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Natural progression

14 December 2018

FSM's publisher Western Business Exhibitions has recently been acquired by Nineteen Group, which is the organiser of the renowned International Security Expo. FSM managing editor Mark Sennett speaks to chief executive Peter Jones about how the portfolio has been enhanced.

Tell me about your career to date

I started out in publishing and have very fond memories. I spent four years with Emap, working on Motorcycle News – a national newspaper, which was one of their lead publications at the time. I loved the drama and the deadline pressures. It was a weekly paper and I loved that environment.

From publishing I moved into exhibitions, and I started with Blenheim Exhibitions, and then moved to Tarsus Group PLC, where I worked with the big corporate exhibition organisers. 

Subsequently, I set up Niche Events, which is now Nineteen Group. Over the past 16 years we have launched, built and sold three shows, and we came to a point last Christmas where, off the back of International Security Expo, a lot of companies were putting offers on the table and I had to decide what to do. 

At this point we looked at private equity and we did a deal with Phoenix Equity. This gave me an opportunity that I didn't even realise existed – to build a business, but with far more backing. To grow an organisation takes resource, and resource takes funding. We could build a dream far more quickly, and achieve a goal of a bigger organisation, and equity gave me the opportunity to do that.

Nineteen Group has acquired Western Business Exhibitions, which is the publisher of Fire and Security Matters. How did this come about?

Western came onto our radar about a year ago because you launched an event called The Security Event at the NEC, alongside your great fire, facilities and health and safety events. Nineteen's biggest show has been International Security Expo, so of course our focus has been predominantly security. When you launched this event, it came onto our radar because you have launched into a space that is very familiar to me.

You have won the hearts and minds of the industry, and have approached it with enthusiasm, and energy and drive, and with the back-up of the publications and the content. With a magazine like FSM, you have a fantastic route to market. That's what originally put you on our radar.

We are now private equity backed, and as we grow Nineteen we want to remain synergistic. This is the first acquisition of many and we are set to acquire about six organisations, but we will be acquiring synergistically. We are in security, and so the add-on of fire is a natural progression. Safety goes hand-in-hand with security and I think all 10 events that Western run are fantastic, and many of the publications that you run, support these events. Events are nothing without visitors, and the publications are a fantastic communication to embrace with an audience all year round.

The Fire Safety Event and Security Event are on the 9-11 April 2019 at the NEC. What can our visitors expect from the show?

The Fire, Safety and Facilities shows have already successfully run at the NEC. Bringing Security alongside now, really brings an event back to the NEC that has been missed for around five years. We all know that the home for that type of event is the NEC. The exhibitors and the major brands have been booking the Security Event as that's where that show belongs. For the visitors, they will experience all the shows under one roof, and there is a lot of crossover between fire, security, facilities and health and safety.

The facilities management conference at the International Security Show is our most popular conference. It is the facilities manager often has the responsibility of fire, safety or security, and that person does not have time to travel around multiple-events. They need one event, where they can see it all under one roof, and that is the NEC in April.

What's the Group's vision moving forward for events and publications?

We are going to take it back to 10 years ago, when it was at his height, and there used to be 1,000 exhibitors and a show packed with visitors. It's going to take time, but that is where we are going. As I mentioned before, we see the publications as a key way of building and communicating with our audience so magazines like FSM will have a key role to play moving forwards so we can ensure our audiences get high quality information as soon as it happens both in print and digital formats.

The latest International Security Expo was highly successful. Can you tell our readers about the event?

The International Security Expo is a government end-user focus show. The audience we see in London is government, home office, intelligence and security agencies, authorities and end-users.

In November, the security minister spoke at the International Security Expo about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, which was a breaking-news story that we covered in FSM. What impact did this have on the show?

It is something we are immensely proud of and it is a defining moment when central government chooses your show as the platform. The BBC was live from our show covering the minister's update on security post-Brexit. He delivered Number 10's speech at International Security Expo, and that for us is a defining moment. Our job as a major-scale event organiser is to build a platform and to bring both sides of the argument to the platform

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the security sector?

I’ve been alive long enough to remember the IRA and we have faced many substantial threats, and how things have evolved. The big challenges are now for the security services are that we have actually gone from tackling organised terrorist threats to more individual attacks.

One of the reasons the UK has such a depth of experience in counter-terrorism is from our decades of dealing with the IRA threat, and looking at more latter years and 9/11, we were dealing with Al-Qaeda, and that was a big structured network and a very efficient organisation. And if you look at more recent attacks, they are the lone wolf. These are radicalised people that can in a matter of hours be radicalised from their bedroom to then using weapons at their disposal – a kitchen knife or a car – and can have horrific consequences. And I think if you speak to the security and intelligence agencies, how do you keep on track of that? Tracking a big organisation is far easier than trying to keep on top of individuals in their bedrooms getting radicalised. So, I think that is the biggest challenge.

Giving what we now offer, do you see this as a total-rounded security suite in terms of information and product solutions?

In our stable we now have The Security Event at the NEC and the International Security Expo in London, and I think there is a very clear demarcation between those two events. There's the channel market installer at the NEC and government end-user and that's London. Calendar-wise there is a great separation. Keeping the building and people safe is one piece.

What's next?

We want to keep growing and own a good stable of quality products so we can offer FSM readers a complete offering of products – magazine, content, information and intelligence – to help improve their daily role. For the group we want to continue growing but keep the entrepreneurial spirit that delivers such great events.

Peter Jones is chief executive of Nineteen Group