This is the fifteenth 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 Gemma Quirke, managing director for security and aviation services at Wilson James.
Risk Xtra: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Gemma Quirke: Wilson James provides safe, secure and customer-led solutions to more than 300 clients across the UK and Europe. We have been raising standards for over 25 years across three core service lines: security, construction logistics and aviation services.
While diverse in scope, our unique combination of expertise and sector specialisms have enabled us to deliver complex and bespoke solutions for our clients. In security, our Security Industry Authority (SIA)-licensed security officers provide protection for a given business, its assets, people and reputation. Our experts are able to advise on the latest security technology including CCTV, alarm systems and data, while our consultants help to mitigate risk through collaborative engagement.
Security is also a key component of our other service lines. In construction logistics, we provide a range of services to support large-scale construction projects. A highly flexible approach enables us to combine the expertise of different logistics management fields such as transport, storage, material movement and people flow.
In aviation, we deliver a diverse range of services including aviation security, passenger and premium services, airport operations and construction logistics, consultancy and training.
Risk Xtra: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Gemma Quirke: Working with a service provider that pulls expertise and resources from multiple sectors, as we are able to do, is a real asset. As the world has grown more integrated and complex, our clients look to us to provide much more than a security guarding service. Rather, they require broad solutions incorporating technology, consultancy services and risk management, along with high calibre security professionals able to operate across every area of service delivery.
We’re particularly proud of having built a reputation around providing a partnership approach to our contracts. We do not supply off-the-shelf security products. We develop bespoke solutions that meet the needs of our clients.
Risk Xtra: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Gemma Quirke: Accreditations are incredibly important to us. The core tenet of every security offer is trust: our client partners entrust the safety of their people, assets and reputations to us. Meeting and maintaining accredited standards allows us to demonstrate our commitment to providing a quality service in terms of systems, personnel and training.
Wilson James is proud to maintain several accreditations across all three of the company’s core service lines. The right accreditations serve as a useful confirmation of service quality and, typically, are a focus for attention in the tender processes conducted with new clients.
Risk Xtra: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Gemma Quirke: Accreditations like these help to provide a baseline of standards. Suppliers who don’t meet certain thresholds are unlikely to be able to provide the complex solutions required to service today’s modern businesses and brands. As stated, the needs of those brands are constantly evolving.
Risk Xtra: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Gemma Quirke: Our National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Guarding Gold approval confirms that the Wilson James Security Management System meets the highest standards for businesses operating within the security industry in order to protect the interests of the end user.
The SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) ensures that the integrity of the security supply chain is maintained and that employment practices are extensively assessed in respect of quality and Best Practice.
Wilson James is proud to be in the Top 5% of companies based on the Accredited Contractor score received during the last published assessment audit.
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?
Gemma Quirke: Technology plays a large part in the industry. As the risks have become more complex, the solutions have had to evolve even more quickly to address them. Risk isn’t confined to the physical presence of bad actors. From cyber threats through to reputational damage, a good security service needs to take in more data than ever before and turn it into information that informs actionable strategies. Companies that are able to do so will continue to drive innovation. Companies that do not will be fighting a losing battle, not just against their competitors, but also against bad actors who are also innovating quickly and finding new ways to cause harm.
Of course, technology still relies on competent human direction. Much may be changing about the security industry, but at its heart, security is a people business. At Wilson James, we’re proud to have pioneered and championed several initiatives over the years to demonstrate our commitment to being a people-based organisation.
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?
Gemma Quirke: What we see more and more is that our clients require us to be an agile provider that’s able to tease out and address complex security needs during a tender process. The market is ‘savvier’ than ever and clients are, rightly, expecting solutions that don’t just address their current needs, but can also anticipate the security challenges that their organisations will face a year – or perhaps five years – from now.
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?
Gemma Quirke: We believe that a workforce of qualified professionals isn’t a ‘nice to have’. It’s a necessity. This means providing in-house training programmes, ongoing education and people development opportunities. It also means supporting initiatives that fairly compensate workers. While the political merits of various standards are debated, we believe that those organisations investing in people will inevitably provide a higher quality of service.
This investment starts right from the beginning. Wilson James focuses on ethical employment at every stage of the employee lifecycle. From our inclusive recruitment processes to ongoing support and training for existing employees, we ensure a fair and honest people approach. Workplace well-being is a priority across all of our offices and sites and we actively foster a culture that values personality and diversity.
Most importantly, we want our employees to be well-equipped and feel confident in carrying out their roles, as well as being able to develop skills that will allow for career advancement and personal progression.
Risk Xtra: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Gemma Quirke: We look for candidates and staff that want to build long-term careers, both in the industry and with Wilson James specifically. In 2018 alone, we launched two new training programmes specifically geared towards identifying and developing candidates at every level of our organisation for future leadership roles and their own personal development. This isn’t just good business practice. It’s good business sense. We want people to want to work for us and our clients.
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?
Gemma Quirke: Ultimately, whether we’re talking about individuals or large organisations, quality matters in the security industry. It’s the difference between an off-the-shelf product and a bespoke solution, between a run-of-the-mill officer and a highly-trained security professional.
Organisations and brands should be seeking the highest quality of service providers to help them respond to and mitigate risk. The care of people and assets has never been more complex or more important. Bodies like the SIA and the NSI are an important part of this.
Our strapline as a business reads: ‘Raising standards for over 25 years’. It’s a motto we’re proud of, just as we’re proud of being the largest privately-owned specialist security provider in the UK.
Whether going through rigorous accreditation processes designed to meet and exceed industry standards set by accrediting bodies, or by continuously investing in our own people development, we believe that a firm commitment to quality is the key to our next 25 years in business.
Time in security business sector
I’ve held the role of managing director for security and aviation services at Wilson James since August 2014 and, prior to that, served as the Human Resources director within the organisation
Location of the business
Wilson James is headquartered in Essex, but also operates from key office sites in London, Manchester, Aberdeen and at Heathrow Airport
Areas of expertise
The business helps its myriad clients to address their security needs through the delivery of security guarding, bespoke consulting, Control Room management and technology solutions
Wilson James publicly list all of its accreditations. These are as follows: BSI ISO 9001, BSI ISO 14001, BSI OHSAS 18001, ISO 28000, Cyber Essentials, NSI Guarding Gold and SIA ACS