International travel is now a frequent part of a job in purchasing. You could be visiting vendor factories to check working conditions, meeting to negotiate a deal or organising the logistics to ensure your supplies make it from the factory in Shanghai to the office in Sheffield.
Companies in emerging regions are looking to take advantage of the expertise of UK purchasing professionals, who are in demand thanks to their qualifications and experience. The Middle East is one such region with a history of bringing in experts from abroad to raise the level of capability in the region. The offer is attractive, tax-free salaries offering wages as much as three times higher than an equivalent post in the UK, in addition to great weather (if you like it hot). The view from expats working in procurement in the region is it can be an enriching experience, but there are challenges to overcome, including differences in culture, working practices and laws that will not suit everybody.
Such is the demand for quality purchasing professionals in Australia and New Zealand that they have added procurement to the list of specialist professions, making it easier for buyers to obtain a working visa. According to the Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2012, Australian companies are looking to cut costs and want procurement analysts and category managers to turn this analysis into results.
With many of the major emerging economies located in Asia, that region too is looking to boost skills and expertise by attracting foreign purchasers. In 2006, IBM relocated its chief procurement officer from New York in the US to Shenzen in China to be closer to suppliers. But – as if to illustrate the requirement for purchasers to be constantly aware of shifting global trends – at the end of 2011 the technology company moved him to Budapest in Hungary, to be closer to increasing numbers of vendors located in Eastern Europe and Africa.
Other companies are also moving their procurement offices overseas – not to be closer to their suppliers, but to benefit from a more favourable tax regime. But before you pack your suitcase, dreaming of a new career in the Cayman Islands, the reality is slightly different. These tend to be locations with other benefits, such as good transport connections or nearer to the supply chain. So the more likely destinations include Switzerland, Luxembourg and Hong Kong.
Moving abroad or being ‘on the road’ a lot will not suit everyone, but there are a number of considerations for those to whom it does appeal. Keith Molloy from PA Consulting has experience of both working and living abroad and suggests a number of things to think about before making the decision to relocate. He advises seeking advice from others who have lived and worked in the region or country, be aware of your immigration and tax responsibilities, observe and adopt local customs where appropriate, and take time to develop social connections in your host city by joining clubs and other groups.