This is the ninth instalment in a monthly series of articles for the readers of Risk UK 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 key questions this month is Graham Tilly, managing director of Risk Management Security Services.
Risk UK: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Graham Tilly: Risk Management Security Services provides solutions across three main security disciplines that include security guarding, mobile security patrols and keyholding/alarm response. Within each discipline, we look to deliver many sub-services such as reception staff, Post Room operatives, locks/unlocks and complete combined solutions that actively integrate elements of each individual service.
The business occupies a position within the industry between the very small owner-managed companies and the very large national suppliers. This enables us to demonstrate the standards and policies required by large corporate organisations while maintaining the type of personal service that can be offered by the smaller companies.
Risk UK: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Graham Tilly: Through our experienced and stable management team we maintain close working relationships with each customer. This enables us to fully understand their requirements and deliver a service that absolutely matches what was discussed at the point of sale.
Customers also take great comfort in the fact that we operate our own 24-hour Control Centre and that we’ve maintained a specialism within the security sector without being tempted to diversify into other soft services.
We adopt a completely honest approach when holding discussions with our customers, and in particular if there’s a problem to be solved or a challenge to be faced. This allows us to gain the trust of our customers and build true business relationships whereby we can work together to reach a satisfactory solution.
Risk UK: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Graham Tilly: Accreditation within the industry has really set up a base level of acceptable working practices that provides potential and existing customers with some comfort that the service they receive or that they’re looking for is consistent, suitable and appropriate. On a procedural front, this allows customers to have a base level which is a minimum standard that can be easily compared between those companies that have it and those that don’t.
The fact that we operate to security standards BS 7499, BS 7984-1 and BS 7858, and the fact that these are voluntary, is basically saying to the market that we do things properly. We don’t cut corners and always demonstrate transparency in all that we do. Everything is validated by a third party.
This is particularly relevant for larger end user organisations where many of these aspects have become very much a pass/fail aspect. Without them, you fall at the first hurdle. Accreditation as a base level also enables us to change the discussion away from basic functionality and allows us to focus more on the relationship aspects and how we work. We’re able to concentrate more on our USP.
For smaller organisations and those customers who don’t know a lot about our industry, accreditation also acts as a sort of ‘qualification’ that really provides a level of comfort. Customers know that they’re discussing their security requirements with a reputable organisation.
Risk UK: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Graham Tilly: Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) registration offers a toe in the door, enabling the security business to tender for work. For those who don’t know the ins and outs of the industry, it lends some weight to the services that we’re providing.
The ACS is, of course, run by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), a Government body. This affords legitimacy to the services we offer our customers. It also helps us to build a working platform on which to do business and ensure that we’re not only delivering a great service, but also looking after our people.
NSI Guarding Gold is slightly different. This is based more around ensuring and demonstrating that we have systems, processes, procedures and policies in place to support what it is that we do. NSI Guarding Gold brings together the product standards, the quality standards and day-to-day business operations. It assists in setting a foundation throughout our business and affords a platform on which to build an excellent service.
NSI Guarding Gold adds some weight to what we do and the way that we do it. It demonstrates our transparency due to its voluntary nature and third party approval process, and also assists in keeping everyone focused on the tasks at hand.
Risk UK: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Graham Tilly: NSI Guarding Gold is focused around service quality (ISO 9001), functionality (security product standards) and service whereas ACS registration with the Regulator is more about being a reputable organisation, the softer aspects (such as people management or KPI monitoring) and compliance with licensing and the SIA’s specific requirements.
NSI Guarding Gold is made up of compliance with British and international standards/Codes of Practice which affords security companies wider scope to use them as a framework and build their business model around them in order to support day-to-day operations in a systematic way and ensure that the very best possible service is provided to customers on a consistent basis.
The ACS is focused around service delivery and demonstrating that we do what we say we do as a company. NSI Guarding Gold really helps us to run the business effectively, whereas the ACS is more of an addition to demonstrate our commitments to different areas of the business and the softer aspects involved with client and people management.
Risk UK: 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?
Graham Tilly: Many companies have looked at the integration of technology to support existing security measures and, in some cases, have used technology to reduce the reliance on security guarding. We’ve seen many companies review traditional methods of securing sites, such as guarding, and replace them with technology-based solutions either as single solutions or combined with other practices.
A large number of clients subscribe to our combined security solution that provides similar – and, in some cases, better – levels of security, but offers year-on-year savings of between 30% and 60%. Typically, this type of solution uses a combination of security guarding, mobile patrols and keyholding supported by security systems with each element being deployed on a measured basis to avoid unnecessary services being delivered or hours being covered.
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?
Graham Tilly: Our ability to maintain a stable workforce of suitably trained and knowledgeable staff is very important to our customers, as is our ability to provide effective levels of management support.
Over the last ten years, we’ve seen greater demands placed upon security staff and duties continuously increasing to provide enhanced levels of service and greater value for money. The days of a security officer simply providing access control and searches have gone. We’re experiencing security personnel forming an integral part of the facilities operation at many sites. This demonstrates a shift in expectation and changes traditional guarding services.
As an industry, we need to work closely with customers to ensure that they have a better understanding of the challenges this can bring if pay rates don’t increase to accommodate these specific requirements. We’ve also seen an increase in requests for recommendations to be provided as to how the service required can be delivered by using alternative methods. This is where a combined solutions package and the integration of security systems can prove to be an attractive solution.
Some years ago, we experienced a trend of companies outlining contracts based on a ‘Total FM’ solution and placing all of their soft services needs with a single supplier. We’re now seeing such solutions being challenged and replaced by companies that require specialists in key areas of their business such that they can gain benefits through management expertise and knowledge.
Technology is also playing a key role in the changing face of security at many levels, and is very often a significant element of the tender requirement. The use of technology links directly to another key requirement of security companies: the need to continuously reduce our impact on the environment.
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?
Graham Tilly: To date, this has had very minimal impact on our business as our rates, across the majority of our locations, far exceed both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage. As a company, we don’t believe in quoting low and unsustainable wages. While we do operate at a small percentage of sites where the wage rates are not in line with our model, we work with these clients to increase them to suitable levels.
Legislation is important as it avoids companies offering unsustainable rates of pay to staff, which can only have a negative effect on the quality of people in the industry. However, we do still see companies using the Minimum Wage as their model to price up new business (excluding TUPE). While this may offer a tempting solution to companies sourcing security, as very often it’s one of the largest spends a company will make, you have to question how suitable security staff can be recruited at such wage levels.
Some caution does need to be employed. Many organisations are looking to reduce their spend on security, not increase it. While wage increases are great for the individuals benefiting from them, someone has to pay for this and that’s only ever going to be the people buying the service. As wage rates increase, some customers will have to look very carefully at what they can justify paying for the services received, no matter how good they are.
Risk UK: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Graham Tilly: Experience within the sector is critical. We’re seeing an influx of new security officers who are entering the industry, having received assistance to gain an SIA licence, but who have little understanding of how the industry works (ie shift work, 12-hour shifts, lone working, etc). It’s therefore vital that we recruit security staff who have experience in this type of environment and, furthermore, can offer reliability and loyalty.
One of the most important aspects is attitude. People have to want to work in the industry. They have to want to do a good job and have to want to show up. You cannot teach people attitude. If they’re the sort of character that likes to cut corners or has a ‘take it or leave it’ approach towards their work then that isn’t going to cut it in a customer-facing sector.
Within the company, we also look for staff members who fit the culture of our business in terms of understanding our philosophies and methods for delivering the service. We employ staff who can demonstrate a positive approach to service delivery at all times.
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?
Graham Tilly: The standards outlined by both the NSI and the SIA need to be observed by all companies operating in the sector and be directly linked to business licensing that will hopefully then create an elite list of companies as originally expected when the ACS was born.
I attended a meeting of industry companies prior to individual licensing and ACS assessment. The (then) chairman of the SIA advised that security companies would be able to charge customers an additional 35% due to officer licensing and registration with the ACS. That was 13 years ago. I sincerely hope that, if business licensing does come to fruition, companies within the industry can work with the SIA and the NSI to develop that elite list and raise standards even further.
If business licensing enables customers to genuinely identify suppliers in the upper echelon of the industry, then it has to be a positive step. If it simply becomes another membership for the existing ACS companies – and bear in mind it has been suggested ACS companies will fast track to business licensing – then I cannot see any benefits arising.
Time in security business sector
I’ve worked in the security business sector with Risk Management Security Services for 23 years. Prior to becoming managing director, I served in the roles of business development manager, business development director and operations director
Location of the business
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Areas of expertise
Security guarding, mobile security patrols and keyholding/alarm response
NSI Guarding Gold, SIA ACS, SafeContractor, ACS Pacesetters
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.