The world of security is a complex, highly sophisticated, technological challenge in modern South Africa. The ability to adapt to new threats, to accurately assess risk and to implement successful security systems is an art form of its own and something G4S South Africa has perfected over many years.
“We operate in a different market to the rest of Africa and we face more developed competition than elsewhere on the Continent, so our approach is a lot different although we have the same strategy for growth,” states Albert Erasmus, Regional Managing Director. “We consequently use South Africa as a platform to help develop new solutions and there are of course a lot of companies with their head offices located here, but who are expanding into Africa and are able to use our same security solutions elsewhere,” he continues.
Erasmus commenced his role in November 2011 and is responsible for all three G4S businesses across South Africa and Lesotho. The Africa Region is split into four separate business clusters across the Continent with South Africa (as one cluster) contributing to roughly a third of G4S Africa’s revenue and profits.
Innovation of course plays an enormous part in a business which in addition to off the shelf products, is often involved in providing specially tailored solutions for a diverse customer base.
“In South Africa our focus is primarily on 3 business units i.e. Cash Solutions (involving the secure transportation of cash and end to end cash management solutions, Secure Solutions (including the provision of manned guarding, technology systems, monitoring and response and risk management) and Care and Justice. Our market share varies across our products and service lines but overall we are one of the largest security solutions companies, and the most diverse,” Erasmus underlines.
Such is the high regard in which the South African Operations are held that its facilities are considered as a Service Excellence Centre to support colleagues across the Continent, while plenty of G4S employees travel to South Africa for training.
Erasmus says that the South African Company has adapted its shareholding structure to comply with Black Economic Empowerment requirements and that the business, whilst privately and internationally owned, is still run by South Africans on all management levels
“We interact with the global business every day and in addition we use the best practices which have been developed around the world,” he confirms; “conversely, South Africa has developed products and services seen by global colleagues as world leading, including our cash device system: Deposita, who’s unique software is deemed to be the first of its kind in the world and has been rolled out to 13 countries.”
G4S Deposita is South Africa’s market leader in cash devices and related cash-in-transit and cash processing.
The Deposita acquisition was one of 3 strategic investments made by G4S in South Africa in 2013 and each one provided a software competency that added something new to the company’s existing suite.
At the time G4S put out a statement which read: “The acquisition of Deposita will significantly strengthen G4S’s position in our retail cash technology marketplace, which is forecast to grow rapidly over the next three years. It also provides G4S with:
The best in-store device cash technology solution in South Africa; a greater distinction and dynamic, because of the addition of these services, to South Africa’s cash solutions offering; opportunities to export this technology solution into other G4S African countries, including Botswana, Malawi, Kenya and Namibia.”
The second acquisition was of a Company called Smarttech and both businesses were quickly integrated into the G4S Cash Solutions business.
At the end of 2013 G4S bought Banking Machine Systems – a company devoted to maintenance support and the refurbishment of ATMs.
“We will not buy businesses for the sake of it – our primary focus is on organic growth and we don’t foresee any further acquisitions unless an opportunity comes up to buy a business that can add something new to our existing range of services and solutions,” affirms Erasmus
Acquisitions aside, the company has developed a strong team dedicated to software programming and Erasmus suggests is an integral part of the G4S success story.
“It is a continuous process of innovation although we have off the shelf products too – but the work of our software teams allows us to integrate as a business and helps to differentiate us from the competition.
“Much of this technology is unique to South Africa which is a very dynamic environment to operate in and has one of the best banking systems in the world. At the same time there is a high criminal element to deal with so our technology has to be advanced,” he continues.
The quality of staff is another important factor in the continued success of G4S and Erasmus says that the Secure Solutions business employees 13,500 people, Cash Solutions 3,300 and a further 507 are employed in the Care and Justice business.
Cash Solutions brings in roughly 50 per cent of annual revenue while approximately 33 per cent comes from Secure Solutions and the remainder from Care and Justice.
“We have accredited training centres throughout South Africa, responsible for a wide range of skills development and training. There is a big drive within the business to focus on quality training because our services are so people-intensive. Our staff must be exceptionally well trained to meet our customers’ and our own service expectations which in turn gives us a competitive edge.”
The emphasis we put on training differentiates us and the results can be seen in the number of contracts we win, especially in sectors such as Oil and Gas and Mining,
“Our mining sector has seen the biggest growth recently and we currently provide a range of security services to over 38 mines across South Africa –We have been able to assist the Platinum Companies during the recent strike action by providing a range of specialised services .We deploy specific riot control vehicles and teams, and act as the second line of defence (the South African Police Services are the first line) while working under the command and control of the mine management team. There have been no major incidents so far this year, but when any member of our team is involved in an incident we carry out comprehensive investigations and immediately provide counselling if appropriate,” Erasmus describes.
Aviation is another important sector for the business and at present G4S works with 7 airports, providing a range of services including cargo management, the transportation of vulnerable or high value goods, as well as passenger and passport control.
“We are very clear in our strategy as to which sectors we wish to provide services for, and with 7,000 registered security Companies in South Africa, the business model won’t work if you simply generalise. If you can focus on certain industries providing high levels of training and compliance with a full risk management approach, you find there are fewer competitors that can offer the same level of service and competency. It is all about providing innovative quality service with Safety at the core of everything we do.”