This is the sixteenth 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 Chris McDonald, head of corporate development at TSS (Total Security Services).
Risk Xtra: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Chris McDonald: TSS (Total Security Services) Ltd is a family-owned business established in 1989. We’re now the largest privately-owned security firm in the UK and employ upwards of 5,000 officers operating in the retail, distribution, logistics, corporate and public sectors. With offices in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast, TSS is recognised as a specialist supplier of security services within the UK when it comes to static and mobile security. Our footprint has been achieved by looking after our members of staff and treating them fairly, unrivalled customer retention and a total commitment to excellent service.
We use industry-leading vetting, training and selection with a keen focus on the development of our staff and always remain true to the core business of physical security. We do not claim to be ‘all things to all people’. Simply put, we are a provider of high quality security services in our core business area.
Risk Xtra: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Chris McDonald: Our clients value our pace and agility. As a business, one of the key differentials is our unremitting commitment to delivering the best quality service in the industry, both consistently and professionally. We have a management team that’s quick to respond to requests. Phone calls are answered promptly, and e-mails and written requests dealt with and followed up.
Being privately owned, we don’t have to report to shareholders. Therefore, any major financial, contractual or operational decision can be made quickly. This is really valued by our customers. They have peace of mind that, from making their initial phone call or sending that first e-mail, they’re reassured swift resolution to their issue(s) is ‘a given’. Our swiftness of response means that our clients can focus on their business knowing we will have dealt with and resolved any issues promptly, thoroughly and to their ultimate satisfaction.
Risk Xtra: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Chris McDonald: Accreditations have proven to be invaluable in terms of the development of our company, affording both new and existing clients confidence in our abilities. The accreditation processes drive continuous improvements to service and compliance, including the Health and Safety and professional development of our staff members. Our accredited in-house training staff deliver a range of courses both in the classroom and on site. Our people are our most important asset and, as such, we acquired the Investors in People accreditation over five years ago by way of proving that point.
Risk Xtra: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Chris McDonald: The externally performed audits that are undertaken as part of the ACS and NSI Guarding Gold give us reassurance that our processes and procedures are the very best that they can be. The audits look deeply into the health, stability and propriety of our company and the way in which we do business. From a client’s perspective, they are a good differentiator between security companies.
Risk Xtra: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Chris McDonald: ACS registration is the regulatory element of what is in effect a voluntary scheme. NSI Guarding Gold is simply a standard which demonstrates that the security company has achieved a defined benchmark of quality. The ACS is a probing look at all facets of the company across a whole variety of issues and is useful in terms of a business’ overall improvement process.
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?
Chris McDonald: We are far better equipped today to provide real-time incident reports, from officers reporting the volume and values of deters via their hand-held portals to escalating the risk of a people safety incident. With colleague safety being at the forefront of our thinking, it’s vital we embrace technology to capture statistics and provide intelligent analytics that allow our clients to make better financial decisions around their investment and deliver a good return on investment and budget.
Going forward, security professionals will become more and more involved in providing crime awareness advice, working with the police service to reduce vandalism (a process which TSS have been supporting with the use of mobile CCTV vans for car parks, etc). In addition, monitoring behaviour using the latest digital security technologies to detect criminality and prevent incidents before they arise will further develop in the years ahead.
Ultimately, the incisive use of a mix of the physical (ie security officers) and the technical will most certainly be the way forward.
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?
Chris McDonald: Cost will always play a fundamental part in any tender process. Over the last few years, we’ve seen our clients having to scrutinise more and more closely their investment both in manned and physical security.
Low unemployment and increases to the National Minimum Wage combined with increasing employer costs (for fuel and pension contributions, etc) are all driving up both fixed and direct labour costs, in turn placing further pressure on budgets. Therefore, it’s crucial in any tender exercise to demonstrate to our clients how we can bring value to contracts through bespoke risk models and more innovative ideas, both in terms of the way in which security guarding is deployed and how technology is embraced.
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?
Chris McDonald: Government legislation to improve minimum standards of pay is helpful. These rises inevitably need to be passed on to our clients which can be problematic since all of our staff are paid above the National Minimum Wage in any case and we need to keep our differentials to recruit and retain staff. Security is a vitally important and professional job and, as such, we should (and do) pay the very best rates we can afford.
However, we are often constrained by what clients are willing and able to pay for the service. Unfortunately, security budgets are always under extreme pressure and particularly so when clients are seeking to make savings. Legislation can have an impact here.
Risk Xtra: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Chris McDonald: In essence, a positive attitude and the desire to do a good job. Experience is also a great attribute. As an Investors in People business recognised for how we deal with our staff, our belief is that, by putting our people first, we deliver world-class services to our clients. We’re confident that our officers are some of the very best in the industry, due at least in part to substantial investment in our Training Academy.
For every officer we recruit – and even those with all of the necessary credentials and experience already on board – we take them through a tailored two-day classroom training programme to ensure that they have the confidence and support to do a great job. Through this programme, we come to know the officers and are then able to deploy the right individuals for the right assignment. This provides our officers with the confidence to ‘shine’, while our clients see a real difference in quality, too.
We’re proud to have some of the best calibre security officers working within our organisation. Our people constitute a well-motivated, skilled and managed workforce that delivers outstanding results.
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?
Chris McDonald: It seems absurd that it’s possible to run a security company and provide Security Industry Authority-licenced officers with neither NSI Guarding Gold or participation in the ACS. The SIA and the NSI both have a role to play in helping to regulate and professionalise the industry in general. This is about raising standards for the industry, but also about providing an even better service for the client base.
Given the pressures now exerted on the police service, private sector businesses are increasingly turning to private security firms to provide for them and, while accreditations can help in differentiating the latter for the paying customer, there’s little to formally differentiate between officers and vocational or occupational qualifications. That differentiation would be helpful.
Time in security business sector
I’m a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police Service and have accumulated 30 years of senior management experience. I’ve served as a national police advisor on the integration of both physical and technical security and spent considerable time working in an advisory capacity at the Home Office. Across the years, I’ve developed deep understanding of the private security industry having joined TSS back in 2012, subsequently overseeing account management for key clients and serving as the company’s head of corporate development
Location of the business
Head Office is located at Highams Park in London. Regional offices operate in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast
Areas of expertise
Security guarding, store detectives, mobile patrols, key holding, assisted lock and un-lock, mobile CCTV, high value transits and escorts, close protection and alarm response
SIA Approved Contractor, NSI Guarding Gold, Investors in People, BSI ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems), OHSAS 18001 (Health and Safety Management), SafeContractor, Edexcel Approved Training Centre
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.