Nearly 100 delegates gathered for the fifth annual Thought Leadership Summit, ahead of the 2023 OSPAs ceremony at the end of February, to hear from expert speakers and a former terrorist about the state of the security industry today.
The summit was organised by the Outstanding Security Performance Awards (OSPAs) in association with the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) and is firmly established in the security calendar as a platform to debate, confront and challenge the many issues that face our sector.
This year’s summit and awards dinner were held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on 23 February.
Certification and buyer confidence
The summit delegates heard from a range of notable speakers and had a chance to debate and ask questions.
Richard Jenkins, chief executive of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI), was making one of his last appearances before he stepped down after nine years in the role.
He highlighted the work of the NSI to ‘squeeze the curve’, that is, reduce the variation in the quality of work being done by security integrators. But looking beyond the success they had achieved there, he said there was a need to ‘shift the curve’ and develop new schemes to address key issues such as the cyber security of physical security systems.
In the manned security sector, work is proceeding on eliminating rogue labour within the labour supply chain by getting COP 119: Code of Practice for Labour Provision adopted as a British standard, hopefully next year. He said 70-80% of the security industry are aware of provisions to avoid rogue labour in the industry without any intervention from the British Standards Institution (BSI), but greater compliance rates can be achieved with the further help and support of the quality end of the market.
Public private partnerships
David Ward from DW Associates spoke next about the barriers and opportunities of public and private sector collaboration, using the real-life case study of combatting terrorism in the City of London.
A recurring theme in discussions about collaboration is the competing ideologies of the private and public sectors, one driven by profit and other by a public-service ethos.
As the founding chair of the City Security Council, David was instrumental in bringing together 40 security companies in the belief that a collaborative approach was needed to tackle the rising threat of terrorism. This includes the patrolling of shared public/private areas, the so-called grey space, and rehearsing plans to respond jointly to major incidents.
He acknowledges the challenges of getting competitors to work together and sharing communications among them, but a great deal has been learned about partnership working between these companies and other stakeholders such as the City of London Corporation and the City of London Police.
Lessons learned include the need to take account of different organisational cultures, change of personnel which can lead to a reset in relationships and the speed of decision making.
Having come from a commercial background himself, he said it took a while to appreciate why public sector organisations needed more time to consult with internal stakeholders and make decisions; they have a great many responsibilities and people to work with.
If he had the opportunity to do it over, a lesson he would take from his experience was the need to establish a written strategic plan from the beginning and to engage with senior personnel from the public sector at an earlier stage.
The summit then moved on to the question of what the insurance sector thinks of the security industry, a perennial issue for two industries which are joined at the hip but often struggle to walk in lockstep.
Mark Dunham, chair of RISCAuthority and head of technical underwriting at AVIVA, said it is in the interests of clients and insurers to prevent and mitigate incidents rather than pick up the pieces after an event.
The role of the security industry is to provide that risk management, drive up standards and develop new products and services.
However, the only way that the insurance industry has of judging the efficacy of security services and products is accreditation. Without this, nothing would be insurable, or at least not at a premium that clients could afford.
Looking forward to the Protect Duty, based on Martyn’s Law and born out of the tragedy of the Manchester Arena bombing, Mark said organisations would be given added responsibilities to protect people outside premises.
However, the details of this are not entirely clear, he said, and the industry is not very good at delivering consistent advice to the various sectors that will be affected by the new legislation.
Amanda Gentle, senior manager for individual standards at the Security Industry Authority (SIA), along with Tony Holyland from the Security Skills Board (SSB), took the stage to talk about developing security industry capabilities.
The SSB will soon appoint a research organisation to examine the current state of professional development in the security industry to inform the development of a capability framework.
Amanda noted that CIPD provides a fantastic professional framework which is very broad and easy to understand. It starts with a shared vision and an understanding of common behaviours that drive the industry.
Part of the research will be to map career pathways, including an examination of what an accelerated career pathway in the security industry would look like.
The SSB would like to hear from private security organisations, HR directors and security professionals and associations to help inform its capability research and develop the careers map. How the industry can help:
- Provide anonymised data such as unbranded job descriptions
- Take part in employee interviews to help define behaviours, knowledge and skills required for good performance
- Take part in focus groups to define the purpose of private security and values which underpin it
- Be part of a wider capability working group and provide feedback and help to validate the research
The panel discussion on purchasing good security looked at the modern drivers of buying decisions and featured three notable speakers: Clare Rogers, senior operations manager for services at the NSI, Joanne Kennedy, commercial lead at Crown Commercial Service and Mike Reddington, CEO at the BSIA.
Mike observed that procurement of quality security services has been undermined by customers who will purchase at least cost, regardless of quality of service or personnel. As a consequence, the quality end of the market, as represented by the BSIA, are affected by companies who don’t observe standards or even work cash-in-hand.
He said the Protect Duty may help to change that and will be a good opportunity to upskill security officers, but he questioned how it will be funded, especially if end users continue to buy on price.
The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) aims to help the public sector save money when buying common goods and services such as security. Joanne said that CCS public sector customers tread a fine line between quality and price when it comes to buying security.
She noted that procurement teams are not generally industry specialists and need input from the experts to help them as they balance the financial and operational risks of procuring these essential services.
Clare looks after the guarding and cash regulation schemes at the NSI, and she lamented that much of the industry is cost driven. She noted that retail security officers are often paid a pound less per hour than store clerks which undermines morale and staff retention.
In the end, the panel agreed that the solution to properly valuing the industry is to influence the buyers so that they have a proper appreciation of the risks of failing to invest in security.
Improving the industry’s image
What are the main obstacles to improving the industry’s image and how can these be overcome? That was the question that was put to the next two speakers, Sarah Jane Cork, managing director at Bidvest Noonan and Peter Harrison MBA, managing director at FGH Security.
Sarah began her remarks by talking about the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace. She said a key part of reforming the image of the industry is to make it more welcoming to a broader cross section of society.
She said that the leadership of organisations need to be more authentic and operate transparently.
Peter said the biggest job for organisations is developing more leaders and getting rid of the poorly performing ones. He said security industry leadership is becoming more business focussed – security knowledge is needed at the bottom and middle layers of management, but at the top, the most important quality was business acumen.
Sarah added that the industry needs to have clear career pathways from frontline duties to management, asking, why can’t the industry retain the middle management and why do so many women move out of the industry?
Martin Gill asked, if they could do one thing to improve the industry’s image, what would it be? Sarah said the industry needs to embed EDI within the culture. Peter said the industry needs business licensing, saying that would result in higher wages and EDI on the back of good leadership.
The ex-offender view
Because of insights gained from his academic research, Martin is always keen to include the views of former offenders when talking about security. For this year’s event, we were fortunate to be able to welcome Frank Portinari to join us.
Frank described his journey from football hooliganism to becoming a senior loyalist paramilitary for the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
He said that in some respects it was not a big jump to go from one to the other. In each group, you will find natural leaders who can lead people into doing things that they wouldn’t otherwise do. Frank discovered that he was one of those leaders, and he said having the respect and kudos was a powerful drug.
He said that any group will naturally view itself as the ‘defenders’ which enables its members to justify their actions. It’s only when your actions become truly extreme that you begin to realise what you are actually doing, he said.
Even being caught and going to prison doesn’t change the hardened offender, he said, because it’s viewed as a badge of honour. He said prison was not a deterrent or a rehabilitation. The only aspect of prison that scared him was the fear that he was hurting his family by leaving them vulnerable.
Martin asked him if there was anything when he was young that would have changed the course of his life. Frank replied instantly that education would have made the difference. He came from a poor family and went out to work as soon as he could, where he fell under the influence of some bad people.
However, it has turned out well for Frank. He has written a book about his experiences and he runs Turnkey Tours in Camden that looks at the darker side of local life including crime, witchcraft and terrorism.
* Following the highly successful summit, more than 500 members of the security industry attended the OSPA awards dinner to honour the best of the best in our industry. A list of this year’s winners and finalists can be found at uk.theospas.com.