The risk of financially-motivated crime has always been a factor for financial service companies and retailers. Over time of course, the methods of crime have become far more sophisticated, with technology playing an increasing role with the advent of the web. For companies like G4S Cash Solutions South Africa, the challenge is to keep pace with innovation to stay one step ahead of the criminals.
Headquartered in Johannesburg, G4S Cash Solutions South Africa is relocating to Pretoria in the next month. It is the latest development for a business that has made an art of keeping in tune with the latest innovations and remaining adaptable to change.
Hannes Venter, Sales Director, has been with the company for the past decade and has witnessed significant changes first hand:
“The company started off in 1957 as FG Security and in 1981 it was bought by a local company. A decade later there was a management buy-out and in 2007 the business was acquired by G4S.
“G4S is a globally business with public listings on the London and Copenhagen Stock Exchanges. G4S Cash South Africa has 4 specialist services:
“Our traditional business has always been in cash in-transit services, involving the collection and delivery of cash to and from customers, both retail and financial services.
“We also provide an array of ATM services, delivering cash, loading ATMs and more recently monitoring and providing first and second line engineering of these machines.
“We provide a range of retail solutions and deploy devices and tailored online portals for retailers to conduct financial transactions.
“Our final service is financial service solutions for the banks, including IT security systems,” he describes.
Domestically G4S operates in a number of key sectors across all nine provinces in South Africa some of which include Care and Justice Services, Cash Solutions, Secure Solutions – the provision of Security Officers and aviation security, Security Systems – including control room systems and intruder alarms and Empowerment Ventures.
Venter is in no doubt that the takeover by G4S 6 years ago has had a profoundly positive impact on the company’s ability to grow and innovate:
“The acquisition has given us access to 3 main things: G4S is constantly seeking to adopt global best practices and systems, so we are able to provide additional levels of reassurance for customers who of course rely hugely on trust when selecting a security firm for their logistics needs.
“Whilst we are based in South Africa, we now have access to global expertise to help and leverage opportunities in our local market.
“Of course having a publicly-listed global parent has also provided us with access to capital for growth and acquisitions. In 2012 we acquired a retail solution company called Depositer; while earlier this year we bought an ATM service company. Both acquisitions have provided the platform for new opportunities and services that will grow our business,” he reflects.
The provision of capital is currently realising a significant change in the business, with G4S Cash South Africa currently embarking on a £230 million (sterling) upgrade of its fleet of 800 armoured vehicles.
The project, sees local Toyota distributor Imperial provide leasing and maintenance solutions for the company, maintaining sufficient vehicles while MiX Telematics enhances each vehicle with new technology, installing new components and lock systems that increase the levels of security and the amount of access any one person has in the transit process.
This whole project will take the best part of two and a half years to complete but will deliver a further layer of confidence for customers.
Technology is often sophisticated and extends not just to the vehicles, but to guard technology and global security practices. The company uses state-of-the-art recognisance systems, the latest in vehicle tracking technology and vault opening systems.
With over half a century of experience, Venter says that the company is the market leader in South Africa and the move to Pretoria in a few weeks time will bring all of G4S’s South African businesses closer together – and closer to the country’s Government and many embassies that serve as clients.
The business serves retailers large and small – but owns a 65 per cent market share of the larger institutions. Having a trustworthy and highly qualified workforce plays a vital role in building trust in such establishments – and ensures that the company remains compliant.
“We have a private security regulatory authority in South Africa and we are registered with them; we also adhere to training standards and employment regulations,” says Venter. “There are also minimum standards introduced by the South African Bureau of Standards regarding some of the equipment we use and similarly the South African Reserve Bank has criteria for the equipment used to count and validate money.
“In addition to all of this there are a number of labour laws around health and safety that we have to meet in what is a very union-driven industry,” he continues.
With roughly 3,500 staff across the various G4S businesses in the country, training takes on significance importance. On the retail and ATM sides there are a number of highly skilled engineers and supervisors, while the cash-in-transit (CIT) business comprises of roughly 2,500 people with many drivers and guards.
“Normal security guards have to undergo CIT training and in South Africa we have an ABCDE grading system for guard training, with A the highest grade attainable. Anyone wishing to join G4S has to have a minimum E grade, while we run in-house programmes, recruiting people on learner programmes who complete 2 years of training and are then found placements within the company.
“Training is very diverse and topics include equipment training, advanced driving, firearm competency (including 6 month refresher courses on the shooting range) and behavioural training.
“One of the biggest strengths of our business has always been that we have looked to innovation and through G4S Group we operate to global best practices in South Africa.
“Our biggest challenge is to circulate cash efficiently from the time we pick cash up to arriving at the cash centre, counting and sorting money and dispensing to the ATM. We try to make the timeframe as short as possible and wherever possible we drive out inefficiencies in the business.
“At the same time we are seeing an escalation in the cost of labour and fuel prices and it is always a challenge to try to deliver more for less. Our R&D capabilities certainly help and we can offer new devices like our cash acceptance products which count and verify money quicker,” Venter continues.
Whilst the industry as a whole is currently facing many challenges, Venter says that G4S Cash South Africa is enjoying growth – often at its competitors’ expense.
“The CIT market is mature and over-extended but one of our biggest advantages is the group and the access we have to capital which has allowed us to remain innovative and technology driven.
“The next 24 months will offer us a number of opportunities with our new products and services and there are plenty of opportunities with the bank cash centres, who often outsource services. The retail and ATM engineering business is also set to grow and we can offer added value which often makes a big difference,” he affirms.