Concorde Security: Spearheading industry change
In 10 years, security guards as we know them today may be obsolete.
That is what Chow Siew Chong, Vice President of security technology firm Concorde Security, reckons will happen as the traditional role of security officers gets gradually phased out by more sophisticated technology-focused roles.
“After all, it’s such a mundane job and it’s not very humane to let a person sit and guard a place for 12 hours, while doing nothing else,” Chow says.
Spearheading this overhaul of security jobs is Concorde itself, an 18-year-old firm whose main business used to be in supplying security guards to watch over building premises.
In the past two years, however, the award-winning firm has been deploying unmanned security systems that are shaking up the sector.
These inventions also improve working conditions and work-life balance for security officers, while offering a clever solution to the growing manpower shortage in security services.
First among Concorde’s suite of innovations to be rolled out was the “I-Man Facility Sprinter (IFS)”. This is a vehicle fitted with advanced wireless security systems that are linked to a cluster of 10 to 20 buildings.
A team of three officers, dubbed “I-Men”, are stationed in the vehicle monitoring the building cluster. They replace the earlier regime of having individual guards manning each block.
“So if the IFS is looking after a cluster of 10 buildings, you reduce the headcount needed by seven,” Chow says. Concorde expects to deploy about 10 IFS vehicles in Singapore by the end of this year.
The IFS solution is in stark contrast to the industry’s current piecemeal approach.
While security agencies are boosting security levels by using more cutting-edge technologies like advanced closed-circuit television systems and Segway scooters, the actual working conditions of security guards have seen little real improvement.
Executive Director of Concorde Security Alan Chua asks, “So what if you can make our guards move faster, see clearer, record better?”
“The time saved cannot be eaten or kept in the drawer to be used later. The guards still work 12-hour shifts.”
“Do the technologies make it more attractive for our children to become security guards?”
Creating a new profession
Thanks to the IFS and Concorde’s other inventions, however, the company is producing a whole new breed of professionals to run and monitor the new technologies.
In the process, Concorde is radically transforming the industry.
Chow says its new-generation security officers are more educated, more highly-skilled, more productive, and better paid than the traditional security guard today. They have to be at least graduates from the Institute of Technical Education.
“They need a good technical background because they’re dealing with routers, switches and cameras. Some of them also need to pilot a drone or set up a robot to patrol building premises,” he says.
Aside from security functions, the role also entails building maintenance, which means every officer doubles as a trained technician.
The new-generation officers take home between S$2,000 and S$3,000 per month, a marked improvement from the $1,100 recommended by the Progressive Wage Model for traditional guards. At the same time, Concorde guards enjoy five-day work weeks, instead of pulling 12-hour shifts for six or seven days a week.
Drawing from a new talent pool
By redefining what it means to be a security officer, Concorde hopes to entice more young local talent to join the industry. At present, security jobs have the reputation of being low-paying, low-skilled and male-dominated.
“We’re attracting new entrants who are more educated and more tech-savvy, and they can be women or men,” Chow says.
During this transition period, headcount has been deliberately reduced among Concorde’s traditional security guards, from 300 in 2013 to fewer than 50 today.
Concorde intends to hire close to 200 new “I-Men” by 2018, in order to meet its target of deploying 50 IFS vehicles islandwide in the same year. They will provide security to a total of 1,000 sites.
The goal is to transform its business model to become less labour-intensive and reinvent itself as a technology solutions provider.
The firm is also looking for more engineers to join its newly formed technology team.
Creating new HR structures
Chow says the company is developing a specific career path for its new class of security personnel. “We’re creating a career progression structure for them, which may comprise a supervisory role and a higher, commander role,” Chow says.
Under the Progressive Wage Model’s recommendations, a typical security guard will take at least seven years to rise from junior officer to chief security officer. But Chow believes that is too slow. Once crystallised, the new “i-Man” career route will allow staff to climb the career ladder far more quickly.
Training and development opportunities also need to be formalised. Concorde is working with the Security Industry Institute to design a new course specifically on its latest security technologies for the IFS officers.
“We need to train them fast, which means we need a two-day structured, standardised course, on top of ad-hoc training which can take about a month,” Chow says.
Painting a full impression
To create a culture where all the staff share the passion to realise the same aims, Chow gives monthly talks to update them on the latest developments and remind them of the company targets, so that everyone understands the complete picture.
“As the Vice President, I know what the whole elephant looks like, but some staff may only know the trunk while others only see the tail. So the talks get everyone on the same page,” Chow says.
“You must know where you want to go, then ask if your people would like to join this journey with you,” he says.
“If we’re on the same ship together, the different teams will work closely together and resolve problems as a unit. When they face challenges they’ll know to get back on track towards the goal.”
Inventing for security
Besides the patented “I-Man Facility Sprinter”, Concorde has also developed other, patent-pending security technologies. One of them is a kiosk that automatically dispenses security passes to pre-registered visitors. For maritime security and surveillance, there is also the “I-Cruiser” boat and the unmanned aerial vehicle (a specialised drone).