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Why the security sector will become even more important as the world emerges from Covid restrictions

Intersec's editor Gary Wright in conversation with Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive of the The Security Institute.

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Covid has changed the face of security in the UK and across the world, says Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive of the The Security Institute.

He is pleased that frontline security personnel have been recognised as vital key workers during the pandemic and closer to home he admits his own organisation has adapted and grown since Covid 19 swept the world.

The Security Institute is the UK’s largest professional membership body for individuals in the security industry with 4,100 members - including around 600 from overseas.

Rick said: “During the pandemic I wrote elsewhere that our increased online activity did increase the involvement of our international members.”

He is speaking to IntersecLive via WhatsApp from his family home 20 miles south of London in a garden office, where he has spent much of the past 15 months working while the UK, like the rest of the world, wrestled with lockdown and tackling the pandemic.

rick-mountfield

“Thanks to Britain’s successful vaccination programme, hospitalisations and deaths are low and the government is relaxing restrictions,” he said. “At The Security Institute, we are starting to go back into the office, though not every day.

“But for many of the Institute’s members working from home has not been possible - in fact many have remained vital to the operation of the country.”

He’s very keen to highlight the work of front-line security professionals especially. “They were designated key workers early in the pandemic and for many people now - as we begin to return to offices and shopping centres - these staff are often the public’s first contact.”

Rick was in the British Army for the first 22 years of his working life with the Royal Military Police, he travelled across the world, and specialised in later years as a Close Protection Team Leader for British Ambassadors and Three-Star Generals in hostile environments and fragile states.

At 40 he left the British Army and utilised his experience offering protection to consult on private protective security for multi generational Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) families all over the world.

He said: “It was not armed, it was more about risk assessment and ensuring the minimum exposure to risk.”

He became Chief Executive of The Security Institute four years ago and is a well-known figure both in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

His background helps him explain the importance of the CSyP letters after a person’s name - specific to the security industry and administered by The Security Institute.

“In the Army you understand capability and seniority when you see a rank,” said Rick. “In the civilian world this is replaced with post nominals and the Security Institute membership comes with professional post nominals that are recognised by UK government as a mark of experience, qualification and ethical practice. We also administer the Register where strategic leaders in the industry can be measured against their counterparts such as chartered engineers, accountants , surveys and the like.

“It’s the gold standard and an aspiration for all security professionals. The 200th CSyP was the head of security at the New York Ports Authority.”

The validation process is the Institute's unique selling point. You cannot simply buy membership. You apply and a Validation board constructed from within the membership, will assess vocational experience and academic qualifications to agree a level of membership. Associate, Member or Fellow. All applicants are screened to British Standard 7858 and ethical practice is expected to retain membership. 

The Security Institute is not for profit and its mandate means all of its income is reinvested for members

“By January 2020, we had already invested in digital platforms to increase our online communications with members,” he said. “Covid focused our attention and ensured we were running within weeks. We now run webinars, every week, our October conference will be available live online and it’s an integral part of our operation.”

So, Covid has brought members together online more easily and its programme of career development and training has continued. But the Institute has added Covid-specific education and training in the wake of the pandemic.

“We have offered online courses covering returning to the office, how security officers on patrol can ensure compliance by workers and visitors as well as ensuring their own safety and we’ve provided these at cost,” said Rick.

That training is already being put into practice every day as lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted: “Covid has helped people recognise how important security professionals are - they are well trained and they are key to ensuring pubic safety as normal life resumes.

“There are few patrolling police officers any more and security personnel provide that reassurance. They do a great job and often went unnoticed, now they’re an essential part of living with Covid 19.”

As many people retreated to their homes to work over the past 14 months, much of the frontline security personnel carried on working the frontline.

“To assess risk and provide security in most areas except cyber, you need to be on site,” said Rick. “You need to be visible.”

While some members have seen their workload increase, other members have had a more negative experience.

“For some members the past year has brought opportunities but of course, for others, it has been financially tough. We have members for whom we have allowed deferred payments and even those who we are allowing to drop their membership and to be reinstated without the need to be validated again. The Institute is offering support during this time to all of our members.”

The Security Institute works with similar bodies in other countries cross Europe, India and the Middle East.

“Globally there is an increasing leaning towards risk-based security,” said Rick. Initially he describes it as the “UK way” but then clarifies that it’s actually shared with many European countries. “That means assess your risk, apply your businesses risk appetite and then mitigate by removing or reducing the risk, transferring it with insurance, or simply accept it and monitor.”

He said that the Middle East and India are becoming more focused on mitigating risk and exploring that way of thinking.

In Dubai he signed an MOU with The Security Industry Regulatory Authority (SIRA) two years ago. SIRA seeks to provide Dubai with the highest levels of safety and security through the implementation of international best practices in security systems, services and guards. It licences guards, provides security systems for key trade sectors and provides security devices and equipment.

That sharing of information and best practice has benefited both organisations and The Security Institute’s is now working with authorities in Saudi Arabia as well.

“We’re in the early stages and we’re deciding where we can best assist,” said Rick.

Asked what he felt the key challenges for the security sector over the 12 months, Rick choses three areas:

Cyber security will remain a major issue for companies, he said. Colonial Pipeline in the USA earlier this month, drew worldwide attention after blackmailers paralysed its payment process and a couple of weeks later the Republic of Ireland’s health computer system was also targeted by criminals. These two made international headlines, many cyber attacks do not.

Governments and industry need to find a way to protect themselves and the US government’s advice not to pay blackmailers is not an answer (many companies simply pay up and move on rather than face the devastation to their systems).

But Rick highlights epistemic security as another huge challenge worldwide. It’s the very knowledge that countries and their people possess and have access to via social media. “The ability of nation states to influence people’s perceptions is a real security threat for the future,” he said.

“While arguable there has never been more information available for people to access. The way in which algorithms allow the susceptible to be targeted so that monitory views may appear more widely supported should concern everyone. The growth of small organised special interest groups who make their view seem mainstream can be as damaging as direct government interference in another’s politics.

“People need to be informed, they need to find trusted sources of information and be careful. From that viewpoint, I believe The Security Institute can play its part in providing members with  trusted information.”

For the future he returned again to the importance of well-trained security officers in the post pandemic world:  “Perception and recognition with the shrinking of police numbers in the UK and the disappearance of the traditional Bobby on the beat, reassurance comes from security officers. They are regulated, well trained and  in the past were often viewed by the public as low skilled. That is rightly changing.”

And for the UK, the government is consulting over a new law that will mean owners of venues, shopping centres, in fact any publicly accessible location must have considered terrorism. “That could mean how staff are trained to react and to ensure the operator has procedures in place to react if there is an incident,” said Rick and The Security Institute is involved in the government’s nationwide consultation which ends in July.

“We have gone through a year and a half of disruption worldwide that many have predicted for a long time (it’s been on the business continuity radar forever), but not the duration or impact at the macro and micro level. But the security sector is prepared to be a key part of the future as we emerge from this pandemic.”

To find out more about The Security Institute click HERE

To read more about epistemic security click HERE

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October 2021
With picture of Rick Mounfield
By Gary Wright – Intersec Editor