BLM recently sat down with JJ Gagiano, Commercial Manager at Vallis Group, to talk about the assurance service company’s work in the Middle East and Africa, as well as how Barclays have helped them grow internationally.
Can you give me an overview of the Vallis Group?
We provide assurance services in the strategic points in the supply chain, focusing on Africa and the Middle East. We are an independent professional service company for international companies in those regions. Traditionally, the service that we offer is stock management, which included collateral management, and various audit services. We are essentially our customers’ eyes and ears in the region.
We also provide marine and cargo services in 16 ports in the region. Our main aim is to monitor and provide supervision via our unique live reporting system, using smart devices, which provide information and live data to help our clients make informed decisions. We provide audits and inspections, as well as sampling, analysis, fumigation, pest control, and supply-chain control. We are heavily involved in petroleum and other potentially hazardous liquids, from both a stock management and analysis side as well.
We measure, examine and validate the conditions and the health and safety of the storage structures, products or services. We also check the compliance of the products to the standard of the country or region they are in at the time.
Our aim is to mitigate any potential risks within the supply chain. We solely work in this area, so we can provide expert local knowledge to customers within Africa and the Middle East.
What are the main challenges of being based in the UK, but operating in the Middle East and Africa?
It really depends which part of the region you are in. There are many different languages spoken – so finding the best way to communicate is very important. There are also many cultural differences, especially in this part of the world.
We must manage a wide range of people with different backgrounds and levels of education, which provides a unique challenge. You have to be on your toes, have your ears to the ground, and make sure that you have every possible system in place in order to collate as much information as possible and provide the correct service and professional outcome.
You must also be aware of the differences in the legal systems, as they affect everything from operations to health and safety regulations. There are also different labour laws, which you will also need to be aware of so that you are compliant. This is continually assessed by our team so that we are up to date with all laws and regulations across all areas of the business.
How have Barclays helped your business?
Barclays is our current account holder, so they are involved with all our customer payments, no matter where that customer is based. They are a massive asset – in terms of their size, and their international reach. Their corporate structure allows us to travel to Africa and the Middle East and have the confidence to operate professionally.
Barclays also have a strong presence in our operational regions – it is a well known and respected brand. They are friendly, fast and efficient – they are always available when we need them. This has been crucial to our growth in this region.
Does being a global brand with offices in some of those regions make it even more beneficial to have them as a partner?
It is vitally important – having a brand like Barclays behind you certainly helps and adds a lot of credibility to what you’re doing. If it is the case that we must open up in a new country somewhere, we always look to see if Barclays has a presence there or not, before coming to a decision. Their relationship is very important to the Vallis Group.
Vallis Group Limited
57 Vallis Road