Transnational security consulting
: UK practitioner perspectives

  • David Scott

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This paper seeks to examine the dynamics of the transnational security consulting sector from the perspective of UK practitioners, thereby redressing the previous lack of research into the sector. Whilst there has been a substantial tranche of academic research into the UK’s private security industry dating back to the 1970s, with much academic research focused on the activities and regulation of what are frequently termed as Private Security and Military Companies (PMSCs), those studies have almost without exception been focused on the provision and regulation of combat services or armed security in conflict zones, with a paucity of research into the provision of security consultancy services.
In order to obtain a flavour of the sector a review of the websites of 24 UK
based companies involved in the provision of security services was conducted. This was followed by a qualitative study involving the conduct of 20 semi-
structured interviews with individuals employed in, or with extensive knowledge of the provision of security risk consulting.
The research participants considered that security consultancy is not some form of private policing, but acts as an extension, or in lieu of the corporate security function. Whilst consultants are expected to have specialist security knowledge, commercial awareness and an understanding of clients’ aims are considered to be key skills, with basic competences in the form of being able to communicate verbally and in writing believed to be pivotal to successful consulting.
The research indicates the label of Transnational Security Consulting is perhaps a misnomer, as the sector has evolved to deliver a broad suite of complex services. Though cyber security has attracted a degree of emphasis, it is apparent that the requirement for physical security has not gone away, with a converged approach to security being supported as opposed to the siloed methods so often encountered. Whilst calls for regulation are by no means uniform, there is a palpable desire to see the sector improve to match the requirements of a complex global market, with regulation and the further professionalisation of the sector regarded as tools to achieve this.
It notes that the sector remains relatively immature and is undergoing a protracted period of change in terms of the people involved, and with a number
of multinational companies making their presence felt. The regulation of consulting, consultants and consultancies is assessed as being minimal, with a mixture of opinion as to whether regulation would be beneficial to the sector.
Nonetheless, a palpable theme is the desire to professionalise the sector, which aligns itself with recent research into the professionalisation of the security industry as a whole.
Date of AwardSept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAlison Jean Wakefield (Supervisor), Christopher Gray Lewis (Supervisor), Moufida Sadok (Supervisor) & Mohammed Ibrahim Shire (Supervisor)

Cite this