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A global giant with the local touch

G4S is a dominant force in the global security industry and is bringing the perfect blend of tailored local solutions and big thinking to its operations throughout South Africa.

G4S Africa

A global giant with the local touch Victoria South

G4S is a dominant force in the global security industry and is bringing the perfect blend of tailored local solutions and big thinking to its operations throughout South Africa.

Images Š G4S Africa

G4S Africa

the largest provider of security solutions in South Africa, G4S has developed a full-to-bursting portfolio of products and services, all backed up by the global reach of the company as a whole. To understand how this contributes to a unique blend of local knowledge and international diversification, Mel Brooks, African Regional President, agreed to an interview.


A global entity

Before getting to the specifics of G4S in South Africa, it will be helpful to gain an understanding of the larger machine that the one specific branch is an integral part of. Given that G4S has a presence over six continents, it’s unlikely that anyone won’t have heard of it, but what might come as a surprise is that it’s the number one integrated security specialist in the world. Operating in six continents translates to over 90 individual countries that are benefitting from the expertise of the G4S team and the reason that

clients keep coming back is simple; expectations are always met, if not superseded and integrity underpins every endeavour, “We act with integrity and respect. Our business activities and relationships are built on trust, honesty and openness. We do what we promise and always strive to do the right thing. We listen. We treat our colleagues, customers and those in our care with the utmost respect.” Critically, the standards expected of every team member, from those on the frontline through to upper management, are exactly the same, which is why regional managers and top-level executives are selected carefully, based on both professional experience and personal ethics. Mel Brooks excels in both categories.

The right man for the job

It’s obvious from the outset of the interview that Mel is a passionate advocate of G4S and the integrated security solutions that it provides, but his passion is also firmly supported by a positive rise to prominence within

the company. Joining G4S in 2012, Mel was initially charged with running the Asia arm of the business, based in Delhi. With 135,000 staff to oversee, this was no starting role, but prepared him perfectly for his future role as the African Regional President, which he gladly accepted in 2015, after spending some time in London to work on G4S’s strategic imperatives. Now overseeing 120,000 members of staff, 15,000 of which are specifically in South Africa, Mel has a fantastic grasp on not only the services his team provides, but also what South Africa needs. G4S is somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to management selection. While other companies might simply plump for candidates that have the most experience, within exactly the same industry, G4S is a little more fluid and looks for a full complement of abilities, including geographical knowledge and fantastic interpersonal skills. With his indepth knowledge of South Africa’s security needs, Mel was absolutely the

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G4S Africa

ideal person to take up the mantel of Regional President.

An industry on the rise

It’s no secret that South Africa has been rife with not only crime, but also a fear of the potential for crime, which has been developing over the past two decades, following the end of apartheid. High levels of violent crime naturally make personal security and business protection a key priority for everybody and while the statistics are saddening, not to mention worrying, they do provide some context for the uptake in G4S’s services. It’s rather a double-edged sword that the need for security services is increasing in South Africa, but it remains excellent news for G4S and the 15,000 people that make up the staffing contingent. Discussing the increase in the identifiable need for integrated security solutions, Mel commented, “Unfortunately, we see the risks and threats increasing and our role is fundamentally to protect investments and keep them safe. Assets and people

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are the key things to protect. We need to be on the ground and have a local presence but the role of technology will become more important and will augment or even replace standard manpower. Any integrated solution will embrace enhanced solutions and new developments.” It’s interesting to note here that although the need for security is increasing, Mel is keeping a close eye on any and all new innovations that could lighten the load and increase efficiency. This really ties into the values of G4S as a whole, as there is an inbuilt desire to act with respect and integrity, while focussing on safety, security and service excellence, through innovation and teamwork. No company ever made inroads into tricky market conditions by hoping that existing solutions would be enough, it takes foresight, development and ideas to keep pressing ahead, “We invest in technology and best practice to continuously improve the products and services we offer. We challenge ourselves to find new ways

of helping our customers achieve their goals. We work together as a team, valuing everyone’s contribution, to ensure we achieve the best results for our customers and our business.” Of course, it should be made clear that G4S in no way wants violent crime to continue to be an issue for either individuals or business owners. It’s merely a case of as and when they are needed, the team will be on hand to offer tailored security solutions, for client and population peace of mind.

Investing in people

The human element really runs through every part of G4S. From the people that need the services of the team, through to the team itself, there is a level of respect and personal interaction that simply can’t be ignored, as it is somewhat rare these days. In an increasingly digital world, the human touch can get lost, but not at G4S, but that’s not to say that just anybody can be a part of the family, “Being a service business, people are at the heart of our business. We rely on them to provide excellent customer service and to behave in line with the company’s values and standards. They rely on the company to provide a safe place in which to work and for development, support and guidance throughout their career.” Mel further explained that there is a rigorous vetting and screening process that needs to be passed by every applicant before any role can be begun in earnest. With extensive training and development programmes in place for both frontline and leadership roles, everyone has learning to do and is expected to play their part in order to continue to set G4S apart from competitors. Always looking to “recruit, develop and deploy the best people”, G4S, as a group, has recently undergone some organisational changes that have been designed to give access to a far more streamlined service, wherever needed, as the global executive team explains, “We’ve consolidated our Secure Solutions businesses into four regions: Americas, Europe & Middle East, Africa and Asia. Our new organisation will enable us to further strengthen our strategic, commercial and operational focus in each of our core service lines. We will continue to build and utilise shared services for the provision of efficient and fit-for-purpose support functions

G4S Africa | 5

G4S Africa

to all businesses and this element of our organisational development has significant unrealised potential.” As a group, this directly relates to the more than half a million employees, worldwide, especially in the respect that the vast majority of roles are actually frontline positions. G4S is not the type of operation to adhere to a top-heavy structure, as the manpower is needed where the clients are, not in an office. Interestingly enough, the African division, lead by Mel, has the largest percentage of the group’s employees, with 22% coming under his jurisdiction.

The secret to success

Is it actually a secret if a company is willing to tell you what makes them stand out from the crowd? Perhaps it’s more of a winning formula, but whatever the semantics, Mel is in no doubt as to what makes G4S so phenomenally special, “There are a number of local security providers in South Africa

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but the key differentiator for our customers is that we operate across entire continents and we follow customers wherever they go. We are a fully compliant top-rated employer and our values really set us apart from the plethora of providers in the market.” Of course, it helps no end that G4S South Africa has direct and fast access to any and all global intellectual property of the Group as a whole, which can then be utilised fully for the benefit of local customers. This comes in particularly useful when it comes to personal security and cash solutions, whereby advanced technology not yet seen in the country could be brought in from elsewhere. Mel went on to comment that G4S is a, “Global provider with local delivery, content and knowledge.” Being able to take advantage of seemingly endless resources has certainly given G4S a leading edge in South Africa and will make it far simpler to achieve targets for expansion and efficiency

improvements. In particular, Mel wants to see improved cash handling solutions, as this is a burgeoning market, but that’s in no way a sign that services will become a little stale. Far from it in fact, as Mel explained that he doesn’t want to diversify away from key services when they could instead be improved upon with innovative technological advancements and more training for personnel. While it won’t be entertained at the detriment of other services, there is great scope for moving into the cash handling market with ease, as the G4S Group is ready equipped to deal with any and all contracts, with its specific approach, “G4S Cash Solutions is one of a small number of large, global cash businesses and is the market leader or number two in 40 of its 42 markets. Each market is highly regulated, often by central banks, and the business requires significant infrastructure and expertise. G4S competes with local, national and a small number of

G4S Africa

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international competitors.” Clarifying that the Group transports, processes, recycles, stores and manages cash for clients, it becomes clear that there is a very specific commercial strategy in place, which could be extended to Africa with little more than a click of a button and some internal education, “We invest in technology and sell proprietary cash-management systems which combine skilled professionals with software, hardware and operational support in an integrated, managed service. To support cost leadership we strive for a consistent operating model and use shared services to maximise efficiency. We operate around the globe, focusing on markets where we are able to build and sustain a material market share in our key service offerings. Outside the traditional cash market, there remains significant opportunity for retail cash and bank branch automation – services that have mainly remained in-house until now.” So you see, it could even be as simple as selling ready-to-use products, depending on the needs of individual clients. It seems to be something of a certainty that Mel will be looking to improve this arm of the African integrated security services menu. G4S is in a privileged position in that customers want its services; people want to work for the company and there is a global support network in place at all times. South Africa is a growing market, with a tangible need for ever-more efficient and inclusive security solutions and with Mel in charge, the country’s needs seem to be in fantastically capable hands. It must be great being able to sleep at night, knowing that regardless of increased demand on his team, that Mel will be able to satisfy customers and rise to the challenge of protecting what they hold most precious. And that’s exactly why G4S South Africa is a global giant with the local touch.

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G4s March 2019  

G4s March 2019