Bow-Tie Briefing – Tête-à-tête with our CTC inaugural Asia Council Chairman – Michael Molloy (part 1)

5 October, 2020

In his inauguration as our CTC Asia Council Chairman, Michael Molloy (Category Leader, Travel and Expense Management, Procurement, Rio Tinto) mentioned: "Historically, the T&E community in Asia Pacific followed developments in North America or Europe, now the region is mainly at the forefront of Travel solutions, payment innovation and user-experience enhancement. I'm proud to be asked to be the inaugural chairperson of this group of talented T&E leaders across this dynamic region."

In the forthcoming editions of Bow-Tie Briefing, I am extremely honoured to share a recent in-depth conversation with him.

Benson: Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining the tête-à-tête. I am sure you have many interesting stories to share with us. First things first, why are you always so enthusiastic about our industry? How can you keep this passion growing for 30 years?

Michael: 30 years?!? I'm not sure where you are getting your information! Errr … well, you may be right, I started my travel career around 1990 in Tokyo. One small aspect of my earliest roles was negotiating hotel rates on behalf of my company. This job developed over the few years I spent in Japan and when I returned to the US, I went to work for American Express. My enthusiasm never wavered because I love travelling and exploring; I genuinely receive gratification from helping others do the same; and I enjoy solving problems. Our industry has had no shortage of challenges over the past three decades and this keeps up my interest and passion.

Benson: On top of your well-known corporate travel leadership with Rio Tinto, Citi Group, Credit Suisse etc., I am sure our audience would love to know more about your early travel career. Please tell us more.

Michael: Well, the answer to the first question alludes to my origin in corporate travel however my interest in travel germinated when I was only seven or eight years old growing up in suburban New Jersey. In the dark recesses of my bedroom closet were numerous old National Geographic magazines. I used to peruse these for hours with my focus most intent on white, palm-laced beaches and verdant green mountain islands. To this day, I recall an article in the early 1970s about exploring Mexico's Sea of Cortez and thinking to myself 'I'm sure I'll never be able to get there.' It just seemed so far away. As a teen, I explored my state and region by car but never actually left the USA until I was a senior in high school at 18. My first overseas trip: Russia or as it was known then The Soviet Union. It was a self-funded trip led by my history teacher but with only about five kids and the rest adults. I still have my treasure box of souvenirs I purchased there. Since that trip I knew I wanted to get into something involving international relations and to maybe work overseas. I undertook a study abroad programme in Hungary and got my first "job" in the industry as a black market money changer dealing in Forint, Zloty, Czech Kroner, Lek and Dinar at Budapest's main railway station. I knew the cross rates in my head for these usually untradeable currencies and made enough to finance my travels around Eastern Europe and Turkey. A couple of years later upon finishing Uni and picking up some Japanese, I started doing freelance tour guiding in Budapest for Japanese travellers. There wasn't too much competition in the Hungarian-Japanese guide business at the time! I still remember some of the friends I made during those days.

Benson: Wow, hilarious! Remarkable experiences. Mr. Chairman, with such a diverse career path in many different countries, which country or geographic area do you love the most and why?

Michael: During my career, besides Hungary, I've worked in Japan (five years), Hong Kong (three years,) UK (two years), the US (four years) and Singapore - where I'm a permanent resident - over two periods for over 15 years in total. Further, I've travelled, for work or leisure, to over 60 countries, and 46 of the U.S. 50 states. I think for many of us, the passion is in the discovery and the uniqueness of a new place. For me, those serendipitous moments found when exploring outside your comfort zone are what fuel my mind. That said, I feel most comfortable in Asia in general and hence I've spent most of my career here. I find the outlook on life, the industriousness, the interpersonal relations and also definitely the food align with my character.

In the next edition, we will continue this in-depth dialogue. As a preview, the discussion will move from Michael's personal story to his professional corporate travel career. Please stay tuned! ?

Bow-Tie Briefing shares the views of Benson Tang, a corporate travel thought leader and executive director of the Corporate Travel Community (CTC). Benson's remarkable career in travel started more than 25 years ago and his extensive knowledge of the corporate travel sector has made him a sought-after speaker and lecturer.