G4S Cash Solutions Netherlands is providing a one-stop payment handling solution in the Netherlands, its Ops 2020 vision geared towards efficiency, ingenuity and seamless customer service.
MONEY MADE SIMPLE
It is no secret that more consumers and businesses are making payments via cashless methods.
In Europe, the UK is by far the largest cashless market, with an annual €106.7 trillion in non-cash transactions in 2017, followed by Germany (€55.8 trillion), France (€27.2 trillion) and the Netherlands (€23.7 trillion).
From contactless debit cards and biometrics to mobile wallets and wearable payment rings, the options facing us are steadily growing.
This does not suggest that cash is no longer a significant form of transaction, however.
Far from it. In the Netherlands, for instance, 29 percent of all payments made by people aged 19-24 years are completed using cash. This is the lowest proportion across all age brackets, the figure rising to 38 percent for 45-54-year-olds and over 50 percent for people aged over 65.
Interestingly, the youngest age bracket measured by Statista, 12-18 years, reported 57 percent of all payments being made with physical money.
For companies like G4S Cash Solutions Netherlands, despite the fact it is adapting for the modern day, its core market of cash shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.
“When the opportunity to join G4S came up, my first question was: Will there still be cash in 10 years’ time?” recalls Ab van Eck, the firm’s Operations Director. “Fast-forward 12 years and there very much still is cash”.
“Although the proportion of cash payments is dropping, we are finding that the absolute volume of cash, both banknotes and coins, in the market is actually increasing as more and more transactions take place, which means we are growing.”
Van Eck is a G4S Cash Solutions veteran having served for more than two decades at supply chain specialist firms like Penske.
“I was born and raised in a distribution company and got a feel for the logistics industry, and because it touched me, I decided to study the subject formally,” he adds.
“This experience has translated into G4S – while we are known as a security company, I would say we actually operate more like a supply chain company and act as an integrated solutions provider driven by our customers. We put a big emphasis on making our solutions and services easy for the customer. Security forms our boundaries, but logistics still shapes the core of our business.”
CASH IS KING
G4S has engineered its own niche in the Netherlands thanks to the recent bankruptcy of a competitor operating in the retail segment, as well as the acquisition of a competitor in the banking segment, making it among the largest companies in the country to handle cash.
It does so by working from seven operational branches spread across the Dutch landmass, its fleet comprising around 300 vehicles serving predominantly banks and retailers with solutions such as transport, cash processing (notes and coins), ATM and machine maintenance, among others.
“We are also growing in the wider payment business,” van Eck comments. “This includes payments by phone, by cards and everything in between. A retailer can therefore partner with us on a one-stop shop basis, gaining insight on all transactions in a simple way.”
It is van Eck’s target to build on this customer-first mantra, a plan which is presented in the form of Ops 2020, a G4S vision statement looking at how it can further improve its solutions.
“In 2015 we took a look at where we wanted to be five years ahead,” he recalls. “This includes making greater use of technology, new materials for our vehicles, and new business processes revolved around data and the deployment of smart, self-learning algorithms.
“To keep our customer base growing we have to offer more services covering more payment types in the most efficient way possible, and this is the essence of Ops 2020. We have the basics in place already which gives us the ability to move to the next level and look ahead three to five years at a time.”
ENABLED BY TECHNOLOGY
Technology is proving itself as a key facilitator of G4S Cash Solutions’ vision for the Netherlands market.
For example, the company has conducted a detailed strategic branch review, a process which involved different algorithms calculating the optimised locations for its branches as far ahead as 2035, along with the number and types of vehicles required.
“We are also using technology to forecast the future of our retail machines,” van Eck adds. “This will ensure we are emptying machines just in time in combination with optimal efficiency across the network of retailers and banks we work with.
“By being able to forecast the volume of cash being accepted by each smart safe, drop-box or recycling machine, we can plan routes and optimise our operations accordingly. For example, retailers are busier at the weekends and at Christmas, so what impact will this have on our planning? These are the important questions our forecasting tools can address.”
Van Eck also reveals that G4S is looking into automatic storage facilities, again helping to streamline functions such as the loading and unloading of vehicles at company depots.
“With all of our services and processes we have been looking ahead at where we should be in five years,” he continues. “Some strong progress has been made since 2016 and it is very much a story of continuous improvement.”
Another important element of this technology-focussed operation is maintenance.
G4S Cash Solutions works with a number of G4S engineers who are responsible for the upkeep of all of its machines housed in banks, retailers and its vehicles.
“This wasn’t the case just four years ago,” says van Eck, “but now we have around 25 certified G4S engineering teams driving around the Netherlands making sure all devices are available and working properly for our customers. These are serviced by a mixture of our own engineers and OEM partners as G4S believes in close partnerships to provide best-in-class solutions.”
This story of continuous improvement can also be applied to the company’s vehicle fleet.
Set for renewal from May this year, van Eck describes how G4S has completed a new design with the help of its drivers, facilitating what will be a more efficient, comfortable and safer vehicle for them to use.
“It is a lighter, environmentally friendly van that is easier to handle,” he adds.
“But crucially it does not compromise on the safety features – the standardised equipment is more or less the same, but we’ve made it easier to use – in other words simplicity is the key. For example, you can stand straight up in the vehicle and push a button with your feet to open doors instead of using your hands.”
New cash counting machines and a single mobile device for drivers (as opposed to three which they have to use at the moment) will also be rolled out, again helping to make life easier for the people responsible for transporting such high value loads.
In terms of security, the new generation fleet is electronically safeguarded, fitted with finger scanning and volume detection devices which ensures the correct load and driver is in the vehicle.
If at any time this information does not tally with the finger scan and volume check given by the driver at the beginning of a shift, the van will not start. Further, in the event of an attack, as a last resort all monetary contents will stained with ink-dye and be spoiled, acting as an extra deterrent for potential thieves.
“Technology is allowing us to join up all the dots,” van Eck says, explaining how G4S’s vehicles are connected to its network, an ecosystem of data covering all aspects of operations, from the amount of banknotes in its machines to the driver responsible for collecting deposits.
“By connecting the dots, we are able to provide an optimal service for our customers. This is all about information, gathering as much as possible so we can see what is happening, and effective route planning also means we can cut down our environmental footprint.”
These landmark investments, both in vehicles and other technologies across the G4S Cash Solutions operation, will ensure the company is ready to enter the next five-year chapter of its story as 2020 nears.
With the fulfilment of Ops 2020 coming to a conclusion as the current five-year period draws to a close, the organisation is already designing the next five-year plan. Focus is very much on strengthening its already strong market position, keeping cash available in the most efficient and safest way.
As well as expanding its total solutions offering, encompassing all elements of payments beyond cash transactions, van Eck is quick to re-emphasise the need to consolidate its core competency of servicing customers.
He concludes with a nod to his family of staff: “Our major priorities are to grow our customer base and maintain the high levels of quality regarding our service, which isn’t possible without a dedicated team of employees, who we want to show our appreciation for.
“G4S is a family, and anything we can do to keep our people, we will do. It is becoming more and more challenging to find the right people, and if they feel at home, they will look after our business.”