We asked Kevin Ward, Managing Director, Ward Security about the challenges faced by the security sector responding to Covid-19:
A turbulent transition to an uncertain future.
For most businesses, a major challenge is likely to be finding ways to operate sustainably and profitably within an increasingly uncertain Covid landscape, more so if and where providing frontline services or people is the bread and butter of a business. In such unprecedented times there is no way to ‘sugar coat’ the reality that security businesses, with the ongoing local and national lockdowns, reduced office usage and a move to remote working, are in for a bumpy ride, regardless of their size.
Many companies have rightly taken steps to protect their businesses by removing as many costs as possible; some less scrupulous ones have taken this as an opportunity to maximise profits by realigning their model under the ‘Covid Threat’. Regardless of the reasons, this generally points towards a clear reduction in the number of security personnel required, regardless of sector (commercial, retail, industrial, aviation etc.), and this will have a significant impact on the mid-term employment of many people.
As a company we have always been proud of our ability to learn, to be agile and be quick to react, upscaling and downscaling operations responsively and responsibly when and if the need should arise. With the anticipated increased need for cost saving, this is going to become an ongoing challenge for us and for every security business.
Providing blended solutions where there is a wider adoption of technology, mobile and manpower solutions, which require less dependency on people but still provide the ability to provide the best balance of risk vs cost and maintain resilience, is clearly going to become a focus.
Another challenge is going to be cashflow. We are all dependent on our customers making payments regularly and on time; in a bid to maintain their own solvency are they going to use service providers as a credit line? If their customers are in difficulty and start paying slower or, worse, go into receivership, then the knock-on effect could cause serious liquidity issues for some security companies.
As pressure grows, the fight for survival could become fierce as some clients will become too price-centric; any further erosion of already low margins could become a major concern for the security sector. Some companies wrongly see dropping margin as a way to survive when we all know that more often than not it has the opposite effect.
Finally, and most importantly, we all have a professional and moral obligation to look after our people – they work in an already difficult industry that is more often than not overlooked – and if and when tough decisions have to be made, have the decency to do it honestly and compassionately.