The voice of security

Tuesday 22 October 2019 - Mike Reddington, BSIA Chief Executive

**Originally published in the International Security Journal**

Mike Reddington, Chief Executive of the BSIA tells International Security Journal about how the organisation is helping UK security companies
At one point or another, every company has to decide whether or not to join the trade association that represents the industry it is part of. For many, the answer is a firm “yes” with benefits such as increased networking opportunities, best practice guidelines and information sharing being too good to turn down. 

This is no different in the security industry with companies having the choice of several different associations to represent their interests. In the UK, the standout choice is the British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Founded more than 50 years ago, its members are responsible for more than 70% of privately provided UK security products and services (by turnover) including the manufacture, distribution and installation of electronic and physical security equipment and the provision of security guarding and consultancy services.

International Security Journal caught up with Mike Reddington, BSIA Chief Executive to discuss his time in post so far, how the BSIA represents its members and what can be done to tackle the skills shortage which is impacting the industry at the moment.

More than just a job

With a career in the security industry spanning more than 30 years, Mike Reddington is the ideal choice to be the figurehead of the BSIA. After excelling in roles at companies such as Honeywell and ADI, Reddington explained that when the opportunity came along to be part of the BSIA team, it was a no-brainer.

“I am passionate about security and I am passionate about the BSIA. I was also inspired by the vision of Simon Banks, BSIA Chairman in relation to the future and the direction of the association. I believe there has never been a more important time for the industry to have a strong trade association with the rapid development in technology, significant legislative change and of course, Brexit.”

On the subject of Brexit, Reddington stated that “the BSIA will be working with its members and industry body to mitigate any negative impacts of a no deal Brexit.”

As part of this preparation, the BSIA has created a dedicated page on its website for Brexit which provides regular updates on the negotiations and how they are likely to affect UK security companies. According to Reddington, even though nobody can really be sure of the potential impact of Brexit, “one thing we can be certain of is that it will bring change.”

Spreading the word

Although Brexit preparations are obviously important, they aren’t the only focus that Reddington has had since he took over in January 2019. Increasing the exposure of the BSIA brand has been a key part of the job: “It has been pretty manic so far but very enjoyable.

“I have had lots of meetings with members to understand how the BSIA can provide additional support and value to them and I have also met with many other stakeholders in the industry to see how the BSIA can provide support, guidance and influence in relation to the development of standards.”

When asked about his successes in the role so far, Reddington highlighted: “I think one of them has been clearly identifying the role of the BSIA within the industry, which has been reflected in our new strapline, ‘the voice of the professional security industry’. We have seen a significant increase in our brand exposure, with a direct example of that being the number of BSIA LinkedIn followers growing by 150% within the last eight months, from 2000 to over 5000, that hasn’t been by chance.

“We have also seen the increased success of the British Security Awards, which is where we recognise individuals and companies who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities within the security industry.”   

Another success that Reddington pointed to is the progress made in the industry’s approach to cybersecurity. This has been achieved through a BSIA working group called the Cyber Security Product Assurance Group (CySPAG). The group included* representatives from Bosch, Securitas, Eaton and Tavcom and has produced a document entitled ‘Cyber secure it’, which is a summary of current guidelines to minimise the exposure to digital sabotage of network connected equipment, software and systems used in electronic security systems.

Reddington concluded: “While we have been involved in many standard improvement initiatives, CySPAG is the one that really stands out. It has been a great success with the resulting guidance now being universally acknowledged and adopted across many different areas.”

Filling the skills gap

While there have been many successes during Reddington’s short time in the role, there are still challenges that need to be overcome, with the industry skills shortage sitting very high on that list. Reddington said: “I think it is widely recognised that we have both a labour and skills shortage in our industry sector.

“One of the solutions we have come up with is Skills for Security, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BSIA that has a primary focus of providing apprenticeship training for the fire and security industry. Myself and David Scott, the new Managing Director of Skills for Security, both came through apprenticeship programmes so we recognise the value that they hold. Today’s apprentices are the engineers, managers and leaders of tomorrow.”

As part of this renewed focus on the skills shortage, Skills for Security and WorldSkills UK are launching a new Electronic Security Systems Competition at this year’s WorldSkills UK LIVE to raise awareness of apprenticeship and career opportunities in the security and surveillance industry.

Attracting over 70,000 visitors, WorldSkills UK LIVE is the UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event. Taking place from 21 – 23 November at the NEC, Birmingham, the event also hosts the National Finals of the WorldSkills UK Competitions which see the UK’s top apprentices and students compete to win Gold, Silver and Bronze in their chosen skill.

Skills for Security is supported in its running of the Electronic Security Systems Competition and its promotion of apprenticeship and career opportunities in the industry by CSL, Hikvision and Texecom.

With the launch of the new Electronic Security Systems Competition, CSL and Texecom are hoping that it will increase awareness of the security and surveillance industry, encourage young people to consider a career as an engineer in the industry and raise the standard of training throughout the UK for those already working in the industry. 

The BSIA has also started working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on two new initiatives which are looking to encourage more people to work in the security industry sector. The ‘Career of Choice’ initiative aims to make a career in security a first choice for out-of-work individuals rather than a last resort. In addition, the ‘Armed Forces Covenant’ is a scheme to help ex-armed forces personnel secure roles working in security in the private sector.

Also on the BSIA’s “hit list” is the ongoing privacy dispute surrounding the use of facial recognition technology. On this, Reddington is adamant that the problem lies not with the technology itself, but how it is used: “I think it’s a technology that offers benefits when used correctly and we are already seeing the value it has had in a number of areas.

“We use it in airports for passport control, we use it in university campuses for students to gain entrance into campus buildings and I think it is a significant tool when used in the fight against terrorism, it mitigates risks to businesses and the general public. 

“The main issue around the technology is how it is used. In relation to that, the BSIA is working with key stakeholders on developing a best practice guide that could then become a code of practice to mitigate the general public’s fear around the technology and any impact on privacy it may have.”

Leaving a legacy

With its influence now reaching almost every area of the security industry, it is clear to see why many organisations decide to join the BSIA. To those that are not yet members, Reddington had this to say: “If you are involved in the security industry and want an input into how the industry develops then you need to join the BSIA.

“We are the voice of the professional security industry and are actively involved in identifying best practice and the creation of standards. I would recommend that it is better to be a member than just being an observer.”

Even though there is still plenty of work to be done during his tenure, Reddington is aiming to make a lasting impact on the British security industry: “If I was to wind the clock forward by five years and look back, I would like to ensure that the BSIA continues to be recognised as the “go-to” association for information guidance and support relating to subjects and issues within the security industry.

“I would also like the association to ensure it is delivering value to its members and that we continue to be at the heart of the development of best practice and standards. Of course, ultimately I want us to have a thriving and growing membership.”

These are exciting and perhaps, uncertain times to be involved in the security industry, particularly in the UK. However, it is clear to see that in Mike Reddington, UK companies have an individual that will stand up for their best interests and ensure that the industry continues to grow and thrive. They are certainly in a safe pair of hands.

Footnote * the BSIA Cyber Security Product Assurance Group (CySPAG) is made up of the following companies: Bosch Security Systems, Eaton, Horizon Two Six Ltd., ID Cyber Solutions, Securitas, Synetics plc, Tavcom, Thorn Security, UTC Fire & Security UK Ltd., VSG, Webwayone.