The Interview: Ngaire Kelaher, ASIS NZ Chapter Chair

New Zealand Security Magazine - February 2020

Ngaire Kelaher
Ngaire Kelaher CPP PSP, ASIS New Zealand Chapter Chair.

The new ASIS NZ Chapter Chair talks with chief editor Nicholas Dynon about what the chapter will be getting up to in 2020 and why it’s worth looking a little closer at the benefits of ASIS International Board Certifications.

ND: What’s the focus for ASIS NZ in 2020?

NK: Definitely to grow membership, and apart from memberships, it’s about getting people excited about the ASIS Board Certifications. That started last year, which led to successes that included David Withers getting his APP and Devin [Louw], Rehan [du Toit] and Johan [Janse van Resnburg] getting their CPPs, which is major! So, we’re looking to tailgate this with momentum to get everyone else on board as well.

But the main thing for me personally is reminding people about what the benefits of membership are. I think along the way people have forgotten about the benefits of being an ASIS International member as well as being a Chapter member as well as the certifications. 

I want to find out why members that didn’t renew their membership last year or the year before didn’t, and ask them personally, because maybe whatever the issue was back then doesn’t exist anymore. I’d like to bring them back into the fold. But it’s not just about getting new people, it’s about finding out why we’ve lost people too.

ND: What’s the level of membership like at the moment?

NK: Last year’s membership list totalled 51 chapter members out of about 100 ASIS International members who reside here in New Zealand. A lot of membership subscription renewals have come in recently but of course we won’t get a full picture for another month after people settle in for the new year. But it’s promising. People are renewing, which is great, because we didn’t have this much uptake this time last year. 

Maybe it’s because we sent out the reminders earlier. Maybe it’s because we made the registration process a little bit simpler – you just have to click on a link and it comes up in a pre-populated email. You just fill out your bits and pieces, send it through, and we send you back an invoice and you can pay however you like. 

When we get confirmation that the invoice is paid, we send you an electronic welcome pack reminding you of all the benefits so you can see what your money’s going towards, and your login details to the member’s only part of the website. You can then click to receive your pdf chapter membership certificate. 

ND: What currently are the benefits of membership?

NK: It’s not just the networking. A lot of people think that this only benefits people in Auckland and Wellington, but networking doesn’t need to be in person, it can be virtual as well. 

Last year we would look to get a speaker for a traditional chapter meeting, hopefully get sponsorship that would allow that same speaker to go down to Wellington and replicate the same session, but that hasn’t always worked, and it heavily relies on sponsorship. So why not make the most of technology? 

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If we can get sponsorship, great, but we don’t want sponsorship to hold up having meetings or networking opportunities. If we can’t get sponsorship, we’d be asking members to pay just a $25 breakfast fee. Alternatively, if we can do it for free because there’s no breakfast in it, such as a lunchtime meeting, then great… bring your lunch and it’s free. We’re looking at ways to remove barriers to meeting up.

One of the big things to remind members of is that the benefits of membership are New Zealand-wide and so there are benefits if you’re a member in Huntly, for example, and you can’t make it up to Auckland… just video call in and we’ll make it work.

ND: What about certifications?

NK: Before last year, no one had achieved certification for three years, so there was a big gap. At the moment, we have study groups happening in both Auckland and Wellington – for PSP and APP. All the study groups focus on the online review program that Michael Pepper developed for the APP, CPP, PSP and PCI, which has handouts, presentation slides and quizzes that complement the standard ASIS study materials.

Having that online review program and also being accountable to each other in a study group is really important. You can join a study group at any time and you don’t necessarily need to be an ASIS International member to sit a certification – but there is a cost benefit if you are. 

It’s hard doing it by yourself, but study groups really help. Membership also gives you access to webinars, many which are free, and they entitle you to points towards your re-certification – one hour equals one point. 

There is just so much material and so many resources on the ASIS International website, scholarships available through the ASIS Foundation, whitepapers, and of course our Chapter website members-only area. I’ve been a member of ASIS International for 15 years and the resources, networking opportunities and support have just been awesome.

ND: Who would be a likely member of ASIS NZ Chapter? What profile of professional?

NK: Definitely someone involved in the security industry in some way or another, not necessarily with a security provider but they could be in-house or in a security-related role and looking at making connections, engaging in professional development and seeing what else is available in the industry.

If they’ve been there done that ,then maybe it’s more about seeing how they can share that knowledge in a mentoring role. Remember, it’s an individual-based membership, not a company-based one, and that’s what makes ASIS unique. 

ND: Why is it that certification in the physical security space isn’t more of a thing?

NK: APP and CPP are quite broad and don’t exclude anyone who is, say, in a niche part of the industry. That’s part of the attraction of these certifications. It’s great underpinning knowledge that provides a broad perspective on everything, but you can apply the principles anywhere because they’re at that level. 

I was recently on a cruise ship, the Seaborne Encore, and we had to host a table and on my table was a professor of criminology from a college in the US. We were having this great discussion and it turned out he’s got a CPP and has been an ASIS member for decades over in the states; and I said hey, I’m part of ASIS International and we talked about what I do – he’d just assumed I was an artist! 

What are the chances that on this particular ship – and the Seaborne Encore is by no means a large ship – and that on my particular table I was able to make this connection. It’s a great reminder that ASIS certifications are international.

I understand that there are plenty of people who say that they’ve got all the experience so they don’t need certification, but I say why not get recognition for all the experience you’ve got. Why not have the best of both!

ND: What events are we likely to see ASIS host or be involved in this year?

NK: We’ll be continuing our regular meetings – chapter meetings with a guest presenter – in Auckland and Wellington and virtually. I’d love to have a meeting in Christchurch or Dunedin or anywhere. This year I’d like the odd evening meeting in addition to the usual breakfast ones, for people who can’t make mornings.

Also, there’s something that used to happen but hasn’t for a couple of years, and that’s the CPP dinner that was a special dinner hosted by ASIS before the annual NZ security conference/awards. I want to start this up again – whether it’s before the awards or around the time of the awards – and make it a certification (rather than CPP) dinner so that people who have gained their APP, CPP, etc or re-certified recently can be acknowledged in this way while everyone’s in town for the awards.

‘Women in security’ has been something we’ve been doing for the past couple of years. Dean [Kidd] (2017-18 ASIS NZ Chapter Chair) started it at the Aotea Centre the year before last and that was really popular – and our first key Women in Security event. Last year Andrew [Thorburn] (2019 ASIS NZ Chapter Chair) did an amazing job with a fantastic Women in Security event in Wellington. 

This year we’re going to bring it back to Auckland, otherwise if there are people interested in hosting it in Christchurch or anywhere else, we’ll take it there! We’ll certainly put a call out for sponsorship or support in some way shape or form but we’re not going to let that dictate whether or not it goes ahead.

It’s really important that people understand that this event is not just for women in the industry, it’s for everyone. It’s not just for women; it’s about celebrating women and it’s tied to International Women’s Day. The more support we have – and guys turning up – the better. 

To this day I still get asked, “so are there women in security too?” I was getting asked the same question back in 1995… it blows my mind!