From Thailand to Tennessee

By Joe Mullich

May. 29, 2004

Kim Froggatt has experienced international relocation from both a personal and professional perspective. Thirteen years ago, she closed a successful consulting business and followed her husband, Steve, from England to Thailand, where he took a lucrative finance job.

    This past December, the situation was reversed when Steve followed her to Memphis, Tennessee, after she was named vice president of global services for Primacy Relocation.

    In her new position, Froggatt oversees the firm’s rapidly expanding international operations. In the past year, Primacy has opened or acquired offices in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and it plans to open an office soon in Shanghai, China.

    In the aftermath of 9/11, she says the talent pool of senior executives with families who are willing to accept overseas assignments has shrunk considerably.

    “Companies have to offer more benefits and more sophisticated help to families to get these people to relocate,” she says.

    Primacy, for instance, can manage the entire immigration process for an employee moving overseas, expedite issuance of required documents and arrange and track benefits associated with home-leave trips. The company also can translate documents or arrange for translators, help arrange checking accounts and credit cards and provide readjustment training to help transferees and their families when they return home.

    In many ways, the 47-year-old Froggatt is a case study in how international relocation has changed in the past decade. When she moved to Bangkok for two and a half years, she was given virtually no settling-in assistance, such as information on where to send her young children to school.

    “Certain benefits, like housing and school fees, were paid for, but I was left to fend for myself otherwise,” she says.

    With no formal help, she initially learned much of the nuts and bolts of relocation by turning to other transferees and joining overseas organizations such as the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. After that, she moved to Singapore for eight years, where she worked for the Canada-Singapore Business Council and then for four different relocation companies.

    While living in Singapore, she was a board member of Primetime, a professional women’s organization serving the expatriate community. She has also been on the board of directors of the Worldwide ERC, a leading relocation industry trade group in Washington, D.C.

    As part of her new job, Froggatt spends a lot of time giving spouses of transferees the kind of support she didn’t receive when she moved to Thailand. In places like Singapore, where spouses can easily get work permits themselves, her team provides cross-cultural training in such things as how job applications are worded and proper etiquette at job interviews.

    In Japan, where a spouse of a transferee can have trouble getting a work permit, she would provide different advice. “In that case,” Froggatt says, “we look for alternate ways to help the person maintain her skill set, such as doing volunteer work.”

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