A secure future

Small talk
Sebastian Michalkiewicz, the president of the management board of security providers Polski Holding Ochrony, reveals how the pandemic has impacted his sector – and how technology is transforming it

The pandemic has turned out to rather a painful time for the security industry. Who has been hit the most in your sector?

Sebastian Michalkiewicz, president of the management board, Polski Holding Ochrony: Those companies that were focused on providing security for one kind of property were hit the hardest – especially for shopping centres and hotels. Some centres that today have limited operations or are closed cut back on their security and some even gave up on it altogether. The security firms that offer a wide range of services for different kinds of facilities were hit to a lesser extent by the pandemic. However, there are also companies that are involved in security for logistics centres and they have been seeing greater demand for their services.

What else has the pandemic changed?

It has limited direct contact between people – and we’re seeing something similar in security. Equipment is increasingly replacing the physical presence of people. In places where there were previously posts for security personnel, there are now monitoring systems, which are becoming more and more innovative. There are fittings worth mentioning that make life easier, such as masts on to which equipment can be installed, which with batteries and solar panels can operate without needing to be plugged in and then CCTV pictures can be transmitted via GSM. Such masts are often used to provide security on building sites such as road-building projects. The surveillance of such a site can be up to ten times cheaper than having a permanent security post and is more effective than, for example, an intervention patrol, which stays in one place for a few minutes and then moves on to check on another building. Using technology turns out not only to be cheaper but also more effective.

And computers are taking on an even bigger role.

Yes. In our sector computer analysis has been developing very quickly. For example, a camera system monitoring a car park can learn who goes up to which car every day and recognise the owner from their body shape and other features. If someone else approaches a car, the system informs the operator that something out of the ordinary is happening. The same system can be used, for instance, to secure workplaces – the computer program can unerringly pick out a stranger and send an alert.

But IT systems also need to be protected from breaches.

Yes, and for this reason we are also involved in that type of security. Companies in our sector will need to change their character a little to continue operating in the future. As well as physical security guards and equipment they need to take on board IT security. A modern office building is a huge system of computer networks that can’t just be protected with surveillance and a physical presence – and that’s why our group includes a company that deals with cyber-security.

Polski Holding Ochrony was set up five years ago and now employs 2,500 people. Why did you consolidate into a group?

We wanted to set up a strong company that would be able to provide a full range of services and not just security. Services for real estate comprise three main areas: security, cleaning and facility management. However, the companies that provide these services are usually not associated with each other. We are trying to go in a different direction. We want these three services to become in fact just one. This will be much more convenient for the other party because they won’t have to work with several organisations, while on the other hand, the services will also be cheaper and the work will be done better.

In what way?

We strive for our employees to be multidisciplinary, which means that for any given building they have responsibilities related to several different fields. There isn’t one employee responsible just for maintenance issues and another solely responsible for security – we train one person to do both. Similarly, for residential estates we try to get the people responsible for the security to help the residents in other ways. They collect parcels, give out information and assist in other ways – in other words, they act like a concierge.

To finish off, how about a personal question? Have you planned your holidays this year?

I’m not planning any vacation, because I know that when the pandemic comes to an end there will be a lot of work waiting for us. When the lockdown is lifted, huge growth in the economy as well as in services is going to follow, so it’ll be necessary to get to grips with the situation as quickly as possible in order to win the biggest number of contracts. It’s going to be a great time for us to grow. That’s why I’m not even thinking about a holiday until early next year.

Interview: Rafał Ostrowski