June 18, 2021

TripActions travel chief gives the lowdown on the Reed & Mackay deal

Q&A: TripActions Chief Travel Officer Danny Finkel speaks to The Business Travel Magazine about its acquisition of Reed & Mackay and the return of business travel

Was this an opportunistic acquisition in the pandemic crisis?

Daniel Finkel

We’ve been focussed on EMEA for quite a while, way before the pandemic started. We doubled down on the EMEA market and even in the height of everything that was happening we put a number of key employees in the region and continued to win more and more large enterprise sales and customers, so that very much has been part of our story. This really reinforces our focus on not only UK and EMEA but serving the needs of large multinational corporations who have employees based all over the world and this story is really unique because it’s the first time you are bringing a Silicon Valley tech company, which has amazing UI and UX and has a really inherent understanding of the user and can build service for the masses, together with, arguably, the most highly-regarded service agency in the entire world.

This is a story that extends well beyond the pandemic and is much more than anything that is opportunistic. Certainly, on the Reed & Mackay side there was no need for them to do any kind of sale. This was, truly, both sides seeing an amazing opportunity to come together to build something that’s never been done before and that’s the impetus behind what’s happened.

Is TripActions looking for further expansion in the UK/Europe?

We’re looking at opportunities which come our way, for sure, but the focus for us right now is going to be on this acquisition and making sure that this is as successful as we can possibly make it. It’s so important to get this right, both from a traveller and client perspective, but also from an employee perspective. This is truly a story about the people.

Should opportunities come up in the payments space, we’re certainly looking to continue to grow that business, but for now, really, it’s heads down to make sure we get this right.

Had you been looking at or talking with any other companies?

During Covid there has been a lot of M&A activities and we’ve certainly had conversations in the past year – and in the years since our existence – but for us there’s been no focussed M&A playbook. We’re really looking at the opportunities individually and look at what makes sense for our customers and users. Reed & Mackay are alone in what they are able to serve and there’s no-one else for us.

“We will retain every single person that is at Reed & Mackay today. In fact, on both sides. This is not a story about synergies. This is not a Covid story. This is very much about two teams coming together and providing something amazing”

What would you say to reassure Reed & Mackay clients with any concerns about changes that might come under the ownership of a very different type of business?

While we tackle things a bit differently we are both very aligned when it comes to our philosophy and our focus on the user. That user-centricity is what ties our organisations together and it’s immediately what drew both teams together. The very same notion of doing what’s right by the user, that will not change because it’s so ingrained in both of our organisations.

We’re absolutely keeping Reed & Mackay as Reed & Mackay. It is such an amazing organisation as it is, we don’t want to do anything to ruin that so it will be staying an independent brand; we will retain every single person that is at Reed & Mackay today. In fact, on both sides. This is not a story about synergies. This is not a Covid story. This is very much about two teams coming together and providing something amazing. That white glove, bespoke, high-touch service that Reed & Mackay is known for today is absolutely going to remain intact. Over time we might potentially look at areas of opportunity on things like technology and infrastructure but we haven’t decided on anything because it’s important we make these decisions jointly as a new family of brands.

We are making sure that clients on both sides feel well taken care of. We are taking a very delicate approach in ensuring that all of our clients are excited about this and are fully on board with the journey.

What’s your view on the Amex GBT acquisition of Egencia, also announced this week?

We know at TripActions that we have the very best technology and we’re growing as fast as we are because of what we bring to the table, and that’s not going to change.

Is business travel coming back?

Travel is coming back. There is no question in our minds. We’ve obviously seen leisure travel rebound much more quickly than corporate travel, but corporate travel is rapidly coming back. We’re now up to over 40% of where we were pre-Covid and numbers are growing pretty exponentially week over week. Obviously it is still very domestic and regionally based, until the vaccines are rolled out and the restrictions are lifted,  but travel is definitely coming back, so this is the perfect time for a story like this.

We see the light at the end of the tunnel. We need all hands on deck for when travellers are ready to get back on the road. But, perhaps contradictory to what I’ve just said, because travel isn’t yet at full speed, we also have a bit of time to make sure that we get this right and to make sure we are doing the best thing for our clients, employees and the entire eco-system. So it really is a unique and amazing time.