An interview with Guy Mathias Security Commonwealth Chairman
We caught up with Guy Mathias FSyl Chairman of the Security Commonwealth to find out more about his background, views and ideas for taking the security sector forward.
Guy is a well-known expert in Extremism and has lectured widely on the threat it poses. This follows his role with Huntingdon Life Sciences where he directed counter-extremist operations during a campaign of public order threat, violence and intimidation. He is Chair of the Food and Drink Security Association and has held many other leadership roles in security. Guy is now the risk and operations director at a major drinks manufacturer and well placed to take the Security Commonwealth to the next stage.
What are your goals and priorities for the Security Commonwealth under your chairmanship?
To maintain our key strategic aims of ‘Collaboration, Communication and Influence’. We represent over 40 constituent member bodies and seek to channel their contribution and considerable resources, when required, to support UK national security challenges and emerging issues.
We intend to be involved at as many national security events in 2019 as our resources permit, to continue our aims of developing positive relationships with our existing and new stakeholders. We will assist in signposting a clear pathway for awareness of our sector and reinforce the collaboration between Public/Private sector.
We want to promote skills profiling and the most effective ways to ensure our stakeholders can find and obtain the right skill sets for their roles and future careers in security. We would like to see further consultation on how to support apprenticeships (especially the Trailblazer scheme supported by the Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers Community – RISC) as well as mentoring initiatives. Whilst we wish to attract young people to make a security profession a first-choice career, we should also continue to support those who seek to move from law enforcement SyCom supports the UK Public/Private objective in fulfilling our economic potential to market our world-class private security resources on the domestic and international trade stages.
How do you see partnership working between the security sector and law enforcement evolving?
I very much hope that I can build on the effective steps to date that my SyCom Chair and their Board predecessors have undertaken to develop and promote linkage. Our law enforcement colleagues are doing a magnificent job in the many demanding areas of policing in which they provide a first-class service, whilst under the ever-challenging landscape of budgetary constraint. It would be remiss not to acknowledge, however, that these cuts are having an impact.
It behoves the private sector to support UK policing with the most effective partnership arrangements; for example, assistance in intelligence provision and analysis capabilities to deliver against the law enforcement mission in combating fraud; data theft; on-line stalking, grooming and exploitation of children; and Serious & Organised Crime (notably Human Trafficking/Slavery). Our members do have a range of skills to support, if required. With the right protocols in place, we are sure that these could be used to assist law enforcement in certain areas.
Our desire is that all our SyCom membership are champions in support of UK security, to promote best practice, shared learning and professional competency.
How do you think the security sector should evolve to meet the challenges it faces?
Our sector has to become ever more professional, upskilled, and diligent in process and application. The challenge will be to embrace this aspiration and then apportion funding to achieve this necessary aspiration.
There is a real need for all constituent bodies to work together and we have the vehicle already in place to aid this collaborative effort in the Security Commonwealth.
What are your views on career paths and career development within security?
Absolutely essential… and vital. All of us as stakeholders in the Security and Risk sector, working in whatever industry sector, should be promoting this at every opportunity with great vigour and supporting at a personal and professional level.
You are Risk and Operations Director for Suntory, plus Chair of the Food and Drink Security Association – what are the particular challenges and threats facing security in this sector?
Having canvassed FDSA members regarding this question, the response was most interesting as a myriad array of threats exist. The massive attritional threat from data and cybercrime that continues to vex us. The scale of attack is relentless but in my view this would be no different to every other business or industry sector in the UK.
The other main threats to the food industry at this time are aimed at supply chain integrity and protection, particularly thefts, threats to sabotage products and animal rights activism. The threat of a tainted supply chain beyond our control remains a threat in food as with collusion and mixing of tainted raw materials.
In our drinks sector, it is product counterfeiting, and for our retail members, organised shoplifting and violent crime.
The food production supply chain is always subject to vulnerability because of the role that people play in the process, either as production worker or consumer. Effective security enforcement is challenging due to the numbers of ‘people’ involved. Few businesses are willing to police their workers effectively to provide additional security, which will always leave a level of residual risk, so the challenge is managing the risk appetite
Budget reductions have resulted in a declining police presence in many areas, especially given the societal need to address the rise in violent crime. As a consequence, criminal investigations that involve food fraud, contamination where no injury has occurred or where the risk is a commercial one through loss of reputation, have suffered. However, the relationship between security professionals and law enforcement and government agencies is one of the most positive aspects in the industry at this time. FDSA benefits enormously from effective liaison with national policing units, the National Food Crime Agency and UK Government departments.
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has begun a phased expansion in line with the recommendations of the Kenworthy review.
This increases the investigations function as well as creating officers to work with other law enforcement partners and industry.
The unit looks to work with industry to improve their capacity and capability to identify food crime and strengthen identified areas of vulnerability.
NFCU needs good, accurate intelligence to enable us to deal with suspects quickly and effectively so as to protect the public, UK plc and individual companies as affected.
This needs good, strong relationships and NFCU looks to develop new ones, and consolidate those already established.
How would you describe the current threat from extremism?
Sadly, Single-Issue Extremism is still a very real and current threat. Overshadowed (and understandably so) by the continuing over-arching threat from international terrorism, many extremist concerns continue to exist and provide a need for companies and organisations at risk to continue awareness and vigilance. The extremist landscape concerning protest is extremely agile with considerable resources of time, funding and intelligence-led targeting available to a diverse number of protest campaign groups.
The ‘old’ stalwarts remain in various stages of vigour (whilst some require resuscitation!) – Animal Rights, Anti-Fracking, Extreme Left /Right wing, Plane Crazy and Anti-Arms in particular – but there are emerging ‘new kids on the block’ such as Yellow Vest and Extinction Rebellion (climate and species change).
Throughout our history and especially in times of economic turbulence and political uncertainty, protest groups attract a diverse range of people for a variety of reasons – be it disaffected or alienated individuals who seek an outlet for frustrations, a sense of injustice or a clear, unequivocal narrow view of how they see our world. Mix the right elements of protest together with the right people at the right time and it can lead to a perfect storm of tactical and strategic protest that will, on occasions, blur the lines between legitimate peaceful, democratic protest and, at worst, intimidation, harassment and criminal behaviours.
Policing resources have waned over the past years in comparison with what was in place, albeit the remaining specialist units maintain a clear focus and extremely adept intelligence monitoring capabilities to be proactive in preparation and suitably reactive when required.
We finished by finding out more about Guy, starting with: what led you to choose a career in security?
It was an area in which I wanted to genuinely make a difference and one that I felt contained huge potential to develop as a practitioner, and hopefully, illustrate that people can lead successful and meaningful careers.
What attributes do you think have helped you succeed in your career?
Patience, empathy, a modicum of intelligence, sheer hard work… and invaluable support from a huge raft of people over the years.
How important have qualifications been to your success?
In my early days not overly important but latterly, in terms of professional development they have been essential as I have moved through various security and risk sector trade association and member bodies.
Was there a key individual or mentor who helped you achieve success?
Yes, there were actually two – I would pay a huge debt of thanks to Geoff Whitfield, one of the founding fathers of the Security Institute, and Bill Trundley (ex-Corporate Security VP for GSK, now retired). Bill engendered a real belief in me as an SME and in my abilities to deliver against expectation and in periods of intense pressure and times of personal danger. Their support, encouragement and belief was incalculable for me in my fledgling career as a security professional.
Would you recommend security as a career?
Definitely – the world is one of great threat and danger and now is a fantastic time to enter a sector that is diverse, demanding but immensely rewarding in terms of challenges and developing appropriate skills.
Our area of security is managing and mitigating risk and the associated expectations of those who employ us. I speak to so many sector colleagues who remain frustrated that the intrinsic value of the role they provide is simply not recognised. The challenge, therefore, is to actively change this lack of recognition and indeed perception.
How do you relax outside work?
I still play football (yes, even at my age!), as well as lots of walking, cycling, reading and gardening. I spend my weekends in the country so it is a great opportunity to slow down the pace of body and mind.
I also enjoy my extra-curricular activities outside the day job, in my new appointments with both the Security Commonwealth and the CSSC Eastern Region, and ongoing with FDSA. I am honoured to chair all three bodies.
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