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Philip Grindell on post-Covid

We’ve featured Philip Grindell, pictured, the former Metropolitan Police man who has set up a consultancy, Defuse Global. He was tasked with going into Parliament and setting up a security team after the 2016 murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox. He was part of the feature in the April 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine about high net worth people. Then he talked about security threats – online and physical – and responses, whether those VIPs are in politics, corporate business, or at the top of their game in sport or other entertainment.

He has recently blogged on his consultancy website about ‘two post-Covid threats to business‘. We had a Zoom meeting to ask further about those threats. Professional Security started, by raising the point that while the pandemic world was changing and different, at the same time underlying things were the same; something remarked on by other security people.

As in the blog, Philip spoke mainly about the corporate world; as our April edition interview set out, his focus is targeted attacks, whether they’re personal (such as against an MP or chief exec), reputational or psychological (the online bile that close protection officers cannot keep their principal from).

There are already reported cases of – as big firms make many people redundant – sacked employees, affected by Covid-19, feeling aggrieved. Or rather, affected not so much by the actual pandemic but by the financial and economic effects. If those former employees take out anger on chief executives, or threaten to, that becomes a security issue. Staying with employees, Philip also spoke of employee activists who may start to become more demanding of their employer (and its distributors?).

Professional Security began to ask a two-part question, when the curse of Zoom came down and the connection was broken. That turned out for the best, because when we connected again with Philip, and we started to speak again, second time the question came out much more clearly. The two-parter; first, given the highly-publicised campaigns of recent weeks, such as Black Lives Matter and against historic links with slavery, corporate comms – how a corporation reacts to or supports a cause – has become a security issue. Or at least, comms is something that the corporate security department should be aware of as it unfolds. Second; if a corporate has a founding father’s statue or portrait at the entrance, and it turns out that there’s a connection to slavery, suddenly that taken for granted object, gathering dust in the lobby, could become a focus for protest.

To all that, Philip replied with a point that he has been emphasising for some time, ‘that security isn’t a security department’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem, and everyone has to be mindful of security, in order to maintain security. The department may manage it, but it’s everyone’s responsibility.

“You are right, when the comms people are looking at what they are going to do, when strategic decisions are being made, they need to think security, it isn’t just the physical security of the building, it’s a far wider subject now.”

To leave Philip for a moment, it’s not only entire British cities (such as Bristol where the Edward Colston statue was toppled, which has a major concert hall named after Colston), and universities (such as Oxford) with statues or facing other links to slavery and other campaigned-against issues such as racism. Companies such as the brewer Greene King have apologised for slavery connections; the American musical group The Dixie Chicks has dropped the word Dixie because of Confederacy connotations. Reputational risk, besides communications, then, is also a matter for the security person or department, whether to have a say in, or certainly to be aware of.

To return to Philip; he made the point that such links may be quite tenuous, and an organisation might not even know of them (yet). ‘Organisations,’ he said, ‘will be looking inwards,’ asking where they sit on such issues. Given quite how many controversies there are in history, and how many corporations that are household names that may have connections, we don’t yet know how far such campaigns will go. ‘Certainly,’ Philip said, ‘it’s an issue we are all going to have to look at.’

As a parting point, we said that security people still had the day job to do, protecting assets. Agreeing, Philip added that the ‘simple things’ for corporate security to do were for example checking for and removing any graffiti. Again, to leave Philip, we can recall the recent graffiti ‘Dickens racist’ on the side of a museum about the Victorian author in Broadstairs in Kent. If someone on British banknotes can be subject to graffiti, anyone can be.


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