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ISM New Chair

by msecadm4921

The meeting with Tony Mitchell was an interview of two halves – and not only because it was on the day the 2006 World Cup started.

Mark Rowe reports on the new chairman of the Institute of Security Management (ISM), who is risk and loss prevention manager for the UK division of retailer Signet group.<br><br>Tony Mitchell has two, separate positions – the new chairman of the ISM, and as loss prevention man at the UK arm of Signet Group, the specialist jewellers (think Ernest Jones, Leslie Davis and H Samuels). While he was glad to speak about what the ISM is doing and hopes to do, he was more guarded in what he said about his day job. Understandably he did not want to speak out of turn. Quite apart from Tony not wanting to be indiscreet, his employer evidently takes pains about protecting itself – I walked past the door to reception and had to re-trace my steps because the building was not marked with the company’s name. I did not help him with my questioning, lurching, confusingly, from asking about the ISM to Signet and then back again. But despite me it turned out all right, because while Tony spoke with care about the security side of his company, and declined to go into details about what security his company does in its shops, he is plainly passionate about – he says so – the risk and loss prevention things he does, for his company. <br><br>Tony began with some points about the institute: &quot;The ISM management certification scheme trial has progressed and is now an ASET national award – the ISM wants to take this further to national qualification award standard and working towards this goal but meanwhile we will be marketing the award and supporting proper management qualification in our industry.&quot; The ISM, he stressed, is keen to boost female representation. The new deputy chairman, for instance, is Jane McKenna of Chubb Security Personnel. On the Security Industry Authority, he had this to say: &quot;The ISM is disappointed in the way that the SIA are operating and how some of the ISM membership have been adversely affected. It would perhaps have helped if SIA members had more hands-on experience of the security industry. We would ideally now like to see an independent industry watchdog.&quot; And for the future, Tony spoke of the ISM planning to step up a gear, looking to do events, improve its website, and other things for the benefit of members. Besides women, the organisation reports applicants from the police and armed forces, besides the traditional security manager. <br><br>About Tony Mitchell’s career: he started in the Rhodesian police force, the BSA Police (British South Africa Police, to be precise). So by the way did another council member of the institute, Jim Hazlitt. Tony returned to the UK and did a stint with Norfolk Police, and then moved into retail, working in shops and as an area manager. Before he joined Signet he was security manager with the footwear retailer Oliver Group. At Signet, Tony is responsible for the UK; he is in regular contact with his opposite number in the American side of the business. One thing not in his charge, by the way, is the (in-house) guarding of the Signet building. <br><br>Seeking to learn more about his job, I spoke of having visited the recent Retail Solutions exhibition at the NEC, where speakers described a balancing act; between welcoming customers, and not leaving yourself thus open to loss from customers you don’t want? Tony said: &quot;Choosing my words carefully; there is a fine balancing act between the need to maintain security and the need to encourage customers into an atmosphere where they are not intimidated by security measures. And it is a fine balancing act. And with health and safety, and other issues; I have to balance my time between them; they are all areas of risk; and we manage the risk. I think that’s perhaps the difference with a modern loss prevention manager; they are more into balancing risk; balancing and judging risk.&quot; He added that he does not look after all risks; the company has corporate auditors; and there is contingency planning, which he has an input into. He went on: &quot;It’s about risk minimisation; the old days of doing it by the seat of your pants have gone; you put your money where you need to.&quot; <br><br>So risk is not so much a job title, but a way of approaching things ….? Tony agreed. &quot;You look at the risk, judge the likelihood of it happening, the consequences; that gives you a score, and you look at your higher scores; and that’s where you put your emphasis. It’s a methodology.&quot; When you talk of risk, what of the difficulties of trying to measure risk, when it is to do with any service. With cleaning, you can run your finger on a tabletop and see if it is dusty, but usually a service like security is not quantitative, but qualitative – how do you measure and judge a quality, like customer service? Sometimes, Tony said, but added: &quot; … we try to predict problems and try to deal with them. What we can do is measure the data, analyse stores, how much they improve, how their losses are reduced, even though they haven’t become a problem. They are becoming a problem – I can measure that, and yes, I can measure my effectiveness. And clearly when you look at our health and safety side, there is an easy measurement, which way are the statistics going; are they improving or getting worse. So I think there are measurements you can make; it is difficult to say ‘I prevented that from happening’, but you can say ‘this is what I looked at and this is the result’.&quot; In other words, the work is more analytical: &quot;I use a predictive tool I have written; we use data mining tools; all sorts of things, very different from what we used to do … they are excellent tools, and need to be exploited.&quot; Having banged the drum for a risk management approach, Tony suggested a break for tea. On returning with a couple of mugs, he turned the discussion in a direction that was in my mind also; given his enthusiasm for risk management, for analysis, by individual managers, was there not a call for training, for validated qualifications, and industry bodies like the ISM? <br><br>&quot;This is why I am a big supporter of the ISM … I am totally amazed that the SIA would be asking guards for qualifications, when really they should be asking the managers for qualifications; we are the people who make decisions. Last year I took part in the management certification scheme, and I am glad that I did, because in all these years I don’t actually have a written award; and yet I have been in security for 20 years; I have nothing I can give to a prospective employers and say, ‘this is what I am, I am not only in security, I am a manager’. I really wanted it to become a national qualification award and it’s vital for everyone in security management to be doing this. I think it’s also essential that we belong to an association, because that lets us understand what other people are doing; we share ideas. We can’t be an island now, you have to understand the world around you. We feel strongly, the ISM feels strongly, that managers need qualifications; and it needs to be portable, so you can take it from one employer to another; it makes you more saleable.&quot; <br><br>Tony spoke of how the security manager has to respond proportionately to risk; if a retailer listened to all the security concerns, the retailer might not open!? &quot;We can’t do that; we have got to open our shops, we have got to welcome our customers; and our proportion of the pie, the spend of the company, we can’t exceed that, and we have got to recognise that we are part of the business and we have to contribute to the business.&quot; <br><br>And a retailer has to work with others on security – such as shopping centres – because all the physical and electronic security measures at a shop might not be enough? I gave the case of a ram-raid at my hometown shopping centre where thieves rammed the centre’s locked entrance doors at midnight, in a stolen car, drove into the deserted mall, rammed the jeweller’s on the corner, stole goods, and drove out again. Hence bollards now installed in the pavement in front of the shopping centre doors; no more ram-raids. Tony mentioned that he does co-operate very closely with some of the other high street jewellers. Again harking back to the Retail Solutions show, I said that there was co-operation between otherwise rival retailers, against online fraud, for example? Tony said: &quot;I see much more evidence of high street retailers grouping together in their areas – wasn’t there a recent meeting of fashion [retail] security managers in London? I am liaising with a group of high-value retailers, to look at issues we can share; and the police are hopefully attending as well; because we have to co-operate with the police in sharing our intelligence with them. People who attack us are exactly the same people who attack other people; if you are in the burglary business, you are going to steal the product that just happens to be saleable at the time. And again, being in the ISM I have colleagues I can share ideas with and I can network; that’s one of the big advantages of belonging to something like the ISM.&quot;<br><br>Turning to the Security Industry Authority, Tony said: &quot;I think the SIA was a concept that initially was right; I don’t think the way it has been interpreted is the way intended. I certainly wouldn’t like to see the SIA push its regulation into the private areas, in company businesses. There would be no benefit to us whatsoever.&quot; In-house guards don’t need a licence? Tony said he saw no reason for an in-house licence for his company’s guards: &quot;Our guards are well-trained, they operate nowhere but on our premises.&quot; <br><br>I forget now how CCTV cropped up; but it did. What of its generic use? avoiding, as Tony requested, specifics about Signet. Speaking generally, Tony said: &quot;It depends on the product you are selling; and where you sell it. Some products require a subtle approach, some a visible approach. But you have got to have measures. If you are going into changing rooms, you need to use tags, of different sorts … CCTV; it’s very good at recording faces, especially when they wave at you when they are doing it [that is, a crime] … I am not sure how effective it is for young people, they wear balaclavas, hats, anything to mask themselves.&quot; <br><br>He returned to his use of IT tools, analysing data, number crunching, to make predictions, to identify areas of risk, to take action before something goes wrong; and as he said, this is very different from traditional security. And yet, Tony recalled, his oath as a policeman was for the prevention and detection of crime – &quot;and prevention came first – and that’s a long way back! So I am a great believer in these sort of tools.&quot; And as for arrests – to go back to the quantity versus quality measurements, number of arrests is something in retail that you can quantify – Tony went so far as to say that to go by measurement of arrests is an indication of failure: &quot;The indicator of your success is prevention. I like prevention. My title says ‘loss prevention manager’ and that’s what I do; I prevent losses.&quot; <br><br>Thanking him, and asking if there was anything else to say, Tony ended by repeating the call for more recognition of women: &quot;… I don’t think they [women] have enough representation. If you go to any conference, you will see any number of 40 to 50-year-old, six-foot bloke with grey hair; but there’s a lot of younger women, and we need to recognise them, and support them. They are part of our industry as much as anybody and a very important part, too.&quot;<br><br>About the Institute of Security Management <br><br>The ISM’s governing council after the annual general meeting in May, besides Tony Mitchell (chairman), and Jane McKenna (deputy chairman); David Fell (secretary), Alan Eccles (treasurer) and members Richard Slater, James Hazlett, Colin Newman, Joseph Morris, Suresh Retnashingham, Terry Price, Brian Timmins, and Derek Walsh.<br>

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