Proper protection

Ambrey Risk provides security services to maritime, private and corporate clients, and in the five years since the company was established it has grown into a major player and market leader. As John Thompson, a co-founder of the company explained, it supports a wide variety of clients, including ship owners, ship management companies and major charterers. It also works closely with insurance underwriters, the UK Government, industry associations and international initiatives to set and maintain high standards across the sector.

A fast pace of expansion has been a trend that Ambrey Risk embraced from the beginning. “This was all down to the economics really – we always knew that the price our clients were willing to pay would decline, as emergent security threats usually cycle in this way. It is exactly what happened in the Iraq/Afghanistan private security market. So we knew we had to grow fast to fight the economics of being paid less and less for what we do. The situation we predicted has indeed come to pass but because we managed to grow relatively quickly, we have been able to pass on savings to clients that we have made due to our economies of scale, and that has been key,” said John.

He continued: “When we set up the company we were very focused on our core business, which is the armed guarding sector, and we spent a lot of time analysing the market to make sure we are agile enough to make very fast changes and give the market what it wants when it needs it. For example when we first got into the armed guard business it was largely dominated by UK nationals but we quickly saw that costs needed to come down, so we set our office up in India and began recruiting from Indian military leavers. We were the first company in the sector to do that and we now have over 220 Indian staff making up 50-60 per cent of our business. We’ve always made sure to constantly monitor the market, move early and then reinvest very heavily wherever we can to make sure that we reinforce success.”

This pace of growth has continued since Ambrey Risk was last in the pages of Shipping and Marine in July 2014. John noted that in just seven months the company has grown by about 40 per cent in terms of volume of business. That was in part facilitated by an acquisition, as he explained: “We bought Drum Cussac’s armed maritime security business, a great move in support of our growth plans and also for them as strategically they were very focused on expansion in their broader risk management and technical businesses.

“This was a good fit for us, as it has given us significantly more capacity. In buying that business we have ensured our ability to always have the right equipment in the right place at the right time, a major challenge in our line of work. It is not possible to deliver an armed security service on a ship if you haven’t got firearms and everything you need in position at the right port of embarkation. We also brought across their pool of deployed manpower, many of those guards bring a lot of experience from the last four or five years in anti-piracy work.”

The integration of the company into Ambrey Risk has been smooth, largely because of the prior similarities between the two businesses: “Much of Drum Cussac’s equipment was procured from the same supplier as us in the UK. How they did business logistically resembled many of our own systems. In addition, their training and compliance standards were geared for the rigours of oil and gas majors, just like ours and that made the process much simpler,” added John.

This last issue has always been a priority for Ambrey Risk, as it works in a business with strict standards and demanding clients. “We have a really top drawer training and compliance team that has been central to the business right from day one,” confirmed John. “They make sure our activities are carried out in compliance with the relevant regulations, and that all our team are properly trained because we are only ever as good as our last job. Our operational performance is entirely dependent on training and this has been a key differentiator for us in a crowded market place.”

When looking at Ambrey’s performance in the market it has seen exceptional results. This has been upheld by a recent and significant award. Just before Christmas 2014 Ambrey Risk was placed in the top ten of the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, which identifies the 100 fastest growing companies in the UK, based on sales growth. “We came eighth in the country and in the Midlands where we are based, we were the fastest growing company,” noted John, proudly.

This recognition strengthens Ambrey’s belief that its approach to business is working and that it needs to continue to build on this going forward. One part of this future plan is continuing to develop its international presence. “The business was founded in rural Herefordshire, but at considerable cost as a small business we invested in offices overseas early on to keep bringing in more business. As a result of this strategy we now have offices in Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and India, all of which bring in work to the UK, from where our services are delivered.”

John concluded: “This year I think we will enhance and build on our strong base in the Somali Piracy market. As naval forces startto drawdown the need for services of PMSCs are likely to grow rather than diminish. We will also look to raise awareness of our West Africa services, growing and improving capability as that market matures. We will also look to drive growth in our training business which trained over 1000 maritime security guards in 2014 in the UK, Greece, Poland, India and Sri Lanka. Overall, we are always striving to be recognised as the global leader in maritime security risk management services in all parts of the world and we will continue to work hard towards that goal.”

Ambrey Risk
Ranked 8th fastest growing company in the UK in Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 in 2014
Successfully acquired and integrated competitor
Plans for further growth in East and West Africa