Online Interview: Geoff Zeidler (Country President Securitas UK & Ireland)

Geoff Zeidler
Geoff Zeidler

Just when the security industry thought it was safe to get back in the water after Securitas had acquired the business of Reliance Security Services, Geoff Zeidler, Country President Securitas UK & Ireland, and Vice President of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), hooked another acquisition, Chubb Security Personnel, writes Editor Bobby Logue. Two great deals but now comes the real challenge, the enormous task of merging three leading security companies (three out of the six largest UK security companies) into a single super brand (the second largest company in the UK regulated sector). went to visit Geoff Zeidler to find out how Securitas was progressing and to discuss the other major story dominating the news, the future of regulation in the UK.

Creating an Industry Leading Security Company

With his naturally easy style Geoff Zeidler responded that Securitas, Chubb and Reliance are three great companies with a clear focus on security. Whilst all three companies had similar back office functions, the delivery models were different. Chubb and Securitas had local structures whilst Reliance had a more centralised operations. Zeidler commented, “The real challenge has been how to create a single Future Business Model, because each of the businesses had their own structure, systems and processes, whilst at the same time, making sure the customer service we were delivering was not majorly disrupted. It’s changing the engines without landing the plane! This is always a balance between the shorter major disruption of revolution, and the risk of uncertainty in evolution. Given the scope and scale of the task we have focused on the latter and success has come through our people on the ground. We have done our best to be open and give them visibility and confidence as to what was happening; and they have had to take on the challenging task of covering for the issues that have arisen during the journey, making sure that officers and customers are aware of what is going on and managing activities that are normally processed on an automated basis. They have been magnificent”

“The Securitas model is about the branch management who need to be motivated and able to take responsibility. I won’t say it is simple but that really is what it is about. Securitas is a very operational company and these teams are the core. In the background we are defining and implementing the systems for the future with their input and assistance.” Commenting on Securitas’ heritage, Geoff added: “Securitas is a sound base to start from as it is a large company, with focus on local delivery. We operate with strong systems that will support a national level of service, whilst enabling our people to take responsibility for their business locally. Bringing together the three organisations has given us the volume and density required to improve service through better relief officer availability; and make segmentation economically feasible. Whilst the majority of our business maintains a geographic focus we now have the capability to develop branches and Areas which focus on customer segments and can develop deep understanding of their issues and the specialist services that are relevant to them.”

The Future of Regulation

Moving on to the hot industry topic, the proposed regulatory changes, which are likely to come into effect post 2012 London Olympics, Geoff Zeidler spoke of numerous debates that he has had with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) leadership on the future of regulation of the Security Industry. He believes that the route as spelt out in the SIA blueprint released earlier this year is good. He says he understands why the Government of the day started with licensing individuals, but has always believed that if security companies are to be regarded as credible providers, they need to be responsible for the regulatory requirements including “the people on the ground”. Geoff explained, “I personally believe the move towards business registration (licensing) which says these are credible organisations that meet minimum standards. I believe there should be a hurdle that can be raised adequately not to remove competition but to ensure the credibility of the industry is maintained. That’s all I would ask of regulation.”

Geoff’s views on the Approved Contractors Scheme (ACS) are well known: “There has long been the discussion about the need for higher levels of standards and differentiation within the ACS. I disagree. I think that ACS has established a credible minimum standard which can be used as the basis for business licensing that establishes a threshold of demonstrated capability and integrity. Additional levels are not part of regulation. If Security companies and customers want an additional accreditation or standard then ACS has credibility and may have value in that context, but my view is that the difference in scope and service requirements between different customers can be so great additional standards may be misleading. This is because a higher standard service criteria may make customers think that high ACS score is what they need. However, that higher ACS may not incorporate specializations or capabilities that are relevant to a customer, and in using an ACS benchmark to represent “higher quality” some customers may get less than they should expect. Securitas want the threshold to be high to make sure all customers can have great confidence in their Security provider; and after that we will continue to do what we do best which is focusing on the customer, developing the service to their customer needs rather than on securing every standard accreditation.”

“The ACS has been a very good step in establishing a benchmark, even though some local authorities and government bodies still don’t necessarily use ACS accredited suppliers. A strong move towards business registration (licensing) with a minimum standard would really raise the quality and credibility of the industry, assisting us to demonstrate the true value of Security” concluded Zeidler.

Focused Security or Bundled Services?

Geoff ZeidlerMoving on again, we spoke about the recent analogy used by Securitas AB President and CEO, Alf Göransson: “If you had a serious heart problem – who would you see? A cardiologist or your family doctor? If you had serious security concerns, I would strongly recommend seeing a security specialist rather than a service bundler. We believe in specialisation, not diversification.” asked Geoff Zeidler why Securitas believed that in most cases a security specialist would be better than a bundled service provider. Geoff said he believed the selection of the right type of service rested with the customer and their specific requirements. Using Alf Göransson’s analogy he said, “If you had a heart problem you would not mess around. If you cut your finger you might just go down to the chemist and get a plaster. So the question is really – what level of risk are you actually addressing, and in understanding this, who could be your appropriate providers? However, I think that the challenge that does exist for a lot of people is that risk, and how Security can work to mitigate this, is not fully understood. A large number of companies are investigating how they can integrate security into facilities management in an attempt to reduce cost; but if you look at large international businesses there almost always remains an independent security function due to the need to manage risk. Security is something where, if you have a failure, it will impact the business, it may even stop the business. Generally a lot of the other related soft services are enablers to the business. You do not stop work if your office is not clean or if one of the lights is out, but if someone has stolen your laptop, you do. So, there are different impacts on businesses and I think the customer has to consider the true risk of not having a Security specialist.”

In making choices about security services Zeidler believes there are key questions a customer needs to consider, such as:

  • What risks do I bear?
  • What real savings actually exist by bundling services?
  • What benefit is there from bundling services?

Zeidler says he has yet to meet a customer who says that they receive a better service from bundling services in each of the individual streams as a result. He believes there is an acceptance that there must be some form of compromise in the selection of which service route to use and whether the financial benefit of the compromise is actually worthwhile. He does not believe that there is any empirical evidence that demonstrates a series of centrally procured services are cheaper to deliver, other than in some elements of the management thereof and often costs are displaced rather than removed. He further believes that security requires a different style of management from other bundled service streams. “Securitas has a clear view that security and safety are both part of the same set of issues that impact businesses and is a problem that needs to be considered as a whole. The capital investment side, the technologies you use, and the people on site that support those systems are a single problem that needs to be managed and is totally different to the set of other business services which are provided.”

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation

Geoff ZeidlerHaving trawled through many previous interviews with Zeidler, Göransson and other Securitas luminaries we see innovation is a major part of their vocabulary. So, what does innovation mean to Securitas? Suddenly an extra dose of passion flickered in Geoff Zeidler’s eyes: “Innovation is a great topic and it is one that Securitas people are always very keen to talk about. It is always quite exciting to talk about innovation. I think the first thing you have to realise with innovation is there are so many different types and, at times, it is part of a process.”

“The Reliance Red Book is a well-known ideas development process which has created a number of great innovations some of which may not appear as being earth shattering but each is an improvement in the service and quality of what is being delivered. I think the focus on innovation in Securitas has revealed some of the technical capabilities that we can bring to bear. We won an award in 2009 deploying Over C technology which allowed us to understand the capability and challenge of phone enabled positioning technologies. We have developed this and developed a more specialised Secure Retail product that starts to really support the customers business * and ensure they have confidence in the service that is actually being delivered, and more interestingly, how we can prevent service issues for our customers.” Zeidler added, “Another innovation that springs to mind is our CCTV van which we took to our Innovations Conference in Portugal, where all of the Securitas countries come together to showcase their ideas. The CCTV van, which can be deployed in collaboration with Marks and Spencer’s if they have issues in parking lots; protestors, travellers or other group behaviours, can be very quickly deployed. It is a great deterrent, very visible and extremely cost effective. It can also assist in arrests. One may ask whether the CCTV van is anything more than a mobile camera, but the way it is set up, and integrated with other capabilities, means we are able to provide our customers with something innovative.”

Diamonds are a Customer’s Best Friend

When reading the 2010 Securitas Annual Report noticed the addition of another critical business tool to the Securitas business armoury, the Diamond Box. We were curious as to what this tool was and whether it was in addition to the industry respected Securitas Toolbox, which sits at the core of the Securitas culture. Zeidler explained, “You rightly say the Securitas Toolbox is at the core of the Securitas culture. The Toolbox is designed to support the company internally on how to manage its business. When I joined the company a few years ago I found it both an extremely clever tool because it is very simple but, in keeping you focused on a few things, and really focused, it really helps you to manage effectively. Whilst the toolbox is a fantastic management tool, I found it frustrating that it did not include a tool that to take out to the customer to design their security service. I think that was an issue shared by our colleagues in the States, who were the first to develop and trial the Diamond Box. Within the Diamond Box they have created a separate tool that is very much about designing the service with the customer. The Diamond Box consists of four quadrants which focuses on what the customer requirements are, properly specifying and understanding the security risks and creating an interactive discussion with the customer rather than just accepting the existing specification. All good Security companies will try to do this, and the Diamond Box creates a structured way of building the discussion and designing more intelligent solutions delivered through the Service Wheel. This has people at its centre, and defines the requirements of the people and security officers, the training, the technology, the tools and the other support functions that you need around that security officer to ensure the service you are going to provide is one that suits the customer, the customer’s risk profile, and their budget.”

“The Diamond Box is an external tool which is starting to be rolled out throughout Securitas at present and with it some of the specific production tools, technologies and other support capabilities that we are developing as part of innovation in the company. All of the senior management of the merged companies (Chubb and Reliance) have now been through Toolbox training to understand the culture of our business,” enthused Geoff Zeidler.

My Securitas, the Company Wikipedia

“Another great example is My Securitas, an exciting innovation in which Securitas has invested a lot of money to establish a web-based knowledge tool with about seven thousand users currently on-line. My Securitas enables its users to tap into information and find other experts with solutions to issues experienced by similar customers around the world”, concluded Zeidler. then asked for some examples of how My Securitas is working in practice “We were looking at doing some testing on a hand-held tool. One of my area directors was going over to the States on holiday and he had a customer in the UK that was quite interested in some of the things they were doing over there. He went on to My Securitas and discovered that the same customer had a couple of sites, and a colleague who was working on similar tools, not far from where he was staying. I am afraid he then spent part of his holiday reviewing the project so he could feedback information to the business and customer in the UK! So, in terms of connecting people and enabling people to solve problems it has proved it can work; and I am sure that in time it will grow, develop and become another core element of our business.

Leadership – Achieving the Mission through Leadership, Capability, Community and Sharing Success

Geoff ZeidlerOne of Geoff Zeidler’s first tasks when joining Securitas in September 2008 was to attend the Securitas leadership conference in November of that year, attended by approximately eighty of the Securitas senior management team. The key theme of the conference was to agree the Mission Statement for the business and identify the critical measurements to ensure achievement of the principles thereof. Zeidler takes up the story, “The Mission Statement was quite clear – “To be seen by all stakeholders as the most successful security company in the UK and Ireland by 2012.” The emphasis on being “seen” by everyone – whether it was the unions, customers, industry or officers, and respected by all in industry. “In regard to ‘success’, we were very clear what ‘success’ meant. It did not mean the biggest, although recent events might suggest that was the aspiration. It was not only about customer service, it was about the things that make the company and industry respected, about bringing the global capabilities and culture of Securitas to the UK & Ireland. However, it is all very well to have a nice Mission Statement but what use (is that) if you do not do anything about it? The route we chose as the focus for action was four Critical Steps”

“The first of these was Security Leadership. We are focused on security and we believe that we had to be able to demonstrate through service and innovation that Securitas are leaders in the industry.”

“The second was Capability. This is about building the capability of our management and officers, through a commitment to training, specialisation, and to support.”

“The third was Community. This is about building communities with the officers, customers and the local branches we operate in. There are many great stories I would love to share about the things that people have engaged in, and Securitas see it as critical that we support people in building Communities and bringing people together.”

“The final step is Sharing Success with the customers, staff and officers. This includes building operational best practice to give a better service and then sharing it with customers and officers through better pricing, pay and terms & conditions”, concluded Zeidler.

Later this year, will produce additional articles with an in depth look at some of the areas discuss during this interview. In the meantime, like many of you we will continue to watch in anticipation the development of the new Securitas in the UK & Ireland.

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