How Infologue.com viewed the Security Industry in 2012
Downward spiraling of margins; the Olympic Security Debacle; the loss of appetite by the Home Office to implement primary legislation; a call for the industry to act as a perfect storm approaches; and the most comprehensive survey on the security industry, was our take on the UK security industry issues in 2012. The conclusions of the aforementioned survey suggested the industry needs to collectively sell itself better and focus on the biggest causes of high turnover of security officers; poor pay, limited opportunities for development and a lack of respect of frontline security personnel. In regards to the lack of respect it has been suggested that the Regulator should replace the word guard with the word security officer. It has also been mooted that this suggestion be added to the responses to the Home Office Consultation paper – Future of the Private Security Industry – Proposals for Change. On reflection, Infologue.com believes that 2012 serves as a stark warning that the security industry needs to collectively find solutions to its current woes. In the words of the first Basketball Hall of Famer, both as a player and then coach John Wooden; “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
The Year of the Downhill Racers
After a bruising security services e-tender, one of the contenders asked “Is the security industry in a race to the bottom as security services are now primarily a commodity regardless of the added value we offer in our bid?” One senior industry figure told Infologue.com; “The procurement process in the security services sector has rapidly shifted through three cycles; initially security professionals were supported by procurement, then became led by procurement supported by security professionals and now it’s just procurement at the table. There are now three components to the procurement exercise, Price, Price, and Price!” Logue Corporate (producers of Infologue.com) has recently conducted a study suggesting the UK security services market has shrunk by 3.5% in 2012 with average gross margins shrinking by at least 2.5%. Whilst shrinking margins are the major contributors to the shrinking security services market; the poor economic climate has resulted in; reduced security manpower requirements, the introduction of equipment and a higher usage of fewer resources. Most industry observers suggest that if this trend continues; which Logue Corporate believes it will; there would be further consolidation within the industry. Without a fully inclusive security industry debate on how we use standards and skills as positive differentiators, and how the industry markets itself, we will continue to be unwilling participants in a “race to the bottom.”
Regulation – A Loss of Appetite?
On the 20th November 2012 the Home Office announced its long awaited consultation document on the proposals to the regulatory structure, which favours business licensing as the primary route to regulation. In my opinion the Home Office is failing to take the security industry seriously as demonstrated by its recent actions. Firstly in failing to introduce primary legislation to reshape the security industry as promised. Instead the Government is attempting to introduce reforms through the back door as their recently published consultation document, Home Office Consultation paper – Future of the Private Security Industry – Proposals for Change. Secondly, failing to renew or extend the term of the current Chairman of the Security Industry Authority, Baroness Ruth Henig, without consulting members of the security industry. Baroness Henig was one of the architects of the blueprint for future regulation in the Private Security Industry, playing a key role in discussions with the security industry as they formulated their proposals for a new regulatory regime.
The Olympic Debacle
The Olympics appeared to proceed without any serious incident. There was however, a major storm before the Olympics where G4S were accused of failing to have sufficient manpower to secure the Olympics and military resources were marshalled in to supplement the private security force. Whilst G4S must shoulder some blame for the shortfall of manpower; it is Infologue.com’s opinion, having studied the issue carefully, that the primary cause was a poor procurement decision.
A Perfect Storm
Bob Forsyth, the Managing Director of MITIE Total Security Management (TSM) commented in his Infologue.com blog in August 2013 The Future of the Security Industry is in our hands: “There is now a perfect storm of regulation, training, economic conditions, technical advances and margin erosion which are changing the way we have to think and work. The catalyst is the changing face of regulation, the future of the SIA and its change in direction, the ACS scheme, and the potential Hallmark scheme being debated. All are in a state of flux meaning the entire structure of the industry’s regulation is being shaped within the next two years. Whatever is agreed we will have to live with – good, bad or indifferent.
Forsyth continued “With this restructure and renewal it’s also time to assess the skill set that our industry demands of its staff: is it fit for purpose? Do we need to focus on this area also to incorporate training on modern technology as standard? I believe our training standards must be raised and modernised moving towards a higher-skilled, technology-led future and our induction courses must also start to reflect this. Companies like mine have invested in key courses as part of a career development initiative but only standards that are set as minimum can raise the bar across the sector.
“We must also modernise the way we market ourselves in the industry; the word ‘guard’ is still used and is totally inappropriate for the industry and sectors we work in – we don’t guard people, property and assets, we secure them. Our staff are not guards, they are security officers. Terminology is important and the whole industry must start to embrace the change in mind-set as well as change in standards. Did you notice how the staff at the Olympics where called Games Makers not helpers or assistants!” Forsyth concluded.
Security Industry Report; Industry needs to demonstrate added value
The authors of the Security Research Initiative Report, published in August 2012, which is arguably the largest survey of the security industry ever undertaken, Professor Martin Gill and Charlotte Howell of Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International (PRCI) Ltd, said that their findings will surprise many. Professor Gill told Infologue.com; “Security is facing a challenging time. The evidence suggests that security is not in a poor state, but there are issues that need to be addressed. The security sector needs to respond in a more co-ordinated way in highlighting with evidence what you get from a good security company that you don’t get from a bad one, and it needs to show how this can and is being achieved cost effectively.”
The survey participants consisted of; 209 buyers of security (End users – of which 151 described themselves as the corporate security specialist), 509 directors or managers of security businesses (providers) and 504 security operatives. An interesting aspect of this survey was the top 3 answers to a question on why security operatives leave;
An interesting comment from an end user was “When wages are kept low to enhance competitiveness in gaining contracts it does not in general attract the best quality personnel. Until buyers of security services are prepared to pay a fee that will include a higher level of wages to the security guard standards are unlikely to improve much apart from a small number of companies. “
Infologue.com believes that the results of the survey indicate that the security industry should consider how to pay more attention to the perceptions of their most valuable resource. This is difficult to achieve in a highly competitive environment when wages are part of the bargain.
Infologue.com wishes its readers a Merry Xmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2012
Bobby Logue – Editor