With tens of millions of customers in more than 150 countries, Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions. Small wonder that when the Bank reviewed its security requirements for all regions outside of the USA, it was looking for a security partner capable of providing much more than basic everyday services. After an exhaustive market evaluation, it found that VSG, the UK’s fastest growing company in the security sector, was an ideal match for its needs. Key to the decision to appoint VSG was the company’s proven experience with blue-chip clients in providing a very wide range of services. Accordingly, the security contract for UK and Ireland was awarded to VSG in June 2006.
The scope of the work has expanded almost continuously over the intervening period and, at the time of writing, VSG has 160 dedicated employees working on the contract. A significant recent development that typifies the growing breadth of VSG’s services for the Bank is the addition of Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM or, as it is sometimes known, electronic counter surveillance) to its remit.With evidence of electronic crime in the financial world increasing daily, the VSG team has now started routinely carrying out TSCM activities that include bug sweeping, checking for the presence of phone taps and remote monitoring devices, and other counter-espionage measures. Should a problem be detected, VSG calls on its own TSCM specialists to implement a fast and effective solution.
As might be expected, in addition to these new services that offer an effective response to emerging threats, the VSG contract with Bank of America has, from the outset, included standard security services. Typical of these are front-of-house operations, which involve monitoring and controlling access to the bank’s premises, manning and operating security control rooms, and patrolling the sites.Also provided by the VSG team are close protection security services for the Bank’s executives when they are travelling, especially if their itinerary involves any of the world’s many less secure locations.
Even the control room staffing services provided by VSG are out of the ordinary. In addition to closely monitoring UK sites, the three UK control rooms also handle alarms for the Bank’s operations in no fewer than 57 other countries. In many of these countries, English is not widely spoken so, to ensure fast accurate communication, VSG has implemented a translation service. This means that, in the event of an alarm being received from an overseas location, the VSG control room operator can have a skilled interpreter on the line in less than 30 seconds. Some of the services provided by VSG are well outside the remit of normal security operators but, nevertheless, are an invaluable aid to the smooth running of the Bank’s business. An excellent example is healthcare support.
The Bank has a large number of employees, and it also receives a high volume of visitors. It’s not surprising, therefore, that from time to time medical emergencies – anything from a simple trip or fall to a full-blown heart attack – occur. When they do, a member of the VSG security team is invariably one of the first on the scene. For this reason, VSG has invested in providing all members of its team comprehensive training as Emergency Medical Care Practitioners (EMCP). They are, therefore, able to deal with medical crises efficiently, confidently and safely. In fact, their abilities in this area are widely acknowledged and respected by the ambulance crews that serve the Bank of America sites.
“Though we’re nominally a third-party security service provider, we are, for all practical purposes, a totally integrated part of the Bank’s organisation,” said Philip Jones, VSG’s Account Director for the Bank of America contract. “That gives us a huge amount of flexibility, and means that we can provide almost any service that’s useful to the Bank, provided that it doesn’t interfere with our core operations. In line with this philosophy, we’ve recently extended our healthcare services beyond dealing with emergencies,” he continued. “We now routinely assist staff who need regular healthcare provision, such as daily blood pressure checks. Without doubt, our primary role is to maintain security at every level, but we also see ourselves as an organisation that’s in place to assist our clients in every way possible to run their businesses efficiently and profitably.”
Among the many other specialised behind-the-scenes services provided by VSG is IT support for the Bank’s international security systems. Three full-time systems analysts from VSG are permanently on-site at the Bank’s UK data centre in London. Their role is not only to maintain the powerful servers used to underpin access control, CCTV and intruder detection systems, but also to balance the data load so that they always operate at peak efficiency, as well as to develop and implement new software solutions to enhance security operations.
“The real key to the success of operations for the Bank of America and, indeed, for all of our other clients is the quality and flexibility of our staff,” said Philip. “To ensure this, we make very large investments in training, we select our staff very carefully, and we reward their efforts with excellent salaries and benefits. This pays off – our staff turnover is negligible.”
This low staff turnover is an important benefit as it means that VSG employees always have time to get to know the client operations well and can, therefore, identify and address their needs quickly and efficiently. It also means that the staff can recognise the difference between a normal and abnormal occurrence on a site, which is a valuable aid in identifying potential security threats.
Paul Jackson, Regional Security Manager, Bank of America International Services, said, “When it comes to security service providers, I think it would be fair to say that we’re one of the world’s most demanding clients. Nevertheless, VSG has not only measured up to our expectations, but exceeded them in almost every area. We are delighted with the quality of the service VSG provides, and with the company’s flexibility in adapting its range of services to suit our evolving needs. We need the best in security and with VSG, I believe we’ve got it.”