A key part of the military strategy and spending is dependent on trade, lobbying, and policy. Securing the best overall solution which has the least inherent weaknesses to its supply chain is a key factor considered by governments. This is where Defence Unlimited International comes in. Founded by Edward Banayoti, Defence Unlimited International is a leader in defence, security, and intelligence helping customers secure integrated solutions that address their defence and security concerns. We had the opportunity to interview Founder and Executive Chairman, Edward Banayoti, to learn more about the company and its rapidly ascending status in the space.
You have had a very interesting life. We would like to know what your life was before you established Defence Unlimited International.
I was born in Egypt to Greek and Egyptian parents. But I moved to Canada in search of my North American dream in my early 20’s. The fact I was brought up within an African/Middle Eastern culture, coupled with my European ancestry and North American experiences has possibly given me access to an unusual blend of skills, insights, and knowledge. It affords me a deeper insight on how the different moving parts work in the most politically volatile areas of the world. Also, it has helped me comprehend how different cultures drive the ingrained mindsets of each of the players. This understanding can be especially invaluable within the defence and security sector.
You are a seasoned entrepreneur. Describe your experiences.
I have always loved a good trade and have invested in opportunities across different types of businesses. Some have been short term businesses such as commodities trading and some have been longer-term businesses. The more interesting ones being distressed assets which I would divest from once restructured and turned around. Distressed assets have always been attractive to me since they require a more structured specialist approach and additional focus to realize undeveloped potential and value.
Around a decade ago I had to take some time off to deal with an illness where I was lucky to pull through and for a while, after that, took my foot off the pedal to reassess my priorities.
How did you start Defence Unlimited International?
Defence Unlimited International was a project which I developed in 2015. It was mainly due to the investment opportunities which were falling on my lap. One could argue that the experiences in my life including serving in the military, my Egyptian roots, and experience in broking and investments in all the turnarounds came to good use. One thing led to another and soon I was putting together the early members of the team, many of whom still work with Defence Unlimited today. We very quickly developed the opportunities that came to us. We started by moving pre-owned hardware which was deemed surplus to requirements in places like North America, whilst also forging key relationships with equipment manufacturers in Canada and abroad which lacked international sales teams and access.
Our different approach allowed doors to open and provided our partners a unique opportunity to access increased visibility with us presenting exceptional products to clients that could benefit from them. In some segments, such as armored vehicles, we were arguably the largest broker on the market for a while.
From humble one person beginnings we now have over 266 consultants. The company’s growth has been very rapid. Our early brokerage focus allowed us access early on. A small aggressive entrepreneurial team with an enviable network of associates allowed us to rapidly gain market share. As the company expanded, we identified areas of demand and developed into such new areas of expertise and can today cater for most defence requirements.
A core strength of ours is our ability to identify specific needs or weaknesses in the defence and security infrastructure of companies and countries which we address by delivering bespoke solutions that fulfill the requirements that address the “need” to secure a specific desired outcome.
How did you build the team that works with you at Defence Unlimited?
Having served in the military myself, I feel an obligation to offer opportunities to those who have served and are keen to transition into the private sector. The discipline, loyalty and organization skills that the military instills provides our company with invaluable assets. Military trained brains understand the importance of military precision and have a greater understanding of risk and assessing scenarios. They expect the unexpected! In all businesses, I seek to hire people in key positions who can take us to the next level. My role is to make sure that a team of such individuals is then capable of working together as a unit towards a common goal of developing the Defence Unlimited business.
Tell us about the products and services offered by your company.
Whereas we do procure specific defence-related items such as weapons or munitions, this is today but a drop in the ocean of what we do. Whether it is a government requiring a border management solution, or seeking our assistance to address highly complex security threats, helping a customer lower procurement costs or products they want which requires lobbying to secure access to. We always advocate for our clients using logical and fair arguments to secure fair treatment and strong market knowledge to secure fair prices, treatment and decisions.
As a company, we have also partnered with companies which I have personally invested into that can and have been operational in various theatres such as Afghanistan, Iraq, the Maghreb region, US, Canada, Latin, and Central America. Ability to deliver fast is key. As an example, a client could request a four-figure contingent of experienced private security personnel with four week timeframes for deployment. We have in the past executed such projects flawlessly.
We also regularly advise and are entrusted with the implementation of security infrastructure in sensitive projects and key borders such as airports, key infrastructure and Land and Maritime borders.
Who are your competitors?
In most instances, we are competing directly with the larger globally positioned manufacturers that have in-country teams. We also compete with the larger advisory firms that seek to provide specialist advice on the sector. Our platform allows small players with great products to secure greater visibility by leveraging our far more mature and diverse distribution platform. On the advisory side, we have an impressive line-up of individuals that can compete with the best in the business.
What are the factors that set you apart from its competitors?
We have a widespread range of skills and capabilities within the company’s management and senior team members. These bring to the table countless years of experience and knowledge. However, our key differentiator is the fact that we only dare do something ourselves in-house, if we are the absolute best at it. There are several companies with exceptional strengths. We seek to create an environment and framework that allows them to participate within a collaborative model with a single integrated top quality delivery channel.
Who are your biggest clients and where does Defence Unlimited get the most traction from?
Our key clients are the “friendly” governments with good relations with the NATO countries. At the present moment, we have most traction from offering consulting services which address different special situations, or where a client requires help in addressing immediate problems or threats.
How important are partnerships for Defence Unlimited?
Absolutely key for Defence Unlimited, but equally important for our partners. Our differentiated model delivers teams of Masters which can originate from different companies partnering with us. This contrasts strongly with companies that present themselves as masters whilst being jacks of all trades based entirely on in-house capacity. As an integrator that has opted to carry only a limited in-house headcount we are afforded the luxury of hand picking the Masters from the specialist crowd and such partners do not see us as competitors but as true partners. By integrating our own people into teams of top-notch individuals with skillsets and talent rarely found within a single company we can deliver the utmost quality. Furthermore, any special companies having unique expertise, products or technology could be supported by us not only in terms of access to deals but also by way of capital injections or financing (when required) to help accelerate their development. Such deals can at times literally transform companies.
The Extraordinary Leader
Edward Sawiris Banayoti, Founder & Executive Chairman
A successful entrepreneur, Mr. Banayoti has led Defence Unlimited International from the front from the very beginning. He has served in the military and takes interest in helping those who have served in the armed forces to transition into the private sector. He has vast experience in the fields of defence, security and politics.
“We offer security services and advisory services as well as the brokerage of military assets, including uniforms, hardware, software etc.”
“Defence Unlimited International provides the best threat detection and prevention tools currently available. We allow our clients to monitor cyber threats in real time, identifying actors, methods, and targets.”
“Defence Unlimited International’s vision remains to support our clients to deliver exemplary studies, and solutions in all areas to meet our client’s specific needs.”