Security in the BeNeLux: what are the barriers to progress and how can they be overcome?

Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Nele Eykens – Corporate Security Manager at Umicore
Filip Smeets – Division Manager SERIS Academy at SERIS Belgium
Pieter Leloup – Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University, Faculty of Law and Criminology

Key points:
Filip Smeets notes that there is much statutory regulation in the BeNeLux, but it has its shortcomings. There is a comprehensive requirement on training for example, but it lacks a broad vision on what is required, one example is the lack of a focus on selling security and more generally on soft skills. Interestingly Filip raises the point that mandatory training requirements can impede progress in that there is a focus on doing what is legally necessary rather than what is commercially and professionally best.  He warns of the danger of the race to the bottom when it comes to awarding and accepting contracts, and the risk that clients will focus on what is easy and cheap rather than what is good as has been evident in some cases in the pandemic. The turnover of personnel is too high, leadership skills and not least of those who supervise the frontline workers, are lacking. Ultimately clients need to pay for a good service, this though includes more than security officers, it is also about the support network for a contract, the back office, the technology for example. Asked what is key moving forward Filip focussed on the need to present an evidenced based approach, something all too often lacking.

Nele Eykens starts by commenting on security training and the routes to improving provision and in so doing highlights one of the key barriers to progress; the lack of engagement of other professionals, typically key stakeholders in organisations, who all too often don’t understand security and its remit. She calls for the training of professionals to include an input on security. This will not be easy but it is necessary to make this commitment to develop and presents an example where, on the back of taking a course on health and safety, she encouraged tutors to include a security input in the future. Lamenting the limitations of some courses, and some approaches, Nele notes that progress in the last two decades has been slow, but expressing optimism for the future she calls upon the sector to both recognise the importance of soft skills which are often ignored and to make a noise about how good security is to key stakeholders. We need to see security as sexy.

Pieter Leloup starts by discussing the legislative framework and its relevance to different security actors; the need to align issues such as training and standards to help smooth the route to more professionalism; and not to just rely on laws and regulation in thinking about how to progress security. There is still a tendency to see security professionals as failed police officers. Opinion polls confirm the low opinion the public have of security and in Belgium at least the pandemic did not give the security sector the profile he hoped it would have. Although a lot of training is stipulated by statute, more is needed especially on managers and it needs to be updated, brought into line with European directives for example; for too long there has been a lack of focus to keep regulation current and it shows. He calls for more alignment between academia and professional practice to undertake evidenced based research which is the basis for informed progress.

The BeNeLux is often seen as being at the forefront in terms of security regulation and practice, similar to Scandinavia, but this webinar highlighted some of its challenges which mirror those of other locales. It is also poignant to remind ourselves that while regulation has a place, it is not the sole answer. Our panel called upon the sector to take responsibility for pushing change, that is a chord that has an international appeal and should be widely heeded.

This year’s event is proudly sponsored by Bavak Security Group: https://www.bavak.com/ and organised with the support of BEVEILIGING NIEUWS.nl: https://beveiligingnieuws.nl/ and ASIS International Benelux Chapter: https://www.asisbenelux.eu/

Martin Gill
16th September 2021