Person of Interest: Nicholas Martin
Head of Property and Security Services at AGL Energy & Chair of the Forum of Australasian Security Executives (FASE).
In addition to his role as Head of Property and Security Services at AGL Energy, Nicholas Martin also serves and the current Chair of the Forum of Australasian Security Executives (FASE), a professional affiliation of corporate security executives occupying the most senior national and or regional security role in their organisation. As such, Nicholas could quite easily be considered one of the most senior security executives in Australia. Yet, his rise to the top of the industry has been anything other than traditional.
His journey to the upper echelons of the security industry began during his first year in university back in the late 1980’s where he made the fateful decision to enlist in the Navy. As Nicholas tells it, “I had initially considered joining the army with a view to applying for selection with the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). However, at that time, Australia’s involvement in overseas operations was minimal. So, I was concerned that most of my time in a unit like the SAS would involve lugging and pack around the Australian outback, which didn’t appeal to me. So instead, I decided to enlist in the Navy to travel overseas and see the world.”
It was not long after joining the Navy that Nicholas first heard about Clearance Divers, an elite unit within the Australian Navy. Having passed the rigorous selection and training process, Nicholas spent the next ten years as a Staff Officer in the Clearance Divers, fulfilling a range of operational management, planning and training and supervisory roles. Then, in 1997, having spent ten years in the Navy, Nicholas finally decided it was time to move on – a decision which ultimately led to a fateful encounter.
“I was working as a diving instructor, helping a friend’s son learn how to dive. As it happened, my friend, at that time, was working at SOCOG (Sydney Olympic Organising Committee for the Olympic Games), and they wanted someone to help with the operations within the main stadium. He knew my background in planning and logistics and suggested I apply. I thought I had no chance but took a shot and to my surprise, I got the role and ended up inside the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Shortly after joining, they needed someone to look at the command and control structure for the Olympics. So, I took on that role and ended up managing the principal operations centre for the Sydney Olympics. From there, I went to Salt Lake City to do the winter games. I then went over to Manchester to help assess their ability to deliver the games from a command and control point of view. I then went to Athens for the Olympics by which time it was all becoming a bit like Groundhog Day as much of what you are doing is the same job over and over.
Australian Navy and Iraq
It was around this time, in 2002, that I was asked to come back to the Australian Navy to assist with the operational planning for our campaign in Iraq. At the time, the US needed to get into the Southern port at the top of the Persian Gulf, to establish supply lines and build up resources, and so that was my focus.
Upon once again leaving the Navy, Nicholas found himself at something of a loss, trying to determine how his skill set might best be applied within the corporate world.
The Corporate World
He spent the next few years moving between projects before deciding to apply for a role with Telstra in 2004. As Nicholas recalls “Telstra had advertised a range of positions at the time as they were undertaking a large reorganisation. I thought to myself, I’ll apply for five roles, from the most senior to the most junior.” I ended up picking up the most senior one, which was the general manager of security strategy.
From there Nicholas took the role of Head of Corporate Security Macquarie Bank but eventually moved on to his own consulting business before accepting several positions with groups like Control Risks and ultimately, his current role at AGL.
The Security Role
Having had a wide range of experience across some of the most senior roles in Australia, while also being involved at a senior level with some of the largest events in the world, Nicholas has developed a unique perspective on the evolution of the security role over the last decade.
When asked to reflect on his career to date, Nicholas attributes much of his success to relationships.
“Obviously, one needs to have some form of academic credential or relevant experience that lends itself to more senior roles. However, don’t ever rely on that experience or qualification to get you the job. I believe you have to find and focus on relationships with people that are very similar to you in both their values and outlook, and then focus on those people.
I also believe that successful security is less about sticking rigidly to traditional security practices and tools, and more about enabling the business. A risk assessment might dictate you shouldn’t do a particular thing. However, for the company to move forward, you need to do that thing. As a security manager, it is your job to find a way to make that thing happen as safely as possible, and not to just shut it down because a risk assessment says you should. If you come in thinking ‘I’m going to be a security guy and hold the hard line on security’, you will probably fail. Find the people that can help you get to the right business that matches up with your values, and then look at how do you support the company to grow. If that business grows and you support that growth, you will grow with it.
To read more articles like this or to stay up to date with the industry, subscribe to the Security Focus Newsletter and receive monthly updates.