Neil Fergus is Chief Executive of Intelligent Risks, an international management services consultancy specializing in security project management and major events. He has been involved in the planning and/or delivery of security for five Olympic Games, two FIFA World Cups, and numerous other events including Asian Games, Pan-American Games and Commonwealth Games. Neil and his company have worked on a number of projects in Brazil over the last seven years and he was a member of the Rio de Janeiro Bid Team that worked so hard to win Brazil the privilege of hosting the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Neil is a recipient of the Award of the Golden Olympic Rings from the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for service to the Olympic Movement.
Neil will be the keynote speaker at Opportunity and Risk: The CSO Roundtable Latin America Summit, to be held December 6-7, 2010, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We talked with Neil about the opportunities and risks in Brazil, the lessons learned from the recent FIFA World Cup games, and what CSOs can gain from attending the event in Rio.
Dynamics: Is it important for senior security executives to be on the lookout for new opportunities for their businesses, in addition to their regular work in assessing risks? Why and how is this done?
Neil Fergus: Modern senior security executives need to do much more to advance the interests of their company than just to understand the severity or complexity of security risks in certain regions or countries. They need to be able to identify and advocate smart solutions to treat and reduce risks and they need to possess the tools to achieve the required outcomes.
In recent years, much of the general international reporting on security issues in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro has been episodic in nature and much of it has been sensationalist. There are genuine security problems that intermittently confront the local population, as well as international visitors. It's critical to understand the local environment, some of the underlying social issues, the trends in criminal behavior and incidents, and the significant progress that is being made in improving the law and order situation in many parts of the country—particularly Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
There is a chronic need for effective subject-matter experts and reliable local providers. The ability to promptly complete due diligence checks to confirm the bona fides and suitability of vendors is critical. Therefore, ASIS has a very important role to play in relation to promoting and maintaining skills and standards, and as a professional networking association to assist CSOs to identify skilled, experienced, and ethical service providers.
Q: Why is this an appropriate time for a conference in Rio that looks at opportunities and risks in the region?
NF: Brazil is emerging as a new global super-economy. It is currently the tenth-largest economy in the world and the World Bank estimates it will grow to be the fifth-largest economy, and possibly the fourth, within the next five years. It is a major supplier to developed economies of critical resources and commodities; including iron ore, oil, gas, and agricultural products—and those exports are scheduled to balloon in the next decade.
The statistics on social progress in recent years have also been extraordinary. Since 2003 the number of people assessed as living in poverty has been reduced by 20 million, from 17 percent of the population to 8.8 percent. Since 2001, the income of the poorest 10 percent of the population has grown at 8 percent per year. The majority of Brazilians—52 percent—is now assessed as lower middle class by international demographers. Since 2003, 13 million new jobs have been created and 12 million people in rural areas have gained access to electricity.
Brazilian society has become more homogenous and regional inequalities have dramatically narrowed. The majority of multinational companies are actively exploring opportunities to invest in the new Brazil: whether they want to partner with Brazilian industry, participate in the commodities sector, invest in infrastructure, or develop a Brazil market for product sales. As in any developing economy there are risks to be mitigated, such as sovereign risks, health-safety risks, and security risks. Now is the ideal time for CSOs to meet in Brazil to further their knowledge on this exciting and dynamic country and to develop a first-hand appreciation of the security environment for the benefit of their corporations.
Q: What are some of the security challenges you identified in the region when you assisted in the planning of the many events you’ve been involved with? Has progress been made on mitigating these?
NF: The challenges in relation to the security of international sporting events and political summits in South America are similar to those experienced in other regions of the world. Whether in Rio, Lima, Buenos Aires or in Beijing, London, or Delhi, there are no chasm-like differences—notwithstanding the nuances of the local environment and resources available. Among the key issues are to ensure security is an integrated functional area with overall master planning, as massive events don't work at optimal levels if planning is delivered in operational silos. Human resource shortages are often a problem for major events. It’s widely recognized that investing in the local workforce with focused capability building and training programs will garner outstanding results. CSOs should note there is a comparatively well-educated and motivated workforce in Brazil that responds positively to appropriate skills training and incentivization.