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Interviews

OSPAs webinar on ‘what next?’

Panellists from Australia, the United States and Britain took on ‘what next?’ in the latest OSPAs thought leadership webinar, this afternoon. They were: Rinske Geerlings, Managing Director, Business As Usual; Dennis Shepp, the veteran security management advisor; and Michael White, Head of Risk, Compliance & Assurance (UK & Ireland), at the guarding firm G4S (who’s also the chair of the Security TWENTY conferences, pictured, as run by Professional Security magazine around the British Isles).

Dennis opened the conversation, chaired by Dr Janice Goldstraw-White in the absence of the usual chair, the founder of the OSPAs, Prof Martin Gill. Already we are seeing more collaboration between organisations, including competitors, as a result of the pandemic. Security leaders need to be business enablers, he said, more than ‘corporate police officers’. On the global level, climate concerns will affect private security deployments, he predicted. Instability from climate crises such as population migrations is already happening; at the US border with Mexico, for example. As for the security officer or guard, who is going to want to become one, if the pay is not livable? Dennis returned to this later, that when someone is hired as a security officer or guard, they are not presented with a career opportunity; only a job (and if they are lucky, a job description). Here security needs to work with HR, he said.

Rinske Geerlings, originally from the Netherlands, a business continuity trainer and planner, spoke similarly; of security as once being ‘fighting off bad people’ and protecting buildings; now, as a result of work during the pandemic, security is now more about facilitating, including in stressful situations. She pointed to information security, where the challenge of ransomware (for example) is less analysable than older, physical threats such as fire and flood.

As a way of managing information security, she mentioned the international standard ISO 27001, as about people and processes more than technology; for the physical securing of data centres, for example.

Mike White began by saying that the word ‘unprecedented’ had been over-used, ‘but there is no doubt we continue to live in unprecedented times’. The pandemic has not left the security industry untouched; and he paid tribute, both to security professionals for continuing to work, and for their families for supporting them. “Those who work in this industry are truly key workers.”

We are experiencing an increasingly shrinking labour market, he went on, with competition from other sectors; businesses are going to have to think more creatively, about what is going to attract quality recruits – and clients have a role to play as well, he added. Mike pointed to the Manchester Arena Inquiry into the 2017 suicide terror attack in the UK – whose eventual findings and recommendations may ‘fundamentally re-shape’ how security has to be done in the UK, he suggested – and the official review by UK of its counter-terrorism Prevent strategy. Echoing Dennis Shepp earlier, he raised how to make security a first choice for staff; how to protect their mental health; and the sheer pace of technological change.

Later Mike White spoke of the need to talk to and influence buyers of security. So long as buyers are putting tenders out that are 50 to 80 per cent driven by price, and the rest on quality, the industry is never going to move forward, he said. “We have to speak with one voice and speak the same message; and unfortunately that is going to involve a change in mindset within our industry as much as within the buyers of security.”

He closed by criticising the over-commoditisation of security services – it has to stop, he said; we are not a kilogram or a pound of apples or oranges; we are an innovative industry, that protects critical national infrastructure, the world over, ‘and the sooner we start talking that message up and doing it uniformly and loudly, the sooner we will be head and listened to.”

That will lead nicely into next Thursday’s webinar, starting as usual at 3.30pm; about security and journalism; about both how the private security industry informs itself about itself through its specialist trade press; and how it’s treated in the mainstream media and whether it gets the coverage it deserves. Speakers invited include the editor of Professional Security magazine, Mark Rowe.

You can sign up to join a webinar for free at https://theospas.com/thought-leadership-webinars/.


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