Few people have as good an overview of the terrorism risk in retail spaces as Ian Pugh.

As Group Head of Security for intu, the owner and operator of nine of the UK’s largest 20 shopping centres and three out of Spain’s top ten (plus others), Ian helps to ensure the safety of around 35 million customers each year.

His current role has placed him at the centre of a corporate communications network linking the majority of Britain’s major retailers with 15 of the country’s 43 police forces, and other emergency services.

Ian’s expertise on matters of security is widely recognised within the retail industry and outside it. He sits on the Retail Evolution (REVO) Security and Safer Shopping Committee (formerly the British Council of Shopping Centres), and is a member of the European Security Group for the International Council of Shopping Centres, and a Non-Executive Director of the National Business Crime Solution.

He also sits on the Counter Terrorism Awareness Working Group and is a member of the Crowded Places Information Exchange group, (both chaired by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, NaCTSO).

Retail Risk News caught up with him recently, as he was giving a presentation at the Retail Risk – Leicester conference on the policies and procedures to counter terrorism risks.

Ensuring awareness and preparedness is all about relationships, he says.

“The key message is that we are very conscious of relationships. We think it is important as a company that we’ve got relationships, we can work with the police and also with our retailers whom we really value.

“Security for us is 90% customer service. Our security officers do it with a smile, they engage with the public, and they also mitigate any risks that may be out there.”

Despite the heightened threat from terrorism in recent years, Intu has not had to ask tenant retailers to make great changes to their procedures, Ian says.

“There’s a really good collaboration amongst shopping centre owners and retailers. We get great support from the police and NaCTSO. I work closely with other shopping centre owners that we would see as competitors. We are all being vigilant, we’re all sharing information and we are aligned.

“The key thing is being alert and not alarmed. It is very, very unlikely that anybody would ever be caught up in a terrorist attack of any sort in the UK so we don’t want to overblow that risk, but it’s key that we share that information.”

He notes that CCTV footage recently helped the police gather evidence leading to the arrest of terror suspects in London,

“We are a country with a lot of CCTV cameras and they are really useful to the police and to business. However, CCTV is not the answer to all the problems.

“The key thing is vigilance, alertness and trying to identify suspicious behavior, in any environment, whether it be on the transport network or in a private place.

“We have strict protocols in place about CCTV. We operate by the data protection act and we adhere to the codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office. We have well defined and well rehearsed procedures to monitor our cameras in line with the legislation and to release evidence when requested in line with that guidance.”

At RR-Leicester, Ian was also covering intu’s approach to training and Multi Agency exercising across its centres.

“I’m not saying that nobody else is doing this but intu has been at the forefront of working with the emergency services and allowing our centres to be used for exercises,” he says.

“There have been two key learnings. We have been able to understand how the police and emergency services respond in the event of a potential incident, and as such our plans are more joined up with the retailers and the police and emergency services. They know what trainings we’ve had and we know what the response is. In the event of an emergency, it will be managed more swiftly and cohesively as a result.”

Retailers’ awareness of the terrorism risk is “quite significant”, he says. Within intu’s network there are regular briefings with tenants, regular information sharing at the level of head offices, and independent retailers in the network who may not have support from a head office are supported by intu’s retail liaison teams.

“The liaison is there and the job is just to keep the message in the public eye without overblowing it and scaring people.”

Ian describes his background as “pure security”. He came out of the army in 1985 having served 6 years, worked for Group Four, before it became G4S, then moved to facilities management and joined intu as Group Head of Security in 2015.

“As you go through a career you meet people and build up relationships,” he says. “Those relationships help me with my security knowledge, and help me to impart that knowledge to the people I’m working with and supporting.”