G4S Risk Management GC: Security counsel

Nick Economakis, GC at G4S Risk Management, is guiding the business through a run of acquisitions
while protecting the company’s current assets

A lot has been written about G4S in recent years. The multinational security company, of which G4S Risk Management is a subsidiary, turned over £7.5bn last year, operates in 120 countries and employs more than 620,000 staff.

Its operations range from cash handling to clearing minefields, and some areas of the business have courted controversy in the past.

Last month G4S hit the headlines when UK and Ireland chief executive Richard Morris resigned, prompting suggestions his departure was linked with the company’s failure to meet contractual obligations during the 2012 Olympics and in the electronic tagging of criminals. A few days later it was linked to abuses in South African prisons.

G4S Risk Management is one of a number of divisions of the business, and general counsel Nick Economakis is keen to emphasis the subsidiary’s operational independence from other, possibly more controversial, areas of the group.

“Risk Management is a stand-alone business within the global G4S framework and my role is to support the business by helping to protect our people and assets by developing and implementing legal and strategic processes across our operations,” Economakis outlines.

The Risk Management division covers security services, ordnance management, risk mitigation and specialist training. It is a broad remit, and that has many implications for the legal team.

Econ

Regional strength

Considering the scale of the division and its geographical spread, the legal team is light. Economakis has just one other lawyer in his team, although he is able to bring in extra capacity from elsewhere in the group if he needs it.

He estimates there are about 70 lawyers in-house across the group, but says that, as many are regional, it is difficult to be sure of their precise number. 

Legal spend is centralised. Economakis has a budget that he uses for central costs but anything he does in the regions is absorbed by the
regional teams.

Despite the legal budget being split across regions Economakis is under the same pressure as many general counsel to keep spend as low as possible.

“We do as much as possible in-house – not much is outsourced except litigation, M&A and setting up in new territories,” he says.

The benefit of being part of a bigger group is that Economakis has the flexibility to draw on resources outside his own unit when he needs to, but there are occasions when a project demands external counsel and assigning that work is dealt with case by case. But he adds that “you need to justify when it goes out”. 

Economakis has also instructed the bar directly.

There is no formal panel. Rather, advisers are appointed on the merits of the issue at hand, often as a result of previous experience with G4S Risk or because they have worked with another part of the group and been recommended.

“I always try to get better rates and give specific scope on what I need,” Economakis says. “If the fee looks high, I ask if it’s still appropriate. Right now, fixed-fee works best for us because we know how long a project will go on for, and on a discounted model that’s more efficient.”

At the moment his strategy is heavily influenced by the wider business objectives of the division.

“We’re doing a number of acquisitions and my modus operandi is to see how the business grows – and from that we may well change the shape and function,” he reveals.

Will he have to grow the legal team to meet the increasing demands?

“The cost-effective solution is to bring more people in-house,” he says.

 In business

When Economakis joined G4S in September 2009 it was to add resource while the company went through a series of contract mergers. At the time, he says, he knew nothing at all about the sector.

He started his legal life practising criminal law at the bar, before moving in the early 1990s to Wilde Sapte’s (now Dentons) commercial department, but it was not by chance that he ended up in-house.

“I was interested in business, but thought it would be good to have experience of bar and private practice before going in-house,” he says.

Economakis is disinclined to reflect on his career before joining G4S Risk.

“I don’t really look back,” he admits. “I enjoy moving into new industries and challenging myself. Now, as opposed to when I started, you’re expected to deal with everything whether you know about it or not, so you have to get up-to-speed quickly. Hopefully, you make a difference by making things run more smoothly as well as protecting the company from risk.”

Alongside the role of general counsel for G4S Risk Management, Economakis sits on the board of several Risk Management group companies, something he believes gives him valuable insight into the business. With the emphasis on compliance, he says it is important for in-house lawyers to be in a position to know where the business is heading, although he admits the two roles are not always without conflict.

“On balance, I may be able to do my job better on the board but I have my eyes open to the conflicts,” he adds.

By immersing himself in the business side of his role as well as the legal technicalities, Economakis says he hopes to be not just a lawyer but also a “business enabler”. He says the pace of the business means there is little option other than to keep looking ahead and pre-empting how the needs of the business might change.

Nick Economakis
G4S Risk Management

Position: General counsel, G4S Risk Management

Reports to: Acting MD of Risk Management, Julian Hartley

Legal capacity: Two

External law firms: Arent Fox (US), Clyde & Co, DWF, Eversheds, Jones Day

Sophie Archer, corporate operations manager, Salamanca Group

Archer

I always felt I would be suited to a broad, commercial in-house role. Having trained at Finers Stephens Innocent – now HowardKennedyFsi and gained invaluable NQ experience, I worked as legal counsel for a multi-family office across its real estate, private equity and corporate advisory matters. 

Through a contact at my previous workplace I was introduced to Salamanca Group and subsequently heard
of what sounded like an exciting operations role.

I now head up Salamanca’s corporate operations team. This involves handling the legal, procedural and compliance aspects of our merchant banking and risk management business. 

There is never an average day at Salamanca. I can be doing anything from negotiating the sale of berth rights at our marina, Marina Port Vell in Barcelona, or working to embed our new division in Brazil.

Salamanca’s areas of expertise are run by leaders in their field such as Ian Crockford, who led the delivery of London’s Olympic stadium. 

Adopting bespoke institutional practices while maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit is a challenging and constantly evolving balancing act.

Salamanca’s offering is unique so having in-house capabilities that understand our workings and aims is vital. 

The group’s risk specialism offers fantastic added value for our team as we have due diligence and mitigation experts on hand to help