Can Britain’s Security Industry follow Europe and embrace a more creative approach?
Regardless of global geography, the central approach to the provision of security should be very simple: identify the risks faced by the subject, and then develop measures to neutralise, or otherwise control, those risks.
Regional threat profiles can be incredibly complex, but it is often the ‘headline risks’ that will inevitably be the determining factors in shaping attitude and approach to security.
In Europe we are highly sensitive to the threat of terrorist activity within our major cities, across Africa and South America the emphasis is on aggravated crime, in Asia recent natural disasters have had huge impact and in the US gun related incidents do not abate.
These are all risks which need to be addressed and where the efficacy and culture of law enforcement and emergency services is limited, private firms will capitalise upon commercial opportunity and fill the available space created by market demand.
National characteristics to security solutions
Economic differences and the legal requirements of particular regions must also not be ignored as these can have a marked effect on the delivery of security services. For example, provision of contracted security services across much of Europe is regulated to the extent that users have limited choice in determining the scale of their annual spend. In more remote regions, such as parts of Northern Europe, a lack of competition keeps prices at the top end of the scale. The economists amongst us must also wonder what the US security market would look like without large-scale unionisation.
These variations are entirely logical and easily understood when closely examined. What is harder to fathom is the effect of cultural differences between countries. South Africa and Israel reputedly have the strongest ‘security cultures’ in the world and in Scandinavia and the US users have a greater appetite to spend more on a premium service.
Security becomes less of a grudge purchase, better technology is developed at a faster rate and the uniformed security officer is a far more respected role in the workplace.
National characteristics such as these help drive standards and innovation forward to the benefit of the industry. It is in this area that Britain is in danger of falling behind the rest of Europe.
Britain certainly takes its security seriously and the myriad threats faced by our cities and infrastructure are seldom ignored. In recent years we have faced many large-scale incidents, some of which have been catastrophic, and our emergency services and private security providers have always responded rapidly and professionally. These incidents shape our risk profile and serve as a constant reminder of the very serious task we face. As providers of security services we are familiar with the frequent request made by our clients’ procurement teams to be innovative and add value and, as a result of operating in a saturated marketplace, we are painfully aware of the importance of these service features. Unfortunately, recognising the importance of something and actually addressing it are two different things.
We are naturally conservative as a nation and our leading service providers have lacked the imagination and foresight to drive the type of innovative blended or total solution – a combination of security personnel and technology operating in unison – that has been commonplace in most of Europe for well over ten years. And, whilst security providers must take responsibility for limitations in their service offerings, the buyers and users of security services must also shoulder some of the blame for this situation.
There is no shortage of expertise among the in-house security management community, but there is most certainly a reluctance to actively embrace new methodology. This is apparent across the security industry from when we consider client specification of services which allow no scope for creativity to the vast number of security companies which all seem to provide exactly the same service or product.
Security in all regions requires a more imaginative approach, if only to provide additional options for users to consider how to deal with their individual risk profiles.
Creative security solutions
We face interesting times ahead here in the UK. As operating margins in security guarding services can surely go no lower, security users seek reduced costs and increased value and we are all acutely aware of how important security is to both the business and wider communities.
There can be no better time to be creative and explore new ways to satisfy the need for providers to make a profit and users to cut costs, all under the warm blanket of increased security protection?
Regardless of regional economic, regulatory or cultural differences, security service providers owe a duty of care to their clients to offer and drive increasingly creative security solutions which mitigate risks and offer true value. A good way to do this may be to identify smarter technology and integrate it with guarding services. This offers users a complete solution from a single source which surely must be an appealing addition to the security marketplace?
Area Develoment Director, Securitas