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Q&A: Steve Jones, CEO, Allied Universal


Steve Jones, Allied Universal

Allied Universal celebrated a major milestone in the company’s growth when its acquisition of G4S closed in April of this year.

Canadian Security recently spoke with Allied Universal’s CEO Steve Jones for an update on the integration process post-acquisition and to check in on other developments, including its systems and technology businesses, and how the company stepped up to deliver service during a challenging few years marked by the global pandemic. This conversation has been edited for concision and clarity.

Canadian Security: How is the G4S integration process going?

Steve Jones: It’s going very, very well. It will be concluded by the end of the year. The management teams and the leadership have all been selected; they’re working together as a cohesive group. The integration that’s left is on the part of finalizing the branding aspects, changing them to Allied Universal and then putting the two back office systems together. We’ve got tremendous experience in doing that — we’ve done it many, many times.
As always, the most difficult and challenging aspect is the people part. People drive culture and people are who really manage this business. We are really excited that we were able to keep the senior level executives of the G4S Canada business as well as the senior level executives of the Allied Universal business and blend them together in a structure that works for everybody.

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CS: How is the transition being handled from the customer perspective?

SJ: We’ve worked extremely hard [on transitions] for the last 10-plus years — we have completed over 75 acquisitions and integrations. The goal is always for this to be as invisible as possible for the customers.
Besides the name on the invoice or the name on the patch changing — the people who are with them day-to-day, the security officers that protect them and their assets, and their employees and customers and visitors — that doesn’t change. Any structural changes that we make, we make them way in advance and they’re communicated to all the customers. We were able to work through what the organizational structure is going to look like and we got that finished squarely by the end of the second quarter.
That has all been communicated not only internally but externally. For the customers, there should really be no surprises. And that’s what we take pride in — there will be no surprises and a smooth transition for them.

CS: Does integrating a brand like G4S, of significant size and stature in the industry, present any unique challenges or opportunities?

SJ: To quantify it, G4S is absolutely the largest acquisition we’ve ever done. But … you have to bifurcate it in that you have G4S in North America and G4S in the rest of the world.
The reason why that is important is, the integration within Canada and the United States is a very large acquisition, but it fits nicely within our organizational footprint. It adds about 25 per cent to our revenues in North America. The biggest part of the G4S business was outside of North America. That’s the biggest change for Allied Universal. What we’ve done there strategically is we’ve kept the entire G4S international group in place, to include all the presidents in each of the countries, the infrastructure, the international headquarters in the U.K.
The North American piece fits very well into our existing business, representing about 25 per cent growth for us. The rest-of-the-world piece is literally 100 per cent growth for us because we weren’t there [before], so we kept all of their infrastructure in place.

CS: How does G4S’s previous ambitions to grow the integration and technology side of its business fit with Allied Universal’s own goals in that department?

SJ: We were about US$200 million [revenue] in systems and technology in North America. It was a big push of ours — we were growing both organically and through M&A. With G4S, we added about a billion dollars on a global basis, so our total revenues for systems and technology now are just over US$1.2B. We’re super excited about that, because it absolutely expanded our capabilities and our scale and resources. This really enhanced the area that we want to focus on.

CS: How is Allied Universal evolving overall in terms of its guarding and technology businesses?

SJ: [Our goal] is to be an integrated security services provider and be able to offer a variety of services that really help our customers manage their day-to-day needs. That’s everything from our manned guarding business, which we expect to keep growing, and the security and technology solutions part of our business, which will also continue to grow on a global scale. We expect that to grow significantly faster.
Then we have other really important services for our customers that really round out our capabilities, so we can sit in front of our customers and be that one-stop-shop — everything from executive protection to risk and consulting services to investigations. For us, it’s an integrated solution that absolutely is the future of our organization on a global scale. Given our size and scale, in the local markets we can be part of the community… and on a more global scale, work with our enterprise customers.

CS: What are your thoughts on how the security market has changed during the pandemic?

SJ: I am very proud of what security has done through the pandemic. In every country that we operate in, security was deemed an essential service. I think that’s important.
We saw, all around the world, that there’s an increasing level of evolving risk, whether it’s through the pandemic, hurricanes, fires, floods, social unrest, civil unrest, the threat of terrorism… there’s just an increasing level of risk in the world and I think the world recognizes the need and the importance of security.
With our company specifically, I think we weathered the storm very well because we were able to be there for our customers in all those different times of need. Whether it’s protests, pandemic-related services — health-care, distribution facilities, retail, grocery, COVID screening, COVID testing centres, hotels [for pandemic quarantining] — within our customer base in North America and around the world, our team, during the pandemic, has had to stand tall. [They have been] on the forefront of many challenges, disasters and security threats and I’m really, really proud of what they’ve done. They are heroes amongst us all. I know, around the world, a lot of different professions were being recognized [like] nurses and doctors, and rightfully so, but I certainly think security officers fit that category and deserve that same recognition.