News Archive

World In His Hands

by msecadm4921

The June print issue’s cover story.

Grahame Gibson does not quite have the whole world in his hands, but as group chief operating officer and divisional president, security services, for G4S, he is responsible for 110 countries. He spoke to Mark Rowe.

So under Grahame Gibson’s wing are manned guarding, technical systems, cash services, and new markets. “By new markets, I mean every geographical area outside of Europe and North America. We had to come up with a definition that we felt appropriate to our business … some years ago we collectively referred to all business outside of mainstream Europe and America as new markets.” Others may call it developing or emerging markets. Whatever, we are talking about Asia and Latin America, parts of the world where G4S, like other multi-nationals, are finding higher profits than the older, developed markets like Europe.

New Delhi launch

The corporate re-branding of Group 4 and Securicor as G4S came to mind, and in particular the report in the G4S quarterly magazine International (December 2005 issue) of the guarding company’s launch of its brand identity in New Delhi in September. (The British High Commissioner hosted the event and the company board including chief executive Nick Buckles was there. Small wonder that the company made such a big deal of the event – G4S employs more than 85,000 people in India, out of about 400,000 world-wide.) Grahame Gibson remarks that he was there, at that launch. He adds that G4S comes from a number of pedigrees, to use horse-breeding terminology. “We have the Group 4 history, the Falck history, that goes back. We have the Securicor history, that’s a long and trusted brand, mainly UK; and the Wackenhut brand, which we acquired in 2002, and we have had to put all these businesses together, that have all grown in their own right, and with cultures, values, and expertise, into one group.” The roll-out of the group brand has not happened overnight, as it can be what Grahame Gibson calls a ‘major, major project’. For instance, he reports that G4S operates throughout the Indian sub-continent: “That’s very important to us, because that is one of the most expanding economies in the whole world. It’s the major source of out-sourcing services to the West, to Europe, to North America.” Many Fortune 500 companies, he adds, are rolling their manufacturing and other work to India, besides China. That prompted the thought from Professional Security that the chief security officer of, say, a bank, in London or New York might be asked by the board about the security of an out-sourced call centre in India?

Global world

Grahame Gibson replies that it might even be defence contracts, done in facilities in India. Security, of course, will be critical. “And that is why we can help them, not only in India, in all the countries they operate, to provide a consistency, and quality and integrity of service that they wouldn’t get if they were relying on local operators in those countries … I think your readership is the UK, but many international, multi-nationals are UK-based and many of the security professionals that will be reading your magazine have responsibilities beyond the boundaries of the UK. We live in an increasingly global world. Tell me about it, I am on the ’plane all the time.”

European services

Next Grahame Gibson went on to regulation, standards, the framework that a private security provider works under. Wherever you go in the world, he argues, the public security sector cannot fulfil every demand, so there is use of the private sector. But what is the regulatory framework? It seemed a good chance to ask about the European Union services directive. For one thing, EU things seem to move at a glacial pace (what has become of the working time directive and the UK’s opt-out?!). Second, that services directive could have profound effects on, say, UK guarding. Briefly: to quote a Department for Trade and Industry website: “The Directive on Services aims to break down barriers to cross border trade in services between EU Member States by making it easier for providers to establish themselves and offer services in other member states by removing unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy …” What the DTI does not say is that, so some service providers and buyers fear, European services could be reduced to the lowest common denominator. For one thing, what would become of Security Industry Authority licences in Britain (and Private Security Authority licences in the Republic of Ireland) if a Polish security guard could work in the British Isles without the SIA or PSA licence, as long as he met Polish laws? So the stakes are high.

Police

So far, security is not within the scope of the services directive. What’s G4S’ view on that? Undoubtedly, Grahame Gibson says, there should be a regulatory framework; but does that mean there should be harmonisation across the EU? His view, and G4S’ view, is that it should not: “Because if Brussels tired to force through harmonisation to the security industry today, that harmonisation would be the lowest standard and that low standard would be very, very low, compared to, let’s say, the highest standards that exist in some countries. So it would come down to the lowest common denominator, which I don’t believe is in the best interests of society. So what we are trying to do is get Brussels to accept that regulation should be driven from a national level …” A lot of the private security regulation is very closely linked, he adds, to the authority and role of the police. And, as he points out, there isn’t harmonisation of police – though, rightly, he says, there is more and more co-operation.

‘Watch this space’

He ends on a confident note, that G4S has gone through the merger [of Group 4 and Securicor, agreed in 2004] and the new brand is being rolled out. “I think it’s a case of watch this space; there are very exciting things going on.”

Not a desk job

What of his job? “The scope of my responsibilities covers about 110 countries. I structure that on a regional basis, so there are ten regional presidents, the different parts of the world that report to me. That’s quite a flat structure … I travel around for formal meetings, conferences, presentations, customer meetings, so I am on the road for a lot of the time. I have a younger wife and two small children, and hopefully see them at weekends. But we are the kind of people business where you cannot run it from behind a desk.”

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