Exclusive interview: Climbing the security management ladder


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International Security Journal speaks exclusively with Richard Stanley, Head of UK Security at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Throughout the security industry, it is extremely common to hear of individuals who have transitioned from the Armed Forces into a role in private security. Although it is a logical career progression, there are, of course, challenges and obstacles along the way which must be overcome.

There are not many ex-Armed Forces personnel who make it to the very pinnacle of the private security industry but Richard Stanley is certainly one of them. Following his time in the Army, Stanley joined Pricewaterhouse in 1990 as a Security Officer and 31 years later, he is still there following a progression up the ranks to his current position as Head of UK Security.

International Security Journal caught up with Stanley to reflect on the lessons he has learned during a fantastic career to date and to find out how he thinks a security professional can add value to an organisation as a whole.

It’s a team game

For more than three decades, Richard Stanley has been an integral part of the security team at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the largest professional service networks in the world with over 280,000 employees based in 155 countries all over the globe.

Stanley began his career at PwC as a Security Officer manning the doors of the company’s then headquarters at Southwark Towers in 1990 before gradually progressing his career and taking over as the firm’s Head of UK Security in 2000. According to Stanley, those formative years back in the early 90s taught him a number of lessons which he has carried with him ever since.

“The biggest lesson I learned back then is that you are only as good as the team around you, no individual can do this on their own. Developing a strong, resilient team with the right skill sets, appropriate tools and meaningful training is key to success, as is eliminating single points of failure.  

“Also, if you ever hear someone say, ‘don’t worry about it this is how we have always done it’, then that should be an indicator of opportunity for you to make a difference and improve the process. What I found very early on is that security staff were very quick to complain about issues and problems but not many were willing to bring forward a solution, therefore I have always attempted to present a workable solution rather than raise problems. Understanding your business in terms of values, priorities, objectives and risk appetite is key to formulating a workable and flexible security plan.”

He has come a long way since those early days outside Southwark Towers and when asked what his proudest achievements are, was quick to answer: “I think the whole transformation of the security function at PwC is a source of huge pride for me. When I first joined in 1990, I can remember sitting in a small basement control room with no natural light and very rudimentary security systems to monitor. The security function back then was predominately reactive with little or no capability to proactively assess threats and risks.  

“Now, we have fully integrated, cloud-based security system technology, risk monitoring and intelligence gathering capabilities all monitored and managed from a central location. The difference is huge.

“Another achievement I’m proud of is our travel security programme, which was pretty much non-existent when I first took over in this role. People were travelling to high-risk destinations but there was no central overarching programme in place to support them. We can now very quickly facilitate engagements in high and extreme risk locations ensuring our duty of care obligations and the safety of our people.”

Stanley continued: “Our Security Operations Centre (SOC) has played a huge role in this success. It is an operational centre supporting international business travellers, incident management and incident alerting. We focused on recruiting the right people with the right skill sets and we now provide services to the entire PwC network, before COVID struck we were supporting around 3,000 travellers each day on average and in a 12-month period we reported on and responded to over 3,500 incidents, reached out and supported 14,000 international business travellers and facilitated over 800 check in calls from high and extreme risk locations.

“Once COVID took effect and international travel stopped, we repurposed the SOC to provide COVID reporting, monitoring every country of interest around the world and producing weekly reports for our global leadership team on restrictions, quarantines, cases and vaccinations in every country.”

Enabling the business

One of the secrets behind Stanley’s success in the corporate world is that he has always been devoted to the concept that security needs to be an enabler of the wider business, an idea that some security professionals still struggle to understand.

He explained: “Simply done, security is straight forward. Lock all the doors and search everybody outside before they come in but what if your business is an open business which wants to welcome its clients and provide a friendly welcome? You then need to find the right balance between industry best practice and the requirements of the business, so you become a business enabler, not a business blocker.

“In my opinion, travel security is a prime example of enabling business. Travelling to high and extreme risk locations couldn’t happen without robust security planning being in place and in turn, this enables the business to pursue opportunities that would otherwise not be possible.”

In Stanley’s eyes, enabling business allows the security function to add value to the wider organisation which is absolutely critical. Moving forward, he believes that data analytics will be the key way that security can demonstrate adding value.

“As security professionals we are custodians of huge amounts of data, whether that is access control data, incident data, travel data, near misses or just out of hours security patrol logs. I think that one of the key trends for security going forward is visualising that data and having it analysed.

“We have been working on this for a little while now, the ability to analyse these huge amounts of data and condense it into a meaningful visulisation which can be presented to our leadership team is a huge advantage when we come to show how we are adding value to the organisation. It can even be something as simple as recording that we have found and initiated responses to out of hours water leaks which if left, would inevitably have caused business disruption. Data presented in the right way is also a good aid to support business cases for resource or budget requirements.”

Challenge brings opportunity

The past 18 months have been amongst the most challenging of Stanley’s career as the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt by PwC and other multi-national organisations. He said: “COVID has been a challenge for everybody, there is no doubt about that. However, what I’ve learned over the years is that challenge brings opportunity, so we try not to dwell on the challenges but instead rise to the challenge and find opportunities for us to improve.”

One of the ways in which Stanley has identified his team can be improved is through enhancing their digital skills: “The digital upskilling of security teams has been an issue for the entire industry for a number of years. I remember that 20 years ago, an organisation would struggle to find a Security Officer who was computer literate and could send an email.

“We have been using the digital upskilling courses made available by PwC to our security teams and have seen a dramatic change in the people now entering the industry who are a lot more tech-savvy than they once were. This is making a huge difference to the services we can offer together with developing the skill sets within the team and simplifying process for our internal customers.”

Stanley concluded: “I have spent years building my reputation and building trust in me, it has been a fantastic journey which continues to evolve. I am truly grateful for the support and trust that PwC has placed in me together with their commitment to ensure the safety and security of all our people. Working for an organisation that puts people at the top of its agenda makes implementing security programmes that much easier.”

For more than 30 years, Richard Stanley has proved himself to be a professional, knowledgeable and forward-thinking security leader. His career is a terrific example for all Security Officers that with the right attitude, skillset and a supportive employer, there are amazing opportunities for progression within the security industry.

For more information, visit: www.pwc.com

This article was originally published in the October 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here

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