Peter Webster – A measure of accountability

Peter Webster - Chief Executive of Corps Security
Peter Webster - Chief Executive of Corps Security

“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.”

Corps Security Website

Opinions expressed by contributors and commentators do not necessarily reflect the views of or Interconnective Limited.