Posted on Tuesday 12 February 2013 by Ulster Business
But the three directors of Belfast-based consultancy Ineqe Group – the name a combination of innovative and unique – aspire to make their business different from those run of the mill advisors.
Jim Gamble, Bill Woodside and Gary White formed the company 18 months ago and have seen it go from strength to strength – which perhaps should not be a surprise given their unrivalled experience in key areas of policing, hi-tech crime and security.
CEO Gamble (pictured) brings over thirty years experience from the world of protective services, counter terrorism, hi-tech crime prevention and child protection. He was the founding Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on Child Protection and Child Trafficking.
Woodside is a specialist in risk mitigation, with extensive global experience in business continuity and emergency planning, crisis management, security and training. Immediate past President of the European Association of Air and Seaports he has designed and managed some of the largest simulated training exercises in the UK and training modules for emergency services in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Most recently retired from the PSNI, Gary White is regarded as one of the most experienced conflict management practitioners in Europe. In addition to commanding many of the most challenging and serious incidents of disorder in Northern Ireland, he has helped to inform UK National policy development and provided assistance to a number of International police services.
The consultancy covers four key disciplines: criminal justice reform, risk management and protective services provision; child protection, including specialist support on education, internet safety and child trafficking; technical security solutions; and the Ineqe Safe and Secure Academy, which provides accredited training on risk.
"We think the blend is different and we see ourselves as one of the first hybrid businesses of this kind," said Jim Gamble. "We began as a traditional boutique consultancy dealing with criminal justice reform, working with clients abroad to help them build their own competence and capacity. But we want to go beyond that.
"What we're doing is trying to help clients identify, mitigate and manage risk, and we do that by providing a diverse range of tools."
From its offices on Upper Crescent in Belfast, there's nothing to suggest Ineqe's old police, security or child protection ties or what they do, save for a solitary framed letter from Bill Gates praising Gamble's work protecting children on the Internet.
It is reminder of the connections Gamble has access to from his time on CEOP, which included a board of senior executives from tech giants like Microsoft.
The reputation of all three partners stretches beyond Northern Ireland, meaning as much as 80% of Ineqe's business comes from outside the province which has allowed it to tap into support from Invest NI.
But Gary notes that while their police reputation is often what gets them in the door, they are working to create a strong company brand and reputation which they can trade on in the years ahead.
"We've got lots of work because people come looking for one of the three of us. However what we've slowly but surely started to do is build the company alliance with different organisations like PAXT (NI) and e-com. So we might be involved in winning the contract and carrying out the initial scoping, but our aim is always to match the best qualified associates against the clients needs."
Ineqe has 10 full time staff in Belfast but over 100 registered associates providing expertise across the board.
"It took us all 30 years to build the credibility and trust in our own names. It has taken us 18 month to establish the credibility of the company and that will continue," added Gary.
Ineqe's consultancy business covers everything from traditional risk management to training programmes on community policing, police service reform and conflict resolution.
Gary says clients in many countries often don't have the experience of working under the sort of scrutiny that exists in Northern Ireland, or of dealing with disorder in a context where people are trying to kill you.
"That's where Northern Ireland experience is relatively unique and attractive. That extreme operational environment police here worked in, and also the extreme levels of scrutiny," he said.
"Northern Ireland is a big story across the world because it is a society coming out of conflict and simultaneously it had a huge police reform programme. I was in Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago talking about police reform and one of the hooks is that I understand what they are experiencing. The last 12-14 years of my service I lived through a massive reform programme."
The networks which Ineqe's directors have built up in their careers have so far led to work in some far flung corners of the world.
"The background the three of us have provides us with a certain set of skills and I would like to think a degree of a reputation and also a network. We are involved in a range of projects at the moment in places like Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kenya, Nigeria – there is a lot going on in developing countries," said Gary.
"Because of the background and the networks the three of us had, there was a massive opportunity for us to use that to its full. What that has started to do now is inform other arms of the business."
Perhaps where Ineqe most differs from traditional security consultancies is in the way it has embraced technology.
Drawing on Gamble's experience in CEOP around child protection as well as the team's knowledge of risk management, communication and behavioural science, the company has begun developing its own e-learning platform and Apps.
It recently built a free App for Children and Family Across Borders (Cfab), funded by Comic Relief, which provided a condensed training course to help police and security personnel at the London Olympics to identify the signs that a child or vulnerable adult may have been the victim of trafficking.
Another project developed in-house, and now on iTunes, is an App which helps parents make their iPhone safe for their children – from setting a pass code to enabling alerts when the internet or social media is used outside of set parameters.
The decision to develop Apps was taken in light of the increasing trend towards application-based learning, and because communicating a credible message through an App is cheap and accessible to greater numbers of people.
"We're moving from client service provision to product creation," says Gamble. "While we will continue to develop and build as a consultancy, we're also going to move more into product creation, because that's the best way for us to share our knowledge."
The firm has hired young programmers who 'live and breathe' this technology and combined this with the directors' strategic experience.
"The latter part of my career has all been about technology, its growth and the opportunities that come with it, but also the risks and how you mitigate them," said Gamble.
"We think there is a market for this. For example if you look at the pressure on schools and the risk to reputation if you're unable to manage safety and security in that environment," he added.
"The one thing that is universal to everyone is that your brand is very important. If your brand is damaged it is very hard to recover. And if your brand is damaged because you've failed to protect the young or vulnerable, you're basically finished."
The development of Apps around its own platform is already feeding into the consultancy work Ineqe does overseas, enabling it to take training programmes established in one jurisdiction and adapt it for another.
Gary White says that, while he was initially a bit sceptical about using technology in some markets, many developing countries actually have advanced IT infrastructure, easily available Wifi and huge numbers of people with access to smart phones.
"In a lot of the work we've done overseas, one of things people are looking for is, when you go, what are you going to leave behind? This is relatively cheap technology and it remains on your technical platform probably for the same price you'd have a police person in country for an extra week," he said.
The focus on e-learning, apps and social media also links into what Ineqe calls its Safe and Secure Academy (ISAS).
Initially, Ineqe provided training courses and seminars but has now decided to work in partnership with the likes of Queen's University to deliver relevant courses endorsed by the Institute of Leadership and Management that do more than just inform.
For example, on March 21 in partnership with Queen's Unversity Management School, Ineqe will be running an accredited event on using social media in a crisis with leading experts from academia, twitter, the police and social media diagnosticians.
"For us it is about the credibility of providing risk management products that bring with them the best experience and the best people but actually integrate that with social media to make that relevant and credible today. We then distil that into learning products that are accredited; products that leave you feeling better empowered to manage risk," said Gamble.
"In some spaces you have people who understand technology; in others you have people who are good because they have stood on the ground and commanded a number of police or security assets to deal with a difficult situation; and there are other people who talk at conferences very effectively and raise awareness. We want to blend all of that in the products we build and the services we provide. That's where we are different. What it also gives us is a broader economic platform to work from because we're not simply on one area of technology, training or consultancy."
Follow ineqe on twitter @ineqegroup.