Exclusive: Sandi Davies IFPO CEO on industry progress and challenges

Exclusive: Sandi Davies IFPO CEO on industry progress and challenges

Security Middle East Magazine took the opportunity to sit down with Sandi Davies, Chief Executive Officer of the International Foundation for Protection Officers (IFPO), and the Middle East Regional Director, Nadeem Iqbal; to discuss the progress of the foundation, their future ambitions, and the challenges faced with educating protection officers in the Middle East.

Davies’ own career within the sector started at the tender age of just 17, when she was working a part-time role at the largest privately owned security contractor in Western Canada. Her professional ambition was to be a professional figure skater – a far cry from where she has ended up. Even at that young age she was able to spot a serious flaw within the sector: a severe lack of training for the people who were being sent out to protect people, property, and assets.

She said: “I discovered many things about the industry that I found quite intriguing. I would see people brought into the office and after a brief interview, they’d be sent to the uniform centre, totally equipped, and sent to protect people, property and assets in big metropolitan cities such as Calgary.

They rarely spoke English and there was no training in place for them. And I just thought at 17 years old, how is this even possible?”


As Davies progressed through the organisation, she began to work on a Protection Officer Training Academy in Calgary – but with no reference point, and a training academy that couldn’t operate without reference books, it could have all ended there.

Instead, Davies was involved in recruiting 20 contributing authors and went on to develop a book that covered 25+ subjects relevant to the modern protection officer. And that, she explained, “was really the inception of the International Foundation for Protection Officers.”

Since then, Davies has spearheaded the growth and development of IFPO as they have: moved headquarters to Naples in Florida; published a series of textbooks and developed a range of programmes for security officers in English, Spanish and Arabic; she’s proud to have delivered the first-ever training programme for women in security in Saudi Arabia in 2009; and been the driving force in advancing training methods within the industry following the 9/11 disaster.

Nowadays, their training is predominantly delivered online, allowing for much greater expansion internationally. Today, the IFPO has students in 56 countries, members in 63 countries, and has certified over 180,000 officers.


Davies said: “Our biggest focus right now is global expansion. We’ve always enjoyed a lot of international students, but I believe that developing strategic partnerships in the various countries that have expressed an interest is going to be critical to our success.

“They need to think along the lines of a preventative mindset, and they need the curriculum. When there’s nothing available, they’re coming to us from every corner of the world and as soon as they achieve success… with social media now, there is just a boom.

“For example, somebody in Nairobi gets a CPO (certified protection officer) certificate, the next week there are eight new applicants from Nairobi, and we see the same in Malaysia, and all over the world.”

As the Foundation expands globally, it constantly modifies its content to meet standards in different countries based on the local culture and requirements. Something that ensures IFPO programmes are superior regardless of location.

“There’s no point teaching somebody in Lagos what somebody needs to know in Mexico. So there’s not a ‘one-programme-fits-all’ mindset,” said Davies.

“To support this, we’ve recruited some really great regional representatives. Nadeem has done a fantastic job in the Middle East, but we have regional representatives in India, Ireland, the UK, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nigeria and Australia,” she continued.


Davies acknowledges that today’s security professionals would be unrecognisable to the security teams of 20 years ago, noting that as the roles and responsibilities have increased, the training for security officers has escalated.

She said: “I think that corporate corporations are relying on them to, not only conduct the duties of security officer, but also a big part of the role is customer service. This is proven through our research and has changed a lot over the years.

“I also think that the delivery methods have changed, the officers themselves are requesting the training themselves. Before, they didn’t have a commitment or loyalty to the company, but now corporations support their employees more, other employees are seeing that and they see career advancement through educational opportunities.”

Iqbal points out how diverse the sector is, particularly within the Middle East. He said: “One thing which is very unique in the Middle East, is the cultural diversity. When we look at Saudi Arabia and UAE, there are people from 120+ nationalities. With that many work cultures, working in the security industry is an environment that is so diverse.


We can’t speak to Davies without finding out more about how she was responsible for delivering the first training programme for women in security in Saudi Arabia. She was brought in by G4S and was honoured to be part of such an important milestone – which she calls a “fantastic experience”.

“The women that were in my class, they were eager, they were intelligent, they were bright and they were excited,” she explained. “I mean, they’d never had an opportunity like this in the past and they gravitated towards that. They studied hard, they were inquisitive, they felt comfortable and it gave them confidence. The education that they got gave them the confidence to be able to go and conduct their jobs. They were excited they could see the career path, too, and I never ever got the impression that they felt that they were going to be treated differently than their male counterparts.”

And 14 years later, do Davies or Iqbal think women still face barriers in entering the security industry? Davies said: “For me, personally, we still think the majority is men.”

Iqbal acknowledges that while barriers may still exist – they exist worldwide and are not a regional issue: “I don’t think the barriers in the Middle East are any different than rest of the globe. In the industry, it is perceived to be a man’s job, which isn’t right.

“Recent initiatives have focused on diversity, inclusion and equality. That has encouraged more and more women to come to the forefront and be actively involved in asset protection, loss prevention, security, and even health and safety programmes.”

Iqbal further explained the positive changes are far more encouraging than the diminishing challenges, “There are more opportunities in security, and the best part of that is the gap between security and business education is now shrinking. So, people know that they make a start with security and with some cross-functional training, they can go on to different disciplines.”

IFPO will be at the upcoming GSX event, at booth 1750, close to the ASIS career centre. As well as hosting a table at the Friends of Chuck Texas night, IFPO is also supporting and hosting some of the women in security evenings as well. You can visit IFPO at GSX in Dallas, TX from 11-13 September 2023.

Find out more about Sandi Davies and the IFPO, through their official site.