The Guardian newspaper has interviewed Andy Gent (pictured), CEO of Revector and an occasional Commsrisk contributor, about the dangers of doing business around the world. Gent knows plenty about the risks; Revector has clients all over the globe, and their work in detecting fraud inevitably brings them into contact with law enforcement authorities and criminal gangs. The anecdotes shared in the Guardian piece are illuminating, frightening and amusing. As Andy explains, risk and reward are always connected, especially when negotiating deals in developing countries.
There’s an upside to dealing with developing countries which some may see as risky. You at least get to chat to decision-makers rather than go through meeting after meeting which go nowhere. When I was in Cameroon I had to make a flight but the prime minister wanted to talk about our services, so he picked me up and took me to the airport in his cavalcade. We whizzed through all the traffic and I was on the tarmac catching a flight within an hour.
There are also stories from SMEs working in other sectors, but the advice on risk management is relevant for us all. In particular, the priority must always be personal safety. Criminal gangs will try to get involved in business deals whenever they can, but no deal is worth putting your life in danger. We should all take sensible security precautions when in unfamiliar countries and dealing with people we have never met before. Though telco risk management tends to obsess about what I call ‘technical’ threats – people doing things on the network which are revealed by data analysis – a business can also be compromised and damaged by more straightforward techniques like the use of bribery or violence to exploit vulnerable employees.
Even big businesses, like international telco groups, need to think seriously about policies and procedures to protect employees from dangerous criminals. You can have all the clever fraud analytics and automated security controls in the world, but they will be undermined if your staff can be manipulated or corrupted.
For anyone interested in the wider aspects of risk management, the Guardian’s article is well worth a quick read. It can be found here.