Johnson-Matthey provides precious metals protection
Johnson-Matthey provides precious metals protection

Sep 1, 2001 12:00 PM

When Johnson-Matthey Ltd. hired I. Nish Clarke as a security officer in 1976, the company promoted him to security supervisor within a day. Presumably, they determined that someone who had spent the last chapter of his life jumping out of airplanes as a master warrant officer for the Canadian Airborne Regiment ! and successfully coaching others to do the same ! could teach people a thing or two about leadership.

Twenty-five years later, Clarke has worked through the ranks to the position of security manager, North America for Johnson-Matthey, a United Kingdom-based refiner of precious metals with worldwide operations and 17 facilities. He brings to his work a modus operandi learned in the military: Lead by example.

"Motivating your people is very important ! you can't ask anyone to do something you wouldn't do yourself," he says. And given the nature of Johnson-Matthey's business, the need to motivate his staff of 60 to maintain a high degree of security is critical.

"For people who don't know about the metals industry, the best way to explain it is that the degree of security in a high-value precious metal institute such as ours is similar to what you would find in a U.S. mint," Clarke explains.

He adds that Johnson-Matthey claims not only massive quantities of gold, silver, platinum and palladium as its assets, but also its people and information. "My job is to assess our sites and, depending on the degree of value they have, ensure that adequate asset protection is in place. I don't look at it only from a metals point of view, but from an employee point of view as well," Clarke says.

He tailors security to each site's particular needs. "At all-metal or high-value sites, there is a dedicated security staff and supervisor, but for sites that don't handle the metals, such as a sales office, the manager of that site might simply be my contact for security," he explains.

According to Clarke, high-value sites are typically monitored around-the-clock by pan-tilt-zoom CCTV cameras, and is surrounded by an eight-foot, chain-link fence. Visitors to such a site typically enter a lobby and are faced with an officer behind a talk-through window made of bullet-resistant glass. To get in, visitors must be expected. If they are not, they are screened by security personnel. Inside, all ingress is controlled by access control systems, and egress from high-security areas of the building is monitored using large turnstiles, X-ray units and metal detectors.

"At all-metals sites, we do a 100 percent search of people exiting secure areas ! from the CEO down," Clarke notes.

"A friend of mine who is a security director for a U.S. mint visited once and made the comment that our facility is like Fort Knox ! now I don't know whether I'd say that, but it is nice to be mentioned in the same sentence," he adds.

During his tenure with Johnson-Matthey, Clarke has designed numerous impenetrable security operations ! from the ground up, which, he notes, are actually the easy way to go.

"When a new facility is begun, security is part of the planning committee, so we can begin from the ground floor. The difficult way is when they have purchased a building that was not built with security in mind. Then you have to develop a security system around it, which is a major undertaking," he says.

Although the official scope of Clarke's responsibility is North America, he has been assigned projects around the world. "If I'm working with a certain division here in America ! and I work with most of them ! then they might bring me in as a security advisor," he explains.

Clarke has developed and implemented more than seven major security operations, identifying everything from cost-effective door contacts to appropriate policies and procedures in countries such as Mexico, Argentina, China and the U.S.

He notes that other challenges, such as mitigating and investigating internal risk, are less tangible but no less critical, and that he is not at liberty to discuss such internal matters.

"A friend of mine who is a security director for a U.S. mint visited once and made the comment that our facility is like Fort Knox ! now I don't know whether I'd say that, but it is nice to be mentioned in the same sentence."

Clarke believes that proper training prepared him to first do his job back in the '70s and that continuing education equips him to tackle new challenges today. "When I came on, I was lacking technical knowledge of the security industry," he acknowledges. "I thought a camera was something you'd look through, hit a button, and a picture would develop. I had to learn it all. So I said, OK, here are my progression requirements, and the company supported that and started enrolling me in courses.

"Today, I spend a lot of time training people to recognize a development that could pose a potential problem before it becomes one that has to be addressed," he continues.

Clarke asserts the security industry should be similarly concerned with training standards, "particularly in some states in the U.S. where it isn't legislated that security personnel have to be trained, so if you hire someone with no security background, no training is actually required."

He supports ASIS' work to help institute such legislation, but concedes that in the meantime, "it's up to us security directors. I've set up goals for my people using a three-year plan, and I use online and formal training to teach investigations, budgeting, computer skills, effective patrolling, communications and security systems technology."

Clarke's own continuing education is multi-faceted. He is a member of ASIS, chair of the International Precious Metals Association security council, an active member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving as well.

Clarke asserts that another major issue facing the industry is drugs in the workplace. "The abuse of alcohol and other substances directly affects security and safety, yet our hands are tied to an extent in terms of what checks we can do."

He adds that protection executives should be concerned about this issue and collaborate with peers to devise solutions. "People don't like to air their dirty laundry, and they are wary of the legal issues involved, but the problem has been around for years, and we need to deal with it," Clarke says.

"It's more than the safety issue," he continues. "Yes, you want to look after your workforce, and certainly you don't want people who are under the influence operating machines and hindering their workmates in a site like ours. But also, if someone has a drug or alcohol problem ! a habit ! he needs money ! and his paycheck may look after it for a time, but what if it doesn't? He's looking for something he can turn into cash, and there's a motive to steal."

These days, Clarke still enjoys his time in airplanes ! but he no longer jumps out of them. "I do quite a bit of traveling for the job, which I enjoy ! I just had two weekends in the U.K. for example, which I spent golfing."

Clarke says when he's in another country, he enjoys meeting people, learning more about the culture and eating what the locals eat. Another great joy in his life is his grandchildren, with whom he spends as much time as possible.

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