The Chevalier of security

Issue 2 2021 Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management

Ian Downie is the sales and marketing director for Xone Integrated Security, a company he co-founded in 2008 which is focused on delivering outcomes-based turnkey security solutions by integrating people, processes and technology.

Ian studied law at the Stellenbosch University with a second major in English literature. After his national service, which he completed as a law officer in the Medical Corps, he started legal consulting in the risk management space. The company he worked for focused on investigations, loss adjusting and management consulting in the risk and security industry. He was offered a partnership in the company and continued working there for a number of years.

He and a partner then started their own risk consultancy focused primarily on the security market, which ran successfully for a number of years until he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Taking a trip down memory lane, Ian explains that at that time, a South African security company, Intervid, was looking at expanding beyond the borders, specifically into the USA and Ian was offered the position of running its San Francisco office. He then sold up and prepared to move to the USA, but the expansion failed to materialise. He then ‘defaulted’ to running and growing Intervid’s risk consultancy based in Cape Town.

Intervid became i to i technologies, which eventually merged with Detexis and CommsCo. Ian ran the risk management programme for the new entity, as well as taking on roles such as key accounts manager and launching the Cape Town arm of the group. In 2008, he and three colleagues went out on their own and started Xone.

Xone Integrated Security is launched

Initially Xone was a technology house focused on the technologies aimed at control room operations. However, seeing the market’s needs, a year or so later Xone expanded into offering security services and manpower as well. Today the bulk of Xone’s customers are located in South Africa, with around 50% in Gauteng.

While many large security operations try to be all things to their customers, Xone is focused on what it does and how it does it, focusing on turnkey solutions that integrate people, processes and technology. Key to its success is the belief in the criticality of effective ‘command and control’.

Ian explains that command and control, typically in a control room environment is fundamental to Xone’s success. This control centre is not merely there to react to alarms, but to manage the full security operation with an outcomes-based focus. To accomplish this demands an understanding of the risks each individual client faces, allowing Xone to develop a solution comprising the right people, processes and technology to deliver the results required.

In this endeavour, technology, workflows and even the latest AI technologies are used to gather information, analyse it and have the right solutions (including people) in the right places. Ideally, this means pre-empting any events through the effective understanding and use of information, but also having the right processes in place to deal with whatever may happen.

Preparation is key

A differentiator for Xone is the way it prepares a proposal for clients. Ian believes having the right people with the right skills that understand the customer’s risk landscape is fundamental to success. As an example, he says the complete solution offered to a mine would include having a senior manager, a dedicated business analyst as well as a training manager on site, complemented by staff with the right competencies for the environment, skilled control room operators along with maintenance and tactical (armed) response personnel.

“This is what sets us apart,” Ian explains. “We don’t go for the mass market but focus on delivering unique solutions to each client based on their requirements. We offer more services integrated into our offering and are able to assure clients that they will see measurable value delivered from day one.”

This may mean fewer customers and standing apart from those who win bids solely on price, but it also means better service delivery to clients. This has resulted in Xone having fewer customers than other companies, but its customers are generally larger companies that understand the value of security and long-term partnerships.

Creating a solution for a client is not a simple task since Xone starts from scratch for each potential customer. Starting on a site will involve a team of Xone employees working on site for months, including at least one director, as they build a specific offering for that customer. Some other roles involved will be a recruitment manager, a training manager, a quality control/ISO manager, someone to create the SOPs (standard operating procedures), a financial manager and a project manager to manage the process from beginning until handover.

Attitude is everything

Naturally, to deliver the service promised, Xone has to invest in its staff to ensure they play their part in the complete solution. While skills and previous training helps, Ian says the right attitude is one of the first things he looks for in new hires. “If someone has the right attitude and the willingness and desire to learn, they can be taught to fulfil almost any role,” he states. “In the security industry, the ability to get on with people is also very important.”

Computer literacy is also crucial, however, he says simply knowing how to use a program has limited value. People need to know how to extract value out of the programs they use to add value to the customer. This requires the ability to interpret what’s in front of you and what is happening in the customer’s environment (via CCTV feeds, for example) and then apply your analysis in a real-time, value-adding manner.

Ian Downie.

To find someone with the technical and business skills, who is also driven and has the innate ability to work with customers and deliver according to requirements, however, is rare. Ian says there are only a few people like this in a large pool of job seekers. Early in 2021, he says Xone sifted through over 400 CVs from applicants and only hired 23.

To keep employees’ skills polished, the company runs a SASSETA-accredited training academy and staff are regularly sent on training courses according to their roster for continual improvement. Each member of staff has such a roster, mapping out their career development over time.

Xone also spends time and effort selecting the right customers, focusing on companies that understand the value provided. Xone operates in a transparent manner to ensure customers know exactly what they will be getting and why it will add value. Ian says the company operates from a long-term perspective and prefers to make sure it understands customer requirements and delivers it in order to retain client relationships for years.

A taste of the good life

As mentioned above, Ian’s passion is also food and wine. He started the Gastronauts Food Society with Billy Gallagher and was the chairman for many years. He lectured extensively at the Cape Wine Academy and has done several winemaking courses. Ian also created an apple cider drink in a champagne style called Terra Madre.

He was appointed a Chevalier to the Ordre le coteaux de Vallee du Champagne, is the vice president of Escoffier Southern Africa and a former Top 50 Restaurants of The World judge. Proving his skill, he won the Franschhoek potjiekos competition across all categories and is now working on a food app. He loves to travel for food and wine and has eaten at many of the world’s greatest restaurants. Lastly, he is a patron of Imibala, an amazing charity initiative.

Of course, his gastronomical passion is apart from his business responsibilities, but Ian believes that if you are passionate about something you find or make the time to pursue your interests.


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