It’s time for the industry to step up to the mark

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.

2012 is shaping up to be the security industry’s very own annus horribilis and it would be no exaggeration to say that its reputation is currently at a pretty low ebb. Even though Boris Johnson took the opportunity to thank G4S at the London 2012 victory parade, the fallout from the security fiasco that was at the centre of it is yet to be fully realised.

However, as hard as it is to admit, the events that played out over the summer simply exposed what many of us already knew – that although the security industry’s reputation has vastly improved in recent years, it’s far from where it should be. And who’s to blame? Well on the whole, we all are.

When the Security Industry Authority (SIA) was established in 2003 and licensing came into force a year later, it marked a turning point. It represented a chance to drive up standards and get the message to market that we can deliver on our promises and provide a service of unsurpassed quality.

We know deep down that didn’t happen as it should have, and SIA licensing has unfortunately become nothing more than a baseline entry standard. Instead of raising the quality of our collective offering we have continued to look inwards and even failed to convince ourselves of the potential the industry has.

Unfortunately these days there are too many security companies whose sole interest is selling hours rather than solutions, and they will promise anything to win a contract and then gamble on being able to under deliver. However, each time this happens our credibility as an industry suffers. Those of us who design solutions usually do so based on customers’ initial circumstances, and too often these run without reappraisal throughout the contract term – ignoring any changes to the site threat profile or any new risks that may evolve throughout the term. How often do we, the industry, only make changes at the customer’s behest?

Quite frankly, the level of complacency regarding standards in this industry is astonishing. A recent SIA inspection found a three per cent licensing failure rate. Applied across the whole industry this figure would equate to 10,000 unlicensed people! Yet the SIA and the very organisation that should be showing leadership regarding this issue – the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – described this figure as ‘acceptable’!…

If we in the Security industry want to be treated as professionals, then we have to act like professionals. Would you accept three per cent of UK Doctors being unqualified? No. We in the security industry should be aiming for 100 per cent licensing – and the rigorous self-regulation that such an aim demands is essential if we are to be treated as the professionals we believe we are.

Such is the focus on cost that some companies have succumbed to offering services based on price rather than quality. My attitude towards this can be summed up by John Ruskin, who said, ‘It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.’

To improve matters we have to come out fighting and, just as importantly, act with a sense of unity about achieving a common goal. We should be self-assessing our service solutions on a regular basis and completing security risk assessments each month to ensure that what we are delivering is still appropriate. Just as importantly, we should be the ones driving service shape and functionality – not the customer.

My corporate mantra is ‘say what we do and do what we say’. That means do not overpromise on what you cannot deliver, and then deliver without fail what you have said you will provide. As an industry we should be compiling anonymous performance statistics to allow us to benchmark ourselves against industry averages – something that could be carried out by the BSIA alongside a positive PR campaign that publicises any improvements in these figures. Of course, these figures need to be a true and accurate reflection of what is happening, and anonymity would help ensure that is the case.

When it comes to contracts we should include a clear and unambiguous statement of requirements (SOR) that confirms what the basic service standards are for task completion and for reserve staff. Suppliers could then be measured against this SOR so that there is no room for argument if that company does not meet these requirements.

In my view 100 per cent attendance against contractual commitment should be a given and suppliers should have the reserve resources to guarantee this. We wouldn’t accept our suppliers under delivering, so why should we expect our customers to accept a breach of contract from us?

I talked in my last blog about my disappointment that some politicians have felt it necessary to ‘stick the boot’ in to the security industry. I still firmly believe that their comments have been unhelpful but I also think we need to take a long hard look at ourselves in order to improve our current position. Are we going to stick or twist?

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