Keeping venues and the brand safe in 2012: A blend of risk and reward

Marc Sidwell
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Mark Hamilton gives an insight into G4S’s decision to become the official security provider to the Games

Q. What was your brand’s primary reason for being involved with the Games?

A. As the world’s largest international security solutions provider, and as we’re based in the UK, it made perfect sense to us that we should take part in the biggest event in the world when it’s happening on our doorstep. The Games is the major event that touches all nations; we already work in 110 countries around the world, and this offered a chance to develop our offer in all countries. Equally, we have the right track record; we’ve provided security for all sorts of major sporting events – Formula One, the Derby and international rugby, for instance.

Two other reasons we looked to the Games were the chance it allows you to innovate and the values of sport, which sit at the heart of our values. We’ve been sponsoring sportsmen and women for years, the British sailing team since 2006, and Haile Gebrselassie, the great long distance runner, has been the project ambassador for our 4Teen global sports initiative since 2007, helping talented young athletes to reach for the heights of achievement. Although we’re a B2B organisation, there’s a significant public interface to our work and this promotes values we support to the public, something that gets people fit, disciplined and working hard.

Q. How did you structure the case for involvement to the board?

A. There were three elements for G4S. First, the question of reward versus risk. On the one hand the Games is the friendliest event in the world, and on the other it has an unequalled risk profile. We had to weigh the consequences of any security failure – not even our fault – for the brand, if things went wrong.
Then second we had to consider our ability to provide the delivery structure – if you like, build the machinery to get the job done. And then third we had to plan to maximise the opportunities for the group of being an official supplier to the Games.

Q. How have you structured your business to maximise Olympic opportunities?

A. We see this as a huge opportunity to showcase the whole range of our talents and services across the country and to all countries, some of which may be experiencing a major event for the first time, so that was crucial. And we had to be sure too that we could give our UK customers the assurance that their service would be unaffected – that they can expect business as usual. There’s a natural concern that events will draw expertise away from other areas of the business. We had to make sure that wasn’t true. We have two events sections in the UK, a domestic UK events business and our major events business. And it’s via the second that we chose to exercise the opportunities presented by the Games. And in fact our customers are finding we’re well-placed to provide them with intelligence about how they can plan better for the impact the Games is likely to have on their business.

Q. What has surprised you most about your involvement to date?

A. I’ve only been in the company for three years, and I’m pleasantly surprised, though perhaps that’s the wrong word – I’m impressed – by the sheer strength and depth of G4S coming to the fore as it takes on a large and complex contract. It will be enlightening hopefully for others, too, when they see G4S at the Games and they recognise those qualities in its performance.

Q. How do you monitor your progress in achieving your commercial objectives and how will you judge your success post-Games?

A. Overall success clearly can only be judged by the delivery of a safe and secure Games. More specifically, we’re monitoring progress to ensure we manage costs and deliver value. There’s a budget involved and we are working closely with LOCOG, the organising committee, to stay within that.

We’re also conscious that to those dealing with the screening and searching of pedestrians and cars, which is part of our remit, it can feel like security is the event, but we know it is all about the Olympics and we want to make the experience welcoming for officials and spectators and we’re training staff to see that and using the test events to improve flow rates in the lines. We’re off to a good start in 2012.

Mark Hamilton is G4S’s managing director of security services for London 2012.