SRK Groups 25th Anniversary
SRK Consulting - a South African-founded and owned company reaping the benefits of globalisation
From small beginnings in Johannesburg in 1974, SRK Consulting (SRK) has grown into a R200-million-a-year international organisation of engineers and scientists providing a comprehensive range of consulting services to resource industries.
The company initially had a staff of five and was active in the fields of mining, geotechnical engineering and tailings disposal. Today SRK employs almost 600 people who work from 23 offices, in eight countries, on five continents to provide focussed advice and solutions to clients in the fields of:
- mining and petroleum exploration
- resource assessments
- mine planning and design
- tailings and waste disposal engineering
- environmental science and engineering
- ground and surface water engineering
- water quality management
- rock and soil mechanics
- civil and structural engineering
Since the inception of the company, SRK's founding partners, Drs Oskar Steffen, Andy Robertson and Hendrik Kirsten, have shared a vision of becoming a truly international practice. In 1977, the firm began creating the infrastructure necessary to attain this goal by opening the first off-shore office in Vancouver, Canada. This was followed by offices in Denver Colorado, Reno Nevada, and Columbia South Carolina, in the United States. After establishing additional South African offices in Cape Town and Durban, the company extended its presence in Africa with an office in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1981.
In 1988 SRK significantly upgraded its office in the United Kingdom, which had earlier been established as a "post box" to enable the South African practice to tender for work in certain countries during the sanctions era. In 1994 an offshore umbrella company was established in the UK. This company, SRK Consulting Limited, enabled the non-South African employees to participate in the ownership of Group assets, considered essential to retain the necessary quality of personnel in the overseas offices. In the same year, new offices were opened in Santiago, Chile and Perth, Australia. In 1996, an additional UK office was established in Mansfield, and in 1997 an office was opened in Lima, Peru.
In response to a perceived gap in services offered by the Group, SRK recently merged with Etheridge Henley Williams (EHW), Australia's largest specialist practice in geoscience, to create the first company providing a total service consultancy to the global mining industry. The merger increased SRK's presence in Australia with offices in Brisbane and Canberra. Latterly a further office has been opened in Sydney.
David Lawrence, Managing Director of SRK (South Africa) says: "Globalisation of the Group has enabled the South African practice to become involved in projects worldwide. In addition to the eight countries where SRK maintains permanent offices, SRK staff have worked in a further 45 countries."
For the Group, globalisation holds many advantages, including stronger links in all disciplines, easier technology transfer among practices and the ability to assemble world-class teams for projects. Other advantages include heightened mobility of professional staff among international offices, ensuring optimal use of skills and experience to the benefit of clients.
Through globalisation, SRK has maintained (perhaps even enhanced) its traditional ability to attract, develop and retain excellent people. The Group's personnel include individuals with technical, practical, marketing, entrepreneurial and 'people-flair'. A shared vision, good intellect, enthusiasm for their careers and their business, and willingness to be part of the bigger SRK team are some collective characteristics.
A great deal of effort and resources are dispensed to develop the Group's personnel, including formal and informal training, dedicated mentorship, education support through bursary schemes and more. Individualism and autonomy are strongly encouraged, with personnel essentially running 'their' practice from within the global practice, in the context of an overarching vision and goals.
Group Chairman, Dr. Neal Rigby, says: "Melding the various practices into a co-ordinated world-wide team has given us the ability to provide excellent service in dealing with problems, whatever their size and complexity, wherever they may arise. Global presence facilitates expansion into exciting new markets, whilst allowing us to provide traditional clients with solutions of high quality.
"A major growth area for the Group is due-diligence auditing and feasibility studies. A series of prestigious, highly successful projects like the privatisation of British Coal and more recently, valuations for the formation of Goldco (now Gold Fields), Anglogold, Avmin, Avgold, and Amplats amongst others, has made SRK the international partner of choice for companies seeking independent assessments for joint-ventures and amalgamations.
"Longer-term effects of current global economic upheavals, specifically with regard to the financial markets, Asia and Russia, obviously cannot be anticipated at this stage. However, we believe the Group is well placed to develop consulting opportunities around the world on an on-going basis. Our overall strategy is to service existing clients. We will continue to actualise the benefits of globalisation and grow the business organically with people who share our vision."