As the newly elected chairman of the UK chapter of ASIS, Andy Williams says he has inherited an organisation that is in good shape financially and organisationally, but that won’t stop him from trying to improve it still further.
Williams, the head of corporate security at the Japanese bank Nomura International, has taken over the reins of ASIS from the previous chairman Mike Alexander who he says did an outstanding job of reinvigorating the organisation during his four-year tenure.
Streamlining the management and decision-making processes of the organisation and converting ASIS into a company limited by guarantee were some of the significant organisational changes made during Alexander’s term, but perhaps most significant was the work he did to engage with members.
Today, attendance at events is two or three times greater than it was five years ago and the organisation has enjoyed huge success in raising funds for security and policing-related charities.
“Mike Alexander will be a hard act to follow,” Williams says. “I may have bitten off quite a lot here as there isn’t a great deal that needs to be changed. It’s going to be a light hand on the tiller to keep her on a steady course.”
Williams has in many ways followed a traditional career path on his way to head of security for a major international financial institution. After a short career in the police, he first went into corporate security and then a series of management positions at security service companies.
This eventually culminated in director level positions at Lynx Security and the OCS Group.
In June 2009, he joined Nomura and has been there nearly five years, a period of time he readily admits is longer than he had previously stayed at any one company.
Not content to sit in the background, Williams demonstrates a deep commitment to the security industry by actively participating in many leading security organisations:
- The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals – Junior Warden
- ASIS International Chapter 208 (United Kingdom) – Chairman
- The Security Institute – Fellow and Validation Board
- TINYg (Terrorist Information New York Group) – Vice Chairman
- CSARN (City Security and Resilience Networks) – Advisory Council
- OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) – UK Executive Committee
- NBCF (National Business Crime Forum) – Crime Prevention Committee
With so many activities, it’s a wonder that he is able to get any real work done, but he insists that the time commitment is not very onerous. He is also by all accounts very methodical and organised, so he is able to manage his team at the bank and stay on top of his extracurricular commitments.
In addition, he says being active in these organisations helps to deepen his knowledge of security and broaden his contacts within the industry – which should ultimately benefit his employers.
During his tenure as chairman of ASIS UK, Williams has a couple of areas that he wants to put his stamp on. “They are small things I want to achieve, nothing drastic,” he says. “I’m having a series of one-to-one meetings with committee members to find out what they can do and make sure we aren’t missing out on any of their talents. Then we’ll look at the constitution of the chapter and see how we can enhance what we do.”
As befits someone with extensive contacts in the industry, he is also keen to increase the degree to which ASIS UK works with other organisations, and he is immediately dismissive of any notion that ASIS UK might be in competition with other bodies such as the Security Institute (TSI).
“There has been a history in some cases of difficulties between the two organisations where individuals have sought to distance the two organisations from each other for whatever reasons that are personal to them,” he says.
“It’s not about competition. We have a service offering that is similar but different from other organisations,” he says. “For instance, I’m a member of the Security Institute – have been for some time – and it does great work, but its aims and ambitions are not identical to ours. We can work with those guys to fulfil common ambitions while recognising that we have our own separate ones as well.”
In fact, he hints at an announcement coming up in the near future about an initiative in which the TSI, ASIS UK and a number of other organisations will work together on a charitable event.
Another example of pan-security cooperation is the consultation over regulation of the security industry. With organisations such as TSI, the BSIA and IPSA, ASIS has been in dialogue with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to give the regulator a deeper understanding of how the industry feels regulation could be moving forward.
“If we hadn’t engaged, we would have been a lone voice,” he says. “We could have been saying things that meant the same as what the TSI, BSIA or IPSA were saying but it could have sounded like different views and sent the wrong signals to the SIA, negatively impacting the outcome of the review of regulation.”
Williams’ own view on the overhaul of regulation is that after nine years it’s time to update it. “While the SIA has done fabulous work, there is definitely room for improvement,” he says. “We have had the best part of a decade to see what’s right and wrong, what’s good or bad, so the decision to make some changes isn’t being rushed.”
In particular, he looks forward to individual licensing being sorted out because having to issue multiple licenses to cover an individual with multiple skills was “a nonsense”.
“If you are a security officer who also uses CCTV, why should you need two separate licenses? They get a discount on the second license, but why not issue them one license, like a driver’s license, and add different categories to it?”
Omitting business licensing was also a mistake, he says. The Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) was good, but he prefers the new model, which will require the business to be formally vetted and licensed.
However, selecting a security services company will continue to be a challenge, he says, because too many companies are able to gain their accreditations and certifications because they are good at box-ticking exercises. “Not to decry any organisation in particular, but some of these companies have really good quality and compliance people who can put them in a position to achieve ISO 9001 or whatever because they are really good at putting together the paperwork,” he says. “It doesn’t mean the company is good at providing operational manned guarding, it means they have really good systems and processes in place and can evidence it.”
Williams will continue to rely on his expertise – as well as that of his security team – to sniff out the bullsh*tters from the doers.
The ASIS mentoring scheme is an area that Williams is very keen to push during his tenure as chairman. “ASIS is globally recognised for its education and qualifications such as the CPP,” he says. “It can be achieved more quickly than a master’s degree and its relevance is more widely recognised by security professionals internationally.”
The mentoring scheme of the ASIS UK chapter will follow an international model and be spearheaded by Mike Alexander.
Williams says it started slowly but this is not surprising because care needs to be taken in matching mentors and mentees (the modern term which has begun to replace protégé (male) and protégée (female)).
Mentees are usually younger security managers who are looking to gain experience in a specific area of management such as risk assessment or site surveys. Mentors for their part can gain CPD points for their time as well as peer recognition – and it looks good on their CV, too!
Williams says that mentoring is actively promoted by ASIS International. “We’re an education and career development organisation – we’re not just here to have chapter meetings,” he says. “It’s hoped that relatively junior people can learn more from a mentor than they could by finding their own way. It’s the wise old sage at the end of the phone to point you in the right direction or give you information.”
And that neatly sums up the role of ASIS as a whole: the wise organisation which is there to point members in the right direction and provide invaluable information. With the help of volunteers like Andy Williams, it is able to carry on doing just that for the hundreds of members of the UK Chapter.
ASIS UK (Chapter 208)
Gravitas: TINYg spans the information gulf
Andy Williams is, in addition to his other responsibilities, joint co-chair of the security information group called TINYg. Short for Terrorist Information New York Group, TINYg was set up following a meeting between two security experts, David Evans of Global Aware International and Kevin Cassidy, then global head of security at Reuters.
Following the dreadful events of 9/11 and 7/7, it was recognised that both New York City and London shared much common ground in respect of their enemies and the need to be better prepared to mitigate similar attacks in the future. A means of spanning the gulf between business and law enforcement in both cities was identified as a primary aim and so regular conferences were established to assist in the facilitation of that dialogue and the development strong working relationships.
Today it covers 135 countries and regions, providing email alerts about terrorism and counter terrorism. “It’s no more than giving people a heads up on a specific subject which is counter terrorism,” says Williams. “It gives people awareness of issues they might not get from other sources.”
Much of the information comes from open sources but TINYg is also able to tap into some restricted information and, after sanitising it, distributes it to the membership as well.
TINYg is supported internationally by a number of organisations including ASIS International, private companies and police and government agencies.
The group is run on a shoestring budget and they are always happy to talk to companies about sponsorship of the email alerts and the organisations international conferences. Whilst London and New York will always be the primary venues, conferences are planned for Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul and the West Coast of the USA during the next two years.