The response of British companies to new security threats has been measured and grounded in commercial realities, according to a report published today by the think-tank Demos. The Business of Resilience: Corporate security for the 21st century examines the response of British companies to the threat of terrorism. It argues that the approach of UK companies following the London bombings of July 2005 compares favourably with the heavy-handed response of corporate America to the attacks of September 2001.
While companies take the threat of terrorism seriously, the report finds that most UK businesses do not regard it as the main threat to their security. In a Demos survey of over 50 corporate security chiefs from FTSE 250 companies and their equivalents, 65 percent ranked terrorism as only the fifth most important security challenge facing their company, after crime, IT security, fraud, and natural disasters.
The report points to one company in New York visited by Demos researchers where an early warning system had been installed in case of chemical and biological attack and vaccinations for 7000 staff had been stockpiled.
"British business has avoided the hysteria that has gripped corporate America after 9/11," say the report’s authors, Rachel Briggs and Charlie Edwards. "Public and political pressure has forced US companies to divert significant resources to responding to the threat of terrorism. UK-based companies have been far more measured in their approach. While terrorism continues to be a pressing concern for government, UK companies are focusing on more acute threats to their security, like fraud and IT security."
The report also finds that security is increasingly regarded as integral to commercial success, and has benefited from a higher profile within companies in recent years. One-third of UK companies have overhauled their security procedures since the attacks of 11th September 2001, and over 60 percent have increased security spending. Almost half of the Heads of Security interviewed said that they were just one step removed from the main company board.
"In the best companies, security is breaking out of the backroom into the boardroom," say Rachel Briggs and Charlie Edwards. "By putting resilience firmly on the boardroom agenda, the most successful security departments are showing that security is the new source of competitive advantage for companies.
"Heads of Security are increasingly regarded as ‘Chief Resilience Officers’, taking responsibility for areas as diverse as corporate governance, business planning and – increasingly – helping to develop new business practices such as offshoring."
Based on fieldwork in Britain, India, South Africa and the United States, the report argues that other companies and the UK government should learn from the approach of these leaders. It recommends that companies should:
- Widen the remit of their corporate security department, to include corporate governance, IT security, and business continuity.
- Recruit security professionals from a wider talent pool. 71 percent of senior corporate security managers interviewed for the report were former police, military or intelligence professionals. Only 22 percent had prior business experience.
- Value commercial acumen alongside technical security skills. Increasingly, security professionals must rely on the quality of their networks and change management skills over security know-how.
- Give security a direct line into the Board.
- The Business of Resilience: Corporate security for the 21st century by Rachel Briggs and Charlie Edwards is published by Demos on 29th June 2006. Copies can be downloaded from /publications/thebusinessofresilience
- The Business of Resilience will be launched at The Prudential on Thursday 29th June. For further details, including how to register, email email@example.com
- Rachel Briggs is Head of International Strategy and Charlie Edwards is a researcher at Demos.
- Demos is the think tank for everyday democracy. It has a major programme of research on global security.
- The report was kindly supported by a consortium of companies: BP, British Airways, Control Risks, E.On, Group 4 Securicor Global Risks Ltd., HSBC, Kroll Security International, Prudential, QinetiQ and Shell.