Tough Talk – Kings Secure Technologies
People know there have been changes at Kings Secure Technologies (“Kings”), but are unsure what those changes are and why they happened. What is the nature of those changes and what precipitated them?
In business there is a need for consistent evolution and change to ensure that you are keeping ahead of the curve and relevant. Kings is no different, the recent brand change was designed to capture the scope of technology and services we offer and want to offer, which is far wider than a traditional security company and systems provider. The company needed to change its approach and adapt to the market’s fundamental challenges, part of my job is to look at the horizon 3 years out and understand where the sector is heading and align our approach, invest in the right areas, the right people and mobilise our efforts into longer to medium term advantages. You have to break the circle in business, Einstein said it best “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We have made the really tough calls and broken the circle and are now moving forward with a much more aligned business to our clients’ requirements and offering them a sustainable approach to the future.
Kings is known for a strong presence in the retail sector, how are you continuing this and changing with the challenges it presents??
There has been noise generated by some misguided commentators that we are no longer interested in the retail sector, this is simply not the case. We have a long and proud tradition in the sector and this will continue. We have some tremendous clients we have continued to win new clients in the last 6 months in the sector and expanded existing accounts with new services. So to put the record straight we are in the Retail sector and we have no plans for this to change. We have also bolstered our teams in the back office to support our client base and added new roles in the company specifically in the retail sector. We will also continue to support the various retail events across the UK. I would make a further point about our plans for the future, if you are selling petrol at a petrol station you don’t just want to sell petrol only to red cars, what I mean by this is that we do need to widen the business’s client base across all sectors but not to the detriment of retail.
Technology is threatening to rapidly change guarding. The Kings website is replete with technologies sold as working alongside guarding services. What technologies do you see as being the most important to the evolution of guarding over the next 5 years? Will manned guards even be relevant in five years’ time? If so, why?
For many years now, the security guarding/personnel sector has been integrating with multiple technologies to assist performance and improve productivity. Just think about the utilisation of mobile phone technology, with multiple apps to capture incidents, work flows and driving live data of an incident, log multiple events, body worn cameras, remote management of the security officer from either an onsite or off site location, using facial recognition software to identify potential threats; these are just some examples of security personnel working in conjunction with technology advancements. In my view, the next stage of technology advancement will be further development of app based technologies that will manage the client’s risk in a different way, the capturing of data and trend and then analysing this into a strategic use of resource, alongside this the delivery of specific apps that work for client’s locations that are more flexible to access from the App Store or Google Play where you download specific applications to your own platform.
Manned security will be relevant but as a part of the solution and part of the tool kit alongside all other aspects of security. The purchasing of a security officer will change into a wider buying remit of a risk strategy platform with multiple strands to overlay creating the clients ideal environment for its risk appetite.
How will Brexit affect the guarding industry? In terms of a nuts and bolts, practical approach (rather than highfalutin theory and aspirations) how do you reconcile downward pressure on pricing with the reduction of available labour and the concomitant pressure to increase pay?
Brexit is a potential threat to labour resourcing across the UK but one that no one can quantify, as we are not aware of the specific arrangements at present. Our sector is no different than many across UK PLC, there is no doubt that labour resourcing across security both in manpower and engineering has become tougher in the last year or so and we see no real let up on this limit of resource, so basic economics dictates that prices will increase along with pay, not sure Brexit has a lot to do with it as there are significant other factors. Companies like ours will need to find new ways of productivity gains to offset price increases with clients and this is where utilisation of technology will assist, however the core cost of an engineer and security officer is increasing and clients will need to reflect this in their budget process and horizon planning. The race to the bottom in our sector has always been there and I see no let-up in this, there is only so far you can cut margin and expect to achieve a long term sustainable business or client relationship and we will not play that game as there are no winners ultimately. We have come back to the start around using data and trend to manage the risk approach.
What opportunities and indeed what threats does GDPR pose specifically within the context of securing premises?
The GDPR is all about the protection of a person’s privacy. When securing retail premises, the impact a security system has on personal privacy is in two key areas:
- CCTV footage of customers and staff on premise, where is it stored, is it transmitted externally, how, where to etc.
- (If the alarm system is monitored externally) the contact details of the key holders for the premise
One of the current weaknesses in the industry is the transmission of CCTV data over encrypted networks. As technology has advanced over the years existing systems have had new features bolted on, weakening the security of the equipment. More and more customers want their CCTV monitored remotely with a view to replace manpower on site. Article 32 of the GDPR outlines the requirements for security of processing personal data, which highlights (based on a risk assessment and cost / purpose analysis) that encryption should be considered during processing, opening an opportunity within the industry to upgrade some of the older, unencrypted systems.
The GDPR introduces the right for personal data to be erased (Article 17). Personal data should only be stored for as long as is necessary. This is where the retention of CCTV footage should also be considered, even where the footage is stored locally on DVRs and hard drives all customers responsible for the daily upkeep of the CCTV should be aware how to erase data, and DVRs should be programmed in line with their own retention policies. Where CCTV is transmitted off site, either for evidential or monitoring purposes this should be restricted to needs only access and kept only for as long as is necessary.
As far as BAU goes, customers will be looking for security providers with robust information security procedures. Accreditation to ISO 27001 will be an attractive USP in the industry and more and more security companies will move towards this in the coming years as they find the market pinching.
In an omni-channel retail environment, what is the role of manned guarding?
The move away from bricks and mortar retailing into online opens up more challenges with critical supply chain and the links from customer to product. The role of security manpower mainly features in supply chain / distribution and Logistics and of course is a completely different requirement than that of a traditional store environment. The key for retailers here is to widen their risk profile and understand the whole solution to the multiple locations – stores / warehousing inventory management and security and supply shipping. The actual scope of a company like Kings significantly widens to multiple services from systems / cameras / video analytics / bio metrics / access control / in house managed control room environments / outsourced control room environments / tracking of product; the list is almost endless. The key is a complete risk evaluation and joined up approach. As clients move themselves to different models of dispatching goods and giving clients more and more options, this will create new threats on shrinkage.
What is the most cost-effective way for modern retailers to use guards?
The most cost effective way for modern retailers to use security officers is with a flexible resourcing model. The cost of fixed security officers in stores is set to rise over the next few years not only due to statutory increases, a shrinking work force and high risk environment means that suppliers are paying more and investing in training and benefits. My view is that resource should be flexible and built up on risk, the store stats show higher levels of risk at certain hours of the day or days of the week and focus should be on these time zones rather than a flat approach, also the clustering of higher risk environments with multiple factors should be the key to deployment. The outputs of a security officer should be in real time and using handheld technology with back end analytics capturing data / incidents and other events which build a picture of risk. Data analytics are a key resource that should be used on clients’ accounts to work through the spend patterns and loss results to assist with the positioning of valuable resource.
What is the most exciting thing happening at Kings and why should retailers care?
Kings is moving into a number of new technology services and offerings to widen our appeal to clients. We have also launched a number of new partnerships with key suppliers where we are working very closely with them to expand their core offerings and technology advancements utilising their R&D focus. We have also developed our own operating platform; DYMENSiON. DYMENSiON is a scalable and flexible data and trend mapping portal, giving our customers real-time incident monitoring at the touch of a button. Using DYMENSiON, our customers are able to more intelligently mobilise resources (such as security personnel) where and when needed; resulting in cost and time savings.
A company such as ours only survives if we push the dial and innovate constantly with new ways of thinking and then flexible ways of introducing the technology or service. Retailers will always want their suppliers to come up with innovations that ultimately deliver two things: one an advantage on current price and some type of productivity advantage to them.
Our company is stronger than ever and expanding our thinking and becoming more flexible.