G4S is one of the world’s best known companies with a massive global footprint spanning 129 countries; it’s the second largest employer in the world and in terms of product offering has few competitors within the industry. G4S has a significant presence in Africa, with representation in 30 countries and is looking to expand across the continent in the next couple of years. Speaking to Andy Baker, Regional President for Africa, we learned of the ethos and guiding principles underpinning such expansion. “We try to push lead decision making within individual countries; and try to think globally and act locally so that our employees across the region are empowered to make decisions locally and also forge local relationships. They, of course, have the backing of the global organisation from a financial and supportive point of view and that is the balance we try to maintain. Locally we have very sound relationships with our clients and we try to support them where ever we can. We realise that the development of our business hinges on our capability to understand our customers so we put a lot of emphasis on that,” he states. “We at G4S are driven to deliver world-class customer service; every touch point we have with our customers.”
The local element is extremely important to G4S, but so too is the global. By Baker’s own admission, G4S is the largest company within its industry and “size does matter.” To this end, the company makes the most of its sheer scale by standardising operations across the board. “We are trying to standardise certain sets for operational service delivery, not only across the continent of Africa, but across the world. We have an initiative, which has been embraced across the world called Service Excellence Centres and we are trying to compile a dozen or so ‘must dos’ across the businesses that we are in to make sure we have benchmark quality achieved across the globe,” explains Baker. “It’s in its infancy at the moment but the early results are very promising. Now clearly with a continent as diverse as ours, we have many different environments so we try to take the best of each environment and use those as best demonstrated practices across the continents.”
The company builds success on the back of well thought through strategy, strong management, and people. Similarly to its operations, the company manages its work force to ensure it yields the best possible results. G4S is the largest employer in Africa bar government.
“Across the global business we have a strategic leadership programme, and this identifies talented, high potential people and brings them into project work. We have specific internal and external education for them to enhance their development and that works very well. In Africa we do something similar and where necessary we send people overseas to different institutions if we think that is going to accelerate their development. We embrace very readily the use of external education centres,” insists Baker.
“Most of our training is in house, but where there is a need for specialist training we use external trainers. It very much depends on what we are trying to achieve but in terms of the main two business lines that we have in secure solutions and cash solutions our training is in house and it is very well regimented and very well orchestrated,” he continues.
PROCUREMENT, PLANNING AND TECHNOLOGY
G4S has a vast fleet of vehicles, and up until relatively recently it has had no real order in terms of brand and vehicle type used across the continent and Baker believes this has been a mistake. “What we are trying to do at the moment and we are in the final stages of the planning process, is trying to standardise our fleet. From a purchase price amount and also from the running cost this will prove very useful for us if we can start standardising because we can negotiate based on volume,” he explains. In fact, as a large Pan-African business, G4S aims to standardise as much as possible to make procurement more seamless.
The company is also very keen to implement the latest technology on board its fleet of vehicles. As Baker explains, “Certainly on the cash management side of things we have some very good technology with regards to our cash-in-transit vehicles for example. They are tracked and monitored so we know where the vehicles are at any given time; we can monitor driver behaviour very accurately but the latest development in technology is the control interlocking system which locks the money away in the cash-in-transit vehicles, which we can remotely control from our operations centre, so the driver and the people manning the vehicle can’t actually open the interlocking safes on the vehicle without it being controlled centrally; this is a big issue for us. We can also geographically fence or control where our vehicles are supposed to be so if our vehicles are off the route they are supposed to be on, they send an alarm. The containers that the money is carried in from ATMs – they are tamper proofed so they actually dye/ stain the money in the canister if somebody tries to tamper with it.” G4S is constantly challenging technology and process to enhance service levels and reduce incidents. Our primary goal is the safety and security of our customers and their property.”
Another innovation the company has developed is called MobileEye, and is used in the mining sector. Some of the technologies on board include heat seeking equipment, thermal imaging, wireless video transmission and tamper deterrents.“We can place this very high powered camera on-site at a mine, and the detection range spans over 2 kilometres” cites Baker.
Security and vehicles are a very large capital expenditure for the company, but really do set G4S apart from the competition. Inter. It can sense movement and focus in with incredible detail, affording the security managers of the mines the ability to zoom in and identify trespassers. This had been a great innovation for us and our customers and has dramatically reduced illegal mining, and losses.”
G4S is fortunate to have many very large international banking institutions as customers as well as many large airport customers, diverse and numerous mining companies, international oil and gas organisatations and a number or telecommunications companies as well. G4S has had a long history in ports, harbours and aviation security around the world and they do a great deal of work across Africa in these sectors - these are the key customer-sectors that G4S Africa is focused on; to each of these vast sectors, security services are paramount.
“We at G4S are keenly focused on growth; there are really three main elements to our growth, the first is that we are working very hard to build our business organically and that is a focused drive for us. That includes winning new business and selling our services to existing customers. The second is that we are in a very fortunate position to have a very strong balance sheet, which allows us to look for suitable, strategic acquisitions. We are currently looking at a number of outstanding acquisition opportunities that will augment our capability and scale across the continent appreciably. That is a very fortunate position to be in. Thirdly we are opening into new countries – we are in 30 countries across the Africa region at the moment and we are looking to open in three more countries this year and a few more next year as well. So our growth strategy is consistent and aggressive,” states Baker.
“We are the largest Security Services organization in the world, and in Africa; and size in our industry actually matters. Secondly, our geographic footprint, we are in 129 countries globally and as I said we are in 30 countries here in Africa so what that means is, as our customers expand, they can enjoy a seamless, uniform service, whether they are operating in the UK, South Africa or Kenya. They can have a uniform service driven by the same set of global standards that certainly defines us and sets up above the rest,” he cites. “In terms of future development, bearing in mind there are 54 countries in Africa, and we at the moment in 30 countries, we have quite a lot of head room still to expand into new countries, so I think in five years time, we will have advanced into some more countries – no question about that – we will have new technology, support solutions into our service operations and we will have some significant acquisitions that will be supplementing our business.”