COVID brought changes to our 212F business family as it did to many. It’s probably fair to say that every business had to change their routines and some even had to totally reinvent their business models during 2020.
The part of our business exposed most to the COVID impacts was travel incentives, conferences, and events. Like many in our industry, we had to quickly address what was happening and adapt our service offer. This transpired during our annual management meeting in March, which turned into a strategic brainstorm of our operations and challenged us to create new opportunities to support our partnerships with clients, current and new.
The way we approach B2B incentives is “strategy-first, rewards-second”, which meant our clients didn’t need to look somewhere else to quickly pivot their programs and adapt to the situation. Inevitably travel incentives were cancelled or postponed, but our points-based programs with merchandise rewards and Visa prepaid solutions saw growth in enquiries and launches.
We created a new product and service roadmap so we could shift or extend our offers, to ensure client programs stayed relevant and still achieved their objectives. Surprisingly over this period, we grew our team bringing in new staff and expertise to the business, while maintaining every one of our existing team to support this growth.
With our offices in New Zealand and Australia, our local teams had to adapt to changes. New Zealand’s market started to open earlier and during this time we welcomed back Steph Kohlhase to take the reins of the Auckland office and lead us into the next stage of business growth, with Simon Hilton moving into an Executive Director role.
The opening of the market and growth of the team in Auckland presented an opportunity to expand our capabilities with a future view on the events and travel market. With a view to further support clients with local expertise, we jumped at the chance to accelerate our event and travel offer and welcomed Adam Leslie as General Manager – Events, and Kim Milne to the team. 212F NZ is now set up to take on the market for 2021 and we’re really excited to see what happens.
In New Zealand, we saw an innovative approach to incentive programs in a new market segment. In partnership with a world-class primary goods exporter producer, we are launching an exciting new model where incentives are used to attract sellers and secure stock. This led to also working with an insurance broker collective, where regulations have changed in the vertical and we are finding new ways to engage with advisors.
In Australia, where WFH lasted longer, the team was busy and focused on some significant new program launches. In August, 212F partnered with the largest automotive cooperative in Australia & NZ which introduced a new way to reward their members. 212F onboarded a record number of new iChoose Visa prepaid gift card clients. During this time, we welcomed back Jo Strachan to the team after several years working across different roles in the travel and events industry.
If you asked me at the start of lockdowns, I don’t think we would have said that we would grow across this period, this year we have employed a record number of new talent in both Australia and New Zealand.
Looking back on a year with enough highs and lows but with great outcomes, our eyes are firmly set on 2021. As we write this, the borders across Australia are opening and talk of trans-Tasman travel bubbles and vaccines in 2021 are daily news. We at 212F really hope this optimism flows into next year and things like travel and events are back on. The early signs are looking positive with a number of our clients showing confidence and starting to lock in events for 2021.
It’s all very exciting and whilst overseas travel incentives were not an option this year, with a few proposals and pitches in place, 2021 is looking like the corner will turn. We didn’t expect to grow but maintain our current business. So, we are happily surprised that our 212F family is bigger.
Travel safe, enjoy this well needed break, and we wish you a prosperous 2021.
Group Managing Director – 212F