Intersec Blog

Honeywell: Why Security Strategies Must Adapt To The Retail Revolution

Posted by Richard McKeon on Jul 10, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Honeywell Security and Fire EMEA Channel Marketing Leader, James Somerville-Smith, comments on the changing face of retail banking, the future of the UK high streets and why video analytics could play a crucial role in securing both the banks of the future, while helping bricks and mortar retailers move with the times.


“While brighter, modern, more dynamic banks are much more welcoming and enticing for an increasing number of prospective customers, they also present challenges for the security team.”


“In many organisations, the location of security cameras and alarm setting procedures haven’t changed for years, even decades.”


“Invest in higher-specification cameras in order to better pinpoint the perpetrators of theft”

The UK banking sector is changing. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed that more than half of us are using more than one bank, including so-called ‘challenger’ banks that may not even have a high street presence. This result may have sent a chill down the spines of retail banks everywhere, which are used to being their one-stop shop for loyal customers. However, it’s not the end for the high street. The study also revealed that the availability of bank branches is still a crucial concern for consumers – with 68 per cent believing a branch was essential when opening a new current account, compared to just 25 per cent who favoured a mobile app.  It begs the question, how can retail banks leverage their bricks and mortar presence effectively to deliver a competitive advantage?


banking security Shutterstock (1)-634976-edited.jpgRetail banks need only look to their beleaguered retail counterparts for inspiration. Argos launched its first of six ‘digital stores’ in Old Street, east London at the end of 2013 boasting voice-activated computer systems, iPads, free Wi-Fi and digital screens. The stores were a huge success – at the end of last year, a further 30 opened in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, designed to entice customers in for a real experience. It is a path already trodden by Apple - considered by many as the gold standard of the in-store consumer experience - and a path that retail banks must surely follow too.


Indeed, some banks are stepping up to the plate.  Lloyds are rumoured to be completely overhauling hundreds of branches, where customers will serve themselves using machines. Earlier this year, RBS Group also announced plans for every RBS and NatWest branch to have a resident technology expert to help customers with online and mobile banking. Barclays is now offering free Wi-Fi for its customers. In short, retail banking is embracing technology, experimenting with different shapes and spaces and trying to flex its services to the demands of the modern world.

While this shift is certainly welcome, there is one additional challenge that retail banks must quickly wake up to; their changing security requirements. Although the vast majority of retail banks have traditionally invested heavily in security infrastructure in order to protect their employees and assets against harm and theft, the changing use of space in-store means surveillance and alarm systems must also evolve in tandem.  Let’s consider a few examples to illustrate my point.


The Tablet Dilemma

As noted above, in a nod to Apple, banks like Barclays and Natwest are adopting iPads and other tablet devices in order to improve the customer experience. Admirable though it is to offer customers access to the beautiful tablet interface while banking, it does make these premises a much more attractive target for thieves. For example, who ensures that the iPad put to one side by an employee member of staff helping a customer, isn’t swiftly snatched by an opportunistic thief? Although evolving the branch environment in tandem with emerging technology is essential for retail banks, it also presents some significant dilemmas when it comes to protecting its newly acquired – and expensive – digital assets.


Dynamic Spaces

Similarly, while brighter, modern, more dynamic banks are much more welcoming and enticing for an increasing number of prospective customers, they also present challenges for the security team. In many organisations, the location of security cameras and alarm setting procedures haven’t changed for years, even decades. While traditionally cameras were pointed at the cashiers behind their glass screens, and at the ATM machines inside the bank, now the classic, time-honoured security procedures need to be updated. For example, as more and more staff are out on the floor welcoming customers, how do banks ensure that employees are protected from, say, an attack from a disaffected customer? How do banks moving into, say, supermarket spaces ensure that the security systems can accommodate their unique challenges?


Evolving Your Security Mix

As store layout changes, one area that retail banks must start to focus on is video analytics. This is technology that can monitor the movements of customers and staff in a store environment, and alert the security team to behaviour that is anomalous to the standard consumer or staff member. An example might be a person who is spending a significant amount of time ‘lurking’ around an area; this could indicate a potential theft risk or vandalism to be explored. A video analytics solution is capable of – for example – identifying when a large group of people is gathered around a specific area, alerting the store to potential risks.

There is also a compelling argument for stores to invest in higher-specification cameras in order to better pinpoint the perpetrators of theft. Nothing deters would-be thieves better than a track record of identifying, finding and prosecuting individuals who have stolen from the premises. In order to aid police in their investigations and – crucially – provide evidence that stands up in court, higher image quality is important. Further, in spaces that are busy with people moving around more dynamically than a traditional store, greater camera image pixels increase the probability of accurately spotting and easily identifying a thief.


In summary, the changing layout of stores and embracing technology are important parts of the high-street banks’ efforts to maintain profitability and turn bricks and mortar into an asset rather than a cost. This thoughtful and intelligent use of branches to entice, surprise and delight customers is to be encouraged. However, there are security challenges that mustn’t be ignored in the process. If banks revolutionise how their space is used, it follows that thieves will identify new and innovative ways of stealing. Security teams must invest in video analytics, superior surveillance technology and wireless alarm systems in order to safeguard their customers, employees and assets in the changing world of retail banking.


If experiential retail is to save the high street, security systems must evolve in tandem

Over the past decade, thousands of column inches have been dedicated to writing the High Street’s epitaph. The rise of online players like Amazon, eBay and Asos mean that, according to the Centre for Retail Research, online shopping sales in the UK will rise to 21.5 per cent share by 2018. For retailers across Europe, these statistics make grim reading.


However we have seen signs that the survival instincts of bricks and mortar retailers are starting to kick in. Indeed, a report by consultancy Deloitte predicts that by 2020, many physical stores will be showrooms. It is a path already trodden by Apple, considered by many as the gold standard of the in-store consumer experience.


There is one additional challenge that retailers are quickly waking up to; their changing security requirements. Although the vast majority of high street retailers have traditionally invested heavily in security infrastructure in order to protect their employees and assets against harm and theft – the changing use of space in-store means surveillance and alarm systems must also evolve in tandem. 


Experiential Retail Poses Challenges

One trend espoused by Apple, and mimicked by a host of other companies including Argos, is taking products like tablet computers, smartphones, laptops, TVs and portable music players off the shelves, out of boxes, and putting them right into the middle of the store where consumers can play with them. The marketing rationale here is impeccable; one thing that an online shopper cannot do is get a wonderful tactile experience from a product.

However, there’s a thin line to tread between making a product more accessible for a consumer, and making it more attractive to a thief. It will be difficult for stores – particularly those with hundreds of stores – to balance these conflicting priorities. Similarly, while brighter, wider, more dynamic stores are much more welcoming and enticing for a prospective customer, they also present challenges for the security team. In many organisations, the location of security cameras and alarm setting procedures haven’t changed for years, even decades.


The Role of Technology

As store layout and product displays change, one area that retailers are starting to focus on is video analytics. This is technology that can monitor the movements of customers and staff in a store environment, and alert the security team to behaviour that is anomalous to the standard shopper or staff member. A video analytics solution is capable of identifying when a large group of people is gathered around a specific product, for example, alerting the store to the risk of theft.


There is also a compelling argument for stores to invest in higher-specification cameras in order to pinpoint the perpetrators of theft. Nothing deters would-be thieves better than a track record of identifying, finding and prosecuting individuals who have stolen from the premises. In order to aid police in their investigations and provide evidence that stands up in court, higher image quality is important. More pixels increase the probability of accurately spotting and easily identifying a thief.


The Pop Up Phenomenon

A number of brands are experimenting with out-of-store experiences like pop- ups to boost footfall and drive sales. Designed to raise brand awareness of a particular product line, these stores are inviting and are often used to entice customers with ‘freebies’ or special offers.


These stores are tough for security teams to protect. The temporary – or even mobile – nature of the structures means that it is impossible or prohibitively expensive to fit wired security systems to ensure stock and cash remains protected. One solution that retailers are increasingly looking to is wireless technology. Alarm systems exist today that allow a panel to be wired into a space, then wireless sensors to be fitted right the way through it. These can be quickly and easily moved to accommodate the changing needs of staff and customers. It is a low-cost, effective way of protecting temporary structures more convincingly.


In addition, the development of cloud video systems is making it increasingly easy to quickly set up camera systems for temporary spaces. Cloud storage not only means cheaper and easier set up costs for this type of application, but also means that images are stored remotely and cannot be stolen from local storage at the same time a theft takes place.


The changing layout of stores is an important part of the high-street’s efforts to restore profitability and turn a retail space into an asset rather than a cost. However, there are security challenges that mustn’t be ignored in the process. Security teams must invest in video analytics, superior surveillance technology and wireless alarm systems in order to safeguard their employees and assets in the changing world of retail.

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