A clear and present danger

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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Last Friday the home secretary Theresa May announced that the UK’s terror threat level has been raised from “substantial” to “severe” in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The new alert level rates the risk of an attack on the UK “highly likely”, although the home secretary said there was no evidence to suggest one was “imminent”.

Severe is the second highest of five possible UK threat levels that indicates the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the UK. The 5 levels of threat are:

low – an attack is unlikely

moderate – an attack is possible but not likely

substantial – an attack is a strong possibility

severe – an attack is highly likely

critical – an attack is expected imminently

The prime minister has said he was concerned that Britons who have travelled to fight with the Islamic State (IS) would be prepared to carry out an attack on UK soil upon their return. However we should also realise that the threat is not only from those that have travelled to the conflict areas but also the sympathisers and supporters who have stayed in the UK.

Terrorist activity, combined with the events in Ukraine, Gaza and Israel, Syria and Iraq, means the world certainly feels less safe than it has done for many years. At a time when we are commemorating the First World War centenary, it is clear that the ‘war to end all wars’, where an estimated 16 million people lost their lives, was not enough to deter future generations from engaging in conflict.

The nature of war has evolved so that it is as much about terrorising innocent civilians as it is about soldiers fighting each other on the field of battle. No more is this evident than in the escalating threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The shocking video that appeared online recently of the American journalist, James Foley, being beheaded by what appears to be a militant with a British accent, along with the events of 7/7 and the brutal killing of Lee Rigby in London, means that the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism are closer to home than some of us care to imagine.

The problem of homegrown extremism is very real and a growing phenomenon. Although the UK Foreign Office has stated that around 400 individuals have left our shores to fight in Syria since the uprising began, Khalid Mahmood MP recently stated that he believes that this figure is much higher and that over 1,500 young British Muslims have gone to wage jihad since 2011. To put this number into perspective, it means that more than twice as many British Muslims have travelled to Syria to fight for extremists, including IS, than are currently serving in the British Armed Forces.

Just as worryingly, some of them are already returning to the UK, desensitised to extreme violence and still fighting for a radical Islamic ideal. Prime minister, David Cameron, has already recognised this and, in reference to IS, recently said, ‘If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.’

Clearly the need for vigilant and professional security is greater than ever and I believe that the government needs to drastically increase its investment in counter terrorism resources, both in the public and private sectors. Meanwhile, it is incumbent upon us all to recognise the threat, take it seriously and do everything possible to minimise the danger to people, property and assets.

I fully appreciate that this is easier said than done and countering such an insidious and covert threat is difficult. However, it seriously concerns me that so many security professionals are unaware of the potential impact of such threats on the organisations that they are charged with protecting.

I’ve found that there is sometimes an unwillingness to look at the ‘bigger picture’ in terms of identifying the reasons that a particular organisation could be a target, where a threat might originate from and what to do about it. It won’t surprise you that those originating from the USA or UK are more likely to be targeted by Islamic extremists such as IS than those in some other parts of the world and while I recognise that this might be an uncomfortable truth, there is little sense in ignoring it. The bottom line is that organisations with security management teams that possess a comprehensive understanding of global and regional threats will undoubtedly be better protected.

When carrying out a risk and threat assessment it is also vital to avoid the ‘silo mentality’ and adopt an inclusive policy of shared thinking, planning and action. By adopting the concept of convergence of security risk, every department – security, IT, finance, facilities management and those responsible for health and safety and reputational risk management – can collaborate in a way that allows knowledge and information to be better understood and acted upon.

We are living in troubled times and it is therefore imperative that organisations fully understand the dangers posed by potential adversaries, understand their motives and implement a more effective risk and threat based approach that utilises both technology and manpower. This will require some organisations to re-examine their existing security strategies but it is only by doing so that they will be in the best possible position to address this clear and present danger.

A measure of accountability

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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When I joined Corps Security back in 2010, one of the things that immediately struck me was the lack of independently collated, audited and analysed indices pertaining to the security industry. It strikes me that if an industry wants to be taken seriously and not become commoditised, it needs to provide its customer base with a set of benchmarks with which its effectiveness can be measured.

I believe that truthful and accurate data can help improve performance, perception and professionalism.

Unlike other industries – for example, retail – we have no clear indication of the state of the industry and any relevant trends. While this is unhelpful to service providers, it is even more of an issue for end-users who may be reviewing the options open to them within the manned guarding market. A set of independently qualified statistics would help to give them an idea of industry performance standards, so that more informed procurement decisions could be made.

To gather the data needed for such sector-wide indices, it requires the whole industry to be ‘grown up’ and submit truthful information in the absolute knowledge that it will remain anonymous and only published as part of a consolidated report. This is a tough ask but one that is needed if we are to be taken seriously as an industry.

The Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) score, which independently demonstrates approved contractors’ performance against the required standards each year, could also be used as a benchmark data source. At present, I am not aware of any published summary report which analyses the consolidated data from ACS audits that could be used as important evidence of the industry’s professionalism and high service levels. I am not even aware what percentage of the industry or its employees are represented by ACS companies.

Basic information on industry employment trends can also be gained from the SIA.  I believe (anecdotally) that each year the SIA issues new licenses that equate to around 20% of the total licenses in circulation, although the total number of licences in use remains roughly the same – therefore indicating that 20% of licence holders choose to leave the industry each year.  However, if true, it brings to the fore the question of how to retain staff and make the industry a more attractive place to build a long-term career

These are the problems, so why is nothing being done about them? That’s something that I would like to hear your views about because I’ve yet to hear a good reason for not publishing industry statistics and indices.

At Corps Security, as part of our Customer Charter, to ensure that our service level agreements (SLAs) are met, we have developed a system to define a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide a comprehensive set of quantitative and qualitative data. This helps drive service improvement and the data is formatted and presented in a manner which reflects a customer’s business and gives them the information that they require. I am sure that most reliable companies do the same but why don’t we consider standardising these KPI’s to make it easier for customers to understand the true comparative performance of their security suppliers??

My opinions on this subject have been formed through my own experiences as former chairman of the Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA) and President of the Textile Services Association (TSA). During my tenures with these industry trade bodies, I helped introduce a measurement system of cost indices that included all of the published (and therefore evidenced in the public domain) cost factors associated with running a business in that industry. Every year a report would indicate how much industry operating costs had risen, so when we asked customers for a price increase we could use clear, meaningful and independently benchmarked figures to back up our case. This helped to maintain margins and facilitated continued investment into service improvement, as well as the development of skilled and trained personnel.

This leads me on to my final point. Regular readers of my blogs will know that I see the need to increase the professionalism of the security industry as one of the biggest challenges we face. There is no doubt that the events surrounding the London Olympics in 2012 and some other subsequent highly publicised cases have damaged the fragile respect that the industry had gained. Independent performance-based statistics would go a long way in demonstrating to both existing and potential customers that, in the vast majority of cases, contracts are fulfilled and customers are satisfied with their manned guarding services. It would help give credibility to what we do, as an industry, assisting to restore confidence in our competency.

Breaking up is hard to do

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.screen-shot-2012-12-06-at-19-04-57 2

The issues surrounding whether Scotland should leave the UK are never far from the news headlines at the moment and will continue to be so until the referendum takes place on 18th September. On that date the question – Should Scotland be an independent country? – will finally be answered.

As I write this the yes vote stands at 34 per cent, a fall of five percentage points since the last opinion poll a month ago. There’s plenty of time left though and it is estimated that around 20 per cent of voters are still undecided on the issue. Chances are they are the ones who are struggling not to let their hearts rule their heads.

There is certainly no room for complacency on this subject and as a company with significant business interests and operations north of the border, we are having to prepare for the possibility that if the yes vote wins out, the nature of how we operate will change immeasurably. For instance, we have extensive manned guarding operations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, our Operations Support Centre is also based in Glasgow, as is the Corps Monitoring Centre (CMC).

The Corps Security senior management team has already spent some considerable time talking various scenarios through and given the lack of detail from the Scottish National Party (SNP) about exactly what would happen should it win the vote, this hasn’t been easy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that for companies like us who are trying to be proactive and consider all possible eventualities, being able to make hard and fast plans is proving nigh on impossible.

Take, for example, the issue of currency. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in a rare show of unity, have all stated that should Scotland leave the UK it will not be able to use the pound. The SNP considers this a bluff and has refused to even consider a Plan B, let alone state what it would involve. Some might call this a principled stance, although I find it difficult to believe that the SNP would know what to do if the government sticks to its guns. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the party’s leader, Alex Salmond, might be right, and there would be a deal for currency union. However, I wouldn’t bet my last pound on it!

While the money issue wouldn’t prove an insurmountable problem for us, I think small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will find this a difficult issue. My own anecdotal evidence from within the business community suggests that most commercial organisations in the entire UK view Scottish devolution in a negative light. This is borne out by research carried out by the business network, “Ingenious Britain”, which has discovered that almost half of small business owners in Scotland think independence would be bad for their company.

If, however, the yes campaign does succeed, there’s the problem of what to do with all the public sector contracts in Scotland that were previously procured and awarded from Whitehall and other government offices in England. Would they all be retendered via the Scottish parliament’s equivalent departments? If so, imagine the hoops that some suppliers would have to jump through!

Another potentially more difficult issue would be if an independent Scotland decided to join the Schengen Area, which comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport or any other type of border control in between their common borders. It could mean that border controls would need to be set up – Hadrian’s Wall could even be reinstated! Although Scotland stands to lose more from this action than the rest of UK would, stranger things have happened.

It’s not just the business world that is concerned about Scottish independence. Professors from all five of Scotland’s medical schools have written an open letter expressing serious concerns about the impact upon medical research funding. Education would also be affected, with the SNP proposing to make students from the rest of the UK pay tuition fees if studying in Scotland, while allowing free access for students from the rest of the European Union (EU).

Drilling down into the security sector, it would open up an array of practical problems. Take Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensing, for example. Would it operate in the same way? Would those working in both Scotland and the rest of the UK need two licences. Would the background checking and verification processes be the same? How would it affect insurance policies and premiums? This list of questions just gets bigger the more you think about it.

From a pragmatic point of view the implications of Scottish devolution are immense and while I understand the emotional reasons for wanting independence, from the perspectives of businesses on both sides of the border it makes little sense. Until 19th September, when the votes are in and we all know one way or the other what Scotland’s future holds, Corps Security will continue to plan for every conceivable eventuality. I would recommend that any other organisations with interests in Scotland do the same, however difficult it may be.

State-of-the-art security with no strings attached

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below. screen-shot-2012-12-06-at-19-04-57 2 As someone who can remember life before mobile phones, witnessing the way that cellular technology has transformed both our personal and working lives over the last 20 years or so has been of great interest. According to figures by Ofcom, 94 per cent of UK adults own a mobile phone and 15 per cent of people live in a mobile only household. It has radically changed the way we communicate with each other and has – for better or for worse – made most of us accessible on a 24/7 basis.

The capabilities of this type of technology extend way beyond personal communication though. For instance, it transpired that during the search for the missing Flight MH370, data sent from the plane’s engines suggested it had flown for a further four hours from its last known location. Engine monitoring systems involve using sensors placed in various locations in an aircraft engine to gather information about its performance. The data from the sensors are accumulated and transmitted at regular intervals to ground stations monitored by the engine manufacturers.

The impact within our own industry is already being felt – something that was highlighted during a recent Corps Security Breakfast Briefing. One of the presentations was by DualCom and concerned the company’s DigiAir® system – a pioneering wireless digital communicator, incorporating patented technology, that utilises multi-network subscriber identification module (SIM) technology as standard.

DigiAir® system

DigiAir® System

Put simply, instead of using a hardwired telephone line it simply utilises all mobile networks via a radio path and can send a signal from the protected premises to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), such as the Corps Monitoring Centre (CMC), via a WorldSIM. This multi-network SIM card can utilise any mobile phone network, offering the best guarantee of radio coverage anywhere in the UK and offers maximum, reliable performance from its radio path, while providing customers with a reliable and uninterrupted service.

It’s a constant source of surprise to me how few commercial organisations utilise remote monitoring services. My own anecdotal evidence suggests one of the key reasons for this is due to the associated costs. Although services such as BT’s Redcare are excellent in terms of providing secure, monitored communications services, they are not cheap. Systems like DualCom’s DigiAir® are game changers in the sense that they are affordable and accessible to operations of all sizes and open the world of remote monitoring up to those who previously discounted it.

Talking of game changers, thanks to 4G we are not far away from being able to transmit and receive high quality CCTV images over the mobile phone network. 4G is already enabling rapidly deployable, live video streaming mobile surveillance products in locations as diverse as construction sites, the rail network, shopping centres and concert venues. It offers a range of organisations an unprecedented way to monitor assets and resources and councils are beginning to use it to, for example, enable street lamps and traffic lights and surveillance technology to be operated remotely, in order to conserve energy and maximise their effectiveness.

As a company that takes the protection of its colleagues very seriously, I’m also proud of the fact that we are leading the way by using mobile phones to provide them with enhanced levels of personal safety and ‘always on’ contact.

We have developed our CorpsGuard app, which can be activated by simply shaking or tapping a smartphone. Doing so immediately sends SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter messages, along with an alert page, to designated emergency contacts – which can also include the CMC – detailing an exact geographical location. The alert page has a tracking facility that displays a map of the user’s location, which is updated every 15 seconds so that emergency contacts can follow movements in real time. Once the CMC receives the alert, an operative will attempt to contact the user and if there is no answer, or the evidence suggests a threat to life, police are informed.

In addition, after the initial notification is sent, shaking or tapping the phone again activates an audible alarm alongside a flashing strobe. If this fails to ward off an attacker, the device automatically records a short video that can be used to identify an assailant and used in a court of law.

The ability to turn a phone into a safety device offers an easy to use but highly effective way to protect lone workers in real time, as opposed to some existing tracking technologies that simply check that a patrol route has been completed.

I’m convinced that we have only just scratched the surface of what’s possible. The much talked about Internet of Things means that we are fast approaching a situation in which devices from intelligent refrigerators and heating controls, to doors and fire detection systems will have the ability to automatically transfer data over a network without requiring human interaction. It is fair to assume that these kinds of intelligent appliances will also have the ability to communicate directly with an ARC and send an alert if there’s a problem.

These are exciting times and although I’m yet to see a complete security solution that exploits the full capabilities of cellular technology I’m convinced that it will happen soon. Watch this space.

Same as it ever was

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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13th February 2014 marked 155 years since the formation of Corps Security and not only are we one of very few companies of this age still operating, we are just as relevant today as we were back then. While my blogs usually focus on the wider issues that affect our industry, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the conclusions I reached from pondering our longevity and continued success.

When I was appointed chief executive of Corps Security in 2010 I already knew that I was joining a challenging and exciting industry. What I didn’t realise, however, was how unlike the vast majority of its peers this company is and how it occupies a unique position within its sector. I will admit that it took a good couple of months before the relevance of our history and motto of ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ made their mark on my thinking and plans for the company.

Much of what defines Corps Security can be traced back to the circumstances of its formation. Captain Sir Edward Walter, a retired officer of the 8th Hussars, created the company in 1859 as a way to provide gainful employment for ex-servicemen on return from the Crimean War. In marked contrast to today, life was extremely tough for those who had loyally served their country. As well as coping with physical injuries, their employment opportunities were limited and this meant incredible hardship for them and their families.

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Walter was convinced that these people could perform, through their military related knowledge and qualities, a vital role in protecting the financial houses of the City of London. Not only could they earn a proper wage, it would also allow them to regain their dignity. He organised them as a body of uniformed men and termed them the Corps of Commissionaires. His first resettlement project was possibly one of the most challenging and involved finding jobs for the eight men pictured below.

Included in the ‘original eight’ employees was Thomas Hancock, one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC). Hancock was a corporal in the 9th (Queens Royal) Lancers and in 1857 he fought in the Indian Mutiny, where he saved the life of Brigadier J H Grant C.B when his horse was shot from under him and he became surrounded by mutineers. Hancock was also shot and subsequently lost an arm, but for his bravery was awarded the VC.

The Original Eight

These stories have an enduring fascination and our heritage has even been written about in a book on the history of the Corps of Commissionaires called ‘Our Sergeant’. However, while it is undoubtedly of great historical interest, one of the issues that I had to wrestle with during the first few months of my tenure at the company was how use the experience of the past to meet the ever changing needs of the present.

After giving the issue some considerable thought and analysis, and seeing how the company operated, it became clear that the DNA of the business was about our people and the way that we treat them. It’s why our customers stay with us and our employees are proud to work for us – the latter point is borne out by our industry leading staff retention rates.

This loyalty can be attributed, in no small part, to our ‘circle of care’, which can be summed up as follows – we look after our colleagues, who will then look after our clients, who, in turn, look after our company by retaining our services long-term. We also have our Colleague Charter, which is based around the acronym PRIDE – promise, respect and recognition, information, development and envoys. It details how employees should treat each other, promise to do what they say they will do, keep each other informed, take responsibility for offering and taking up training opportunities, and present themselves and the company in a positive light.

We are immensely proud of our background and the motives behind the company’s formation, however, we have to tread a fine line to counter any misconceptions that we are an old-fashioned company with one foot in the past. This is a real challenge and one that I, and the rest of the team here, have had to work very hard to address.

I firmly believe that our use of IT related technology makes us one of the most forward thinking companies in our sector, without compromising our central values. For instance, we listen to the views and needs of our employees, via a number of communication channels, to ensure they are fully informed and engaged with the business at all levels. Each year our ‘Your View Matters’ online survey gauges our performance in areas such as training and careers development and our ‘open door’ policy is highlighted by Talk2Peter, where my email address is available to all employees and via which, they are encouraged to feed back ideas, opinions and suggestions.

The conclusion that I drew in 2010 and still believe in today is that ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ are values that have just as much relevance in today’s cut-throat corporate world as they did in 1859. While the way that business’ go about their activities might have changed, it will always be the quality of the people representing a company and the way they are treated, that makes the difference between success and failure.

Cybersecurity is more than just an IT issue

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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2014 has already seen cyber-criminals making the headlines and if the experts are to be believed this is just the tip of the iceberg, with the number and seriousness of cyber attacks predicted to rapidly increase. To demonstrate the scale of the problem, according to the 2012 PwC information security breaches survey 93 per cent of large corporations and 76 per cent of small businesses were affected.

In the last week or so we’ve heard about how Bitstamp – one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges – had to halt withdrawals after being hacked, and why Tesco also had to deactivate some customers’ accounts after their login names and passwords were shared online.

The ways in which criminals are evolving their methods is exemplified in CryptoLocker. This comes in the form of a phishing email that contains malware within PDF files from banks, couriers or other seemingly legitimate sources. Once opened, the malware encrypts the contents of the hard drive and any other shared drives. There are also reports of hackers grabbing video of how victims use their computers, so that they can steal from online bank accounts. This enables them to evade the checks that look for unusual behaviour by identifying how a user starts their browsers accesses a bank’s website and enters data.

Not surprisingly, the UK government is taking the issue seriously too, and at a summit of regulators and intelligence chiefs, the business secretary, Vince Cable, said that there was a growing threat of disruption to everyday life. To back up his argument, he cited a 2012 cyber attack on Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, which shut down 30,000 of its computers.

It is clear that organisations have to be more aware than ever of how to protect themselves against hackers by having an effective cybersecurity strategy in place. However, I have become increasingly concerned that cybersecurity is being used as a buzzword simply to evoke a sense of panic. It seems to me that while boards of directors are more than willing to invest large sums of money in the latest firewalls and encryption methods, they often fail to realise the part that physical security such as CCTV, access control and manned guarding plays in a successful cybersecurity strategy.

To illustrate my point, I recently read an interesting comment by Jan Veldsink, who consults to businesses on IT security and has developed the Business and Cyber Robustness Executive MBA module at Nyenrode Univeriteit in The Netherlands. He states, ‘The word cybersecurity provides a false impression. It promotes the suggestion that if you pump enough money into firewalls and good ICT systems, you’ll be safe. That’s not the case. Dealing with cybercrime is not just a problem for the IT department. You have to train every part of your organisation.’

To put it bluntly, there’s no point in having the best firewall in the world if people can simply walk into a building, take IT hardware such as servers and hard drives containing sensitive and business critical data, and walk straight out again.

Then there is the issue of poor internal security – passwords by written on Post-It notes and stuck on desks for all to see, memory sticks left lying around and incorrectly addressed mail. This scope for human error was also highlighted in research conducted by Trend Micro, which revealed that 27 per cent of smartphone users have had up to three work devices lost or stolen and 25 per cent of people who only use their mobile device for work have emailed sensitive data to the wrong person.

The consequences of these types of events are immense. There are a number of UK and European laws that govern corporate liability for data breaches, and fines can be as high as £500,000. This is in addition to the cost in terms operational downtime and business continuity, while not forgetting reputational damage – all of which can far outweigh the price of a fully coordinated and integrated security strategy.

So why doesn’t this happen as a matter of course? It usually comes down to the ‘silo mentality’ – adopting a collaborative approach to dealing with cybersecurity has little to do with external influences and everything to do with internal cross-departmental cultures. In other words, physical security and IT teams do not communicate effectively to better understand their respective roles and how they are, in fact, reliant on each other to keep business operations safe from harm.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to devising a security strategy and each organisation will have its own unique considerations. That’s why using an external specialist security services provider can be highly beneficial, as it will be able to carry out a full threat and risk assessment. This can also contribute to an overall cybersecurity strategy by ensuring that surveillance and access technology, as well as manned guarding, are full optimised to protect IT infrastructure.

 Cybersecurity is important but it will only work if the rest of the pieces of the security jigsaw are in place.

A single-minded approach to security

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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For many years I have been an avid campaigner against the use of integrated service bundling or, as it is also known, total facilities management. I firmly believe that security is quite unlike any other service that a facilities manager has to procure and that only a specialist can provide the best possible solution to keep people, property and assets safe.

It’s clear that I’m not alone in this view and I was delighted to read the comments made by Geoff Zeidler, chairman of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), in the latest issue of City Security Magazine. Geoff clearly shares many of my own concerns about the proliferation of low cost and low expertise security services being provided as part of an integrated FM bundle.

In his article Geoff says, “As part of a bundle of services, the customer inevitably makes a compromised selection of security provider which can, by definition, never be better than an independent choice.” As far as I’m concerned, he hits the nail on the head by unequivocally stating that customers using bundled services are reducing the likelihood of receiving a security solution that meets their specific needs. What’s more, should an event occur, they really need to consider whether their bundled service provider would be able to deal with the situation.

Another point where I am in total agreement with Geoff concerns the key procurement driver behind bundled services – the desire to cut costs. In my view, while it may look good on paper and please the finance director, it will more than likely result in a service that falls well below the minimum standards that should be expected. Ultimately, those who favour the ‘one stop shop’ approach must ask themselves whether security and other disciplines within the FM sector have interchangeable management skill sets. Those who answer to the affirmative should seriously take some time to better understand the role of security within their organisations.

I am not for one moment denigrating the other FM disciplines and, having worked in the catering and cleaning industries, I have the greatest respect for what they do. The principle of specialism is equally relevant across the board and a specialist cleaning company will provide a higher level of service than a company that offers general services using multi-discipline management. However, while a poor standard of cleaning could cause problems, the danger of having inadequately trained and inexperienced security management could be catastrophic.

The term bundling itself is also open to misinterpretation, particularly as it is common to both integrated service bundling and security bundling. In order to quash any possible confusion from my end, I would like state quite clearly that while I dislike the former, I wholly support the latter.

Using bundled security services makes complete sense for many reasons and it is surely logical to use one specialist organisation to manage all related security services such as CCTV monitoring, intruder and fire alarm receiving, access control and of course, manned guarding. As Geoff Zeidler states, “it is a model that is seen widely in Europe”, yet the UK seems to be lagging behind. This is surprising given the way it can streamline an entire security infrastructure, make it more operationally efficient and therefore more cost effective.

I think our Corps Security’s example highlights the advantages of security bundling and we have seen on many occasions the benefits that it brings to our customers. Our entire service model is based upon configuring and implementing the most effective security strategy for our customers, using a combination of human manned guarding, technology and remote monitoring. We do this by assessing all of the risks and threats to an organisation and recommending the best security solution without preferring any one type of service and this is often more cost effective that the existing arrangements.

It’s all about using the best people for the job. For instance, we don’t carry out the installation and maintenance of electronic security technology. However, we are able to specify the right equipment and technology for each situation avoiding the common problem of either the wrong low-cost equipment or over-specified technology being installed, both of which will cost more in the long term. We can also recommend specialists and trusted service partners, who will get it right first time, and won’t oversell, undersell or supply substandard equipment. Combining the right technology with our manned guarding and remote monitoring functions ensures that we can be flexible and responsive by, for example, swapping manned hours for monitored hours when necessary.

Our commitment to working with best-in-class companies has led us to develop strategic partnerships with a number of leading specialists, who can provide diverse services such as sniffer dogs, technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM), close protection and hostile environment accompaniment. It means that each customer gets a completely holistic solution – one that instils confidence.

The advantages of security bundling are considerable and I sincerely hope that it becomes more widely accepted in the UK. However, this will often depend on a customer’s corporate policy and that’s not always so easy to change, especially when other security related issues continue to dominate. As Geoff says in his article, “If I was to say ‘cyber security’ in any boardroom today, everyone would engage as it represents a known unknown threat.”

And that will be the subject of my next blog.