This is the eighteenth 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 this time around is Jane Farrell, head of security for the UK and Ireland at Sodexo.
Risk Xtra: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Jane Farrell: In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo delivers services that improve the quality of life for its clients at some 2,100 locations in the corporate, healthcare, education, leisure, justice and defence sectors.
Sodexo provides a complete security offer aimed at client organisations seeking a customised response to their on-site security needs. We work in strategic partnership with all of our clients, combining high quality electronic and physical security solutions to deliver results that are at once visible and measurable.
Sodexo has taken a leading position in the security industry by providing our clients with a next generation service that’s focused on implementing prevention strategies instead of over-corrective measures.
Our approach to security is based on systems and processes that have proven effective in providing a consistently high-quality service, using a resourcing model based on our practical experience in deploying an appropriate number of officers who perform their duties with diligence and a constant focus on customer service and risk management.
Our security services are managed by a central team from our Security Control Room in Salford, the members of whom work closely with local teams on client sites.
Sodexo’s global subject matter experts and partner organisations enable us to operate security services across the world in a diverse range of environments.
Risk Xtra: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Jane Farrell: Our people are critical to the success of our business, ensuring that our clients’ expectations are understood and met. Through their hard work and commitment, we are viewed as a trusted security partner by our clients rather than just a supplier of manpower.
Our robust processes and deliverables, along with our accredited standards and extensive industry knowledge, enable our clients to put their trust in our ability to deliver the standard of security they expect. We’re often credited during periods of transition – such as the mobilisation of new contracts – for maintaining a high level of service throughout the change process.
We give our clients the confidence that the resources and competences are in place to manage staffing issues if a risk was presented.
It’s important to us and our clients that we work closely on strategic forums with the Security Industry Authority (SIA), ensuring that we’re at the very forefront of industry standards.
Risk Xtra: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Jane Farrell: Sodexo has a number of security accreditations which involve disciplined processes and good communications with our operators to maintain. We can never underestimate the amount of work and co-ordination that this proof of competency takes to maintain. We’re accredited in our standards to provide security services in terms of both security guarding and electronic security in the UK and Ireland, train our employees and provide an accredited Security Control Room. We are also an ACS Pacesetters company.
Having accreditations not only generates trust and assurance for our clients, but also supports our business development teams as we’re able to prove that we’re a trusted security provider that has been offering a high-quality and accredited security service since 2007.
From an operational point of view, as we’re audited several times a year by each professional body we are able to create a framework which enables us to check our own standards and continually look for further improvement when it comes to the services we deliver.
Risk Xtra: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Jane Farrell: Industry accreditations and approval schemes can only add value to the security services we realise for our clients and prospective clients by providing assurance that our service is of the highest standard and regularly audited and monitored by independent industry bodies.
As an Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS)-registered security provider, we have to adhere to a system of inspection which satisfactorily meets the agreed standards under the Private Security Industry Act 2001. This ensures that we are not only compliant, but that we provide a Best-in-Class security service whereby we continually seek improvements. It’s a service underpinned by training courses to suit the current security threat level and which seeks innovation in technology for our clients.
The NSI is widely recognised as the leading certification body for the security sector in the UK and, as such, the organisation audits and closely monitors its approved companies such as Sodexo to ensure that all of them are maintaining the high standards required to achieve certification.
Sodexo is proud to have achieved NSI Gold. It’s a voluntary and very thorough process which provides our clients and prospective clients with the knowledge that Sodexo’s Security Control Room has achieved all of the NSI’s requirements to be awarded Gold status.
Risk Xtra: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Jane Farrell: Both the SIA and the NSI aim to raise the standard in the security industry. The ACS and Guarding Gold cross-over in certain areas, with the latter requiring compliance with BS 7858 which focuses on screening.
The main difference rests with who carries out the audits. The ACS is not audited directly by the SIA. The Regulator has four core assessing bodies who conduct assessments on its behalf. The results are then submitted to the SIA for review and compliance to ensure that we’ve met the required standard.
The NSI runs the scheme for Guarding Gold which is audited by its own internal auditors. Once audited, a company’s results are then passed across to a team of NSI auditors who validate the audit to ensure that the business under scrutiny has met the required standard.
All accreditations require auditing to ensure that we meet the required standard. The initial stage of the ACS is a desktop exercise and has a workbook that needs to be completed. Once the desktop exercise has been completed, this is followed up by site visits across the business and requires the auditors to meet with up to 30 of the firm’s security officers.
NSI Gold is based around the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 looking at BS 7858 and BS 7499. We need to meet certain requirements along with the standards mentioned previously. It’s a one-day audit looking at all the processes and procedures that we operate within our Security Control Room.
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?
Jane Farrell: Clients continually seek more efficient cost saving solutions for providing security services, often at the expense of security guarding provision. Every week a new technology emerges whether it‘s new cameras, access control, reporting mechanisms or robots.
There’s no question that technology has improved efficiencies in managing security and enables providers to think outside the box when providing solutions.
As we operate our own NSI Gold-accredited Security Control Room we understand the requirements and complexities of the electronic security market and are well placed to guide clients in this area. If chosen correctly, electronic security can be a valuable addition to current on-site security arrangements. We can not only design and recommend security systems, but also ensure that they’re installed and maintained to the right specification, giving clients the reassurance that their valuable investment is well protected.
There are still a number of clients who are not confident that remotely monitoring access control is the complete answer. They continue to prefer a physical security presence. To help these clients overcome their concerns, we need to have strong Case Studies which demonstrate the benefits of these systems including the savings and efficiencies that have been made along with the standard of service delivered.
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?
Jane Farrell: Understanding the clients’ requirements, values and culture is key as they are looking for a professional security solution which suits their approach to providing a safe place in which their employees can work in an efficient and effective manner.
Awareness and understanding of current threats and how adaptable we are to respond accordingly are high on the list of expectations along with greater awareness of using cloud-based security solutions and the next generation of video management systems and associated technology.
The development of our teams as the security professionals of tomorrow is featuring in more and more conversations, encompassing the stability of the team, career development and training programmes as well as our approach in terms of creating diverse teams.
It’s important that our solutions for providing security services show innovation through blending traditional security guarding with technology and that any solutions we present emphasise the management of risk with clear and proven processes in place.
Risk Xtra: How has Government legislation (eg 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?
Jane Farrell: Labour costs have increased. Higher employment costs impact the bottom line and erode margins which many companies cannot afford to do, so invariably the cost to provide services will increase unless labour saving technologies are used.
Front line security officers should be paid a fair wage, especially as we see crime statistics rise and our teams are increasingly placed in vulnerable situations. Many security officers risk their own lives while on duty and should be paid a decent wage for doing so.
We need to think about the value of the assets and the lives that our teams are protecting and ensure that our clients invest in the appropriate level of security service and necessary protective equipment to support them.
Risk Xtra: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Jane Farrell: Successful security officers have to be capable of doing a difficult and demanding job. They need integrity to manage change and deal with problems effectively. We aim to attract and recruit people with the ability, passion and commitment to be effective officers. We look for people who communicate well in all situations given that they’re often going to be the first point of contact.
We expect our teams to be aware of their own behaviour and how it can determine the outcome of events. We want our security officers to be achievers. Individuals who are able to work on their own to achieve their objectives and ones that continually look for personal progression.
We recognise the positive contribution women are making as security professionals and we’re taking steps to attract them to the industry to achieve their full potential. We’re proud that almost 20% of our workforce is female and that they’ve demonstrated career progression within our security teams.
With the right attitude and commitment, a career in the security industry can be a satisfying and rewarding experience for many.
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?
Jane Farrell: Both the SIA and the NSI set standards for companies to provide a high level security service and maintain those standards for their clients’ premises and people.
The annual audits allow security companies to improve their standards particularly towards employee development, but there isn’t much focus on new innovation which our clients continually require.
Our clients are aware of both schemes, but as highlighted by the recent and extensive ACS Review, the ACS isn’t being marketed well enough and it’s sometimes difficult for clients to understand the value it provides. Support in this area from both schemes would be beneficial.
In terms of the public interest, greater awareness of how the private security industry supports policing activities would also be beneficial.
Business licensing would be a positive step, but would need revisiting to reflect how crime has changed since the idea was first introduced in 2014.
Time in security business sector
Over 11 years of security experience applying expertise and leadership to develop Sodexo’s professional security services as part of an integrated service offer to our clients. 37 years with Sodexo in management roles in hospitality, project management and FM. I’m chair of the International Professional Security Association and have been a Board director since 2015. I’ve offered thought leadership across various industry bodies including the SIA’s Strategy and Standards Group and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Security Trailblazer Workshop
Location of the business
Sodexo’s UK head office is based at Southampton Row in central London. The Ireland head office resides in Dublin
Areas of expertise
Across a number of environments (including healthcare, corporate, education, energy and resources, Government and sports/leisure we offer physical security, electronic security, Control Room services, service maintenance and fire detection. We adapt to future trends through strong partnerships with core suppliers and invest in our people in a continual bid to drive positive change
SIA Approved Contractor, NSI Gold, ACS Pacesetters, Licensed by the Private Security Authority (Ireland), Qualsec Platinum, NOCN Approved Training Centre, IQ Approved Training Centre, ISO 27001
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.