Doing business globally in 2014 …
Despite a backdrop of recession, massive competition and a market beset with challenges, the UK security sector is leading the way when it comes to shaping best practice and innovation.
In fact, it is these very challenges that have pushed UK companies to the fore, forcing them to quickly adopt new technology and incorporate it within their core offering to clients – so much so that the security sector is now leading the client, something very different to days gone by when client demands shaped the sector.
An interesting dynamic is that due to the economic downturn and reduction in charge rates across the UK sector, UK companies are considering different ways of working that are more risk-based. For example, the removal of the security officer with other ways to secure locations has become the norm. It has also meant early adoption of better technology in Intellectual Property/access control and remote monitoring.
In my role, I have, over the past 12 months, been fortunate to travel to Europe, the US and NZ to gain a better understanding of the security sector in these countries. In general, they have not adopted this new approach and still have a siloed vision and operational approach to clients which is commoditised and which is leading a sluggish sector unable to cope with client demands for budget rationalisation. The US is a fitting example of clients buying in a silo mentality with no real integration in service delivery, meaning suppliers are all struggling with low margin and non-cohesive strategies.
When I discuss our approach to total security management, ie ownership of risk and integrating delivery using a cohesive strategy to ensure the clients’ risks are understood and mitigated, there is a puzzled look from my peers overseas. Mainly because they are unsure of how this would work in practice in their countries or whether their clients would entertain such an approach.
The events I have spoken at in different countries have been well attended and most of the audience have commented that this new approach makes sense and they want more information about how they could adopt it. This shows that their current model is exhausted due to a lack of profit in the silo-driven approach, which then drives a lack of perceived value – meaning low margins and a race to the bottom.
The UK needs to showcase its innovative approach and risk-based thinking across wider forums and start to lead the debate in other countries. At the moment the global security sector is driven by a handful of players who are operating across borders but in a country-centric way, adopting that country’s style and security culture, which is natural perhaps, but will not allow for intelligent, creative thinking.
Social media is one way in which we can start to influence the approach across the sector in global terms due to its wide digital reach. I also believe the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) could be a vehicle for the UK security sector to demonstrate and promote security in a more proactive way, and make a lot more noise around the sector. There are other groups that can also can play a part, such as ASIS International or the Security Institute who have cross-country membership and offer great debating platforms.
Global security future
As for the future, I believe the quality of companies and technology in the UK will see them expand their reach across the globe. We produce some of the most forward-thinking security professionals in the world because of the nature of the UK sector; it’s dynamic and driven and has to change continuously to keep up, and is an early adopter of technology to enhance service and the operational approach. The key now is to start taking these models abroad – this is starting to happen, although slowly and in niche areas.
Technology and the utilisation of new concepts will see the UK continue to thrive abroad and continue to lead the field. Risk is the key reason for clients to buy in all sectors and any country and this will not change. It is then about educating the client base so they can truly understand their risks and the way these risks can be mitigated using technology, remote management and flexible resource.
The globe is shrinking in terms of the way we communicate and access information to manage clients’ accounts and locations. The question will start to develop around standards and whether there could be standards that run across the sector from country to country.
My view is that this is some way off, but in some vertical sectors there is movement of ideals such as aviation standards or nuclear in terms of safety – the security sector as a whole is still far too siloed for standards to be set across the sector.
Bob Forsyth, MD, Mitie’s Total Security Management Business (at time of writing)