Close Protection & Security Industry Associations, Foundations, Societies & Guilds

A Standards Enhancing Necessity Or The Art of BS?

Private sector Close Protection operations are, from the outset, restricted and limited insofar as maximising security effectiveness is concerned – anywhere in the world. The whole host of factors outside of anyone’s immediate control is a grave disability to the function and performance of ‘Principal Security’.  The combination of incompatible laws, unsuitable and incognizant industry workers, companies conducting themselves as ‘pimps’ instead of facilitators with an overarching Security Industry ‘Authority’, (SIA), playing ringmaster of the circus is no place where the justification(s) for protective security are real, tangible and serious. 

“Seldom would you experience a service-oriented industry where the standards of delivery are so detrimentally affected by both internal and external influences that the situation has become one of a perfect storm.”

In effect, through the law of unintended (and intended) consequences, the SIA’s blueprint machination has created a baseline for performance in this serious profession as being low, ineffective and unfit for purpose.  They throw caution to the wind and in so doing have created an industry based on race to the bottom – both in terms of contractor and contracting company alike.  According to the SIA, newly, lightly termed ‘trained’ CP individuals, after a 2-week course, have received a qualification,

“…designed as entry to the industry only…”

and that

“…if they (certain training objectives we do not include) are vital for the deployment of an individual these would be/ should be imposed by the employer as part of their recruitment/ deployment…”

SIA September 2019

The SIA continue to this day to pass the buck of responsibility of standards required to the employer and still fail to recognise the overriding fact – that employers are, for the most part, only mainly concerned with ensuring that an individual they employ has a license.  To exacerbate the issue on a global scale, countries around the world have adopted a similar approach based on a comparable set of training margins and industry entrance benchmarks (complete lack of) to that of the SIA.  For the industry newcomer, this is of course only the helpless start point.  For any prospective client, it remains a dire and troubling situation.

The passing of the of the Private Security Industry Act 2001[1] and in exercising its executive power, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) has produced a causal sequence of an explosive nature concerning the increase in training and operational companies and industry workers alike.  After decades since the imposition of the SIA level, the ‘mean average’ of performance within the Close Protection sector specifically remains inadequate and unsatisfactory. 

As a vocal lead in highlighting the debacle I have found that the core voice of public opinion within the CP sector are adamantly agreeable that the SIA training course is unfit for purpose.  Many (with whom their own personal training only encompasses the SIA level) will however excuse this point on the misplaced reasoning of:

– Students cannot be expected to take more time off work

– There is no evidence that an 8-week course is better than a 2-week course

– No course makes anyone an expert

– You learn ‘on the job’

– The course is only a starting point

– A good course can be delivered in 2 weeks

– This is a UK London only course for those wishing to only work UK

This reasoning seriously fails to understand the importance of proper training to instil as a baseline for operational performance, that operations are the place to perfect the skills learnt and not a place to learn basic skills. 

Within an industry swamped due to zero industry entrance benchmark requirements, an explosion of cheap two-week courses anyone can do as long as they can pay resulting in far more sector workers than there are work opportunities, the industry appears to be more of an opportunity of ‘lynch the workers’ than it does to focus on the delivery of a service.  This has also seen ‘the rise of the Association’:

  1. International Close Protection Training Association
  2. World Close Protection Association
  3. International VIP Bodyguard
  4. World Bodyguard Association
  5. International Bodyguard Association
  6. International Association of Personal Protection Agents
  7. International Association of Close Protection Officers
  8. International Close Protection Training Association
  9. Association of Security Consultants
  10. International Executive Close Protection Agency
  11. British Security Industry Association
  12. The British Bodyguard Association
  13. The Security Institute
  14. The Guild of Security Industry Professionals
  15. International Foundation for Protection Officers
  16. Law Enforcement Bodyguard Association International
  17. Global Bodyguard Organization
  18. American Society for Industrial Security International (ASIS)

One only has to conduct a couple of minutes online search to ascertain the huge number of security industry and sector specific associations, foundations, institutes or even guilds but what is the benefit to considering membership of them and why are there so many?

With the recent advent of another one, ‘The Guild of Security Industry Professionals’, I was intrigued as to understanding exactly the benefits of anyone wishing to become a member and confirming if such are merely a money-making scam by the owners – or not.  Many ‘associations’, (and let’s call all of them that for want of a better word), are formed and then become defunct several years later.  Benefits from joining one are synonymous with the benefits of joining many any of the others so where does this leave the consumer and what benefit are they to any end user considering using a service by a listed member organisation or individual? 

When researching the benefits of membership, wording is often generic, grey in form.  The ‘career enhancing’, ‘peer support networks’ and ‘promoting qualification and professionalism’ and ‘representation of interest and promotion of professional image’ blurb may sound like great mantra yet often that is all it is.  Many join such associations as a genuine means to enhance their career prospects in an industry that is often competitive both in terms of the individual and companies alike.  If there is even a slight chance that it would improve prospects then the often-used idiom, ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’ is sufficient enough to entice. The best method to answer many of the above questions is to make a comparison with other industries. 

The Guild of Mastercraftsman (for tradespersons) for instance has a process to thoroughly assess member applications for approval. Formed as a means to benefit direct customer confidence to counter rogue traders and thereby safeguarding the public they are required to maintain and uphold the Guild’s stringent professional criteria. In the event of any dispute between customer and tradesman, The Guild of Master Craftsmen has an effective, proven procedure for conciliation; (Note their ‘Craftsperson – A Person Highly Skilled in their Craft’.  The process for the existing associations above does not have any such in-depth process for membership acceptance.  Affiliate membership of the Security Institute for example does not require any security experience whatsoever but for payment of £125 per annum membership is assured. Memberships of such association and guilds are open to all et sundry, some 400, 000 + industry workers in the UK alone.  It raises the question of course, that if there exist zero benchmarks and all 400, 000 + become members, where is the recognition of skill, integrity and expertise when everyone has the same membership?  Quite the opposite to one of the tradesman’s Guild of the Mastercraftsman aims;

“To ensure that the minimum qualifications for membership preserve the high standards of The Guild by excluding unskilled tradesmen.”

If we look back over history and the reputation of those working in the security industry, one has to admit that it left much to be desired.  ‘Bouncers with Pitbull’s’, aggressive people often involved in gang related protection rackets, serious crime and so on.  One could rightly be pleased with the way the industry has progressed and with the passing of the legislation under the terms of the PSIA2001, the formation of the Security Industry Authority, the industry has certainly tried to clean up its act.  Yet, this ‘cleaning up’ is predominantly due to the reduction of crime within the industry. 

Criminal record checks and enforcement through inter-agency cooperatives have seen a markedly improved status.  Nevertheless, the security industry per se is principally made up of low-educated and low-skilled workers which manifests itself into an industry reputation of ‘bottom of the pile’.  BBC News Presenter, Fiona Bruce, for example caused fury amongst viewers by describing security guards as ‘low-skilled, low-paid workers’.  Yet, factual evidence suggest they are.  The dictatorial low standard imposed by the regulator in the United Kingdom forces an element of acceptance of the state of the situation by the industry.  Instead of lobbying for a change of the SIA in its present form to a workable solution imposing proper fit for purpose training standards they focus on career professional development through academic study, networking and ‘club membership’.  The difference between all of these ‘associations’ is that there remains a certain disconnect between all and the Security Institute.  Where all other associations focus on discounts and other member ‘benefits’ where there is little impact in elevating ones position, the Security Institute does have a member status where experience and qualification are recognised in the form of awarding post-nominal letters.  Naturally, this is undoubtedly an element of enticing membership and progression through the differing ‘levels’.  Yet, with some that have ‘CSMP® M-ISMI® MSyl, MInstLM. SAS®. M.ISRM’ – it can become somewhat of a vanity project.

Does being a member of these associations provide as a benefit to the member?  I am quite certain that many will answer positively.  However, in my experience and to many I have talked to, the opposite is also true.  Does a security operative, manager, guard, or director need to be a member?  Most definitely not.  Academic achievement in attaining degrees requires no membership and no benefit to being a member of such.  Naturally, this article remains a subjective one depending on the readers’ own experience and admittedly it is great that those that have benefited from such membership enjoy their membership.

The focus for me though is flawed and does not meet the needs of the root cause of the problems associated with individual professionalism of the industry.  The only way this can be catered for is the implementation of imposing industry entrance benchmarks, a minimum standard of not only physical and medical fitness but also one of a minimum intellectual one.  If standards were fit for purpose from the very beginning then all the industry requires thereon is a supporting industry Council where the rights of industry workers are supported and through that support instil a government relationship where minimum wages could be enforced. The entire industry would in effect be recognised as a qualified ‘craft’ through a professional approach to training throughout all sectors.  The joining up of professionalism via an industry experienced led Board of an improved authority where the delivery of training standards are disassociated and disconnected from any detrimental influence of the Home Office.  The industry would not require all of these associations, guilds, institutes, organisations or foundations as it in itself would become one huge club.  After all, we all want to be a member of a club – right?

Within an industry where smoke and mirrors and bluff and deception are rife, it becomes a state of using anything around you to elevate and maximise the potential of yourself or your company.  Prospective clients may not know Adam from Eve within what constitutes professional service and what does not.  Becoming a member of such associations, institutes or guilds may provide you with a benefit but look closely as to what you will actually gain from it. Discounts and using logos may be your thing or it may just result in an annual fee for a post-nominal initial that everyone else has got…

[1] The 2001 Act received Royal Assent on 11 May 2001. The 2001 Act included powers for the creation of the SIA as the regulator of the private security industry.

Richard Aitch
Director of Operations
Mobius International UK Ltd &
Mobius International Ltd

Mobius International UK Ltd Close Protection Operators/ Bodyguards are all former specialist government protection unit having served as Personal Protection Officers to the British Royal Family, UK Prime Minister and other ministers, British Ambassadors and Senior Military Command Staff together with the provision of protection to specific persons of a targeted threat.  In effect, we have re-written the commercial/ private sector approach by the delivery of the highest standards in Close Protection. By solely using former government CP trained operators, our level of service is unsurpassed.

Mobius International Ltd &
Mobius International UK Ltd

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