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INTERVIEW: State of the industry with Andrew Thorburn

NZ Security Magazine, Dec 2017/Jan 2018

Thorburn: "Our frontline representatives – who reflect the position of the industry – deserve more."Thorburn: "Our frontline representatives – who reflect the position of the industry – deserve more."


In this interview series, NZSM speaks to respected figures within New Zealand’s security industry to gain their perspectives on the big themes shaping the industry and impacting on those who work within it.


In this instalment, we are fortunate to be joined by Andrew Thorburn, National Brand Manager – Security, Atlas Gentech (NZ) Limited.

Andrew commenced his career in the security industry in 1996 as an apprentice installing electronic security hardware, including intruder detection systems, physical access control, gate and bollard automation, and a little CCTV.

Prior to his current role, Andrew was Senior Consultant and Regional Manager at ICARAS Consultants, and prior to this he was Sales Manager and then Technology Solutions Manager at Matrix Security Group Limited. Over the years, he’s worked for a range of security providers and also as a private contractor.

In addition to his technical and management roles, Andrew has been Vice Chairman of ASIS (NZ Chapter 148) and an auditor and academic board member of the NZSA. He has previously held the ASIS International Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Physical Security Professional (PSP) certifications.


NZSM: What do you see are the key challenges facing the security industry in New Zealand?

AT: Governance, Education, and Evolution. The industry has been plagued by the issue that there is agreement for a need for change; it just disagrees on what it is, who will effect it, and how.

Governance of the ‘industry body’ has largely been dominated by those with commercial interests, as opposed to the tasks of identifying and executing a strategic plan, creating a sustainable future for our impending industry professionals.  The gains the industry has made can be distilled to a very small number of voluntary people and a reflection of their time served.

It has, in some cases, been undertaken by inexperienced industry representatives who have held the industry back both fiscally and operationally due to a fear of lost subscriptions or reduced profile.  Many in the industry have felt that they do not have representation at a national level and that the current recognised industry body needs to increase its market authority.  

To transition the industry to the next phase of its cycle, it is time for independent professional directors, aligned to the three pillars of PHYSEC, PERSEC and INFOSEC.  This would ensure the broader representation and would align it to the direction the industry has moved to; a non-voting, emerging director position should be incorporated to provide governance experience and to nurture our future leaders too.

Education is the foundation of success, but it requires buy-in from the stakeholders.  I have observed and listened to many suppliers from the staff services to technology integration and distribution companies who claim that training is a cost centre not a profit centre. We can all agree there is sufficient evidence that this is just not true.

Education includes the consumer space too; understanding what differentiates solutions and their respective suppliers can be the difference between a successful or failed deployment of a protective security strategy.

The recent reinvigoration of calls for an apprenticeship scheme in the technology space, is very encouraging.  Whilst it is still early days, I commend those involved for not rushing into solutions without identifying and understanding what the industry or its end users require.  We have some very experienced and capable people voluntarily working on this new qualification.

The convergence of parallels, such as the ICT sector, brings its own challenges, but a lot of value too.  Companies that have not or will not evolve their businesses through the training of staff or their respective offerings will become irrelevant and must sell or close their doors.


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NZSM: Are we getting the skills we need into the industry?

AT: At a high level, yes.  We are now seeing more security professionals with defence sector experience, both nationally and internationally, including electrical and ICT backgrounds.  The tangible benefit is that these groups can bring international risk management/mitigation and operational experience, thus raising the standards of understanding the end user and the industry.

We can still do more, and as already noted, the development of an apprenticeship scheme in the electrotechnology space, in addition to the level 3 certificate for contact centre/monitoring staff currently under development, is a positive step towards creating career pathways.  The industry needs to identify the value add that staff with higher skill levels present to their clients; it can align with their clients’ risk appetite and therefore negate the price discussion we are all too familiar with.


NZSM: How has the industry changed over the past 5, 10 years?

AT: Initially I’d say digitalisation.  Our customers and business partners are more connected and therefore expect more from their solutions and providers.  The outcome is increased transparency; subsequently the accountability has resulted in a rationalisation of industry vendors too.

Risk management frameworks, such as ISO31000 or the all-of-government Protective Security Requirements (PSR), are now more widely adopted due to their constituting an holistic approach to protective security.  The emphasis on governance influencing PHYSEC, PERSEC and INFOSEC has contributed to a maturing of organisational policies and procedures.  The fiscal benefit is that CAPEX and OPEX are distributed appropriately and proportionately based on risk appetite.

Governance has changed primarily due to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.  The liability now placed on directors, board members and management has generally been positive for workers and customers alike.

However, my experience suggests most of the security industry still does not understand governance.  In addition, several entities within the industry are confusing stakeholders and subsequently end users, when referencing elements such as compliance against the PSR framework, and this is very dangerous.  There is no such thing as PSR compliance.

To a degree, PHYSEC and PERSEC has converged, where technology is now a critical part of the PERSEC function.  There is no doubt technology is the future king and the move towards recurring revenue/subscription-based models from technology solutions is seeing more and more new entrants.  This is evidenced at the residential security systems level by telcos such as Spark entering the local market with Morepork.

I cannot comment on INFOSEC specifically, as it has not been my core discipline.  However, I have observed a strong migration of organisational ‘risk’ responsibility towards INFOSEC professionals.  This presents significant growth opportunities for industry through additional strands of technology training, the traditional security or risk managers mandate broadening and for further traditional security technology evolution.

There is no denying this is influenced by professional directors’/boards’ greatest concern being cyber threat vectors.  Have a look at how many Security Consultant positions are advertised on Seek and then distil those that are not focussed on information security.  This is without a doubt a growth space for our industry.


NZSM:  Where do you see the industry is moving in the right direction?

AT: The discussion and realignment of industry training is positive.  Understanding there is a cost and those involved need to make money is one thing, but content and accessibility is another.  Provided we get these right, the industry will travel in a positive direction.

Embracing the evolution of technology by all industries is another positive.  An example of this is the use of BIM software by consulting engineers.  This enables engineers and project managers to pre-determine building infrastructure requirements and the potential conflicts between building services prior to construction commencing, averting cost and design variations.  It also allows system integrators or quantity surveyors to more accurately estimate build costs.

In addition, the use of UAV’s for land surveying or building maintenance reports for facility managers.  The subsequent “big data” is allowing solution owners to leverage multiple functions from their technology too.  This is particularly evident in video solutions where retailers or business associations monitor consumer or public interaction primarily for security reasons but now use the data to identify retail hot spots.

This enables the solution owners to potentially restructure their layout and possible product offering to create a richer consumer experience or to mitigate risks by deploying a response to a situation before it escalates.  Similarly, the use of video analytics for traffic flow and/or parking management reduces risks to personnel (parking wardens in particular) and creates a better user experience for all concerned.


NZSM: What can we do better?

AT: There will always be ways we can improve; our operating environments and solutions are dynamic.

Redefining roles within the industry through more appropriate CoA license classes would benefit end user engagement. For example, there has long been the debate surrounding what a consultant is – an independent, with balanced and impartial advice or a BDM who is paid a commission cheque to move products and services.

In addition, there is the issue of ICT suppliers or electricians who do not hold CoAs because of perceived or real technicalities.  Too often I see specifications or solutions provided by unlicensed practitioners.  Some of them are good, very good; but too many are not. 

The industry needs to operate so that those interacting with it can trust it along with the processes that govern it.

To that end, the industry needs to see more prosecutions from the PSPLA, such as what happens with the SIA in the UK and more recently within Australia with one of the All Blacks security detail operating without a license.

The PSPPI Act 2010 is now seven years old; long enough for those in the industry or those entering to be aware of the requirements and to abide by them.  Our frontline representatives – who reflect the position of the industry – deserve more, and communicating the non-compliance of businesses or individuals when it occurs from the highest level will position New Zealand security professionals as just that – professionals.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the interviewee and in no way reflect those of his employer, Atlas Gentech.


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