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Raising standards

Syndicate works to keep Lebanese security firms professional

by Thomas Schellen

The Syndicate of Safety and Security Professionals in Lebanon (SSSPL) and its member companies address two market needs. Fire prevention, detection and response systems are one central need; the other is for security systems such as intrusion alarms and access control and monitoring systems including Closed Circuit Television (CCTV).

According to Riccardo Hosri, the current SSSPL president, the syndicate’s main concern is “to become a label of quality” that will allow member companies to differentiate themselves as reliable providers of safety and security systems.

To achieve this, the organization has revamped its bylaws and is currently implementing a set of standards that member companies have to adhere to in their commercial, financial and administrative practices.

These standards oblige member companies adopt ethical practices, such as recycling, but they also include provisions against offering kickbacks or gifts in order to win contracts. The process of drafting and agreeing to the standards among all 28 member companies took two-and-a-half years as the firms are all in competition with one another, Hosri told Executive. “We are trying to work against human nature and put limitations on ourselves. But if we don’t do this, we don’t have credibility.”

When SSSPL was established in 1999, the organization had what appeared to be a defensive character. Globalization and the arrival of manufacturers from the emerging Far East in international markets meant that competition heated up, as opportunistic importers offered low-cost systems to the local market. Faced with the intrusion of what the founding members considered to be substandard quality, Hosri said they “came together to set some market standards and try to maintain a minimum quality in the sector.”

Educating the market

Efforts were poured into educating  the target market, which according to Hosri initially greatly lacked awareness of the value of security systems so that it took months to complete a sale. This has changed and the market has become driven by demand, but competition from what they perceive as unqualified or unproven vendors is still a big issue for the SSSPL members.

To ensure that the market can distinguish competent local vendors from unprofessional operators, the SSSPL devised a process of accession and certification. To obtain a to-be-coveted “professional installer certification”, or PIC, a company has to first be a full member of the syndicate. Before granting this status, SSSPL requires that a new applicant has been operating in Lebanon for one year. The applicant can then progress to full membership in a process taking a minimum of another two years as a guest and associate member.     

So many companies are interested in joining SSSPL that the organization’s ranks could increase by more than half. Hosri added that the syndicate is now preparing to admit new corporate members after the revision of its bylaws won ministerial approval in August. According to the revised bylaws membership will be opened to individuals, such as consultants and installers, and to companies with other security specializations, such as guard services.

That complex accession rules of organizations can turn into entry barriers is evidenced by the World Trade Organization’s recent history of what is euphemistically still called the Doha Round. However, there is an argument for a restrictive and perhaps even protectionist procedure given that the Lebanese state and its administrative organs have not installed any regulations and governance processes to supervise the quality of private safety and security. Since the security services and systems have touch points with sovereign responsibilities, the real aspiration of the SSSPL is to operate under a framework where a qualified public sector authority properly regulates, licenses and supervises the companies in this sensitive realm.

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Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years. Send mail

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