Building a secure partnership.

October 99 News & Events

In 1989 Fidelity Guards won the contract to keep Mossel Bay's mossgas gas to petrol plant secure. Today is Fidelity's last on the beat. But it is not a sad occasion. The company that took over on 1 September, Mossguard Protection Services, is jointly owned by many of the original security officers who patrolled in Fidelity colours as well as Fidelity Guards itself.

"When we started at Mossgas it was merely a piece of land with a farm fence," says Barry Woan, MD of Fidelity Guards, part of the Fidelity Services Group. "We had a guard opening the gate for surveyors. It rapidly took off when construction started and our staff rocketed to 750, looking after 18 000 construction workers. The Fidelity staff was billeted on the beach and it was a town within a town. It was a bit like the Wild West with petty violence rampant as workers from all parts of the world repeatedly clashed."

The plant was commissioned in 1994 and Fidelity's staff shrunk to a National Key Point complement of more than 100.

"In line with Mossgas' own black economic empowerment initiative all services went out to tender. Mossgas insisted that any successful tender had to have a strong BE component. 105 companies tendered for the security contract. Mossguard Protection Services, a partnership between the existing 61 strong guard force, backed by Fidelity management know-how, won the tender. Many of the guards have been with Fidelity since the 'Wild West' days are both experienced and highly professional."

The company is 51% controlled by Fidelity and the guards trust holds the balance. Fidelity's share will drop as staff gain experience. The 49% share split has not been finalised but management, staff and the community will all benefit. The community's holding will be administered by the trustees and will be used for charities in Mossel Bay.

The first of many

Woan says the new company, the first of what he predicts will be many in the Fidelity stable, is ideally placed to take advantage of the still growing security industry. Guarding is labour intensive which the industry needs as government, parastatals and mines shed under-productive workforces. Some 130 000 security officers are registered with the Security Officer's Board, with approximately 70 000 in-house company guards, who by law do not have to be registered with the SOB.

"The Fidelity Group has 21 000 employees with some 12 000 working in the guarding companies. Fidelity has been operational for 43 years with the first branch in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. The original operation was cash in transit, expanding to several cash operations.

In 1972 the Rennies Group bought Fidelity Guards and included it in its transport and shipping stable.

"It was really under the auspices of Rennies that Fidelity learned its corporate governance and expanded dramatically, opening branches throughout SA."

In 1975 the first guards branch was opened on the West Rand followed soon after with operations in Durban, Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa.

However, in 1990 Rennies decided to refocus on its core activities which gave Fidelity management an opportunity to buy the business, with financial backing from Corvest, part of Rand Merchant Bank. Today Corvest holds 40% and the balance lies with management.

Repositioning

This repositioning allowed Fidelity to acquire several related businesses in the guarding and cash in transit arenas and in 1996 Fidelity purchased Pritchards Security Group, a company with a British pedigree.

"The main aim of buying Pritchards was its highly professional cleaning division giving us instant access to a market where we felt Fidelity had a strong future. Cleaning was a natural progression in the services industry and we learned from international trends specifically Australia, the UK and Europe, where companies were offering a seamless package. Guarding and cleaning are both 24 h, seven days a week jobs. When the clients sleep, we work."

Having moved into cleaning Woan says other opportunites became obvious in the service field. "Three natural extensions were plant care, pest control and hygiene. Fidelity opened registered companies in all these areas. Our marketing teams sell the total, one company concept of full service supply.

"And it is a route most clients find attractive as it not only reduces the hassles of coping with areas that are not core to their business but it also reduces staff that do not add to the company's reason for being."

Integrated electronic management systems

Woan says Fidelity has taken the service profile two steps further by adding integrated electronic management systems closed circuit television to complement their existing guarding services.

Client's needs have changed a lot recently in that they want highly trained specialised guards backed by technology. Instead of having say 50 security officers in a large shopping centre you may have only 25, backed by CCTV and other electronic equipment.

Woan says Fidelity is returning to electronic surveillance and electronic management support systems after Rennies sold Rennies Electronic Security in 1990. "The changing environment and sophistication of electronic equipment allows us to offer our customers the best possible options."





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