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The downfall of Cardinal Security – Tough Talk asks Jason Trigg, “What went wrong?”

Almost 12 months ago Jason Trigg exited Cardinal Security. Having built the guarding business up over the previous 18 years, it had become a well-respected player in the risk management industry. And yet last week, it went bust…

Now Trigg has returned revitalised to the industry with Amberstone Guarding, a new entity under his control that seeks to not only rescue the situation caused by the collapse of Cardinal, but also to eclipse the achievements of what was once his company.

Can the situation be “rescued”? And even if it can, isn’t manned guarding becoming less relevant to retail, as new technologies obviate the need for manned guards?

In this Tough Questions interview we seek to get behind the scenes of what caused Cardinal’s spectacular fall from grace, one that reputedly cost Mr Trigg personally a seven-figure sum, and what he intends to do to win back business in a changing retail landscape.

1. Why did Cardinal go bust?

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.

We have seen respected brands disappear from the high street or come under pressure. You could say Cardinal was “unlucky” to be caught up in that. But then I believe that we make our own luck.

I have examined what happened. And I have made sure that Amberstone Guarding is well placed to take advantage of the lessons learned. That’s is good news for Cardinal customers and good news for the 1,000 plus employees whose jobs I have secured.

2. What’s happening to Cardinal’s customers?

I am in the process of contacting them all and explaining the situation. However, in a nutshell it is business as usual for them with Amberstone Guarding providing a continuation of service to Cardinal customers with enhanced and focus on return on investment for the customer and service delivery. Nobody will be let down. Quite the contrary. Their ROI will go up.

3. What is Amberstone Guarding? Will it honour Cardinal’s old commitments to customers and creditors?

Amberstone Guarding is a new company. It brings together two of the biggest names in the security and loss prevention sectors. As a result it is uniquely placed, with technology to deliver an innovative, cost-effective, transparent and accountable guarding solution for the 21st century.

I am communicating our strategy going forward with all of the former Cardinal customers and creditors.

4. Isn’t manned guarding a dying industry? Why start a new guarding company now?

Guarding isn’t dying it is changing. The bad guys have not gone away!

There will be a large vacuum left by Cardinal Security that we hope to fill. But Amberstone Guarding has not just been set up to do the same thing, but under a different name.

We will offer retailers a new option based upon the best technology (Amberstone Technology) coupled with a higher quality guarding solution. We will offer flexibility and transparency. So, retailers will always have precisely the right resource to match the risk presented – no more, no less. In a rapidly changing retail landscape, that is a big, big deal.

5. What lessons can be gleaned from the collapse of Cardinal that the industry can learn from?

Throughout the guarding industry, companies base their commercial model on as little as 3% margin or less. Pricing has been driven down so far through a misunderstanding in Procurement. There is a mismatch over what a modern guarding solution can do in terms of what return on investment is actually possible…

One of the lessons is that prices need to be driven back up to sustainable levels to reflect increased performance. But not at the retailers’ risk. At the supplier’s.

We are looking to show people, through concepts like performance related pay, the true returns that are possible. We can demonstrate how by paying more you get more. We will take the risk of things not working out as we say they will, in order to get the chance to demonstrate to people what they are missing.

A reality check around return on investment is essential to the industry. Otherwise just look at what is happening. People like G4S have been pulling out of retail. Pulling out! Instead of a race to the bottom on price, we want to create a race to the top in terms of return on investment for our customers.

Linked to the issue of increased pricing is the issue around the quality of people it attracts. Generally, it is the same people doing the rounds. The same thinking. Guarding does not attract anyone from outside other sectors, bringing fresh concepts and talent. That has to change. Genuine progression will attract different people and different thinking.

In my opinion the role of insurance companies, in terms of the industry and regulation, will be key. When they decree to customers that an effective guarding deterrent is a necessary evil, that will be a game changer for the industry. And that day is coming thanks to the increased security pressures we all of us see all around us every day.

Another lesson is around technology. Modern guarding needs to be focused on return on investment not selling a commoditised, homogenous guarding service.

Cardinal’s old management team stripped out all the technology crucial to this paradigm shift in focus on ROI that I put in. Bringing electronic solutions and people together in one company means that the Amberstone brands combined can focus on maximising return on investment for our customers, not just flogging them guarding hours because that is what we sell. Also, by offering everything under one company umbrella, the training and integration of guards and technology is seamless, offering massive advantages in account management and seamless execution.

Since I left the guarding industry, there has arguably been a crisis of innovation and ideas. Sounds a bit arrogant and big headed I know. But come on… Nothing new of merit has come along in the guarding industry over the last 12 months. Just look at the Awards and accolades won by Cardinal every year at industry events such as the Fraud Awards, during my watch. We always cleaned up! The industry has stultified because perhaps its most innovative person has been out of the industry for 12 months. But now I am back… and with a vengeance.

6. What are your ambitions for Amberstone Guarding in the next 12 months and beyond?

Both Amberstone Technology and Cardinal have introduced innovative solutions to the market over the years Our job will be to converge those offerings, so that clients have the best of all worlds with the new, combined company.

From Risk Watch to Guarded365 – a solution that allows clients to rate their guarding experience – Amberstone Guarding is going to be more responsive, more flexible and more cost effective than anything that the market has seen before.

7. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently when it came to selling Cardinal? Any regrets?

Wasn’t it M, in the James Bond film “Skyfall”, who said “Regret is not professional.”

Things happen for a reason. I spent 18 years building Cardinal. To see it collapse just 12 months after leaving was heart breaking. And I personally have also lost out financially too. But the really positive thing to come out of this is the opportunity to become the best in class as Amberstone Guarding. To bring new solutions that match the evolving needs of retailers, rather than just old-style guarding solutions with a fresh coat of paint.

Take my new training Academy for example…

It has retailers on the Board willing to work with me to shape the way in which best in class officers are trained.

We want guards who can be integrated into the retail business. For example, guards can receive integrated data feeds direct from EAS barrier activations. But more than that.

Empowered through technology stacks, such as RFID, officers could actually become an integrated part of the shrinkage piece.

By training guards to work more effectively with data from body cams and facial recognition technology and operating a perimeter protection model, we can create a private police force, offered as a guarding provision, at a time when constabularies nationally are struggling with funding deficits. And retailers can then share resources, or cluster their guards, more effectively than ever before.

I want to be a disruptor. To shake things up. To reinvigorate the industry. To give retailers new risk management tools to meet the latest threats effectively at the time they most need them. And to drive my competitors mad in the process!

Jason Trigg – Amberstone Guarding