October 19, 2021

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The Video Surveillance Report 2021

Facing the security challenges: Looking ahead to 2022

Skills shortages, a move towards hybrid working, new security legislation and the lingering possibility of further lockdowns. These are just some of the security challenges that four industry leaders from different sectors face as we head into 2022. Chris Price reports.

Jamie Allam, CEO, Amthal Fire & Security

JamieAllam-Amthal-20“One of the biggest challenges we faced during Covid was changing the way we operated virtually overnight. But now we’ve fully adapted to hybrid working and it’s proved quite effective for us. Obviously, engineers still need to visit premises for installations, they just need to be fully aware of Covid requirements for each site.

“Some locations are more relaxed than others, but as long as we adhere to our client’s requests, there aren’t really any obstructions. Business has gone back to pre-pandemic levels. We’re currently doing a lot of work with fire alarms following the Fire Safety Bill to prevent the need for waking watches which have been necessary in buildings with cladding because of the Grenfell disaster.

“Also, many of the retail businesses and restaurants that had stopped spending and taken a more defensive approach during Covid have now come out fighting and are starting to invest in new as well as existing premises. And even though offices may be quieter than before the pandemic, there is still the same need to have intruder and fire alarms serviced and monitored to meet insurance requirements.”

“As a result we were able to grow our revenue in 2021 by 15% and are targeting 25% growth in 2022.

“We stopped using the Government’s furlough scheme back in June and are now back to finding ways to attract new talent, including partnerships with specialist recruiters rather than the traditional commission-based placement model. And while we can look to train people up in-house, it’s not always easy to find people with the right attitude. Although use our own engineers for service and remedial works, we rely on sub-contractors to deliver larger installation projects supported by our own staff.

“I don’t know if we’ve heard the last of Covid, but going into 2022 we will remain optimistic and agile so that we can change and adapt as we did last time.”

James Morris, Head of Security Services, EMEA, Aon

“From a HR perspective there’s been a huge change in mindset about the way we work and our expectations for colleagues over the last year. There are a few companies that are keen on going back to how things were pre-pandemic, but they’re in a minority and, I believe, are going against the wishes of most of their employees.

“Although I don’t think everyone wants to work from home five days a week, especially those who face challenging domestic situations, I don’t see that the majority want to go into the office full time either. Many people have simply realised that the way we used to do things before wasn’t the most productive.

Currently our UK offices still feel pretty quiet, but things may pick up a little as other companies start to head back to the office and there are more meetings. The picture is very varied across the globe though. While in some of our Asian offices all employees are back, in other offices staff numbers are minimal. The use of offices is also changing with people using them as ‘soft locations’ where they simply go in for meetings and socialise.

“Regarding Covid, we’re encouraging colleagues to get the vaccine but we’re not forcing anyone or asking them for proof of vaccination. Likewise, we’re encouraging people to wear masks in public spaces and in the elevators.”

“Inevitably there are conversations within the real estate team about whether we can reduce our office footprint. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few years we don’t renew contracts for all our office space or we look at giving back floors or portions of offices. We also need to review whether we need to spend money on business continuity sites given that at the peak of the pandemic 98.6% of our 70,000 employees globally were working from home.

“Going forward I think most companies will start looking more closely at smart buildings technology. In the Aon centre we have a panel that determines whether someone is sitting at their desk and use energy efficient sensors throughout the building. I think these measures will become more prevalent for financial reasons, but also with a greater view towards sustainability.”

Chris Middleton, Security Director, ABM UK

“I think there’s a new found respect for the security industry since the pandemic with many regarding its workers as having ‘key worker status’. People who didn’t consider the industry before are seeing it in a very different light with employers viewing security professionals as multi-faceted individuals capable of handling different challenges.

“Nevertheless, one issue we currently face is a legislation change to the Private Security Industry Act which means security operatives need to ‘upskilled’ with a greater emphasis on counter terrorism training, customer service and conflict management. This has meant additional costs for licensed personnel and security firms, in addition to increased National Insurance costs set to hit clients in 2022.”

“While the pandemic inevitably affected our business because we provide security personnel for the aviation industry and for shopping centres, we’re now fully back up and running and have recently taken on several commercial contracts, including city banks. However, whereas before the pandemic companies may have needed 40 security professionals for 2,500 staff, most of our clients don’t even have 1,000 employees in their building which means clients are looking closely at their security budgets.

“We’re still trying to get our heads around how working from home and the reintegration of staff will impact our industry going into 2022, but undoubtedly the biggest challenge we face as an industry is recruitment and the current skills gap. It’s a perfect storm. While some security officers have found new part time roles as higher paid Covid marshals, others have re-evaluated their lives during the pandemic and decided to leave the industry or have simply retired. Brexit has also meant that many EU security personnel have left the UK. As a result, it’s estimated that we’re about 70,000 security professionals short.

“To help solve the issue, the Security Industry Authority is currently undertaking a huge amount of work which I’m involved in called Career Pathways. This is designed to encourage young people to see security as a career choice, rather than a stop gap job that’s low paid and unskilled. We want to showcase the breadth of our industry from traditional guarding to cyber security and the pathway that could lead people to become C-Suite specialists.”

Sarb Sembhi CTO, Virtually Informed and CISO, Aireye

“The challenges of Covid are still going to be around for some time, particularly when it comes to recruitment. Whereas before Covid you had a flow of trained people coming out of universities into the cyber security profession, that has now turned into a trickle. There was a skills shortage before, but it has got much bigger since Covid because people haven’t been able to get the necessary in-person training.

“A further problem for the cyber security industry is hybrid working. Until the pandemic most IT infrastructure sat in the corporate HQ. But when Covid started everyone was given machines to work from home. This meant that controls that were put in place were ignored or bypassed. Also, whereas the corporate network is generally secure, now you are talking about connecting work machines to home networks which may also have gaming consoles, surveillance systems and IoT devices connected to them.

“Often these are vulnerable to attack because people don’t keep them patched or may have downloaded content that could contain a virus. Security cameras are a particular problem because they are often sold without the latest security patches installed and have default passwords that are not changed by the consumer.

“What some companies are doing is they are putting additional endpoint controls on the system to check the vulnerability of the network and connecting work machines to the internet via a corporate VPN or an equivalent service. Effectively what they are trying to do is protect the work device from another connection.

“Going into 2022 many organisations that haven’t yet accepted working from home, will have to start putting in place proper cyber security systems, rather than relying on short term tools to get by. We’re also going to see the widespread adoption of cloud-based SaaS (software as a service). This was already happening before the pandemic, but Covid has accelerated the adoption of this technology.”

Check out how these views compare to the challenges security professionals faced in 2020 in our previous article.  

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