News Stories · Global Business - Sustainability

Finding purpose, dealing with disruption and making the world safer - an interview with Securitas CEO Magnus Ahlqvist

Purpose, clarity and adaptability are the driving forces behind Securitas’ transformation journey and are helping the company find its higher calling, Ahlqvist said in a discussion with IMD’s Professor Thomas Malnight.
January 2020
 - IMD Business School

In a world of near-constant disruption, no industry is immune to the changes being wrought by the onset of Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The security business is no exception, with fresh technologies like facial recognition and data-gathering tools upending the industry’s traditional business models.

In this ever-changing environment, it is essential that companies take steps to stay ahead of the curve, said Magnus Ahlqvist, CEO of Securitas, in an interview with IMD Professor of Strategy and General Management, Thomas Malnight.

The CEO has set his company on a journey, in partnership with IMD, to put purpose at the core of its strategy.

So far, this approach has been successful, and has helped Securitas define its higher calling, Ahlqvist said.

“Security and safety are needs that are fundamental for everybody in society,” he said. “This has really resonated with everyone in the company. Our purpose is what unites all of us. It also provides us with guidance on how we develop and go after opportunities.”

Finding purpose

A growing number of companies are striving to place purpose at the heart of their business model. A noble pursuit, says Ahlqvist, but not something that should be rushed.

“We took our time to define a purpose that was meaningful for us: today and for the long term. It is the beginning of a multi-year journey,” he said.

As part of this journey, Securitas aims to be a partner to the companies it works with, rather than just a service provider.

The company is also taking proactive steps to adapt to the arrival of game-changing technologies and ensure they have a positive impact on Securitas and its clients.

In the traditionally people-centric industry of providing guard services, technology will enable people, rather than replace them, by giving them better tools with which to do their jobs, Ahlqvist explained.

Change inside and out

Organizational change is hard for any company – it’s particularly challenging when your company employs 370,000 people. In fact, as Ahlqvist explains, the sheer size of Securitas was one of the biggest challenges to this period of transformation.

To succeed, “it is important that you have clarity in terms of where you want to go,” Ahlqvist said.

It was also vital to listen to employees, he said. “I have a general interest in people. I don’t just like the view from 30,000 feet above. I also like to see what it’s like on the frontlines of the organization.”

But this process of change did not merely involve an examination of how the company operates from within, Ahlqvist added.

“We decided not only to look inside of our organization,” he said. “We started spending a lot of time with customers to listen. I also spoke a lot with other players in the industry to try to get a better perspective.”

And while change and adaptability are essential, a company should not forget its roots, Ahlqvist added, highlighting Securitas’ status as a family-run firm with a history that dates back to the 1930s.

“The company is built on good values and has developed in a phenomenal way over a long period of time,” he said.

Watch the full video interview here.