The Interview: Wade Anderson, Bravis Security
Wade Anderson, general manager, Bravis Security.
Wade Anderson, general manager of Brisbane-based integrator Bravis Security is second generation security industry, having grown up in the family business, Blue Security, outside Durban in South Africa. Anderson’s experience in these 2 markets and elsewhere around the world gives him a compelling perspective on the electronic security industry in Australia.
JA: How did you start out in the electronic security industry, Wade? Can you tell us a bit about your career path so far?
WA: My father started a security business in South Africa the year I was born and grew it to the largest private alarm monitoring and armed response business in South Africa. From my earliest memories I used to visit the office, run around, mostly causing chaos but always looking up to my father wanting to emulate his career and success. My first ‘work experience’ within the industry came while studying at university. I used to remove VHF radios from cancelled clients during my spare time for $5 radio which they would reuse on new connections.
After graduating, I joined the business full time in 2010 and started at the heart of the business – our control centre which had 28 permanent operators 24/7 supporting 55,000 clients, managing 100 inhouse armed response vehicles and dealing with more than 1,000,000 actionable signals a month. I then ran our technical department for a few years which was probably the most exciting role I had, dealing with 60 permanent technical teams completing an average of 6000 jobs per month.
Prior to leaving South Africa I became managing director of our national business, which focused on the retail industry throughout Southern Africa. My wife and I touched down in Australia in early 2017 and I pretty much continued within the residential alarm monitoring business as GM of a business based in Qld. I then moved into enterprise security and have loved my time in this high-end space.
JA: What were some of the joys and challenges of growing up in the family security business?
WA: Blue Security had over 650 employees and by far the greatest joy of being a part of that business was the family environment. There were many staff that had been there for 10, 15 or 20 years. It wasn’t just a business; it was a family. It was an amazing honour to have played a small part in that business.
JA: Is the nature of the industry different, more centred on commercial than residential in Australia? What other differences do you see when you compare it to South Africa?
WA: The security industry in Australia is very different to South Africa. Unfortunately, in South Africa, the crime rate and the sheer violence of crime literally made our job a matter of life and death. Everything we did, from installing an alarm system and receiving an alarm signal, to dispatching an armed response, had to be done perfectly every single time. Even the slightest mistake or lack of focus could have fatal consequences.
The industry in Australia, for thankfully obvious reasons, has far less intensity to it. But in saying that, it has its own challenges which I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of. In my time within Australia I have changed my focus from residential alarms and CCTV to high-value enterprise CCTV and access control systems looking after correctional centres, state and federal government organisations, and large manufacturing plants.
One aspect between South Africa and Australia that’s identical is that the importance of excellent customer service and doing a great job translate into growth as a business. Joining Bravis Security and leading with those same ideals that were successful in South Africa has been so fulfilling and one that is reaping great rewards.
JA: What sorts of systems are most common in South Africa and what sorts of integrations are typical? How does this compare with Australia in your experience?
WA: Security is heavily biased towards the residential market in South Africa, so a lot of the product there is alarm systems and the Hikvision/Dahua type CCTV solutions. Gallagher also plays a big part in the enterprise space, along with Milestone and Avigilon.
JA: Do Australians take security as seriously as they should?
WA: Not particularly, I think petty crime and house break-ins are definitely on the rise and will continue to have a big impact in the industry but at this moment, crime is not in your face and that does result in Australians dropping their guard with security of their homes and businesses.
JA: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing security integrators in the field?
WA: The gap between experience and knowledge. I am a big proponent for technical certifications along with experience. Often in our field integrators rely on years of experience but they are potentially missing out on better, faster and more secure ways of doing something because they haven’t got the training and certifications behind them.
When I moved into the enterprise space I identified a gap within my own knowledge and while I have never been an on-the-tools guy, I did the Gallagher, Integriti, Axis and Honeywell courses for the benefit I can give back to my team and to better support our customers.
JA: What will the security integration business of the future look like? How important is it to have a team with diverse skills?
WA: I have been very lucky during my career to travel extensively around the world and visit security expo’s, shows and suppliers in the USA, Germany, England, Hong Kong, China and South Korea. This has given me a great platform to look at security in not just in South Africa and Australia, but where the market will be going globally over the next few years.
Security is moving very quickly to an IT heavy environment. This means it’s imperative for security businesses and security teams to focus on upskilling themselves in the IT space. Like any team environment, its critical to have varying skills amongst the team and IT should be priority number one if security businesses still want to be relevant into the future.
JA: The race to the bottom on price – do you think hardware quality has joined price in the race to the bottom and how hard is it to explain this to price conscious customers?
WA: It has become such a difficult task for our sales and technical teams to discuss quality, brand and price with our clients in a forever race to the bottom. On the surface a lot of products have the same specifications, qualities, etc, and when a client has done a bit of their own research, changing minds is difficult to achieve. However, I have found the best way to demonstrate value is to know the product intimately; to understand the differences, to know the cyber security issues and try separate marketing and actual facts. Knowledge is power and that often translates successfully.
Anderson (left) with Dan Cunningham and Daniel Maxwell in the Bravis-integrated QPS control room.
JA: Which cutting edge technologies are you seeing filtering into the market – how much of the latest gear is vapourware – what are customers really hungry for – in terms of technology and operational outcomes? Do you see biometrics, face recognition, analytics, cloud, etc?
WA: Security technology, especially around CCTV, has leapt forward over the last few years – a lot of it is quite amazing to see. However, the problem I have with some of the new technologies is how market-ready they are, and if they are market ready, is it something hundreds or thousands of clients are going to want and be prepared to pay for? At Bravis Security, our experience centre has a lot of the current and future technologies in place and working, however, it’s always about finding the right use case scenario and appetite for the solution before going to market with it.
One of the newer solutions which we have rolled out successfully is a facial recognition solution which works with the access control and provides a 2-factor authentication to high security sites. It works really well, is not cost prohibitive and there’s a growing market for this technology. I think the decision of what not to focus on with regards to some of available solutions is as important as what to focus on within a commercial context.
JA: If you weren’t a security integrator, what would you have liked to be?
WA: I’ve always loved leading. When I was a kid, I was going to be the president. If I wasn’t involved in security, probably running another dynamic commercial business.
JA: What do you love to do in your spare time?
WA: I love running and have completed 16 marathons and ultra-marathons around the world but with an 18-month-old nothing beats family time. At the end of the day you have to have a work-life balance and make what’s important to you count.
JA: What motivates you professionally, Wade. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
WA: I love leading people; I love success and I love growing. Not only as an individual but within my team and the business I work in.
JA: What advice would you give to young technicians starting out in today’s market – what training do you think is most vital and what do you think is the single most important quality of a successful security integrator and installer?
WA: Never stop learning and developing as a person and a businessperson. Always challenge the status quo and never accept the excuse ‘that’s just the way we do things around here’. There is always a better, faster and easier way of doing something. Finally, opportunities don’t just happen, you create them.