Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, 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.
February 27, 2023


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“If you can validate WHY you’re implementing security measures, it’s much easier to get buy-in” – In conversation with the Security Institute’s new CE Angela Vernon-Lawson

Beginning her career in loss prevention at a local pharmacy, Angela Vernon-Lawson was appointed as the Security Institute’s Chief Executive in 2023. Here she tells IFSEC Global how she has progressed in security, and the value she places on academia, education and mentoring to support the next generation of professionals, as well as the plans ahead for the Institute.


Could you tell us how you started out in the security industry?


Angela Vernon-Lawson was appointed as the Security Institute’s Chief Executive in January 2023

I stepped into security by default when working at a pharmacy which was repeatedly targeted by shoplifters. It was noticed that I had a natural affinity for behaviour detection and stepped into loss prevention. Little did I know at the time that was going to be a career path I would follow. Thereafter, I gravitated towards governance and policy for a children’s charity in Scotland which worked with disadvantaged young people; here my interest in child protection and safeguarding gathered momentum.

With the combination of experience and strategy I joined a security company as a business partner where I was privileged to work on a wide range of contracts including sensitive deployments. In 2004 I relocated to the South West and launched my own consultancy, working with many organisations in a close protection, surveillance, intel, or in a training capacity. By 2006, I joined Buckinghamshire and Chilterns University College before it became Buckinghamshire New University, as the Awarding Body lead for a number of training centres delivering the Security Industry Authority (SIA) approved Close Protection course.

What led you to your involvement in the educational and professional development aspects of the industry?

I decided to split my career between industry and academia which became really important to me while studying for my Masters. I found academia influenced the way I thought, prepared, and responded to eventualities and issues. In 2010 when I joined Buckinghamshire New University as a Senior Lecturer in Protective Security Management and Business Continuity the influence of academia on the practice of others became more apparent. At this point the Close Protection programme became a natural feed for the foundation degree, and the transition to academic study gathered momentum.

I witnessed many students successfully achieve the FdA in Protective Security Management and progress to the third year of the BA (Hons) in Security Consultancy or go straight to post graduate studies. I also had a number of students from the Diploma in Business Continuity progress to the MSc in Organisational Resilience.

During my tenure I successfully launched distance learning, supporting, and influencing nearly 600 students working in the maritime sector, or one of the many hotspots across all continents including Antarctica! This required content to be regularly updated, communication was key and building a proactive relationship with students essential.

And how does your academic experience inform your day-to-day work?

It influences you to be more analytical, forward thinking, and proactive and to validate why you are doing something which is particularly important when working with people from different cultures, with different opinions and ways of doing things. It greatly assists to get others on board more easily.

When did you first get involved in the Security Institute and what has been your experience so far?

As a female business owner in the security industry, I found many institutions and professional bodies male dominated but that changed in 2011  when I joined The Security Institute. I became an active member by volunteering as much as I could, which was a great way to understand the Institute and its members. In 2015 I stood for election to the board, and was fortunate to serve two terms as a director. Now in my current position with the Institute, I’m starting to re-engage with our academic partners.

How has the Security Institute changed during your time there?

When I joined as a member,  the membership predominately consisted of management upwards, but now with all the SIGs Special Interest Groups (SIGs) we are seeing more frontline personnel joining and members who are coming into the industry.

Mentoring is also popular, although it starts with quite a formal process via the Security Institute platform, and then, in many cases becomes more informal. It’s a great experience seeing mentees flourish – to see them come in with an issue or something they needed to challenge and being able to help them through those steps.

For me it’s very much about personal and professional support as both are equally important. I’ve certainly gained a lot from doing it, because members come from all different walks of life and different parts of the security industry.


Image credit: designer491/AlamyStock

What would you say are your primary objectives for the Security Institute?

Definitely to work on the educational front and to make sure we can continue to support people coming into the industry. Also, to work effectively with our partners ­– particularly our corporate partners and stakeholders – because they have a wealth of knowledge about their products and what they do in the industry. Our next generation programme is also gathering momentum.

We have new people joining the team at Head Office with different skills to support the Special Interest Groups, for example, writing resource, more marketing and research.

What other initiatives are in progress?

Last year the Sabre certification scheme came on board under the leadership of Gareth Hulmes. It provides or enhances career opportunities as an assessor and complements what most security consultants do but for the built environment.

Is there one trend that you believe will be key for security in the next few years?

I’m witnessing more people speaking about resilience and continuity for businesses and communities than ever before, and that is increasingly attached to security.

Where also need to improve, perhaps, is general working practices, and how staff are looked after and developed in a sustainable way. That’s one asset that we really do need to nurture, because they are our future managers and leaders is the terms and conditions for frontline staff. It is very good in some companies, but not so good in others. This needs to be more equal, because it can become a fantastic career – the opportunities are there.

On that note, what do you think is the state of gender diversity in the security industry today?

When I started my security career, I was one of 4% of females in close protection, and later one in 11% on the cyber side of things. I have experienced some discrimination but the more my male colleagues got to know me, the more they realised the benefits a female could bring to a team. But today are we paying lip service to equality or if it’s genuine acceptance? Should we not be concentrating on skills and ability? Some of my female colleagues say: “Why are we separating women from everybody else? Isn’t it about being together, one voice? We are security therefore we are equal.”

It is finding the balance. This aside we’ve turned a lot of corners and covered a lot of ground, and that’s down to a lot of good companies saying: “Right, let’s make a difference!”

I certainly have an array of influential colleagues in the industry who are doing exceptional work because of their ability and not gender.

Find out more about the Security Institute and how you can become a member, here.

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