Grabbing a slice of risk pie

UK private security firms have piled into Iraq in search of lucrative contracts.

by Matthew Gwyther, mt editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Three years after 11 September 2001, our lives are now increasingly influenced by what the Home Secretary refers to as 'the insecurity agenda'. This is not an ideal way to exist. Insecurity and anxiety are not good for our collective health, and neither are they a motor for the economy - more like a concrete bollard tethered to the rear bumper. Nervous people don't travel and don't take risks; they hunker down, stuff their cash under the mattress and miss out on opportunity. Only recently has long-haul air travel returned to pre-9/11 levels, and many Americans remain in a state of fear-induced paralysis in their dealings with the outside world. New people via inward migration are the lifeblood of the US. So when Harvard's president warns that tough new visa procedures dissuade promising students from going to America to study, it is worrying. In the long term, it could do the US economy great harm.

However, in this age of anxiety there are commercial opportunities, as our 'Business of Terror' feature shows. Dangerous places can be a source of profit, and British private security firms have piled into Iraq in search of lucrative contracts - there is indeed more to life beyond the SAS than writing regimental books. Iraq remains far too unstable for normal economic activity, though. MT's reporter met the Brit running the Basra Business Centre on his trip there and it was not exactly humming with VCs, photocopier salesmen and consultants (the latter, by the way, should check out the MCA Awards on page 80).

Back home, Hardstaff, a Nottinghamshire haulage contractor, has been steadily growing its business supplying concrete barriers to protect certain high-profile locations in London and now has a growing list of private clients. At the other end of the scale, Kroll, the big daddy of the risk game, was recently snapped up by Marsh & McLennan, the insurance broker, for an amazing $1.9 billion in cash. As Jules Kroll tells MT: 'Risk is a very big pie.' (Indeed it is, Jules, and you just wolfed down a large slice of it.)

This is all a bit depressing, and the claim that the overthrow of Saddam was going to make the world a safer place looks more far-fetched with each day that passes. To cheer yourself up, have a look at our 'Naked Ambition' article. Have you got enough? And if you haven't, can you acquire more? This is a classic September concern as we all return from holiday and contemplate the long four months to Christmas.

Talking of the Classics, the response to August's Latin quiz was little short of pathetic. Maybe all you scholars were out in the Forum or on the Acropolis brushing up on your conjugations. So the champagne prize is still open for the best translation of Multo errore diem cumulabit tiro magister. Answers as usual to The size is now a magnum.

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