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David Rubens latest

It seems there are natural rhythms in life – the flux of day and night, the waxing and waning of the moon, the changing of the seasons – and the fact that every two years I catch up with David Rubens, and his life has undergone another revolution, writes Mark Rowe (MR).

In 2013 I interviewed him over lunch across the road from Olympia as he was about to leave London to take up his position as MD of an American consultancy based in West Africa, then in 2015 he had just completed his doctorate at University of Portsmouth (one of two people from the first cohort to receive the coveted D.SyRM – Doctor of Security and Risk Management), and this time, in yet another trendy London coffee shop (as if there is any other sort?!), I was asking him about Deltar Training Solutions, the training company that has seemingly taken over the world in terms of its Level 5 Management Award in Corporate Risk and Crisis Management.

The only practical problem when doing an interview with David is that it moves at such a pace that I forget to take proper notes! But to put that in a more positive light, David is someone who, if you are interested and want to be informed about security management, you can learn from and (what is more) enjoy his company. And there are places you can hear him speak, such as recently at the Hebcon annual gathering of further education sector business continuity people, in York, where he spoke on crisis management and resilience. And (pictured) at the ISNR conference in Abu Dhabi in February.

Anyone who is on LinkedIn has probably seen pictures of David with groups of smiling people, as he delivers yet another course in some distant (and often sunny! that is to say, sunnier than the UK) place. It seemed a natural place to start:

MR David, it seems that you are managing to keep busy. How is all the travelling going?
David Rubens (DR) Yes, it is all a bit crazy at the moment. I started Deltar when I came back from Africa in 2015, as something to keep me busy – and it has taken off to a degree I had never imagined. We are delivering courses in ten different countries in the first thirteen weeks of this year, and already have a full pipeline through to the end of July. It seems that there is a real desire for strategic risk and crisis management programmes that match the risks and challenges that major organisations are facing in the real world – and to that extent, we are the right people in the right place at the right time.

MR I heard the presentation you gave at UK Security Expo at the end of last year, discussing some of the issues around critical national infrastructures, and why despite the fact that they should be operating as high reliability organisations, they were in fact failing to manage themselves effectively, often with disastrous effects. Does that model of management and responsibility transfer into the corporate sectors that you are working with?
DR The answer is that it transfers into every aspect of management, whatever the nature, scale or scope of the organisation. The fact is, at least as I cover it in our programmes, the reason for a catastrophic failure is almost never because of the external event. That is just the last stage in a long process of management failures which have led to the organisational vulnerabilities that have been exposed by whatever the triggering cause might be. One of the points that I continuously make is that you must separate the event from the disaster. Hurricane Katrina was an event – the disaster in New Orleans was not because of the hurricane, but because of the failures in planning and capability development at all levels, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), down through every level of national, state and local departments. To take a more recent case, the impact of the WannaCry ransomware attack on the National Health Service last year was critical (and could potentially have been catastrophic), but the National Audit Office report on the incident made it clear that the responsibility for the crisis lay with senior planners and managers who had been aware of existing vulnerabilities in the IT systems, had an understanding of relatively simple procedures that could have been put in place to prevent exactly the sort of cyberattack that WannaCry posed (and which, as the report pointed out, was relatively unsophisticated), but had made the decision to do nothing about it. These are lessons that relate directly both to the challenges that all organisations are facing, but also to the decisions that senior managers are responsible for.

MR I saw in a recent press release that Deltar has become the first organisation to be accredited by The Security Institute as an Approved Training Provider. Is that significant for you?
DR It is very significant, and is something that we are all very proud of. The process for accreditation was certainly testing, and to a certain extent the fact that we chose to get Ofqual accreditation for our Level 5 and Level 6 courses meant that we had much of the documentation in place to provide all of the due diligence information that The Security Institute was asking for. As most people know, The Security Institute have a close relationship with Perpetuity Training, who also offer a wide range of corporate training courses, and I think it is to the massive credit of The Security Institute that they have gone against what could perhaps be seen as their own commercial interests, and decided to introduce an accreditation scheme for other training providers that could, in theory, be competing against the Perpetuity programmes.

MR The last time we spoke was just after you had completed your doctorate, and you were about to become Dr Rubens. How has that worked out for you?
DR It has been wonderful! Genuinely, it has delivered everything that I had hoped it would. There is no doubt that what I have managed to do with Deltar over the last couple of years was in a large part because of the fact that I had “Dr” in front of my name. To a certain extent, that is exactly what it is designed to do. There should be something which you can have demonstrable expertise in, and given that my thesis was on the strategic management of complex crisis environments, it has paid off many times over. We are increasingly working with major organisations – critical national infrastructures, national crisis management agencies, major global events, and the fact that I can bring to the table the sort of research that I was doing at doctorate level, has proven to be a real differentiator between us and potential competitors. Besides that, I receive at least one or two emails a month from people who are considering doing the doctorate programme, and are looking for reassurance as to whether it is worthwhile. It is certainly worthwhile – but much like swimming the channel is worthwhile, or doing the Marathon de Sables is worthwhile. It is not so much a course of study as a four-year (at least!) life commitment. But for those people who feel that this is for them, and who can make that commitment – my recommendation is always ‘Go for it!’.

MR I see from your recent press release that Deltar is growing, and making plans for the next stage in its development. Can you give us some details?
DR I had originally started Deltar in order to give me something to keep me busy. I have been involved in some aspect of training or another since 1992, and it was a natural thing for me to do. Since it has taken on a life of its own, I have had to make the decision as to whether to keep it as a one-person consultancy or to see whether we can grow it into something more substantial. Given the opportunities that there are in the world for an organisation like Deltar, I felt that I needed to take on someone who had more experience in the corporate world, and I am delighted to say that Brian Kinch has recently agreed to take on the role of Managing Director.
Brian has over 30 years of experience in the domestic and international financial services profession, including senior roles with HSBC, Visa International and Lloyds Banking Group, and for seven years was a Senior Partner with FICO (Fair Isaac), leading their Global Fraud Consulting team. He is accredited by the Institute of Risk Management as a Registered Risk Practitioner, and by the Business Continuity Institute as a founder member of two of the UK Forums, so he brings exactly the mix of corporate and risk management experience that the role demands. His role will be to develop Deltar’s corporate governance in line with its rapidly expanding activities, as well as to develop our UK programmes. One of our first priorities is to expand the Level 5 Management Award in Corporate Risk and Crisis Management throughout the UK – we are planning to run programmes in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham and Bristol, as well as in Scotland and Wales.
As well as Brian, Michael McDonagh, who is well known across the UK private security sector, has joined the team as Senior Consultant, specialising in the policing and national security areas, and we also have a Director of Russian Languages Division, a manager of the Spanish language programmes and strategic partners in UAE, Latin America and Southern Europe.

MR Most people will say that it is a tough competitive world out there. What do you think has allowed Deltar to do so well in such a short amount of time?
DR The first thing to say is that we are still in set-up mode. We are transitioning to a more corporate structure, but we are certainly not at a stage where we can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour! I think the world is tough for everyone, but that also creates opportunities for those companies that can identify their specific market, can offer a service that is attractive to their potential clients, can build a business model that works for all sides – but most importantly, can offer themselves as genuine solution providers who can deliver a full package of services that allows the potential client to see them as long-term partners rather than merely one-off sellers. That, and blood, sweat and tears! There is certainly no magic solution…..

MR As always David, a pleasure to talk with you … and I look forward to catching up in a couple of years and seeing how it is all going.
DR Likewise – it’s in the diary!


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