Annual survey 2023 of security professionals
The annual survey 2023 of security professionals in the UK highlights increasing appreciation and value their role which is much greater than pre-pandemic levels of trust and employer satisfaction against a background of corporate cost control.
Dealing with skills that are in short supply
Across all UK industries – creatives, hospitality, manufacturing, financial services and more – over a million vacancies are advertised every month, down by 30% from mid-2022, but still a significant number, against a backdrop of low unemployment. In answer to a question in this year’s survey to security leaders, ‘What is the significance of hiring talent?, the majority of responses placed this as a top 10 corporate priority and the eight in ten respondents had increased budgets to upskill existing personnel.
When benchmarking against other European countries with lower unemployment rates than the UK, upskilling and investing of employees is a top 5 priority for many. This is in tandem with a change in spending, decreasing guarding costs, whilst increasing physical security protection budgets. Respondents confirmed a direct correlation with vendor performance, and post-pandemic realisation that security management can be delivered in less labour-intensive ways.
Significant growth in analyst employment delivering geopolitical predictions, corporate ESG performance and competitor analysis are just some of the areas where security departments are adding vigilance to the corporation. Some of this is possible through big data machine learning and AI predictive learning. There are also greater third-party resources that can formulate styles and prediction parameters, accessing paid and publicly accessible databases.
Recently, we were in a presentation where a UK university has mapped the CO2 footprint of every power station, cement manufacturing plant and steel plant in the world. They even have the transportation miles recorded, so for ESG measurement you could relatively accurately predict your supply chain’s environmental footprint from raw materials to finished product.
Environmental, Societal and Governance
Security professionals have a substantial role to play in the ESG agenda – if they wish to. Most CSOs have a solid line into the components that are measured. Sustainability of the corporation, supply chain, business resilience, performance monitor through loss prevention, health, and safety. Societal around our direct actions in manufacturing, third parties’ use of our product and, therefore, our brand, or if you are a social media platform, the risk of a disgruntled user who arrives at the reception desk with a handgun as you have ruined their life. Risk in our operations, moving and protecting our assets including staff on a family holiday in Sudan, as a corporation we want to protect our people.
Environmentally many security leaders will have an oversight of functions that have controls that can assist the corporation in gathering real-time information, including building occupation, internal monitoring for small groups of workers that need non-core hours access, who could be assisted around a building through hologram assistance.
Recognising the work of the security professional
For many, changing your job has not been the priority for three years, due to the pandemic. Job security has been most people’s major concern. Employees have changed their behaviours, getting on with the job to hand: agile with reduced resources, ensuring that their job function has delivered for the business. Increasingly this has been recognised in the Board room. This year respondents reported that their remuneration has increased through job performance review and had outpaced the usually broader-based annual increase. We recorded increases of around 15% against a national prediction salary increase of 6.5% annually.
Security management job longevity has reduced from 14 years at a senior level to around seven years, multiple factors are at play such as Mergers & Acquisitions, smaller corporate footprint, role development and changing skills. We also have a rush of tech-savvy managers, who will use AI tools to secure more investment aligned with corporate values and readily move to companies that better support innovation.
Cyber security growth
There are an estimated 50,000 UK cyber security roles vacant against a National Cyber Security Centre prediction that 700,000 cyber roles need to be created in the UK. Tech entrepreneur Hermann Hauser recently emphasised at the NCSC CYBERUK conference the importance of collaboration. In a wide-ranging discussion, he said Britain has a tradition and history of leading cyber security. “If you look at all the nations in the world that have a working innovation system, it is all based on the interaction of universities, the government, and the finance community. It’s a team sport, if technology startups are a team sport, you’ve got to have all these players working together”.
Hermann further predicted that technology companies and startups will help grow the UK economy: growth from innovative breakthroughs that come out of universities or big research to labs. The ecosystems that now exist are the bases that allow you to build these companies much faster now than ever before. “We’ve just had the most spectacular example of that in Chat GPT, which went from zero to one million users in a week or so.”
Recent news and the number of tech entrepreneurs citing the dangers of AI, and the resignation of senior Google scientist Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “godfather of AI”, highlight how the world is unprepared for nefarious use of AI. After two years, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have bridged their differences and reached a provisional political deal on the world’s first Artificial Intelligence rulebook. Given the impact of GDPR, and sizable fines levied and continuing to be applied, this will be a concern to most corporations, and there are dangers through the wider application of AI technology that will keep security professionals busy.
To view the detailed results relating to the survey, see page 28 in the digital version of City Security magazine
Peter French MBE
SSR Personnel & Executive Profiles