This is the nineteenth 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 Philip Anthony, the managing director of Dardan Security.
Risk Xtra: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Philip Anthony: Dardan Security is a forward-thinking, people-centric and technology-driven security solutions provider. Our services are tailored to our customers’ needs through active and participative consultation with clients, and we use added-value security guarding, mobile security and technology to deliver a unique solution that fits entirely with a customer’s culture and ethos.
As the security landscape has changed over the years, we have in turn grown, developed and embraced new technologies while continually adding specialist talent and expertise to our team.
Being privately-owned since our inception in 1973 allows us the unique flexibility to react to customer needs or industry changes. That’s a significant difference when compared with the situation facing our large corporate competitors. Our skilled management team members bring expertise from various industries and sectors, allowing a Best Practice approach towards our services.
We have an unrivalled coverage and service resilience, with a robust but accessible management hierarchy and a network of local operational bases from where we’re best placed to serve our clients. We hold our core values closely. These encompass our people, our services and our culture.
Risk Xtra: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Philip Anthony: We believe that our clients value the partnership approach that we encourage as their security solutions provider, as no two clients are the same. To fully understand the risk and what a given client requires of a security solutions provider, open and frank dialogue must be had to allow the supplier/customer partnership to flourish. We don’t dictate what services we will provide, nor do we simply take instruction, but through building close relationships with all key stakeholders we can tailor our security solution for the benefit of all – whether that be a static guarding solution, a mobile security patrol and alarm response service or a technological offering.
Service resilience and continuity is a significant driver in our offering, often around the management of people. A local, approachable and proactive account management structure is the key to success for both the client and the site-based security teams.
Dardan Security works in a variety of customer locations – airports and heliports, pharmaceutical and research facilities, gas production facilities and power stations, ports, hospitals, colleges and universities as well as corporate office buildings, all of which present a different set of risks. From each we can garner a Best Practice approach to bring to our other clients in the spirit of true partnership.
Philip Anthony: Accreditations have afforded Dardan Security stability, direction and structure so that we can continuously improve our service to clients and to our staff. We’re accredited to various Health and Safety, cyber, electronic systems, quality and environmental standards, all of which allow us to offer assurances to our customers of the professional and experienced approach we provide.
As a Security industry Authority (SIA) Approved Contractor graded within the Top 5% of all UK security solutions providers, we value any definitive opportunity, such as accreditation, to demonstrate our expertise and our quality business approach to both existing and prospective clients. A customer’s spend on security is often one of its biggest outlays and security companies must prove to be value for money in that spend. Accreditations help to set us apart from our competitors and provide reassurances that customers’ budgets are being spent on a premium service.
Risk Xtra: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Philip Anthony: The SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) and the National Security Inspectorate’s (NSI) Guarding Gold scheme standardise the broad delivery of security services and guide Best Practice such that both our existing and prospective customers can make an informed and reassured choice at a glance.
The NSI is widely recognised for its renowned knowledge of the security industry. That provides our customers with reassurance from an external independent assessing body that these accreditations are not just a ‘tick-box’ exercise. It means that our business is audited to the highest standards.
The ACS promotes professionalism and Best Practice in an industry comprising many different suppliers offering many different levels of quality and service. All of Dardan Security’s proposals to prospective clients open with the statement that we’re an SIA ACS registered security provider with the NSI Guarding Gold accreditation. This really leads everything that we do.
Risk Xtra: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Philip Anthony: The SIA’s ACS and the NSI’s Guarding Gold both aim to raise standards within the security industry, which we believe is ever-important in this constantly changing security world.
Although there are many similarities between the two levels of approval, the NSI Guarding Gold is based on ISO 9001:2015, BS 7858 and BS 7499 which Dardan Security as a company use to design and develop a business management system, with robust operating procedures, to support the delivery of the services we provide. These are internally maintained and audited by our dedicated quality manager who works closely with the NSI during our six-monthly audits and throughout the year.
The ACS, on the other hand, places the onus firmly on us as the security company to prove our worth. It promotes self-improvement through a score-based system. Using the relevant workbook as a guide, we submit a proposed score ourselves with a brief explanation of how we believe we achieve the score. This is then provided to our NSI auditor (the NSI being one of four approved assessing bodies for the SIA) to confirm the scoring through interviewing staff, conducting site visits and inspecting records.
Philip Anthony: Technology has extracted significant man hours from the security industry over the years, but this is a positive development for customers and has, in turn, meant that security solutions providers such as Dardan Security have had to increase their service offering to stay ahead.
A security officer undertaking a twelve-hour night shift sitting in an empty gatehouse is not the best use of a customer’s often limited budget – or indeed the security officer’s skill set – when a remotely-monitored CCTV system or alarm system, together with perhaps a nightly visiting mobile security patrol, would more than suffice.
So, while technology has removed the need to physically ‘guard’ a sterile area such as that described above, it has also highlighted the importance of added value aspects of our services. Security officers are now ever-increasingly encouraged and developed by us to provide “the human touch”. In that very same gatehouse example above, during the day shift, a security officer is best-placed to provide a Front of House, concierge-style welcome to visitors, undertake reception and building management duties and even perform litter picks or to set out meeting rooms. All the while with a security focus. This is where Dardan Security has recently added value for our own clients.
Furthermore, real-time reporting technology offered to clients now affords far more accuracy and service transparency than the old paper daily occurrence book, while real-time reporting dashboards and key performance indicator scores offered to our clients go a long way towards demonstrating the value that we provide.
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?
Philip Anthony: We have seen recently, particularly in the weighting around how a tender response is marked, that price represents less and less of a factor in a customer’s decision to appoint a security company. More often, our response around the quality of our service, our assurances about our resilience and coverage and our company values and culture are weighted heavier than the cost. This is pleasing to see, because a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of pricing detrimentally affects the security officer’s rate of pay at the point of delivery, as well as the level of management, supervision and resilience that the security provider can afford to provide to the contract.
This tends to be cyclical within the industry, with customers perilously entering such phases, or emerging from such phases, with significant staffing, training and service provision issues to address.
To win those clients that place more value on service delivery than they do on price, accreditation again remains key to differentiating ourselves from competitors, but this has been difficult for a smaller specialist provider such as Dardan Security to achieve when competing against the larger national corporate security providers.
We as a company hope to capitalise upon this shift towards quality and away from price by offering a different and added-value service where we can, while always balancing service with price in partnership with a client.
Philip Anthony: Wage level inflation has massively and positively affected the security industry, specifically because pay levels were previously embarrassingly too low for the industry to truly admit to and thus address as a single entity. The long and financially painful process of ‘catch up’ for our industry and for our people is indeed a very good thing. Dardan Security’s officers are ever-increasingly perceived as security industry professionals with a career and with qualifications and skills.
Of course, increasing pay has an effect of increasing the overall price of our services for the buying customer. Using technology and offering those previously mentioned added-value services reduces the risk of price outweighing the service provided, but pricing is often a difficult conversation to have with clients when the historic poor perception of the security industry sometimes still remains.
In terms of recruitment, pay remains as a significant driver in attracting the right skills to our business and the appropriate legislation has greatly assisted with driving this forward (notwithstanding the challenges that recruitment in all service industries is currently facing).
Risk Xtra: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Philip Anthony: We want to see honesty, pride and the ability to portray friendly professionalism in all of Dardan Security’s people – from the front line security officers to our management and head office teams. After all, our people and their professionalism are our product and, therefore, the most important part of our business. Our values and cultures are designed and revolve around these attributes.
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?
Philip Anthony: The SIA and the NSI are recognised within the security industry for setting the standards that all security companies, regardless of size, should strive to achieve. The challenge, however, for those professional bodies is to promote these standards to the actual buyers of security.
Are the benefits of choosing an SIA ACS accredited company, or a company with the NSI Guarding Gold accreditation, understood widely enough? If we talk of these accreditations, will our potential customers think that it’s just a sales pitch, or will they know exactly what these accreditations are for?
We’d like to believe that customers looking for professional security services understand these benefits and what it takes to achieve them. Dardan Security actively promote these industry bodies in everything that we do.
It’s pleasing to see that all Government security contracts in Scotland must be fulfilled by ACS accredited companies only. We would welcome this situation across the wider UK. It’s also pleasing to note that the SIA promotes the professionalism, capability and experience of the security industry through awareness training, event participation and corporate functions.
We believe that business licensing for companies like Dardan Security cannot come soon enough in order to provide a level playing field of professional security companies and encourage healthy competition on a different subject-matter other than price.
Time in security business sector
25-plus years’ experience in the private security sector, with previous roles at Securicor, Reliance, G4S, OCS and Knightsbridge Guarding. Helped to grow the Knightsbridge Guarding business from a £7 million to a £35 million turnover operation in six years. Clients included Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, the Bank of England, Ernst & Young, the London Stock Exchange, Warner Bros and JP Morgan. Knightsbridge Guarding was nominated as one of the Top 3 Best Managed Private Companies and one of the Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies in the UK by The Sunday Times. Joined Dardan Security in 2013
Location of the business
Based out of our head office in Cambridge, Dardan Security serves clients both in its historic home of the East of England and London, as well as across the wider UK from Aberdeen to Kent.
Areas of expertise
Security guarding in a variety of differing industries, mobile security patrols, keyholding and alarm response for over 4,000 locations, CCTV, alarm and access control installation and maintenance, security advice, security consultancy, intelligence and training
SIA ACS, NSI Guarding Gold, SafeContractor, Cyber Essentials, SSAIB, Member of the City of London Crime Prevention Association, Member of the National Association of Security Dog Users, Eastern region communications hub for the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications initiative, Licensed to deliver Project Griffin training on behalf of the Government (until the scheme was withdrawn)
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.