The latest instalment in a series of articles 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 Alex Hiles, Corporate Services Director at Anchor Group Services:
Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Anchor Group provides a range of security, cleaning and associated services to a diverse portfolio of clients throughout the UK. We are an agile owner managed business with 30 years of experience in the security industry.
We have developed a suite of interrelated services that maximise technology to create efficient and future proof service solutions. Our bespoke live reporting system is backed by an in-house 24-hour help desk and control room to create truly 24/7 services and our E-Guarding solution blends technology with manned guarding and mobile response services to substantially reduce reoccurring overheads and enhance asset protection.
What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Our clients value our ability to react to their evolving requirements and our commitment to continuous improvement. Our focus on long term client retention means that our existing customers are the first to benefit from our innovative solutions and new ideas.
Our commitment to training and introducing added value solutions enables us to closely align with our client’s objectives and deliver to them a team of security professionals who consistently deliver upon their expectations.
This retention first approach has seen us retain a number of guarding contracts beyond 20 years and several dual services shopping centres for more than 12 years.
How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Several of our accreditations are automatic pre-qualifiers to tender opportunities which provide us with a steady stream of new business without the need to employ a sales and marketing team, an approach that has enabled us to maximise the investment in operational management which in turn improves the quality of delivery and increases referrals and recommendations.
Our accreditations enable us to benchmark our organisation against the industry and demonstrate our commitment to delivering quality services. Our most recent ACS workbook assessment has placed us firmly within the top 5% of all UK security companies, an increase on previous years as a result of development strategies underpinned by our accreditations.
Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
The sector specific audit conducted by the NSI reassures us and our clients that our processes are as fit for purpose as possible. As ACS accreditation is finally starting to become a minimum expectation to customers, we are also seeing an increasing trend in buyers going one further and demanding NSI Guarding Gold companies.
Our client’s benefit as NSI Guarding Gold provides instant evidence of our ability to meet the industries’ highest standards and display technical expertise in our field.
In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Our NSI Guarding Gold accreditation confirms that Anchor Group’s Integrated Management System meets the highest standards in the security industry and acts as a passport scheme to ACS approval.
The main difference between the two is the ACS is based upon a set of minimum standards required to meet accreditation whereas the NSI and in particular Guarding Gold provides the best practice standards security companies should aspire to achieve.
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?
Technology has played a massive part in increasing accountability, efficiency, reporting, data collection and employee health and safety in recent years. The affordability of technology has enabled us to broaden the role of a security officer, demonstrate more value to our clients and make a greater contribution to their overall objectives.
Whilst CCTV is already commonplace, we have barely scratched the surface of the ways we can integrate this technology into more intelligent and sustainable security solutions. We feel that we are ahead of the curve with our E-Guarding solution and that a blended service of guarding, mobile patrols, KHAR and remote monitoring with the flexibility to flip between solutions and upscale and downscale services as threats dictate is the future of the industry.
When it comes to negotiating contracts and responding to tender requests, what aspects are of most value to customers and how are these changing?
Our customers are looking for an ability for us to align with their objectives and become an extension of their organisation. As costs increase year on year, we have seen a marked increase in the requirement for security officers to become customer services professionals and assume a more front of house role alongside their traditional security role.
Due to the pace that our industry and technology as a whole is evolving, customers are also looking for a company that can evidence a good track record of development so they can be assured that an industry leading service purchased now will continue to develop and evolve into an industry leading service at the later stages of the contract.
How has Government legislation (e.g. the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage and changes to holiday pay) affected your business? Do you believe such legislation is a good thing?
Overall Government legislation in relation to pay and benefits is a good thing and we have been fortunate that many of our customers have been able to consistently increase wages above the National Living Wage rate. That said there are too many occasions where buyers do not recognise the skill of a security officer or the demands of the job and are only willing to pay baseline rates. This is detrimental to our industry and has resulted in us losing good security professionals to easier low paid jobs.
Many customers have faced substantial increases in their own operating costs as a result of NLW and unfortunately that has seen us and many other companies bearing the brunt of rationalisation.
What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Communication and presentation are two of the most important attributes in the modern security officer. Our staff are often the first point of contact at our customer’s premises and they can set the tone for any visit.
Beyond doing the basics well, we are looking for proactive and engaging staff who are willing to learn and develop and contribute to our wider business objectives.
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?
Both the NSI and SIA should continue to raise standards in our industry and campaign for Business licencing which would really help to move the whole industry forward.
Both organisations also need to do everything possible to attract and retain a new generation of security professionals who will be the future of our industry.
What are the biggest challenges you face in gaining and retaining business?
By far the biggest challenge we face is encouraging our customers to pay wages above the minimum wage and a sustainable margin.
Customers are inundated with offers to deliver their services using low paid and unskilled security officers and companies operating at baseline margins so it is our job to give them the tools to educate their organisation on the importance of, and value that can be added by paying the right rates and attracting a higher calibre of security professional.
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.