IFSJ Exclusive: Fanning the flames of success

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Darren Gamage, Group Chief Operating Officer at Kings Secure Technologies sits down with IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey to discuss the company’s growth in the fire market

Can you tell me about Kings Secure Technologies and its place in the market?

Kings Secure Technologies (KST) is one of the UK’s leading providers of security, fire safety and risk management with a focus on long standing commercial partnerships with our clients. The business was founded in 1971 and rapidly grew to become well known in the provision of security services. Its original focus was predominantly around electronic, mobile and static security services, predominantly into the retail market.

In 2017, a new senior management team including myself was brought into the business to drive expansion into new areas. We were brought in to expand the business. The business has grown substantially over the last five years, predominantly through both organic and acquisition growth.

We took more of an integrated service approach as we were finding clients that are looking to reduce their supply chain, particularly around the field of security, fire and risk. We’ve been quite successful at both retaining and developing our customer base into new sectors. Today, we’ve got over 800 employees across the UK working in a wide range of frontline business support roles.

Our headquarters is in Bradford, and we’ve got operational bases across the country to support our operational teams. Fire and life safety systems is a critical growth area: over the last four years, that’s been the biggest area of investment for us in terms of the development of services that support clients. Our approach is to work with them from early-stage risk identification all the way through to helping close out their fire and life safety risks.

What is your position and background within the industry?

I’m KST’s Chief Operating Officer. I joined the business as part of a new management team in 2017. I support and oversee the strategic planning, and the development of many of our new business streams. As well as the fire side acquisitions, we’ve made some acquisitions in the security side with Cougar Monitoring. We’ve also launched a number of new businesses including our specialist void protection business, which installs temporary fire alarm systems.

I’m responsible for the biggest divisions within the group. Both the fire and the electronic security systems businesses report into myself, including our smoke control business and our fire risk assessment business.

I’m also responsible for merger and acquisitions activity. I find strategic partners to work on, develop our strategic relationships, and then when relevant, make acquisition targets that bring them into the group. Finally, I’m involved with the commercial sales development – working with the sales team on targeting client sector development and making sure that we’re growing in the areas that we want to grow as a business.

Why did KST decide to integrate more fire safety into the business?

It’s something that we’ve grown mainly over the last five years. We had a small fire capability, like many others we were focused on security and dabbling in fire. Back in 2020 we acquired a business called Silver Group. Silver Group expanded our capabilities into the fire and life safety area, particularly around smoke ventilation. Then two months ago we made a further acquisition in the delivery of fire with a business called EFire. We also acquired a fire risk assessment business 18 months ago.

How did these acquisitions come about?

The acquisition around Silver Group was about strengthening our fire capabilities. We wanted to be one of the first and only ones in the market to be able to offer combined smoke, ventilation, fire alarms and systems, and maintenance and installation services. There are only a few companies at the moment that cover both smoke and fire. Silver Group was a natural acquisition as we had been working with the company for a number of years as a subcontract partner, so we decided to bring them in house.

For fire risk assessment, we saw substantial opportunities within the marketplace. We had opportunities among our existing clients who needed to carry out risk assessments. So we came across the Quidvis business and we saw that as a real differentiator, so we brought that into the group. Then recently we acquired EFire to further strengthen our national capabilities on fire, but equally to help move us into some sectors which are new to the business like healthcare, NHS and the government.

What is the plan for KST moving forward within the fire and life safety sector?

It’s a major area of investment for us. We’re going to continue to develop in that area and grow our portfolio. We are creating a number of strategic partnerships with companies in areas of services that we don’t currently deliver.

I see the opportunities around integrating passive and active fire protection very much in a more unified way. At the moment, passive and active are almost treated as two different disciplines. We’re just about to complete a strategic partnership with a business that will allow us to support our clients in the provision of fire doors, fire shutters and fast stopping.

If you just look at the fire doors market, it’s never really been considered, but in this post-Grenfell world people are now having to deal with that. We see the opportunity to be able to provide our clients that solution off the back of our core services.

There is also continued growth potential in terms of technology. We will continue to work with our manufacturer and supplier partners to look at how we can bring technology to the play to improve our service delivery. For instance, we’re working heavily with Honeywell Gent at the moment. We are a Gent partner and are looking at their automation systems. We plan to put them into places so that when we send engineers out, we’re proactively maintaining systems rather than reactively maintaining systems.

Smoke ventilation wise, a lot of companies installed smoke ventilation but never have them maintained. We see massive opportunities of growth in the maintenance of smoke vents, both natural and mechanical, in the future.

This exclusive article was originally published in the June 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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