Liam Morrissey, CEO, MS Risk
|Interview conducted by:|
How much of your business is represented by crisis response today?
MS Risk began its corporate life as crisis responders and today that still represents half of our business. Along the way we have met more customers who required preventative assistance such as risk assessments before entering a new market, security surveys, compliance programs and surge capacity. Today the company offers three services: crisis response, security consulting and project management. Project management includes aspects like embedding a security manager at a client’s operations, delivering training or special projects where armed forces are required.
MS Risk has a 24/7 multi-lingual hotline as well as a response team on standby 24 hours a day. Clients use this hotline to seek advice, raise an alarm and to mobilize assistance. We also have a team of analysts who all have a minimum of a master’s degree in intelligence studies and are monitoring events in areas that are of interest to our clients and ourselves. This team will also do dedicated research for clients and will support our consultants in the field. Our consultants are mostly former military or law enforcement and many of them have held blue chip security leadership roles. Our consultants are decentralized globally, and they will be part of the teams that do crisis response work as well as general consulting.
With over 14 years of experience, how does MS Risk perceive the development of security awareness among mining companies?
Major mining companies are highly organized and will already have an intrinsic security capability. When these majors enter a new market or jurisdiction, they will bring these security measures with them. It is within the junior companies where there is still a big security gap, and they can be less prepared for the jurisdictions where they operate. Most junior companies do not have a strong internal security capability and will quite often put this responsibility on their health and safety department. In many jurisdictions such as West Africa, it is important to have proportionate security measures in place and to be prepared for the challenges unique to that area.
At what stages in mining projects does MS Risk usually engage with clients?
MS Risk will engage with projects at any point from cradle to grave. The earlier we get involved, the better, but the reality is that our clients will approach us as they need us. The company is most often contacted for due diligence, reports for insurance purposes, operational worries, special projects or a crisis. We have structured ourselves to be able to join a project at any phase and to meet the client’s needs. This includes working in the resale or disposal of assets. Our analysts do a significant number of PESTLE (Political Economic Social Technical Legal and Environmental) reports, which cover the factors we will look at for any client. Our aim is to determine the landscape in which our clients are already operating in or are going to be operating in, and the PESTLE report will help inform our risk assessment.
What are some of the challenges of operating in Africa and how does MS Risk approach these challenges?
In Africa, the logistics are always extreme and road accidents are more of a risk than – for example – kidnappings. As the lines of logistics are time consuming, it affects incident response times for MS Risk. The shifting criminal and militant activities are a constant risk for all.
With regards to the competitive landscape, there are a significant amount of security companies operating in the same space as us. I believe that there is a limitation to what customers can expect from local companies or international companies claiming that they have a presence in a region. Customers should make sure that the security company they employ has experience in the region and that they have the capabilities and services that will meet their requirements and expectations of their leadership and shareholders.
Where does MS Risk see opportunity for growth in the mining space in Africa?
A car has brakes to allow the vehicle to go fast. The better the braking system, the faster you can go. Companies need security to enable them to operate responsibly and safely in places where they otherwise would not be able to go. Companies need to spend on security and health and safety in an economical but efficient way. MS Risk helps producing mines operate safely, but also help the exploration projects develop and grow so that they can become producing mines. I believe that there has to be a culture change and companies should start seeing security as a mandate rather than an option. Recent tragic events are touchstones to this changing viewpoint. It is for this reason that we are working closely with the Australian High Commission in Ghana and various clients and mining industry players to deliver a Sahel Security Conference 11-12 June 2019. The aim of this event is to raise awareness of the threats facing the natural resources sector now and to forecast future expectations on the risks posed to mining companies by insurgent and criminal groups in the region.