Security Forward Risk and Intelligence Forum’s Spring meeting was held at the Z/Yen Group offices at 90 Basinghall Street in the City of London. There was a record turnout of around twenty people and quite a few new faces around the table.
The meeting started with a presentation from our guest speaker Chris Smith, who is the Global Head of Contingency Risk for HSBC with responsibilities for business continuity planning and crisis management with oversight of physical security. Chris has spent twelve years with HSBC, latterly in Hong Kong, and his presentation was entitled ‘The impact of the pro-democracy movement’s demonstrations in Hong Kong and the impact on business’. He described crisis management as what happens when business continuity stops working properly. Chris described how the ‘occupy movement’, known as the ‘umbrella revolution’ impacted upon HSBC. The Bank had certain inherent advantages, as it is the pre-eminent bank in Hong Kong and has a great deal of influence. It is known locally as the big elephant and just referred to as the Bank. It also has the advantage of multiple locations. However, nobody knew quite how the disturbances would play out. Luckily the ‘occupy central’ group were mainly students who were very active, but did not want trouble and were very polite most of the time. They were making the point for democracy and the bank was prepared for occupy Central, although not sure whether it would turn ugly. The occupation of Kowloon was much more confrontational and contained elements of society, including the Triads, who were willing to use violence as business was being interrupted and causing real hardship to small traders. The Business Continuity Plan for the Bank's interests in Kowloon had to be invoked and there was a real commitment from the senior executives whose support was vital. Lessons were learnt and are now being applied. Chris described Crisis Management as really being resource management. Civil unrest is unusual in Hong Kong as it interrupts and interferes with business, but it may happen again due to the political situation with China. This was a fascinating presentation and the Q&A session was most informative."
After our usual round-robin to identify ‘in tray’ issues and concerns, our second speaker was our own ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL. Crispin is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security, as well as a novelist. Crispin’s presentation was entitled ‘Business Ethics-vital underpinning of capitalism or naïve contradiction in terms’. Crispin suggested that fewer people are willing to defend capitalism than would have been the case a generation ago. He described capitalism as representing ‘an absence of rules and lightly regulated’ and the ‘freedom to make money’. He pointed out that the City Of London has been responsible for an explosion of wealth, requiring imagination and intellectual skill as well as an entrepreneurial spirit. He said that there is now a disdain for money making institutions which seems to be shared by many in this country and a move against respect for money making. He suggested that left wing philosophy and anti-capitalist opinions are no longer challenged as they would have been and that there are fewer people willing to defend the City and the financial institutions. He drew upon the likes of ‘Philip Marlow’ to illustrate what we once aspired to emulate, a hero with an old fashioned Christian morality who always had a moral compass to influence all his actions. Crispin said that the corporate culture of an institution is set by those at the top and we have seen how one bad apple at the top can change the morality of an institution, resulting in a disdain for capitalism as a whole. The City of London is a great wealth creator and the over reliance of rules should not replace personal values and standards. There was a lively discussion about the over reliance on rules and regulations and the unintended responses to them. This presentation was very well received and thought provoking as always.
Following the meeting, we dined in at The Aldermen’s dining Room at the Guildhall, which provided a fascinating venue for us, courtesy of Alderman Michael Mainelli. Our ‘dinner speaker’ was Brigadier Allan Mallinson, the distinguished military historian and novelist, who was encouraged to continue on from his presentation as the participants wanted to hear more from this very knowledgeable expert. After the dinner, copies of his latest book ‘Words of Command’ were presented to those who were there.
Our next meeting is planned for Thursday 2 July.