with emergency room capabilities. That was the original concept. We began in Singapore, and developed throughout Asia, starting in China in 1988. We became a full medical and security business, providing services ranging from occupational health to medical assistance services to crisis management. From the very beginning, we also offered Concierge services. The biggest change is that the business has grown into a completely global company. Then, we decided that the Concierge services were becoming so specific that we created a separate subsidiary called Aspire Lifestyles to focus just on this segment. We also have a large expertise in security, following the 1998 incident in Indonesia. So, today, I would say that there is a large interchange between security, health services, and Concierge services.

Q: What makes your company stand out?

A: We are the world-wide leader in the field, but for a reason. We were the first to build this industry. Second, we are the largest, therefore we have huge resources. This includes people and technologies — we are in 90 countries and regions today, with 27 centers working 24/7. Third, we can attract the best talent. Attracting the best people is the key to further success.

Q: Is there anything your company can improve on?

A: We must improve on everything! In life, as in business, there is nothing like stability. We need to innovate faster. For example, we invest heavily in technology — we spend 6 percent of our revenue on it. We have the largest software in the world to track members — we had 43 million travelers tracked last year — and provide live services. But, the speed of change is extraordinary. Now, we need to effectively combine the global infrastructure of the company with the ground-based technology of today. Each customer is different — how do you integrate this into your global infrastructure? Second, we need to ensure that we are providing the career experience that our staff is expecting if we want to retain the best people. Good people are naturally ambitious, so we need to improve transparency for our career path.

Q: What do you see as the future of globalization and the global economy?

A: In our field, it’s more mobility. One in seven people in an organization travels internationally, and international business travelers will increase by 50 percent by 2020. Chinese travelers will move from 100 million to 200 million by 2020. The second are bespoke experiences. People want individual experiences — they want to go to a faraway place, individually, which is more dangerous. So, people will need more support of organizations likes ours.

Q: What do you see as the future of Aspire Lifestyles?

A: The future of Aspire Lifestyles is to continue to build our Concierge and digital delivery solutions catering to high-net-worth individuals and premium lifestyle customers, offering them a growing set of benefit and experience solutions, including health care. Via our technologies in apps, we embed our services into client’s app. As a leader within the banking and financial services industry, Aspire Lifestyles is looking to penetrate new segments to help brands differentiate themselves from their competition through customized solutions.