This is the second instalment of a new series of articles for the readers of Risk UK in which we focus the spotlight on NSI-approved businesses for the benefit of risk and security managers who purchase security guarding as well as systems-focused solutions. Answering our questions on this occasion is Stephen McComb, director of Cobra Security.
Risk UK: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Stephen McComb: Cobra Security is a security services business based in Lisburn, Northern Ireland that has been delivering tailored security solutions to its client base throughout the UK and Ireland since 1998.
We have a dedicated and experienced team of security professionals on board whose constituent members provide the following services: key holding and alarm response, door supervision, CCTV installation and monitoring, corporate concierge solutions and a security guard dogs/dog handling service.
As an organisation, Cobra Security has one overarching goal: to protect our clients’ people, customers and assets. We tailor a specific security solution for the benefit of each of our clients by listening to their requirements and advising on how we can best meet their needs while also adhering to budget.
This formula has led us to be trusted by a wide range of clients, from individuals to SMEs and on to some of the top brands and blue chip companies in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We provide security services for Government, councils, the education, healthcare and construction sectors and private commercial and industrial concerns.
Having been in operation since 1998, we’ve developed a deep understanding of the security issues impacting UK and Irish companies and organisations on a daily basis. In turn, the business has nurtured robust and bespoke systems that allow us to respond both quickly and effectively to situations that arise, ensuring peace of mind for our customers at all times.
Risk UK: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Stephen McComb: Cobra Security is proud of the security services it provides to each of its clients and the bespoke solutions we offer depending on their defined requirements. Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to us, with our main priority being to ensure we provide the best service possible.
The company has always embraced the ethos that its customers must receive reliability, honesty and transparency at all times.
As stated, we tailor our security solutions to fit each client’s requirements and budget and, above all, we do what we say we’ll do in an efficient and professional manner. Our clients most certainly appreciate the personal service Cobra Security offers them.
As company director, I value building long-lasting working relationships with every client. I’m in constant and regular contact with our client companies, whether it be by visiting sites, meeting with their representatives face-to-face or via the telephone, and am always there should they need to speak with me. This level of personal service runs throughout Cobra Security’s management team and is instilled within the whole organisation.
Risk UK: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Stephen McComb: Cobra Security has always harboured an ethos of securing the most important accreditations within the security industry. For example, we’re a registered business on the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) for the provision of security guarding and key holding, NSI Guarding Gold-approved and accredited to ISO 9001:2008, BS 7984:2008, BS 7825:2012, BS 7499:2013 and BS 7958:2015.
The fact that we’ve been awarded these accreditations shows clients that the business is professional, audited and regulated. In short, they’re in safe hands when they work with us.
Risk UK: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Stephen McComb: ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval demonstrate to clients the level of service and quality they will receive from a highly accredited company. They show that we adhere to the most stringent auditing processes available in the industry.
In terms of our business, this helps us to continually raise our standards, embrace new methods of working, develop efficiencies in order to advance our company and improve on what it is that we already do.
Risk UK: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Stephen McComb: ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval are voluntary schemes in the security business sector. Security companies don’t have to have these accreditations to operate in the industry. Cobra Security chose to be audited at the highest level as we know that not only does this afford our customers added peace of mind, but it also helps us to achieve more as a business.
NSI Guarding Gold is a more rigorous auditing scheme than that imposed by the ACS. The ACS audits to ensure that a company understands what it should be doing, while the NSI audits to make certain that a business is actually doing what it should be doing.
Risk UK: How do you think technology has changed the industry over the last couple of years and what do you feel will be the direction of travel in the future?
Stephen McComb: Technology is moving at a very fast pace and, at Cobra Security, we absolutely believe in embracing it.
We’ve found that the business community in particular also embraces advancements in technology and fully realises the benefits of using it in terms of their budgetary spend. This trend is speeding up, and specifically so in relation to the apparent decline in the demand for manned security personnel.
Risk UK: When it comes to negotiating contracts and responding to tender requests, what aspects are of most value to customers and how are these changing?
Stephen McComb: Value for money and cost savings are two of the most important elements here. Clients are constantly looking for ways in which to save money. Introducing technology and value-added services to contracts is the way forward, while at the same always ensuring that a given contract is tailored to the client’s specific and stated needs.
Risk UK: How has Government legislation (eg the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage and holiday pay) affected your business? Do you believe such legislation is a good thing?
Stephen McComb: The legislation you’ve mentioned is attempting to improve the living standards of workers in low or minimum wage jobs. I can completely understand the sentiment behind what the Government is attempting to do here, but in the security industry it’s simply not working.
In practice, clients now offset these increases with a change in service requirements such as replacing physical security guarding with a technology-based solution or otherwise reducing man hours. This is a massive factor facing the security industry as the increases are set to continue until 2020.
As time goes on, I strongly believe this will show a direct correlation with a reduction of people employed in the security industry.
Risk UK: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Stephen McComb: Cobra Security ensures its employees understand the importance of customer service and customer care. Without doubt, the key attributes we look for in employees are honesty, integrity, a hardworking attitude, excellent presentation and smartness, the ability to think quickly, conscientiousness and the overriding desire to be a team player.
Risk UK: How can the SIA, the NSI and industry standards best serve the sector in addition to the needs of your company’s clients and the wider public interest? Will the introduction of business licensing be a positive step?
Stephen McComb: I don’t believe there’s enough of an understanding of who or what the NSI and the SIA are, and specifically so in Northern Ireland. Raising awareness is key.
Mandatory business licensing would be a good thing because, as stated, the ACS and NSI Guarding Gold are voluntary schemes.
Time in the security sector
I’ve worked in the security industry since 1985 for companies including Federal Security Services, Resource and Mitie. I joined Cobra Security in July 2015. I’ve served at every level in security, including the roles of security officer, CCTV operator, operations co-ordinator, operations manager, regional manager and general manager
Location of the business
Lisburn, Northern Ireland
Areas of expertise
Cobra provides services in the commercial, industrial and events sectors, with those services including door supervision, corporate concierge, CCTV installation and monitoring, security guard dog and guard dog handling provision, key holding and alarm response
SIA ACS, NSI Guarding Gold Scheme, ISO 9001:2008, BS 7984:2008, BS 7825:2012, BS 7499:2013 and BS 7958:2015
About the National Security Inspectorate
The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is a wholly-independent, not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and operates as a UKAS-accredited certification body specialising in the security and fire safety sectors.
For over 40 years, the NSI has served to protect businesses, homeowners and the general public alike, raising standards by providing robust and high quality audits of both security and fire safety service providers.