It is in times of crisis that we look towards our families, friends and wider community for help and support in the running of our day-to-day lives. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of community spirit during such a challenging period.
Just like any other industry, security is experiencing a lot of uncertainty at the moment with supply chains being disrupted, employees transitioning to a remote working environment and installation projects being postponed or cancelled. Security professionals may well look to a professional body for advice and support to help them through these difficult times.
An association that has always put the interests of its members first is the Security Institute. For more than 20 years, the organisation has been working to promote the highest possible standards of integrity and professional competence in the security industry.
International Security Journal spoke with Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive of the Security Institute to find out his proudest achievements in the role so far, the benefits the organisation brings to its members and the advice the Security Institute is offering about the COVID-19 crisis.
With more than 3,000 members, the Security Institute is the UK’s largest membership body for security professionals. At its helm is Rick Mounfield, a retired British Army Regimental Sergeant Major with a 22 year Royal Military Police career behind him.
After completing operational tours of countries such as Sudan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Algeria in close protection roles, Mounfield retired from military duty and embarked on a Master’s degree in Security Risk Management at Loughborough University. In 2017, he joined the Security Institute as Chief Executive.
Rather self-deprecatingly, Mounfield said: “I always considered myself to be a very average member of the organisation. I used to go to the events that were interesting to me but didn’t fully engage with everything that was available to me, I now recognise that this is the behaviour of many other members, they pick and choose what is of interest to their particular career.
“When I saw the Institute was advertising for a Chief Executive, I recognised that I had the opportunity to influence a brilliant organisation with fantastic people working within it and to steer it in the direction that I thought it needed to be steered. I just couldn’t resist.”
Since taking over, Mounfield’s achievements have been anything but average. He attributes his leadership successes to a book he read at the very beginning of his tenure, Tribes, written by Seth Godin. Mounfield explained: “The book is about how organisations can engage people that are all travelling in the same direction, such as security professionalisation. Once the organisation begins to branch out, there are people willing to step up and lead, this really resonated with me.
“The Institute is full of leaders in every discipline of security. The thing I am most proud of is how Institute members have stepped forward, in that tribal manner, and taken up leadership roles within special interest groups (SIGs).”
It is this collective spirit that has led the Security Institute to go from strength to strength, according to Mounfield.
“It is fantastic to see our membership give their time freely for the benefit of others. Much in the same way as people join the Army or the NHS, there are so many people in our industry who are there to serve and to help others. People want to be part of something bigger than just themselves and that’s what we have in the Security Institute.”
Sticking to a philosophy
It is clear to see that Mounfield has an obvious sense of duty and purpose when it comes to his work. This may well be a product of his Army background but he says it would be a mistake to assume that he manages his Security Institute team in the same fashion as a Sergeant Major would.
“My philosophy is all about emotional intelligence. I had transactional leaders in the Army who would tell me that it was my duty and that was all I should care about. However, I always found that having a transformational leader who explained why my actions would make a difference gave me a much happier mindset.
“We have fantastic people working at the Security Institute and I trust them to own their own “empire”. They are more expert at what they do in marketing, finance, engagement and HR than I am, so I’m happy to let them take ownership of their areas of responsibility and of course, I am always available to offer guidance and advice if required.”
This approach has certainly paid dividends with the organisation’s membership numbers growing steadily and increased demand being experienced for its online learning courses. Mounfield states that encouraging professional development is the main objective of the Institute and emphasises the importance of setting high standards for professionals across the industry.
“What we are trying to do is give everyone the opportunity to become better at their profession by continuously learning. It is no longer good enough to sit back and say you know everything about what you do. Professionalism is a journey, not a destination.
“We are aiming to stop that kind of behaviour and get the industry to a point where the people not participating in CPD are in such a minority that they begin to get questioned as to why they aren’t taking part.”
To aid its quest of raising standards across the industry, the Security Institute has a number of renowned online learning courses available for those professionals that are looking to improve. All students receive membership to the Institute whilst they are studying, allowing them to enjoy all the benefits that a regular member receives. Furthermore, Mounfield and his team are in the process of developing webinars and podcasts which will further expand the association’s offering.
Use your time wisely
With the UK now placed on lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to many businesses deploying a work from home strategy, it is likely that a large number of security professionals will now find themselves with more time on their hands.
Mounfield is adamant that this time should not be wasted: “I would argue that most of us have cut down on around 90 minutes of commuting time and I think we should be using this to try and improve ourselves. Embrace the free time and once we return to normality, come out as a better version of yourself.”
Of course, it is a particularly challenging time for the entire industry and Mounfield recognises that people may have other things on their minds. The Security Institute is advising all of its members to follow the government guidance regarding social distancing and self-isolation.
Mounfield stated that: “I am well aware that many frontline security staff in key worker positions continue to risk their own health and safety to support ongoing critical business including supply chain, CNI and of course, protecting our National Health Service. The Security Institute will continue to be part of the lobbying groups promoting the essential role that security plays in societal safety.”
For those individuals affected by the pandemic, Mounfield pointed to some useful resources that have been made available on the Security Institute website: “If you have lost your job or if you are at risk of losing it, there is a network there to help you out.
“Similarly, if you are being required to write business continuity policies, there is no need to do it all from scratch. We have some fantastic thought leadership articles available as well as a number of members who would be happy to help you.”
Looking ahead, Mounfield is keen to see that the government, police and the general public begin to develop a greater appreciation of the work that the security industry carries out. He thinks the current COVID-19 crisis may well change the wider public’s opinion of security.
“In 2014, Lord Alex Carlile made a very bold statement in which he said that the security industry is not recognised or respected by government, the police or the public. Six years later, I think that the government definitely respects what we do and that good progress has been made with the police.
“Now it is just about the public recognising the value that security brings and a crisis such as this is going to make people appreciate the work that security officers do. When we get recognition from society, young people will begin to see security as a career of choice and that is when the industry will start to attract better quality individuals.”
There are clearly some huge obstacles in the way of security companies at the moment and we must hope that all professionals come out of this crisis stronger than when they went into it.
In Rick Mounfield, the Security Institute’s members have someone who will not back down in the face of adversity and who will continue to lead their “tribe” to even greater accomplishments.
This article was published in the April 2020 edition of International Security Journal. To pick up your FREE digital copy, please click here