Interview: Dawid Sold, G4S

Mr. Sold, can you please present yourself to our readers: your educational and professional background, the field of expertise, when did you start working for G4S, what area are you in charge with?
Great amount of my professional career I have been working for the Danish transport and logistics company Maersk. During my 16 years I have been assigned with multiple roles and geographies in Europe and South East Asia. Most of my professional experiences were around business transformation and new ventures. With nowadays fast changing environments, business transformation somehow became everyday reality rather than a special moment during the lifecycle of the enterprise. This being said, my expertise is to find the right balance between expectations of customer, employee and shareholder and make it sustainable for all. One of the lines of the G4S business lines in Serbia is transportation of valuables, so this was the link that conveyed me from Maersk to G4S. When I took up this role in G4S four years ago, we started a major transformation of the business in Serbia focused on bringing technology into the centre of gravity. Another important element of our strategy is customer centricity, we want to be the first choice of our clients, for instance later this year we plan to introduce a very unique IT platform improving customer experience for transport operations – we hope this will help our clients to improve their business. G4S in Serbia is very often considered purely through guarding services, however other than that we are also a transport company and last but not least a very important line of our business is Low Voltage Systems Integration, with our highly qualified team of Engineers and Technicians who design, draw, install and commission complex projects in Serbia. On personal note I moved to Belgrade from Prague but originally I am northern slav born in Warsaw and graduate of Warsaw School of Economics,

After months of negotiation Allied Universal has acquired G4S for 5,1 billion USD. This acquisition created the world’s 7th largest employer and world-leading integrated security company, providing an almost unrivaled breadth of capability for customers. How did it come to this decision, has the integration been completed, and will G4S keep its brand and decision-making process?
We combine our resources and expertise to create the world’s leading global security company with revenues of approximately $18 billion, operations in around 85 countries and a workforce of more than 800,000. We began integrating the North America operations of the two companies first with the goal of completing the process by late Q3/early Q4 2021, and at that time, in North America, the go-forward brand name will be Allied Universal. We will continue to operate under the G4S brand elsewhere in the group and will be conducting brand research in order to determine future brand strategy in 2022.

“The combination of the skills, experience, and talents in our two companies creates a unified business that will be unmatched in every important dimension including scale, coverage, employee opportunity, innovation, and customer experience and, of course, performance. I look forward to working alongside the Allied Universal team to deliver the considerable benefits that I know this combination can achieve,” said Ashley Almanza, CEO of G4S. Can you comment on these benefits for your customers around the world, including the area you’re in charge of? From a customer perspective, what can they expect from a unified company in the future?
The combination of the two businesses will create a world-leading integrated security company with a strong international platform and an extensive portfolio of enterprise clients. We will be ideally situated to address customers’ evolving security needs, partnering and growing with our clients on a national and international scale and serving G4S’s existing customer base around the world.

What about G4S’s business in Serbia? (stats) Would you say G4S is now the largest manned security provider in that country? Has G4S’ business improved since you’ve taken the lead?

Our large number of Security Officers make a powerful backbone for the integrated security systems and cash management solutions that are key to our strong position in the market. security is considered by clients as a pure cost to the organization, but we in G4S always try to enable the value to the customer. In order to change this perspective it is very important to look at the security function as one essential component serving as a business enabler. Very often a mistake is looking at security electronic systems in separation – during tenders or design process – from manned security whereas this is one interconnected system. With proper design of the solution not only we lower the long term Total Cost of Ownership but also enable multiple value added services that convert to monetary benefits of our customers. How? It could be customer behaviour patterns analysis for retail business, it could be improved revenue/utilization from smart parking systems, could be a decreased number of injuries in industrial sectors or even strong management of Covid related safety processes. All of it evolves around smart security systems being the combination of technology and manned security. G4S has a unique customer proposition in Serbia being at the same time electronic security system integrator but also the final user of the same. When it comes to the size of our operations in Serbia we definitely look more into the quality and complexity of our offering and we hope to be the first choice of our customers when they think about security.

Let’s talk more about your services. What do you offer to clients interested in manned and electronic security services?

Our business is segmented into three core services – Secure Solutions, Cash Solutions and Risk Consulting Services. Our mission is to use G4S global knowledge and expertise to co-create industry-leading solutions. The global G4S Academy plays a critical role in keeping up with the latest industry trends, solutions, concepts and evolving threats. It was created with a clear vision of combining Customer Intimacy with Operational Excellence. At the core of our security management are systems based on the ability to adequately assess risk, correctly design, install, integrate and maintain in the general concept of security of a specific facility or client’s property. It is the famous 3R model (Resources, Risks and Resolutions), a true “man-tech” concept – a synergy of man and technology. G4S has the expertise and know-how to propose and implement the Integrated Security 360 ° concept while adhering to the strict procedures in addition to having professional liability insurance for everything we do.

Has the pandemic affected your business? What measures did you have to take to ensure the continuity of your services? Do you see that the market is recovering?
Unfortunately, yes, we have been heavily affected by Corona. Many of our colleagues got infected with Covid and unfortunately few of them we have lost to the pandemic. This is a very tragic and traumatic experience and shows how devastating this last 18 months has been. Having this opportunity I wanted to share words of appreciation with all professionals working in this industry. Private Security Officers are very often underestimated when it comes to the importance of their function in modern societies. Pandemic has shown that they are part of the essential workers group which plays a very important role in providing basic security and also making sure our public spaces are safe. I think we as societies should pay greater tribute to this professional group. Here I would like to say thank you to all G4S colleagues but also to all security personnel.
When it comes to Covid prevention, in G4S we have implemented measures regulated by the Government of Serbia and WHO supported by our inhouse technology such as cameras counting people and allowing control of social distancing or different technologies for fever screening and connected to automated access control. We also implemented remote work for HQ employees, distribution of PPE but also psychological assistance to those who were affected in a negative way..
Business wise Corona has had various impacts, there are industries that observe significant demand growth – take for instance food delivery, some in neutral but we see a lot of industries and businesses of our customers affected in a negative way, for example restaurants, hotels, shopping and retail. This creates additional pressure on the cost and unfortunately that leads to the increase of the gray economy. Market recovery ratio is different from industry to industry thus there could be no general statement but we consider the near future as a challenging period of time. Again the state will play a critical role in the Post-pandemic situation in making sure that the grey economy will not take over. This is especially important in sectors such as Private Security due to potential exposures and consequences for people’s safety and health and insurance of assets.

I’ve always wondered about the reason for G4S not spreading to other regional countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia. Why is that? Do you see that might change? What would it take to make such a step?
We would like to grow and we have ambition for growth however such decisions must have strategic and financial reasoning behind. We would not enter markets just for the sake of growing presence. For a time being G4S has small operations in Slovenia and Montenegro. Now we are concluding integration between Allied Universal and G4S which is historically the biggest transaction of this nature in our industry and once this is concluded we will know more about the future strategy of our new HQ.

A trend of decreasing security guards and replacing them, in some manner, with security systems is gaining pace. Do you find this to be true in the Western Balkans region, what business area is affected the most, and do you have a strategy related to this inevitable trend? Can you explain the concept of “man-tech” you’re implementing?
This is a very good and valid question in Serbia. There are two critical factors that will transform the Serbian security industry in the near future and bring it more towards the solutions and concepts present in Western Europe. Namely it is inflation of wages and migration of people. To Mention minimum wage changes alone, in Serbia since 2017 those have grown by 55% percent, although the starting point is relatively low compared to other countries, the dynamic of the growth is very high. Government strategy ‘Serbia 2025’ is to continue increasing the wages to an estimated 900 Euro level for the average wage in Serbia in 2025. This increase will put pressure on the economy and private sector to find cost predictability. In the traditional guarding model wage to bill ratio (% of wages in rate towards the security customer) is more than 90%. Historically in the Balkans the cost of technology was higher than the security wage however this is changing as we speak. Men-tech concept is a combination of multiple and historically independent eyes of a chain into one system. For example, our newest product that we started to offer on the Serbian market called ‘Digital Guard’ consists of cameras with Artificial Intelligence function, public address system, Alarm Monitoring Centre and Alarm monitoring Response teams. It allows remote recognition of risks, remote interaction with the threat and in ultimate situation dispatch of response teams that can support customers onsite. All of those elements substitute traditional guarding with not only lesser cost but on the contrary more predictable cost of guarding in the long term since wage to bill ratio is less than 50%. All of this happens with no loss to quality of service and in many instances brings more quality.
Similar concept applies to our transport operations, by definition cash that we transport is at all times under electro-chemical protection that makes it safe. Also our continued investments into the fleet makes those vehicles complying with highest global security standards thus less man power required to operate them. In this business we leave no room for mistakes.

When it comes to security systems, what manufacturers/vendors do you work with?

Since G4S is a global company we have global agreements with the biggest and most renowned security equipment manufacturers in the world. This gives us good access to competitive products but also newests technology available. Our product and vendor mix is always driven by our customers, this being said in our portfolio we have brands and solutions for budget solutions but also premium manufacturers and technology. In G4S we sell products to individual customers such as Alarm Monitorings to households but also complex infrastructural objects thus we have to be flexible.

Do you see an increase in usage of advanced technologies in Serbia, like cloud video and access (VSaaS and ACaaS), AI, IoT devices, user-behavior analytics, etc.?
Definitely. Firstly, it is important to note that our internal G4S systems/operations are cloud-based whereby we are truly “walking the talk”. That said, along with the inflow of new customers, we have also recognized the needs of the existing partners and offered them cloud-based services in areas such as remote guarding, alarm-monitoring or transport of valuables. These technologies, therefore, sustain continuity of quality and stability of service provision. Artificial Intelligence is part of our Digital Guard solution that I mentioned before. Also customers recognize the need and value of Big Data and those are possibly to become products on its own. The security industry is a natural source of business analytics and we hope that we can build on this with our customers in the near future.

Reference list of G4S is, without a doubt, extensive. Among many assets you secure, what would you highlight as particularly important or complex in the last few years?
As we convert more and more of our “traditional” services into truly integrated security solutions based on Risk Based Approach, we are being recognized as trusted security advisor and provider to several big projects. Starting from providing complex security systems installations to national critical infrastructure projects (new highway with several road tunnels in which we delivered anything from fire & gas detection, SOS intercoms, Video surveillance etc; railway reconstruction in which we deliver anything from fire detection, public address, video surveillance to passenger information systems etc); followed by securing wind park construction project by deploying our man-tech (combination of manpower with technology) solution and for the first time using advanced IoT systems based on LoRaWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) and last but not least delivering one of the World’s largest smart parking projects in biggest shopping mall in this part of Europe.

Lacking man guards and dumping prices is one of the greatest challenges of manned security companies in the Adriatic region. How do you battle this issue, what have you undertaken to try to keep your workforce?
I have to start by pointing out how important it is not to look at Security Officers as “doormen” but as licensed and trained professionals who stand at the very beginning of any security systems solution, right next to the modern technology. From Security studies graduates to police/army veterans, our team is made up of 3.500 people who are at the core of our operations. We are proud to say that more than a third of employees are in the company for a very long time (10 years and more). They maintain great relationships with clients, recognizing all the risks and reacting in time to prevent them. Salary is always on time and their insurance paid with no exception. As many of them have stated, these weren’t the case with other employers on the market. During last year’s state of emergency, we showed equal care for everyone, and organized transportation for colleagues to and from work, organized tests and sent health packages to everyone who was ill. Most important of all is that everyone kept their job. We show effort to promote their work through internal and external channels of communication. Our goal is to also empower women in the security industry and we are constantly increasing their number in our company. In a nutshell, struggle (to find new employees) is real but being consistent in fulfilling your contractual obligations is what keeps both your employees and customers on your side.

You are a Platinum sponsor at Adria Security Summit, the largest security event in the region, which will be held in Belgrade. Do you find it to be a good opportunity to finally meet all the market players after a year and a half of pandemic and canceled events?
Excellent opportunity, to say at least. We have prepared a real “treat” for security professionals and decision makers. Two side events, one of which focusing on the integrated security systems and the other on the cash management, will by no means prove G4S a leader in the security market. Not only that we’ll be bringing World’s top experts but also having local specialists and customers talk about our solutions that contributed to their businesses’ running smoothly. Certain topics, such as insurance when dealing with cash processing or buying cheap(er) equipment while designing your own security systems have not been discussed in a proper manner. It’s high time they were and we are happy to share our knowledge with other participants, as G4S Academy, our business philosophy is exactly that: sharing our global expertise in order to reach the best solutions together. Many thanks to the Summit’s organizators for making this event possible despite the circumstances. I am sure it’s going to be a success.

At the end, G4S Serbia short-term plans for the future?
Our ambition is to be the first choice of the customer when thinking about security in Serbia. Our entire focus is shared amongst day2day service quality but also looking in the future, as spoken we are investing into technological solutions to bring world class security standards to Serbia, introducing a new set of products such as Digital Guard. Serbia and WEstern Balkans is a very important market for G4S and we hope we can contribute to business sustainability by making the environment safe but also we hope to contribute to the commercial success of our customers.

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