Global unrest, protests, COVID-19 have fundamentally
increased the need for risk intelligence
Rapid protest tactics, economic uncertainty and global insecurity have increased the need for accurate, up-to-date risk intelligence, Ian Betts, leader of G4S-owned Hill & Associates’ Risk Intelligence Service, writes.
03 Dec 2020
A decade ago, public demonstrations were usually pre-organised events. Yet in October in Bangkok, Thailand, widespread pro-democracy protests were managed like flash mobs: people appeared from nowhere in their thousands. Thailand’s young people have learned from recent civil unrest in Hong Kong. They wait at major public transport hubs, ready to mobilise at a moment’s notice, with a tweet, TikTok video or Telegram message sparking the start. Sometimes they gather, and sometimes they don’t. When they do, they move as one, occupying main streets or public transport centres.
For a global business, NGO or foreign government looking to build relationships, these sorts of incidents are incredibly difficult to plan for. How can an operations manager or security chief effectively consider the impact on operations as the news is breaking? Initial reports can be unreliable. Social media can be a swamp of misinformation. Both can be time-consuming to sort through. The most reliable option is a professional risk intelligence agency with accurate information and analysis immediately accessible in the palm of your hand.
The rise of micro-reporting
When I started in this industry 14 years ago, risk intelligence consisted of regular, in-depth reports that were tailored to big businesses that needed to make major decisions. And while those analytical reports still exist, decision makers now need more information.
It’s a well-worn trope that you can never have too much information. But pure information can be overwhelming - no-one can read everything. I would change the saying to ‘you can never have too much intelligence’. That is the difference between breaking news and social media, and risk intelligence. One is information - often unfiltered and unverified - and the other is expertly analysed and curated to the need of an organisation.
In a recent crisis, we provided updates tailored to one client as often as every half-hour. “This protest is 1.2 kilometres from your premises”, one report might say, followed by: “The protest is now 600 metres from your offices”. We’ve helped clients plan emergency evacuation routes, and discussed contingency plans. Risk intelligence is more than just a well-produced report.
Earlier this year, and supported by G4S, we launched the H&A24 Risk Intelligence app (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store). After speaking to our clients, we found they needed information and intelligence more quickly. With the app, our expert analysts can quickly send updates and alerts on an emerging threat without spending too much time creating the document itself.
Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand give three-fingered salute.
Return to work plans
It’s hard to overstate the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses. Some have had to adapt in smaller, manageable ways, like temperature checks and QR codes. Others have had to overhaul office spaces and install shielding and perspex screening. We’ve spent the past eight months giving strategic advice on these decisions.
A key area risk intelligence can help is for return to work policies. Good risk intelligence contains practical information, as well as high end analysis. It’s surgical, it contains the salient points, and is written in a way that supports decision making. In our intelligence, we provide advice and recommendations. We make it relevant to each industry.
It’s about keeping assets and people safe.
2020 has been a year of unpredictable risk and unforeseen challenges. There has never been a more important time for NGOs, businesses and governments to have quality intelligence at their fingertips.
Hill & Associates comprehensively covers Asia. We have people in Thailand, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Mainland China, Hong Kong and more. We’re across local politics, language, culture, social media and the latest news.