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FIDI: the international network

Mar 20, 2019
An interview with Jesse van Sas, Secretary General at FIDI, by Steve Jordan

Jesse van Sas, FIDI Secretary General

The year was almost new when I boarded the Eurostar train to head off to Brussels to visit Jesse van Sas, Secretary General at FIDI, the global federation for the international moving industry. It’s a great rail service, just two hours from central London at 300km/hour. 

The modern red brick building that houses the FIDI offices is built on the site of the old Brussels arsenal, but its explosive history is not reflected when you step inside.  Once across the threshold the FIDI offices are smart, spacious and there is an air of calm that contradicts the underlying activity.

Jesse van Sas has been at FIDI now for around 3½ years. His background is in moving: first with Arthur Pierre, then Ziegler, Interdean and Santa Fe. After chasing a P&L for most of his working life, he fancied a change, and who would blame him.

But association life is very different from the commercial world.  One of the areas he enjoys is being able to get into the detail of what’s going on.  But that has its challenges.  “When I speak to affiliates, I have to remind myself that this is 100% of my job.  It’s not the same for them,” he said. “It’s difficult to distil a message so it can be easily understood by everyone around the world. We have learned now that we have to diversify our messages by using different methods.” These include, FIDI Focus magazine, social media, The Mover and the conference that is an annual highlight for many in the industry.

What is FIDI? 
I asked for an elevator pitch to explain what FIDI is for the benefit of those in the industry who don’t know.

Jesse said that FIDI was born as a networking organisation in 1950 at a time when movers were in just one country.  Each company had to have confidence in its overseas agents and bringing them together as FIDI members was an excellent way of achieving the close contact necessary. “It was very successful.  We had great conferences, people liked each other, we talked about tonnage all the time.  Then FIDI changed when we brought in the FAIM quality certification.”

The FAIM quality Standard
FAIM (FIDI Accredited International Mover) became mandatory 15 years ago.  “It changed the membership in a day. We went from 800 to 500 members, losing 300 members who couldn’t comply with the FAIM requirements.  But I think it was one of the most courageous things we have ever done.”

The introduction of FAIM changed FIDI into a facilitator for quality certification. Consultants Ernst & Young (EY) do the assessments. Over the years FAIM has evolved to make sure it remains relevant to the industry. “The first FAIM was very operational but now it’s much more about compliance and data protection,” said Jesse.  “All our affiliates must go through regular quality audits. The best reason to be in FIDI now is because of that quality.”

In the past companies would be in FIDI for historical reasons, now Jesse says it’s because FIDI brings them value. “We communicate the FAIM quality to end customers through social media and specific information sessions to demonstrate its value. We are really seeing some tangible results now. But it takes time.”

So, what is the greatest value of FAIM for the members?  “When I did FAIM at Ziegler it allowed us to restructure the processes in our company.  Many affiliates stop there, but you must take it to the next step and sell it to your customers. FAIM helps you to make your company better and helps you sell quality to your customers.”  Jesse explained that the FAIM programme is in three-year cycles.  “FAIM 3.1 has just finished and we are now working with FAIM 3.2.  At the beginning of each cycle the top performers represent about 25% of affiliates, by the end it’s up to 40%. So, people are learning and improving through the process. Affiliates are embracing FAIM now because they see it as an opportunity to get better and sell better.”

I asked if Jesse had any evidence that the corporate world cared about FAIM.  “I have a list of companies and governmental organisations that require FAIM for RFPs, but most corporate accounts still haven’t heard about FAIM,” he explained. “That said, procurement departments are looking for compliance and choosing FAIM companies is much easier than doing due diligence on all their providers.  It ticks a lot of their boxes and there are some RMCs that have FAIM high on their list of preferences.” 

Jesse van Sas, FIDI Secretary GeneralFinancial protection
I asked Jesse about financial protection, especially as some companies were in a difficult financial position. What does FIDI do to protect its affiliates from bad debts?  He said that this has taken a whole new meaning, now that FAIM 3.2 includes the new Credit Risk Barometer (CRB). This financial audit tool, specifically made for FIDI by EY, is applied to every FIDI affiliate, every year, again by EY.  It measures the solvency, liquidity and profitability of affiliates.  “It will become the pre-requisite for FAIM, meaning that if a company fails this audit, it also fails FAIM, and consequently FIDI membership.”

FIDI also has its FASI (FIDI Affiliates’ Secured Invoices) formerly known as PPP, that has been running for many years. This protects FIDI members from other FIDI members that do not meet their financial obligations. The fund has grown substantially and is a safety net for those who involuntarily are left behind with unpaid invoices from defaulting or terminated FIDI members.  Both systems work well in making sure the FIDI membership is financially sound, with the financial audit as a preventive measure, and FASI as a curative tool.

The FIDI Academy
FIDI is, of course, famous for its training through the FIDI Academy, the brainchild of Jean Pierre 30 years ago. “It was visionary back then,” said Jesse. “In the early days we would train 100 people a year at on-site seminars, today we train over 3,000 people every year on-site and online.”  The topics have also changed to include more current issues that might require training for a short period.  The SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations, for example, was a hot topic a couple of years ago, then GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). “We still have the on-site seminars that go deep into the subjects and provide networking opportunities, and the online regulars for technical subjects, but it’s these topical, on-line seminars that will provide our growth in the future.” 42% of FIDI affiliates use the Academy every year and the figure is rising.  FIDI is also considering providing training for non-affiliated companies, although exactly how and if this could be made to work is still being discussed.

Global cooperation
For the first time, last year, FIDI announced that it was making its Professional Cooperation Guidelines (PCG) available to the whole industry, including IAM (International Association of Movers). FIDI agreed to let IAM use the PCG to avoid the development of two (or possibly more) different standards which would not have helped the industry. “FIDI does the annual updates and retains ownership over it,” said Jesse.  “We are proud of it.  I believe this is where FIDI can provide a leading role.  We have the knowledge, the in-house quality and the resources. Why would we not share that with other associations and work together sometimes, for the benefit of the whole industry?”

The objections
How would affiliates criticise FIDI?  “Probably ‘ivory tower’ comes to mind,” he said. “A FAIM audit is intrusive and nobody enjoys being told what they are doing wrong. The other would be cost. Being a FIDI member is not cheap. Including the three-yearly audit it’s probably around €3,200 a year plus the cost of attending the annual conference. Most people do see the benefit, but I suspect some don’t sell it as strongly as they might. Knowing people all over the world is a huge advantage when selling and the mentality behind FAIM is very powerful. Having FAIM says that a company is committed to training and perfecting the process. It says you are passionate about what you do, and passion is a great sales tool.  Customers believe passionate people. The companies that foster this passion in their employees are the ones who will win in the end.”

The future
Whatever the future holds Jesse believes that FIDI will need to continue to diversify its range of services to affiliates to ensure that it remains relevant as they too change. He said that the latest statistics, for example, show that 62% of FIDI members provide DSP services, compared with only 20% a few years ago.  “That’s why we are now developing certification for DSPs and there will be more to follow,” said Jesse. “We must keep our programmes relevant to our affiliates and their customers.”

Jesse’s dream is for FIDI to be the leading authority in the industry but admits that this will require a different focus compared with when FIDI was a secretariat. “We have the right facilities, the right staff and the right Board to lead the industry,” he said. “We are constantly questioning what we are doing, looking ahead and working on our strategy to anticipate what the market will need in the future.”

So, of all the elements of FIDI membership, what does Jesse feel is the most important? Of course, it will differ from one company to another but, overall, it’s FAIM.  “FAIM provides the process control to help make a business more efficient and more profitable while giving clear sales benefits that provide reassurance to other agents, RMCs and corporate customers,” said Jesse.  “Why wouldn’t a mover want to be part of it?”

The FIDI team

Photos:
Top and middle: Jesse van Sas, FIDI Secretary General
Bottom: The FIDI team

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