Transguard managing director Greg Ward on how the UAE company is growing in the UAE and looking to Middle East markets for its next phase of growth
Transguard employees. You may see them on the roads or in the malls of Dubai delivering cash. They may be guarding your home, providing outsourced manpower to a nearby construction project or providing maintenance, electrical, plumbing or cleaning services to your office.
After all, the company – even while it provides mostly unsung and under-the-radar services – is one of the largest employers in the emirate, if not the entire country.
While the company’s headcount is in a constant state of flux, Transguard’s latest figures say they have more than 67,000 employees across its various business units, ranging from cash and security to aviation and logistics services. Business is good – the company posted profits of $44.3m in the fiscal year ending March 31, up from $39.7m the previous year.
One of the biggest things we’ve been doing in the last couple of years is making sure we’re focused on retention, which then builds the company ever year”
At the helm of this sprawling business is Greg Ward, a Briton who has been the company’s managing director since January 2016. Speaking to Arabian Business, Ward says he isn’t surprised by the “phenomenal year” Transguard has had.
“We’ve been keeping our customers, which is very important. I call it ‘customer loving’, because you spend so much time trying to win a contract, but you can lose a contract very quickly,” he says.
“So for me, one of the biggest things we’ve been doing in the last couple of years is making sure we’re focused on retention, which then builds [the company] ever year.”
When the home-grown Transguard was founded in 2001, it was little more than a cash management and security services provider, before enhancing its services with the introduction of HR outsourcing and integrated facility services 13 years ago.
From those beginnings, the company has grown exponentially and provides services to Emirates Group and more than 1,000 other customers.
At the heart of Transguard’s business success are its traditional core strengths, such as cash management and transport. The company services about 90 percent of the UAE’s ATMs.
According to Ward, the company’s 450 armoured vehicles handle about AED5bn ($1.36bn) in cash on a daily basis.
“It depends on the day of the month, whether people are out spending. If it’s near Eid, people want new notes to give as gifts. Christmas time is another big time for shopping,” he says.
If you don’t develop staff, then forget it. You shouldn’t be in business, and people forget that”
Despite already dominating the UAE’s cash management sector, Ward says that new technologies are allowing the company to grow the business by becoming more efficient and cutting down on cost and time spent, which, in turn, help it generate new customers.
As an example, he points to a new form of high-tech safe deposit box which automatically hits the customer’s account and feeds data back to Transguard on the amount of money held inside, significantly cutting down on the amount of trips necessary to pick up cash.
“[Once] the money goes in, it’s no longer their responsibility. Now it’s Transguard’s job and we can measure from our control room how full that safe deposit box is,” Ward says.
“Instead of going four times a day, we might turn up once every day, or every two days,” he says, noting that initially the technology led to a decrease in revenue, but in the long-term proved to be a profitable move for the company.
“That’s because we were charging every time we went,” he notes. “But in the long-term, what it’s done is bring all the business our way because the customers love it, since we’ll only charge them when we pick up. But we can manage our operations better.”
According to Ward, Transguard is now actively seeking new business opportunities to expand in Dubai.
Among the most interesting of them are dogs, with the company now operating the only canine security unit in Dubai that isn’t a part of the emirate’s police force.
“It was really just bringing up our security standard to make sure that we’re better than everyone else,” Ward says.
“From a security point of view, we look for the whole suite, from the consultancy piece, to systems integration, to protection dogs and explosive detection dogs.
"It was really born by what our competitors are not doing, and taking it from there. We work really closely with Dubai Police, so it was well received. The bottom line is that Dubai and the UAE [always aim to be] at the top of international standards. So we need to make sure we’re there.”
There’s opportunities around where Emirates [airline] already is, so we will go international probably in the next two years”
Additionally, Transguard has recently set its sights on a growing UAE industry: deliveries. Late last year, the company announced that it was expanding its business delivery service, Transguard Delivery, by offering a geo-trackable pick-up and drop-off service across the UAE.
According to Ward, the service hopes to take advantage of an increasing number of businesses outsourcing post and parcel services to streamline their operations.
“We’re breaking into that. I just couldn’t understand why I’m paying FedEx and DHL to deliver parcels here when I’ve got drivers. I asked myself – why don’t we just do it ourselves? Why don’t we do it as a business as well? We’re out there picking cheques up for customers, picking up contracts, signing contracts, so we had this fleet of drivers and we thought we might as well make use of them and get paid for them,” he notes. “The system was already in place. We just never sold it.”
Even while discussing the ins and outs of Transguard’s business, Ward can hardly contain his enthusiasm at what he considers one of his top priorities: the company’s over 67,000 employees, drawn from countries all across the world.
In 2017, Transguard inaugurated its new Centre of Excellence in Dubai Industrial Park, which is tasked with training 100,000 staff members by 2020. The centre currently offers nearly 200 courses, ranging from administration and project management skills to social media strategy, K9 handling and English language instruction.
“What makes us different is our training. The staff is only as good as you develop them… if you don’t develop staff, then forget it. You shouldn’t be in business, and people forget that,” he says.
“It’s also about giving the staff something. If they come in at a certain grade, we’re showing them in their career path how we can work their way up. We’ve been highly successful at it. I’ve got directors in this business that have come through the ranks. It’s really important for me to give them the option of going from a low level security guard to a higher space, for example.”
Located in DIP between Emirates Road and Jebel Ali near to the Expo 2020 site, the two-storey centre includes several dedicated mock-ups, including a purpose built apartment, office, clinic, and in addition to classrooms and kennels to support the Transguard canine unit.
“We do literally everything in there. We’re building half an aircraft in there to do all the aircraft cleaning, teaching them about how to work in the airport and things like that,” Ward says.
“You have different levels, and it’s not just about security. It’s everything: cleaning, customer service... So we designed this, for one, to get us fit for our contracts and to develop our staff.”
While, at the moment, Transguard is very much a company that is associated with the UAE - Dubai in particular - Ward says that may not always be the case.
“At the moment we’ve got the majority of our business in Dubai, and we have a strategy for the Northern Emirates. Obviously, half our shareholder is Abu Dhabi-based, so we’ve got a strategy to win more work there,” he says.
“There’s quite a bit on our plate just here, but then obviously you’ve got the Expo opportunity over the next few years. On top of that, we’re very much looking around the rest of the Middle East. There’s opportunities around where Emirates [airline] already is, so we will go international probably in the next two years.”
In July 2017, Transguard announced it was expanding its business delivery service, Transguard Delivery. As part of the improved service,
Transguard offers a number of delivery options for its customers, including express (four hours), economy (same day) and standard (next day) deliveries across the UAE.
Additional services include airport mishandled baggage collections for business customers, internal mail services for corporate clients and e-commerce collection and delivery.
As part of its larger CSR initiatives, Transguard has committed itself to a number of “green” initiatives. In 2017-2018, the company began a two-year project to build state-of-the-art employee accommodation, the first block of which will house 10,000 employees in a building that includes solar technology, LED lighting, water efficiency fitting and an on-site medical centre and gymnasium.