Q&A Agent association
This month we interview Alina Kononenko at
KAEA in Kazakhstan.
Full name of association:
Kazakhstan Association of Educational Agents (KAEA)
Year established: 2004
Number of members: 8
Government recognition: yes
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: yes
What has been the main focus of KAEA in the last 12 months?
KAEA has welcomed new partners – new educational institutions from different countries. In the first few years the association’s main work was on the UK system of education. Today KAEA is happy to provide consultation on educational questions in every region of the world. KAEA has become more recognised among Kakakhstani citizens.
Are you aware oF the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca)?
Recently, KAEA was honoured to receive an invitation to become a member of Felca. Our association is highly motivated to become a member, as it creates more opportunities for global development and wonderful connections in the global education sphere.
What challenges do member agencies face over the next 12 months?
With the rapidly growing number of other educational agents and organised fairs, it becomes harder to be innovative and maintain the leading position in the market. Other foreign companies started to operate on the territory of Kazakhstan as well, making the competition very intense. Members of KAEA are proud to hold leading positions in local and educational markets. We follow world emerging tendencies and quickly react/adopt to changes in the market. Today, we are ready to modify our existing events.
What marketing projects does the association have planned for the future?
Every year, KAEA members organise the Education Abroad – KAEA Exhibition – a very productive event. It is a perfect opportunity to both introduce an educational institution, establish a concrete understanding of the Kazakhstani educational market and strengthen already existing recognised positions. This year it will take place in October.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How do international payments affect your business?
Sibel Akkaya, Deca Study Abroad & Visa Consultancy, Turkey
“We generally transfer the payments of our students to the partner schools abroad through online banking. Our agency pays the transfer charges because we give students gross invoices. Students usually make their payments in the foreign exchange rate stipulated on the invoice. However, students who come from smaller towns prefer to pay in the local exchange rate and thus fluctuations affect agency profit. We do not use a payment company. We generally make payments to partner schools using bank transfers and a sum of money is always cut and the full amount is not received due to the transfers between the banks, or less money is transferred to the bank account although we pay the transfer charges octarately. Therefore, schools deduct this amount from the next student payment, or they demand the shortfall from us. This transfer period can sometimes be problematic; some schools do not give confirmation before the money is transferred even though we send them a statement. This can cause distress in urgent cases. We would prefer to use a system which would solve these inconveniences.”
Kate Clarke, Al Ahlam Training Services, Oman
“We’re a small, highly successful agency, family owned, and whilst we obviously work to make a profit (and do very well) we don’t have the same pressures that other agencies suffer. Yes, the exchange rate affects us but it doesn’t stop us continuing in business, and for language placements we work to the gross and net invoice system, where the student pays us (against the gross invoice) and we then transfer the funds to the school (using the net invoice). We’re prompt payers. We never stop to see what the exchange rate is. Students like being able to pay us in local currency and we just calculate the amount according to the exchange rate of the day. As soon as the funds are received from the student, they are very promptly transferred to the school so there’s rarely an exchange rate issue. We looked at Paypal and other [payment systems] but decided we wanted the security of handling our own money ourselves. If we transfer the funds to the schools ourselves, then we know it’s done. Yes, there are bank transfer fees but they’re not exorbitant, we can live with it.”
Stephen Wittig, NRCSA, USA
“We use forward contracts to stabilise future payments. We price our programmes annually. For five major currencies, we purchase forward contracts for 75 per cent of projected need. On a monthly basis, we may adjust prices and add forward contracts. Our objective is to stabilise our costing, not speculate on foreign currency. For minor currencies, we make spot purchases (which can be the most problematic). Bank wires are cost effective – but an administrative hassle. Our cost to receive payment by international wire is US$20; to send an international wire, US$10. By comparison, customers paying by credit card cost an average of four per cent. Accepting payment by credit card incurs more fees (on average) than payment by wire transfer. As a result, we accept (but discourage) credit card payment. Payments by cash and cheque incur no bank fees. Receiving and sending electronic transfers (ACH) incurs virtually no bank fees but that is mainly for domestic transactions. On an annualised basis, our cost of “moving money in and out” is budgeted at 1.8 per cent, i.e. US$18,000 per US$1 million gross sales.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or advisor partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month, Linguaviva in Ireland nominates EMY Cursos en el Extranjero in Spain. Paul Barton at the school explains this decision
“We have been working with EMY Cursos en el Extranjero for a few years now, and they are simply fantastic. All of their students come to our school having had a massive amount of preparation given in advance. The communication from their staff is always extremely efficient and very clear. They have also remained loyal to our school throughout the tough times we are all facing in the industry. Every year the agency also hosts a large event where schools, parents, group leaders, and students are all invited to learn more about the agency offerings. Recently one of our staff members attended this event and she said it was a super success and that the personal service illustrated by all at Emy Cursos is unrivalled by most.”
“It is an honour to be nominated by such a great school. They provide great service to students and are absolutely on top of everything. From the agency point of view it is extremely easy to work with them since they are great professionals and wonderful people to deal with.”
Emy de Lema, EMY Cursos en el Extranjero, Spain