Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
June 9, 2020

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IFSEC Interviews...

‘Be a member, not an observer’ – interview with BSIA Chairman, Simon Banks

James Moore recently sat down (remotely) with BSIA Chairman, Simon Banks, to discuss how the Association has evolved since he became chairman in 2018, as well as why the BSIA plays such an important role in development within the sector.


James Moore: You joined the board as Chairman in 2018. What were your first impressions?

Simon Banks: When I took on the role as Chairman, I was very conscious the BSIA could offer more as a trade association and live up to its reputation as the voice for the professional security industry. The BSIA has always had a strong team, delivering quality services in many areas, such as SaferCash and SaferGems, ECHO, technical standards and government lobbying, but it competes with a lot for peoples’ attention in their busy lives. It was up to us to show how this great work was benefitting the member companies. I believe that BSIA is the go-to association to comment on security matters and deliver true value to members.

What steps have you taken as Chairman to enhance the BSIA as the ‘go-to association’ for the security industry?

In October 2018, the BSIA Board fundamentally changed the governance of the Association. We formed a four-person Finance & General Purposes Committee, comprising directors with complementary skills, and the Board voted on increasing the length of term of the Chair from two to six years. The previous two-year chair term meant the incumbent was into handover mode just at the time when they were fully understanding the needs of the Association.

From left to right: Simon Banks, BSIA Chairman; David Scott, Skills for Security MD; Mike Reddington, BSIA Chief Executive

The turnaround strategy focused on the needs of BSIA members and key staff in both the Association and the training subsidiary, Skills for Security – our training subsidiary helping to fill the skills gap for the security industry – while ensuring both returned to operating at a surplus. This pragmatic approach to our finances, closely aligned with a focus across all 16 sections of the membership, was our call to the industry that we’re delivering value, confidence and credibility to all our member companies.

The BSIA has always been a marque of quality in the industry but like all established brands, it needed a refresh in order to stay relevant to new working practices and technology.

Recruiting a suitable new Chief Executive was vital; Mike Reddington is well respected in the industry and has had an immediate impact on performance. Similarly, the new Managing Director of Skills for Security, David Scott, has rapidly professionalised the day-to-day operation of the training delivery.

Better communication has also been key to returning to form. We involved the BSIA team in the development of the strategy and its delivery, providing regular updates for the Board and members to ensure results were lasting and meaningful.

The BSIA continues to be a huge player in the security sector. What are you doing to expand and put your name out there?

The BSIA isn’t just a logo on a website. It’s so much more than that.

We’re telling a national story. I participated in a BBC interview at IFSEC International last year, and we were quoted in the Daily Telegraph the other day. It’s important to get our industry – our 26-billion-euro industry that nobody has heard of unless they’re in it – out there getting recognised. We need end users, retailers, whomever, to aspire to being part of the BSIA.

Absolutely, and this also extends to training the next generation of the industry. Skills for Security seems to be a brilliant initiative. Has it become a major part of BSIA’s offering?

We see Skills for Security as a complementary asset to everything the BSIA does. We’ve got hundreds of apprentices going through our skills programmes right now; every single one of them has switched from classroom to online learning almost seamlessly, which is fantastic. Companies must realise that if we are short on skills, all businesses in the value chain will be throttled back. Manufacturing companies don’t sell products if engineers aren’t installing them!

If you’re part of the BSIA there’s also free accredited training and courses to help you professionalise your business and close the skills gap. No matter where you are in your career, we can offer a level of training and development that benefits the industry as a whole.

As they say: be a member, not an observer. Don’t be on the outside looking in when you could join and take advantage of all the benefits on offer. For instance, it would cost the average SME installer less than £1000 a year; in the grand scheme of things that’s not a lot of money for all the benefits you get.

And with the lockdown, has online learning been a big element over the last few months?

We can see a lot of things changing in terms of where and why people travel. Online learning solves a massive geographical problem. It is not practical to expect a young apprentice in Reading to go to training in Solihull. End-point assessments will be more difficult, because of the hands-on element. As attitudes and working practices adapt, I believe that a hybrid approach will provide the best of both worlds and accelerate much-needed skills development. Geography is by far one of our biggest barriers, so the more we can do to break that down, the better. There have been many opportunities from this pandemic as it has pushed businesses to try new ways of working that are now proven to be very effective. Progress is often achieved by the strangest of circumstances!

What has BSIA’s response to the coronavirus been like? How have you been working both internally and externally to support your members?

The role of a trade association is important in ‘normal’ times. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s vital. Business owners need guidance, they need someone to set an example and provide direction. We are truly stronger together and the benefit of your counter-parts’ experience and advice is invaluable during these challenging times.

The BSIA played an important role to ensure our sector workers were included as key workers as the security sector provides such a vital link to blue-light services.  The BSIA ensures that the private security sector and the emergency services work in harmony to increase public safety.

We joined forces with likeminded associations and influencers to get the job done quickly, such as Ian Todd at the SIA. I spoke to Lord John Stevens, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and told him we need to ensure the security value chain is protected. That conversation (and others) led to ARC workers, licensed guards, installers for critical electronic security installation and more being counted as key workers.

Finally, what’s next for BSIA? Is there anything in the pipeline that you’re excited about?

Delivering more and more value to our members, so we need to ensure we are always the first to know about new technology, events and opportunities that will make a difference to their businesses.

Standards will be ever more important, especially as other close verticals start prospecting the security industry – so-called disruptors entering into our sector with cheaper products that risk ‘dumbing-down’ security and safety.

But of course, we must evaluate new innovations and their role to enhance existing security. Embracing cool gadgets simply to be trendy is dangerous. Unproven technologies could open the door to competing verticals with the potential to infiltrate our sector with non-certificated entry level products, disruptive pricing and loss of quality.

Whilst many manufacturers are integrating professional security systems with a host of hubs, apps and platform providers, it’s vital that core security system values are tailored to the exact risk and safety of the premises in a standards-driven environment. We should oppose any dilution of security installations where lives and property may be at risk.

BSIA exists to provide governance and to ensure that quality always prevails. We can’t afford a simplistic approach, from both a security and public safety point of view. The BSIA has to take more and more responsibility as competitive verticals start seeking out opportunities.

And of course, there’s Skills for Security. We need 30,000 new engineers to close the skills gap. With all the other young people we’re training, amounting to near 500 apprentices in a nine-month cycle. It’s just not enough – with the natural churn of any evolving industry we need tomorrow’s engineers, today.

The big objections are that we don’t have the right curriculum and that we didn’t have enough training providers spread enough across the country. It’s up to the BSIA and its member companies to build on these opportunities.

The association is on the right path.  Government lobbying is continuing, and we’re representing all major sectors of the Security Industry. People need to know we’re here. If the BBC is discussing security guards or lone workers on the telly, they pick up the phone and call the BSIA, because we’ve got a spokesperson for all 16 sections of the industry.

We are the experts, and we want to convey that. And the only way to continue to do so is to lead from the front as the voice of the professional security industry.

IFSEC and FIREX are working in partnership with Skills for Security and the BSIA in our upcoming Training Week – find out more, here! 

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