Thomas Cook, a FTSE 250 travel and airline company, has launched a subsidiary in Australia aimed at disrupting the holiday insurance and foreign exchange markets.
The Australian business, Thomas Cook Money, will be headquartered in Hobart, which it will use as a springboard into Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries in the Asia Pacific region.
The region is a key part of a renewed global expansion strategy for Thomas Cook PLC, which has an annual turnover of 10 billion pounds.
Mark Tarring, who is known for his part in the Virgin Money turnaround, has been appointed Asia Pacific MD and has been working on the rollout since last year.
Thomas Cook Money has launched its first product, a digital travel insurance product tailored to the Australian market. Next will be a foreign exchange offering and a prepaid travel card to help customers plan, save, borrow and spend their holiday money, both domestically and internationally.
Everything will be digital and easy to use
Mr Tarring, who has 20 years of financial services experience, is enthusiastic.
“We are a holiday company, not a bank. That gives us the ability to take what some call boring financial services products and mix them with the latest tech and other innovations to help create a magic, memorable holiday for people.
“We are all about making happy holidays and anything we can do to make life a bit easier for holiday makers from a money perspective.”
The travel insurance product is underwritten by Allianz. One of its innovations will be free wi-fi access for Thomas Cook Money Travel Insurance customers, at five million hotspots around the world, in the months ahead.
“I am not going to give away the whole roadmap, but it’s quite exciting,” Mr Tarring says.
He is particularly pleased about an App linked to the travel card that allows money to be allocated to different family members. This can be linked to a silicone wrist band that can be used to tap and pay.
“It takes away the worry of taking your wallet to the beach. But also allows your family to spend while you keep control though the app.”
Clients will be able to choose which currency to load onto their travel card and flip it to the currency they need.
“We have a very easy online system backed by a brand with 178 years of heritage. Nobody knows holidays like Thomas Cook. The brand still resonates very well in Australia.”
Mr Tarring says Hobart makes sense as a business headquarters. Rent is reasonable compared with other capital cities, the work/life balance is great and commute times are short.
Hobart is also becoming known as a call centre and digital hub.
“We are excited to grow the Thomas Cook Money team in Hobart, and we plan to increase our recruitment of local employees.”
It has also been easy to recruit good people from interstate, Mr Tarring says. “They have been delighted to come here.”