With the first signs of economic recovery beginning to show, Geoff Zeidler, Chairman of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), explores the possible implications on the UK’s private security industry and the needs of its customers.
“Can we hope that 2014 is finally the start of economic recovery? Certainly, all signs seem to be pointing this way: the stock market has reached record highs, with good growth and inflation figures and increasing business confidence demonstrated by a rise in mergers and acquisitions. If this is indeed the beginning of the end for the downturn, what might this mean for our industry and the customers we serve?
“For me, burgeoning economic recovery means that we as an industry are presented with an opportunity to change customer thinking, and turn the security market away from its destructive focus on price towards an increased focus on investment in infrastructure, coupled with a more considered view of value and risk.
“The impact of the economic downturn has certainly been keenly felt within the security market, with the last five years bringing particular structural consequences for our market. Business cuts across most sectors have led to a change in the role and authority of many corporate Security managers, companies’ risk expertise often reducing as a result. An increased focus on cost has also led to an intensification in the role of procurement professionals in the tender process, meaning that decisions are often made by those with little or no security expertise.
“With cost-saving remaining the focus of many end-user businesses, the concept of ‘bundling’ security services has become more prevalent, with many businesses opting to follow that route without an appropriate evaluation of the consequences. Reduced expertise within our customer base, coupled with service aggregation and an increased role of procurement personnel in the decision-making process has changed the way our industry interacts with its customers, and it is highly likely that these elements will continue to be a legacy of the recession for several years to come.
“The picture is also changing from an industry point of view, faced by the uncertainty around the future structure and cost of business licensing against a backdrop of continuing consolidation and import threats brought on by a strengthening pound. Margins may also be adversely affected by the influence of European standards and the Government’s intention to change minimum wage, which I do not believe are natural conditions for building a valued, independent security market post-recession.
“Demonstrating the value to end-users of a more considered approach to security procurement, based on more than just cost, is a key challenge facing our industry as we emerge from the economic downturn. Our stakeholders are a diverse and fragmented group, and ensuring that the benefits of security are championed to all of these key audiences is critical for the future health of our industry.
“As Chairman of the BSIA, I hope that the Association will continue to play an active role in conveying these important messages, both to Government and to our end-user stakeholder groups. Already, the Association has formed and Chaired the Security Regulation Alliance to respond to the SIA’s New Regulatory Regime; co-ordinated standards in the UK and EU such as practical guidance on CCTV planning, design & installation compliance through BSIA Form 109; supported professionalism through its investment in Skills for Security; and is growing membership and building stronger alignment with bodies representing both Individuals working in the sector and other stakeholders.
“Combined, this work is helping to create a cohesive, coordinated approach, which not only adds value to BSIA member companies but also supports the wider security industry as a whole, playing an important role in giving the industry a collective voice against an ever-changing economic and regulatory backdrop.
“Despite the positive signs of emerging economic growth, our industry continues to face a wide range of challenges, and at this crucial juncture, the industry needs a champion for integrated security that coordinates capabilities across all risks, makes a strong case for the business benefits security provides, and ensures that stakeholders’ focus shifts from pure cost to the importance of investment and risk evaluation. The BSIA is stepping up to be that champion through its broad-based membership and wider engagement; and I hope that for any business that aspires to be successful, they will find an active role in the BSIA will prove their best investment.”
For more information about the BSIA and its role in supporting the industry, visit www.bsia.co.uk