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Guardsman expanding into Caribbean markets

Guardsman expanding into Caribbean markets


Kenny Benjamin’s Guardsman Group is accelerating its multi-million dollar expansion into the Caribbean markets, with the security mogul attributing the success to date of his company’s foray in the region, to the onset of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

The Guardsman Group was already Jamaica’s largest employer of labour, and the market leader in the private security industry, when Benjamin first introduced the services overseas – to the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a year-and-a-half ago.{{more}}

Guardsman’s entry into the tiny island was through partnership with two Vincentians. Benjamin said on Monday that the firm was already making profit, and employed between 150 and 200 guards.

As part of that investment, Guardsman imported two brand new armoured trucks into the island, the first of its kind to operate there.

“We have elevated the level of private security in the island,” declared Benjamin. “We have had excellent public and private sector reception. We are creating employment there and are now looking at electronic security and alarms.”

St Vincent is the forerunner and testing ground for what has, in fewer than two years, turned out to be a full blown invasion by this security behemoth of the Caribbean islands.

Benjamin’s next destination was St Lucia, having gained entry through the acquisition of Brinks’ operation in that island.

“They (Brinks St Lucia) heard we were coming and approached us to buy them out,” Benjamin told the Business Observer.

With the acquisition, Guardsman got over 100 guards and Brinks’ portfolio of business, and immediately shipped two armoured trucks into the island. A third is on the way.

Benjamin says that the positive response to Guardsman’s presence in the islands from both the public and private sectors, suggested that the concept of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy was now being embraced across the region.

The CSME is intended to create a single market that will permit the unencumbered movement of capital and labour across the Caricom region.

Barbados is next on Benjamin’s list.

In fact, Guardsman has already acquired the building from which it will operate, and has contracted the services of 25 individuals who are now undergoing training to become security personnel.

Additionally, three armoured trucks have been ordered, and two managers from the island brought to Jamaica for training.

“We are taking our first step towards Caribbean expansion,” noted Benjamin. “Our next stop is Nassau (The Bahamas) where we are in dialogue with some prominent business persons.”

The approach adopted by Benjamin is to infuse the employees and managers across the region with the corporate culture and work ethic that have made Guardsman the most successful security group in Caricom.

So the managers of the individual operations are being brought to Jamaica for training, while the headquarters here provides continued management support to these territories.

“We are encouraged by the attitude and cooperation,” says Benjamin. “We believe that the CSME has helped. The political will is there and it is flowing into the rest of the society.”

Benjamin, an Indian emigrant who started the Guardsman Group in the late 1970s and built it through acquisitions and organic expansion, sees the single market as providing an opportunity for companies like his, to quickly gain critical mass, and strength ahead of the removal of all barriers to global trade.

“There is safety in numbers in the Caribbean,” he says. “It looks like the foundation of the CSME is working.”

(Jamaica Observer)