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STRIX interview

Whether staff are working in the UK or overseas, journey management is a way to manage part of the risks, says Richard Hallam of STRIX.

The multi-lingual former member of the British Army was introduced by Nigel Loweth, who with Dick Cumming founded STRIX, a global provider of specialist risk mitigation services. Richard has worked in many areas of the world including the Middle East and North Africa, Afghanistan and Latin America. He’s an asset protection specialist at the consultancy STRIX, which provides specialists in a number of disciplines, including cyber security, investigation and training. Speaking to Professional Security in London, he lists four parts to risk mitigation: preservation of life; preservation of assets; ensuring business continuity; and protection of reputation. All important, and ‘probably in that order’ he adds, namely lives coming first. And all are important whether the chief exec or the cleaner of toilets. He speaks of a holistic approach to risk mitigation. As he as the security person can only be in one place at one time, the individual has to take responsibility, just as they do when locking their door in the morning. People have to have third party awareness; situational awareness. People may be reluctant to travel to countries because they are aware that the world is perhaps not as stable as they first thought, and not as stable as it was ten or a dozen years ago. On the other hand, people through work or for a holiday may blithely go to dangerous places unnecessarily. “But to me it’s like swimming in the ocean where you know there are sharks; so long as you know there are sharks there, you can swim in the ocean safely, because you are aware of your situation, you are not going to drop your guard for one moment; and that really is what risk mitigation is all about. It is ensuring the individual is aware of their situation, being aware of people around them. Getting themselves into a system of self-preservation, but also within that preservation is looking after their co-workers, and team workers.”

Whether oil and gas in Angola and Nigeria, or diamonds or new markets opening such as Burma, there are opportunities in regions that may come with risk, whether hostile or simply unfamiliar? Professional Security suggests. There’s risk, Richard says, wherever there is unrest, of whatever kind, and that can be on the UK mainland as in Yemen, Libya or Afghanistan. Those four principles are the same, whether you are in your hotel room (what do the instructions say on the back of the door about where to evacuate in case of a fire?) or travelling from arrival at the airport. As he says, risk is something we are aware of and act on all the time; we look both ways before we cross the road, whatever city it’s in. This is where a company such as STRIX can step in, he says, to analyse; help to create a matrix of risk, and look at developing risk mitigation processes and procedures, with the proper documents to support it.

Professional Security asked Richard if he wanted to talk in more detail about some aspect of risk; he spoke of travel security, or journey management. He spoke of the employer duty of care, again with a parallel to what we do outside work. A family plans where to go with children; how much money to take, and whether cash or plastic. A business with travelling staff has all manner of things to manage – again, whether they’re in the UK or Russia: “Journey management has to be done properly.” And as for the point that countries, whole regions, might flare up in unrest apparently unexpectedly, Richard says that one thing for Security to do is to watch what is happening, to ‘read the trends’. And he suggests that the best time to do your risk assessment is before travel, so that the traveller is wearing the proper clothes (even for something as straightforward as whether it’s hot or cold). What are the political risks? What if someone is ill? Who can you ring, at an embassy or elsewhere? Professional Security raised the interest shown in export markets by security manufacturers and the Government’s security export strategy launched earlier this year. The first-time visitor, Richard suggests, may stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, and not only not know what are the rules to follow, but may stand out as a target for criminals.

Are companies getting better at mitigating risks, or are the ‘less benign’ parts of the world getting more risky, even as businesses get better? Richard answered that while companies are becoming more aware, they may be cutting manpower to the bare essentials; or paying only lip service to security. He speaks interestingly of what this may mean for the consultant, who works with the business unit or a general manager. Good working relationships are important; but he, the consultant, may come up against resistance. On rare occasions, a conflict may require a call on a more senior manager at the client to decide – because besides that list of four risk factors, Richard speaks also of protecting the security provider’s own assets, besides the risk to the client. He makes the point that journey management ought not be managed by Security; it could be by a travel manager, someone tasked with knowing where everyone is. That may require staff to ring once they land at an airport; that is not the same as putting on social media that you are on holiday – which could invite burglars to your empty home.

What of the future – is it looking more difficult to protect assets? “We have to be like the proverbial Boy Scout,” he says, “we have to be prepared.” If circumstances change, the plan changes, but there has to be a plan to start with.

Visit www.strixglobal.co.uk.


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