Threats can be managed through proper planning

Anthony Tesar, CEO of security and risk management company Le Beck International, shares his views about the threats affecting the region as well as plans for expansion in Oman

What is Le Beck International?

We are an independent specialist security and risk management consultancy with a dedicated presence in the MENA region for over 15 years. Our mandate is to empower and prepare senior executives with the ability to identify and mitigate security risks, threats and vulnerabilities in order to protect their most critical assets – their people, their business and their brand reputation. We take on an advisory role and the security products, systems and services that we recommend are sourced through third parties  (locally, regionally or internationally) thereby avoiding any conflict of interests.

Why did you decide to set up base in the Middle East?

I started the company in 2001 and we came to the Middle East in 2004 following the compound bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was a real paradox for Saudi, which was one of the most secure and crime free countries in the world, until 2004. Suddenly there were threats to business and the reputation of the country. I made a CEO's decision to move everything we had to Riyadh, because I saw an opportunity in the fact that the Middle East was never going to be the same again. In 2008 we moved our offices to Bahrain to set up our regional hub. We have undertaken work in Oman through regional clients we worked for in Saudi and Bahrain who had offices and major shareholdings here.

Our primary footprint is in the GCC though we also operate in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. After expanding in Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, we are now looking at Oman to complete our presence in the whole of GCC.

What are the major risk factors that affect countries in the region?

 The world is currently grappling with extremist ideologies, which are being propagated through the most powerful medium – the Internet. Young people are getting influenced by these ideologies. The region is besotted with issues due to internal strife in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. All GCC nations are affected by these issues in one way or another.

Oman is relatively safer compared to other GCC countries due to its neutral political stance. The country's policies have made it a haven of peace. The way His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said managed the Arab Spring protests in 2011 has been commended worldwide.

The last couple of years have been challenging for the GCC countries due to the drop in oil prices, which has led to austerity measures and has resulted in economic difficulties. Economic hardships can manifest themselves into something very negative very quickly.

Threats are a constant in the Middle East. It is a volatile environment and the only way to prepare is to anticipate it, accept it and manage it through proper security planning.

How does Le Beck help corporate companies to meet safety requirements?

Le Beck is specialised in the Financial (retail & investment), Critical Infrastructure and Mega City sectors, with extensive know-how in the oil and gas, petrochem, electricity, water & power, and transportation. We work with major corporations in the GCC and we have in-depth knowledge of the safety and security regulations in each of the countries in the region. Every corporate understands that they will have to meet the criteria set by respective regulatory bodies to conduct business. We help corporates to meet all the necessary regulations to start, maintain and grow their operations.

There are two main aspects to our services. First is the security part in which we create a tailor-made solution that meets the company's needs based on the threats that they are exposed to. Second is the financial consideration in which we analyse the existing security systems and requirements and look into ways to minimise the cost and maximise the results. With us in the middle, the company does not end up spending a penny more than is needed and the supplier can enjoy a quick turn-around and benefit from our involvement as project managers.

What are the challenges while working in the Middle East?

An important aspect everyone is aware of is that there will always be threats, especially in this part of the world. But the approach varies from person to person and from organisation to organisation, especially in this region. Some management go by the belief that 'if something is supposed to happen, it will happen'. These companies tend to not take much precaution, and there is very little that we can do other than try to educate them. But the fact remains that when running a company, the people working there must be taken care of and a majority of the senior management teams understand that this is tied to the company's reputation.

The ‘one size fits all’ policy does not work in security management. We are adept with security practices implemented in the UK, Europe and the US and with over 12 years of operating in this part of the world, we have amassed knowledge about the threats and issues that affect this region. Implementing a security model in the Middle East using experience from around the world will not work if local conditions and cultures are not considered.

What we do is we combine our international expertise and local knowledge to iron out a plan that fits the specific requirements, while taking into consideration the local market and industry dynamics. Whatever we are doing seems to be working and taking us in the right direction as the majority of companies we have worked with have retained our services.

Do you provide data security services?

We handle all things except software. We don't deal with external hacking, firewalls, virus protection etc. We can (and do) work with specialist companies with expertise in this field and can offer a complete solution to the client by working as part of a joint team or consortium. The impetus towards cyber-security has grown leaps and bounds in recent times and can be very expensive to implement and manage. IT security can cost a lot of money to maintain and the moment you install a system to eliminate certain threats, something new has already come to counter that. Then one has to again upgrade the system to face the new and evolving threats.

In my opinion, the costs related to maximising cyber security can be reduced significantly by minimising physical access to systems. We provide the guidelines to help achieve just that.

Have low oil prices affected your business?

We create tailor-made security solutions and always push for cost-savings in the services that we provide. Before the oil price dip and the austerity measures, companies spent ostentatiously on security systems. In our current situation, management has to account for every riyal they spend. Le Beck has witnessed significant growth during this period because companies find our services essential to curb spending, while at the same time they see value for money in ensuring preparedness for any potential threat.

LeBeck

What is the operational style of Le Beck?

When we take up a contract with a company, nine out of ten times we conduct a Security Risk Assessment (SRA). We evaluate everything the company has from an asset point of view including buildings, people, operations etc.

We then look into the entire security system they have in place. Our analysts put together an extensive threat analysis assessment stating all the vulnerabilities that might affect them regionally, locally and even from within the company. Based on this information, we make our recommendations, which could include anything from establishing proper procedures, perimeter protection, guard services, access control, CCTV etc. Once the clients give us a go ahead, we can further support in implementation by project managing all the different service providers and installers.

Is it difficult to find quality equipment and manpower to support your recommendations in the region?

Finding equipment is not at all difficult, the local markets have the latest security technology and equipment available which is sourced from around the world. But there is a lack of experience in understanding what is needed as a complete solution, how they interact with each other and how you can maximize cost efficiency without compromising operational effectiveness. In most cases we are asked to project manage the implementation process to ensure timely completion and that the standards expected by the client are delivered.

What is your background in the field of security and risk management?

I am a security and risk management specialist with more than 20 years of international experience in the public, government and corporate sectors. During my career in the British Army I conducted operations in multiple countries across the globe. As a former Bomb Disposal Officer and a member of the Special Forces, I have worked with both the UK and US governments as an adviser on counter-terrorism methodologies and attack mitigation techniques. I performed a similar role within national security and intelligence organisations in the Americas, Asia and Europe before moving to the Middle East to set up Le Beck International. 

Threats can be managed through proper planning
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