Contract or In-house security

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Choosing the correct security solution

The use of private security contracts by businesses around the world is not a new phenomenon. The idea of ‘security in a box’ where a business can hand off its security service needs to an external contractor who specialises in that area  seems like a good idea in theory. Yet we still see many of the worlds most prestigious venues retain a directly employed security service. The reasons for this will be the subject of this article. I wasn’t to look at the pro’s and cons of each type of security service and where each can be effective. 

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Contract Security

Contract security works for some businesses. There is no doubt about that. There are a number of occasions where this is not only a good solution but a better solution than directly employed security. Those occasions include:

  • Hours:Where the security is on an ad-hoc or part time basis. If the premises only requires security cover for 12, 14, 26 hours a week it can be difficult to find a directly employed security person willing to work those hours. A contract company with multiple 12 or 25 hour contracts in an area may be able to offer the right number of hours to a security operative to make it worthwhile and solve the clients requirements at the same time.
  • Cost: Where cost is the over riding priority when purchasing security it is generally a business that isn’t serious about its security. Same could be said about a security contractor who offers their services on a cheapest price basis. That being said it is true to say that bringing in a contract security service is cheaper than employing a directly employed security service. If you add up all of the costs associated with recruiting, selecting, training, managing,equipping, taxes and insurance it certainly adds up to a cost saving over time. Where cost is the defining factor a contract solution always works best even if it is a false economy in my opinion. 
  • Liability: One of the major driving forces behind contract security decisions is insurance liability. Somebody to share the blame with when things go wrong. The requirement for security contractors to have deliberate act insurance is inviting for clients who feel that the actions of security may lead to a civil claim. To me this is a false economy. Spending money to share out the later payout when things go wrong as opposed to spending money to ensure things don’t go wrong.
  • Lack of knowledge:  A common and understandable factor. Many clients just don’t have the expertise or time to hire, manage and train an effective security team. In this case contract is the best solution for them. They buy ‘security in a box’ and it saves them the hassle, time and cost of starting their own security function. 

In house security

 For me the best venues still employ in house security teams. Maybe that’s just my personal bias but when I look at many of the leading retailers in the world, corporate companies and night time venues the best seem to retain an in house security service. That’s not to say it suits every venue. As we discussed above there are areas where contract security is a better solution. In contrast however there are also reasons  why in house security is the correct solution. These include:

  • Expertise/knowledge: It stands to reason that if a person is working in the same place doing the same job over a period of time they should (if hired and managed correctly) become proficient at it. They should know the site, it’s users and it’s culture and be able to adapt their security stance to this. This knowledge pays dividends in terms of service provision.
  • Control/range of duties: The employer retains a much greater level of operational control over the security team when they are directly employed. They can also utilise security for a much wider range of duties that perhaps a contractor may not be suitable or capable of. Examples of this may be carrying out employee investigations or cash handling duties. While there is extra work involved here for security staff there is also the opportunity to become embedded as a core part of the business and an exposure to other parts of the company that contract security staff will never get to see.
  • Staff development/Succession planning: For a security manager will full time responsibility for a security team this is a key area. Having directly employed staff provides ownership and control over training,development,appraisal and succession that is almost impossible to match with contract security.

The hybrid security model

There is a third way of providing a security service that has become popular with many multinationals in the corporate security sector. That is the hybrid model. In this model a contract security is engage and they provide a security team to the client. That security team however is employed for that client site alone and is trained and developed for that clients needs. Thus provides many of the advantages of contract security along with some of the benefits of in house security. The contractor becomes akin to a strategic business partner with the client for the security and risk management. This is a great solution for some businesses but it isn’t for everybody. First it requires a set security standard for the contractor to follow and somebody within the client with the expertise to design this. It also requires significant investment to build the relationship with the contractor. They also require the contractor to hire real talent. If they were to hire this talent themselves it would cost money and when they pay a contractor to hire this talent the contractor adds a an ongoing premium for providing this talent without all other HR headaches for the client. Overall its a win/win provided both client and contractor are clear on what the relationship consists of. This approach tends to work for larger business clients with specialist security providers.


There is not right or wring security solution. There is only the right or wrong security solution for a particular business. There are times when a contract security solution os perfect for the needs of the client and times where it isn’t There are times when the added cost and effort of hiring direct is worth it in terms of value and times when it isn’t. For em the most important thing is to know what you want your security team to achieve. Once you know what your goal is it is often easier to see which path is most suitable. There are costs and value with each option. Only the client can know which one provides the most value towards their goal for the most acceptable cost.

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