This is the 25th instalment in a series of articles for the readers of Risk Xtra where we shine 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 Andrew Gillies, Group managing director at Amberstone Security Limited.
Risk Xtra: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Andrew Gillies: Amberstone’s electronic security solutions and security guarding offer allows the business to provide risk-based integrated security solutions deployed through the Amberstone Risk Modelling (ARM) tool. Products combine to realise a best return on investment for our client base. We share the detail of strategic Best Practice to the benefit of all clients, in turn reducing risk and costs wherever possible.
Amberstone’s security solutions may be integrated, but technology solutions and security guarding services can also be procured and delivered independently.
We supply bespoke solutions for clients in numerous sectors including retail, distribution, the night-time economy, healthcare, education, finance, the corporate world and events (encompassing stadiums).
Risk Xtra: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Andrew Gillies: Clients value our honesty, quality and ability to understand their needs and provide an innovative solution that exceeds their expectations. Through our live incident reporting-based approach, we’re completely transparent and always tell our customers what they need to know.
Amberstone’s risk-centric approach allows us to demonstrate value and deliver return on investment for our clients.
We aim to position ourselves as a business partner and, as such, align and familiarise ourselves with each client’s ethos to deliver solutions and services that are bespoke and truly integrate with those clients’ independent security strategies. We understand that it’s not going to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to our customers.
Risk Xtra: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Andrew Gillies: Accreditations assist with Amberstone’s continual improvement objectives, validating our internal processes and ensuring that we continually deploy Best Practice in the day-to-day delivery of services.
The accreditations we hold allow us to demonstrate to clients that we practice what we preach when it comes to security and have the relevant expertise for the industry in which we operate.
Risk Xtra: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Andrew Gillies: Both Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring value to what we do, although the latter is, in my personal opinion, the more beneficial of the two.
NSI Guarding Gold brings into play the ISO 9001 accreditation for the Quality Management Systems element of our business. It assures our existing and prospective customers alike that we consistently meet the highest standards and reinforces the claims we make about our service and their delivery.
At the same time, our efforts to score more ACS points at audit help to drive up standards and afford purchasing end users a better idea of what we can offer as a company.
Andrew Gillies: NSI Guarding Gold affords a higher level of quality assurance through its rigorous auditing process. As its name suggests, NSI Guarding Gold is still considered to be the ‘Gold Standard’ when it comes to accreditations in this business sector.
Although the ACS is well-intentioned in terms of raising performance standards across the security business sector, I believe there’s lots of room for improvement in terms of its scope and effectiveness, and particularly so with regards to training and knowledge development.
One of the main advantages of the ACS is that it gives us the ability to deploy security staff while their licence applications are being processed thanks to the issuing of Licence Dispensation Notices.
From my own perspective, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) must do more to expand awareness of the ACS among customers if it wants to turn it into a real quality mark, and should perhaps also look towards making the ACS mandatory rather than voluntary. This would then enable end users to gain an insight into whether a security services provider merely meets the basic criteria for approval or actively exceeds them.
Risk Xtra: How do you feel technology has changed the industry over the last couple of years and what do you believe will be the direction of travel in the future?
Andrew Gillies: Technology itself has developed massively. However, I think that many security service providers are failing to maximise its potential.
The problem is that the approach taken towards loss prevention and protecting organisations from those with malicious intent is fundamentally the same as it has always been. Traditional Shopping Centre security, for example, encourages a silo-based mentality, wherein as well as paying a service charge for the security guarding of public areas, retailers are also procuring their own in-store operatives.
The ‘intelligent guarding’ approach mentioned earlier gives security officers a real opportunity to demonstrate return on investment against a defined set of Key Performance Indicators. In turn, this drives up their skills, value and pay.
Risk Xtra: When it comes to negotiating contracts and responding to tender requests, what aspects are of most value to customers and how are these changing?
Andrew Gillies: Most tenders are weighted 50% cost, with only the other 50% being about the real value that a company could provide.
The skills, experience and ability of service providers to offer high levels of contract fulfilment should be a prominent part of the buying criteria, with the price reflecting what’s on offer.
The tender process needs to re-balance value and price – two words that are often used interchangeably, but in reality couldn’t be more different. This would allow the relationship between client and service provider to move from being simply a supplier arrangement to the more beneficial position of a strategic partnership, which can add significant benefits to a solution in the longer-term thanks to the implementation of a strategy that, for example, replaces security guarding with technology.
Andrew Gillies: I fully support the National Minimum Wage. It’s the right direction of travel. However, the pay rates security officers are awarded are still less than satisfactory. There’s a wider problem than that, too.
A culture of competitive undercutting, an obsession with market share and the inability to offer talented young people a structured career path has led to a situation wherein the majority of customers simply don’t place a high enough value on their security guarding operations.
Instead of expecting ‘champagne for beer money’, clients should place a genuine value on their security operations, allowing service providers to invest more in continual training and skills development.
Risk Xtra: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Andrew Gillies: We seek individuals who can demonstrate professionalism, have experience, take pride in their appearance and presentation, possess good communication skills and who are fully committed to their roles.
By focusing on the development of these skills, the overall worth of the security officer’s role can be elevated. Investing in employees ensures that they’re given the requisite knowledge to develop their careers.
Amberstone provides City & Guilds Level 3 instruction to colleagues in order to nurture their career paths.
Risk Xtra: 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 planned introduction of business licensing be a positive step?
Andrew Gillies: I think that both the SIA and the NSI should continually be serving the industry in order to raise the level of professionalism across the board. We’re certainly beginning to see the benefits of them doing so. However, in terms of the SIA, obtaining individual licences is still a lengthy procedure which is interrupting business flow. It really is time the issues around this process were resolved.
Business licensing looks to be going one step further in terms of protecting both customers and employees. That can only be a good thing if it comes to fruition.
Time in security business sector
Co-founded Amberstone in 2010 having served as managing director at the ID Technology Group from April 2003 until December 2009. Many years’ experience serving the needs of a wide range of retail, commercial and Government sector customers. Held senior positions in several of the largest security integrators, duly delivering industry-leading services to many UK and European blue chip companies
Location of the business
Amberstone’s Head Office is located at Cambridge House in Royston, Hertfordshire
Areas of expertise
Security guarding, loss prevention, electronic security systems (encompassing CCTV analytics and RFID tagging, etc), cloud-based data storage solutions
SIA Approved Contractor, NSI Guarding Gold (Provision of Lone Worker Device Services, Provision of Retail Static Guarding Services and Provision of Static Site Guarding Services), ISO 9001:2015, SafeContractor, BAFE and NSI Fire Gold (Fire Alarm Systems Maintenance), NSI NACOSS Gold
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.