Debating the implications of Covid-19 on the future of security in the Benelux: where are the opportunities and the traps?
Chair: Martin Gill
Prof. Marc Cools – Professor in Criminology at Ghent University
Werner Cooreman – Group Security Director at Solvay
Nele Eykens – Corporate Nuclear Security Operations Manager at ENGIE Electrabel
Rajiv Mathur – CEO of V4 Security Service Pvt. Ltd. and Regional Advisor for The OSPAs
Nele Eykens makes the point that there are different type of crises, terrorism for example is clearly a security crisis whereas the current pandemic is a health crisis to which security is playing a supporting role, enabling it to take a ‘helicopter view’. She outlines the ways in which security has set about managing this crisis, noting that many security professionals are stepping up to oversee other roles, such as health and safety, and that this is being recognised by leadership. The economic difficulties that are likely to ensue with redundancies will heighten concerns about cyber crime and the insider threats and it is likely that security too will be required to operate with less resources. Moving forward she encourages security to embrace the likelihood of ‘black swan’ events and wishes colleagues to place an emphasis on building internal and external relationships as a stepping stone to being more effective.
Marc Cools has one foot in the world of operations and another in academia. His opening statement adopts an interesting policy perspective and he highlights how this has varied across BeNeLux countries. Noting that the pandemic was not foreseen he highlights how, for example, communications were better in the Netherlands compared to Belgium and in a different way, how the approach in the latter was mediated by layers of officialdom. It leads him to argue that what many organisations learnt in this crisis was that the most effective responses depend on taking individual responsibility. You will find his comments on the role of policy at the national level interesting (e.g. acting too late and with too little). Dealing with the pandemic has enabled security to show its value. Marc encourages the security world to recognise its strengths and to build on the new skills it has acquired to increase its impact.
In noting that the pandemic was a black swan event Werner Cooreman emphasises that there is a role for security in being at the forefront in preparations for the possibility of future such crises; we must not lose sight that something else will happen somewhere and organisations need to be ready. He posits the view that security leaders can play a role in broader corporate leadership, beyond the security role to engaging in operations. He rejects the suggestion that security professionals may have been at fault for not being more aware of the possibility of this type of crisis by noting that no other professional group were either. Going forward he calls for a greater focus on resilience not least when there is likely to be a contraction in security roles alongside a greater emphasis on cyber security. He highlights the need for security professionals to fully understand the nature and range of business risks; he advocates a role as a ‘civilian Sherpa’ (an expert guide). Finally he calls for security professionals to show how they, alongside other professionals, add value; that is the language of business and that must be the goal.
Rajiv Mathur offers a contrast in presenting the situation in India noting that the country was caught unaware by the virus, there was an assumption that the hot climate would thwart its spread. In the event, when lockdown came, people were stranded and there was chaos which served to increase the rate of infection. The country has been unable to conduct a lot of testing. Amongst this though security has had the opportunity to shine, albeit operating in an environment where official policy varies across the country. Rajiv feels that the 9 million guards have been seen to do a good job working with a greater variety of technologies, security personnel have generally garnered respect, and CSOs are more engaged. The ensuing economic hardship will likely escalate criminal incidents and underline the need and value of private security.
The BeNeLux has been one of the most progressive regions in the world for inspiring new thinking in security management yet as this webinar has shown it has not been free from some of the challenges of responding to the virus. Moreover, there are differences between countries as well as between sectors and organisations. The panel members are positive about the future of security, albeit it has to adapt and respond to the opportunities being presented, that alas is merely work in progress.
29th September 2020
This webinar was organised with the support of ASMC Digital Congress and the Benelux OSPAs, which take place on 24th November 2020. Find out more here: congres.securitymanagement.nl