Key players in retail loss prevention attended the annual Retail Risk – London conference on Thursday as well as the newly launched eRisk event, undaunted by the terror attack in Westminster the day before. There was a strong turnout at the Savoy hotel pre-conference dinner on Wednesday despite the disruption in the capital.

Owing to the events in Westminster, Inspector Simon Roberts of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office was unable to attend and give retailers a briefing on ‘The terrorist threat to crowded places in the UK’, but retailers were all extremely grateful to Inspector Georgie Barnard of the Metropolitan Police who stepped up and delivered an outstanding presentation in his stead.

Launch of a new conference series

Another threat facing the retail sector was on everyone’s minds at eRisk. The cyber threat was the main focus of this event, the first in the eRisk series of conferences due to be held globally.

Introducing the event with the headline message “Keep Calm and Log On”, the chairman, Andy Wainwright, Fraud Risk Manager at Express Gifts, reminded delegates of latest figures suggesting nearly half of UK crimes are now cyber or fraud (usually ‘cyber enabled’) offences. In an engaging slide show, he showed that there is still time for all loss prevention professionals to hone their digital skills, given the astonishing proficiency with a smart phone already displayed by his two year old daughter! Expert speakers and panelists then offered a frank assessment of the scale of the cyber crime problem and helpful pointers to solutions.

LP professionals tracking cybercriminals

In an exclusive keynote Skip Myers, Director of Loss Prevention/Risk Strategy for Micro Center/Micro Electronics, Inc. and author of a new book on cyber-crime, shared insights gleaned from the 1,000 or so criminals he has put in jail during his career. Myers urged LP professionals to play a more active role in deterring and combating online fraud by adapting their skills to the ‘digital crime scene’.

That message was backed up by Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Gould, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Falcon (Fraud and Linked Online Crime) taskforce. In a candid panel discussion with Next Directory’s Security Manager Alison Parkjnson and ex-criminal mastermind Tony Sales, DCI Gould revealed that the Met is currently solving one in four cyber crime cases, about the same rate as for robberies and burglaries (and a higher rate than for other UK forces). But he said 80% of cyber crime can be ‘managed out’, and when businesses come together they have data analysis resources that his team can only dream of. “You do the intelligence element and we’ll do the enforcement”, he told the audience.

Retailers should brave reputational risks, said Parkinson, urging them follow Next Directory’s example when it tracked down and prosecuted a chain of cyber criminals who were jailed this year.

Cyber weaponry

Cybercrimes are becoming much easier to commit as hacker toolkits proliferate. Mark Johnson, cybercrime consultant and CEO of the Risk Management Group, gave delegates a tour of the Darknet, (a journey they would be ill advised to try at home). A new model or paradigm is needed, he said, to deal with the rise in cross border, multi-jurisdictional, complex digital crime.

Other speakers demonstrated the latest tools and techniques that fraud fighters are using. Troy St. Pierre, Director of Technical Sales & Development, at Kount Inc. (global sponsors of the Retail Risk conference series) showed how Kount’s persona technology and eight other types of analysis go to make up a Kount score, an industry leading system that uses over 200 variables to cross reference transactions. “You have to take advantage of other companies’ data to identify fraudsters,” he reminded delegates. A major challenge for online retailers, he said, is finding the right balance between ‘false declines’ and soaring chargeback costs – a ‘sweet spot’ that Kount’s technology can identify.

In a session on ‘Man vs Machines in the World of Fraud’, Matthew Attwell, Risk and Client Services Director with The ai Corporation, (an eRisk title sponsor), demystified machine learning, showing how ai uses it with big data to deliver outstanding business benefit in both reducing fraud losses and increasing acceptance in all channels. The session debunked common myths about ML that can lead to its misuse and missed opportunities.

Facing customers (and digital citizens)

Mark Harrison-North, Head of Credit Risk at Shop Direct, the UK’s second biggest pure online retailer, brought a wealth of experience to bear in his presentation on how anti-fraud tools are best used while limiting the impact on genuine customers. In a hands on session he delivered a takeaway guide to how to prioritise risks, questions that will trip up fraudsters, best ways to educate customers against fraud and much more.

Another vital aspect of loss prevention in online retail – staff training – was covered by Jo Day, Security and Loss Prevention Manager for Amazon in the north of England. Her presentation showed how investing in teams’ skill sets is a win-win for the company and its employees and revealed how Amazon uses outside resources to raise awareness and develop best practices.

Learning from the financial services industry and leveraging that experience was the subject of a presentation by Masha Cilliers, founder and principal consultant at Payment Options, who shared her experience of how Know Your Customer technology can reduce chargebacks and false declines while supplying marketing teams with useful knowledge.

A comprehensive presentation by Sandra Peaston, Assistant Director, Insight at CIFAS, the non-profit advisors on fraud prevention, suggested her organisation has a clear picture of the cyber risks faced by businesses, and useful pointers to appropriate solutions.

Lest anyone should relax into a false sense of security, Dr Clare Sullivan of the Law Centre at Georgetown University warned delegates, by video link, of challenges they will face in the near future. Having spotted ten years ago that digital identity would one day become a citizen’s right, Sullivan has become a world authority on the subject. Her predictions as to future obligations on retailers to secure customer data have proved accurate, so delegates were listening intently to her assessment of the implications.


A series of valuable masterclasses throughout the day offered retailers in depth instruction on specific threats and technologies. Andy Norton of SentinelOne outlined some of the current threat tactics used in the retail space and disclosed some recent cybercriminal activity, under the Chatham House rule. Wesley Kading of Simility introduced the platform’s Device Recon (or next generation fingerprinting technology) and its role in stopping fraud ahead of time. Brooke Pietsch, of Kount, demonstrated why manual reviews of orders should be a last line of defence when fighting online fraud. And Manish Gandhi, Head of Analytics at FICO shared 25 years of his company’s experience around data mining, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities.

Exploring holistic risk at Retail Risk- London

The 15th Retail Risk – London conference held at the same venue, The Hammersmith Novotel, addressed the broad range of issues facing retail loss prevention professionals, including the risk of terrorism, as witnessed the previous day.

The day was chaired by Gary Tattersall, Head of Asset Protection & Risk Management at Jack Wills who drove a theme of ‘holistic’ risk embracing new areas of the business, with presentations ranging from addressing the terrorist threat through to brand protection and ethical sourcing. An opening keynote from Corin Dennison, Director Global Profit Protection & Investigations (Group Risk Legal & Compliance) of adidas Group explored some of the exciting ways in which he and his team are engaging with the business worldwide to achieve security in a dynamic branded environment.

Retailer and Police co-operation

Rob King, of Title Sponsor company Kings Security offered retailers a thought-provoking perspective on the challenges of providing retail security in an age of diminished police presence and a 40% rise in violence and abuse directed at employees. He was followed by a discussion panel exploring ‘Retailers and the Police: co-operation today and in the future’ – this developed a vital theme of opening up closer discussions with retail and the police in order to work together more effectively in a challenging and fragmented environment to achieve better results on both sides.

Unfortunately the police presence on this panel was prevented by the events on Wednesday. However, a stimulating discussing involving Hugo Rosemont of the British Retail Consortium, Geoff Zeidler of the BSIA Police and Security Initiative and Iona Blake of Boots was initiated and Retail Knowledge will be consulting with the Police to have responses on some of the questions being asked by retailers at the session. There will be further opportunities for retail and police to consult at Retail Risk – Leicester on 5th October.

Stephen Simmons, of Title Sponsor company WIS International, then took to the stage to discuss the ways in which vendors can and should be supporting the retail industry in challenging times.

Brand Protection

He was followed by Stephanie Green, Brand, Ethical and Compliance Officer at Jack Wills who presented jointly on ethical sourcing and brand protection with Jack Wills’ legal adviser in this area Marie McMorrow of HGF Law.

A taste of the LP and Risk challenges in another sector, Pharma, was offered by Luke Hudman, Group Loss Prevention Manager at Celesio UK, who is keen to raise the profile of this area of LP amongst retailers overall.

Inspector Simon Roberts of the National Counter Terrorism Security office was unable to attend for the planned session advising retailers. However Retail Risk and the delegates present were very grateful to Inspector Georgina Barnard of the Metropolitan Police and lead for the Business Crime Hub, who stepped in and gave a presentation on this topic featuring new material from the NCTS office.

Breaking News

The new live & interactive Global Risk Survey, conducted by Paul Bessant, Founder, Retail Knowledge, using the latest polling technology was hailed as an innovative and useful development by retailers. A report based on the findings is now being compiled and will be circulated to all conference delegates.

The day completed with a valuable presentation and workshop on Data Protection from the Information Commissioner’s Office.  Specifically tailored to the retail sector, the extended session saw ICO experts consulting with retailers in groups as they explored various retail scenarios which would be impacted by current and emerging data protection legislation.

Many of the themes and discussions at eRisk – London and Retail Risk – London will be developed at the next co-located conferences at the King Power stadium in Leicester, UK on 5th October. Click here to register for your free VIP pass to the Retail Risk – Leicester conference. Click here to reserve a table at the Fraud Awards 2017