It’s no coincidence that the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) is now recognised globally as the leading industry Association for supply chain security and resilience. Since the Association’s formation in 1997, TAPA’s growth and development has been spearheaded by regional Boards of Directors made up of senior supply chain, security, loss prevention and risk management professionals from many of the world’s biggest brand companies.

But as an Association founded and based on the time and support of volunteer Directors, TAPA – like so many other trade associations – has also needed an ‘engine room’ behind the scenes to ensure the strategies and objectives of its regional BODs have been implemented to the fullest effect.

In the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, since 2008 these vital activities have been spearheaded, with distinction, by EMEA’s cool, calm and collected Executive Director, Laurence Brown.

This month, after 13 years with TAPA EMEA and 18 months on from the successful transition to full-time leadership in the region with the appointment of Thorsten Neumann as EMEA’s first full-time President & CEO, Laurence is stepping away from the Association to focus on his other business interests in the investigations industry, confident his work is done. The facts speak for themselves. 13 years down the road, TAPA EMEA is undoubtedly bigger and stronger than at any time in its history:

·       the 238 member companies in the region in 2009 now stand at over 600, and 2020 will be another record year of growth

·       the 101 registrations for TAPA’s conference in 2009 compare to some 400 delegates at EMEA’s most recent event

·       the 1,941 incidents recorded by TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) in EMEA in 2009 rose to 8,548 in 2019

·       certifications for TAPA’s Facility Security Requirements (FSR) and Trucking Security Requirements (TSR) are higher than at any time in the Association’s history

·       just two years on from its launch, TAPA’s Parking Security Requirements (PSR) is already the most-adopted industry standard for secure truck parking

·       related income growth of over 150% since 2008 continues to help fund EMEA’s growth strategy and new member benefits 

Over this period, one of the other big achievements has been the number of important stakeholder ‘doors’ that have been opened to TAPA; the European Commission, NATO, the World Customs Organisation, Europol and INTERPOL, to name but a few.

It has been a journey of year-on-year progression and one that Laurence is proud to have been part of.

“I have been fortunate to work with an outstanding group of TAPA EMEA Board members who set us on a pathway to this level of consistent growth. Their determination to succeed has been second to none. By setting a clear and consistent strategy to support our members and to ensure TAPA has a bigger share of voice with key stakeholders, we are positively influencing supply chain security and resilience improvements. They have set the agenda and with their support and energy, my role has been to serve the Board and to flesh out the best solutions to deliver these objectives. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team that has enabled TAPA EMEA to get things done. I think we can all be proud of what we’ve achieved.”           

It’s certainly a lot more than he expected when he first took on what he saw as a six-month commitment to TAPA EMEA in 2008.      

Nonetheless, his career prior to joining TAPA had certainly prepared him well for his future role. Laurence started out in UK Law Enforcement, (Trading Standards), spending 14 years investigating issues relating to copyright, trademark infringements and commerce in general. In 1987, he joined the UK video industry, holding a pivotal role in the leading retail trade association, bringing about changes in UK and European legislation and developing higher industry standards. Six years later, he transitioned into the buoyant computer games industry when he joined Sega Europe as Chief Investigating Officer, responsible for its anti-piracy programme and investigations into supply chain losses.  

By the end of 1995, he was heading his own consultancy practice working as an independent investigating advisor to well-known global corporations. This involved conducting
investigations and operational management of campaigns against piracy and supply chain losses
throughout Europe and the Middle East. This work was to lead him to TAPA.

In August 2008, through Laurence’s various brand protection projects, the then TAPA EMEA Board Director, Steve McHugh – now the Association’s Executive Director Standards – and George Wiessing, now coordinating TAPA EMEA’s Treasury function, were among those who invited him to take a look at TAPA and to identify ways to grow the Association. Their remit was to build a stronger financial footing on which to keep moving forward and to develop TAPA’s engagement in regulatory affairs. Laurence’s recommendations were well received. The subsequent role of Business Manager soon grew into that of Executive Director to work with the Board and members of the Association to implement its policies and programmes throughout the EMEA region.

Six months later, LBA International Consultancy, Laurence’s company, was also awarded a contract to act as TAPA EMEA’s Admin Team, supporting the day-to-day activities of the growing Association.

With the Board’s plans firmly established, all focus in recent years has been on delivering the best possible benefits to the Association’s members in EMEA and on supporting the important projects being developed and delivered by the various working groups focusing on TAPA’s Security Standards – the ‘backbone’ of the Association, Training, and growing TAPA EMEA’s Incident Information Service, Membership and Conferences & Events.

A significant change in 2015 saw TAPA bring its IIS service in-house, having previously been outsourced to a third-party provider. Laurence says: “This was a particularly important decision because it gave law enforcement agencies, insurers and members more confidence to share incident intelligence with us as an industry association with our own in-house cargo crime database, as opposed to sharing information with an external supplier or commercial entity. Our previous supplier didn’t do anything wrong, this was just a better, long-term solution for TAPA and our members.”

The list of TAPA EMEA’s other achievements over the last 13 years is too long to share but it includes everything from the regular revisions of the Association’s FSR and TSR Standards, the launch of self-certification for both – and, in the 2020 revisions, the introduction of FSR Multi-site certifications and a new Modular approach for TSR to protect supply chains using vans, hard-sided trailers, soft-sided trailers and transporting ocean containers by road. New IIS mapping tools have been introduced to show cargo theft incidents and improve secure route planning. Regional conferences in cargo crime ‘hotspots’ now complement the main TAPA EMEA Conference of the year. More training is being provided than ever before – for some 1,500 security professionals in 2020 – and courses are now available online, and with new video training being prepared for 2021. Incident intelligence is coming from more sources than ever before. Members now have access to a database of TAPA-approved secure truck parking sites, as part of the Association’s latest Parking Security Requirements. And TAPA is now a highly-respected and much in-demand Subject Matter Expert contributing to the security efforts of government ministries, regulators, policymakers and law enforcement bodies.       

How does Laurence Brown believe TAPA is now seen by such key partners? “They see us as experts in our field. Through our work with national regulators in countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, as well as the European Union and the United Nations, we’ve proven that TAPA is the leading expert in security supply chain and that we’re not lobbyists. Now, when they have a matter associated with Supply Chain Security, they call TAPA and invite us to share our expertise. They see that we represent significant and influential companies but that we are not competitive or biased.”

For someone about to head off to pastures new, it’s clear Laurence Brown is just as motivated by TAPA’s future as he is by anything it has previously achieved under his watch.

Having served as Executive Director through six BOD elections and rewritten TAPA EMEA’s Constitution three times in 13 years, he is confident the TAPA 2020 strategy the Board of Directors agreed to three years ago is delivering the springboard necessary to take the Association in the region to the next level.     

Most recently, as well as the historic decision to appoint Thorsten Neumann as TAPA EMEA’s President & CEO – having previously served as voluntary Chairman of the region since 2006, another big, significant change has been to replace EMEA’s BOD with a new Advisory Board. This also supports the evolution of TAPA EMEA from an Association focussing on cargo crime to one with the ambition to embrace all aspects of supply chain security and resilience.

It’s the right direction, as far as Laurence Brown is concerned.

“TAPA’s role as a supply chain resilience association is important because the landscape is changing. Risks are growing and becoming more diverse and Organised Crime Groups are developing in terms of their reach and sophistication. If you look at all the noise around supply chains at the peak of the COVID outbreak, and now all the emphasis on the security of vaccine shipments, it’s all about supply chain resilience and protecting the integrity of products. There is more awareness and appreciation than ever before that the consequences of one cargo theft can cause massive disruption.    

“The transition TAPA EMEA is on was approved by our members and set in motion three years ago. The concept is quite simple. To grow to an extent where we can keep pace with these risks, and offer the best support to our members, the Association in EMEA needs full-time leadership and a professional, sustainable model for the future. What TAPA EMEA achieved with a Board of volunteers was quite remarkable and is a great tribute to the individuals involved. They led the Association to a stage in its development where it was ready and able to make this step up to the next level.

“This is still a work in progress, but the foundation has been laid to build an even stronger and more effective membership association – and that’s the big thing. Whatever TAPA does in the future, it must always remember it is there to serve its members. They are the heart of the Association. The members, too, have to play an active part because the more they invest in being part of TAPA, the more benefits they will gain.”   

Calling TAPA EMEA’s transition a ‘natural evolution’, he says a lot can be learned from the lessons of other Associations. “Many associations tend to start with volunteers because of their passion. The next, and often most difficult step, is to harness that passion and place it alongside a professional workforce to ensure the agendas they want reached are obtained. It’s a natural progression for trade associations to go on a journey of starting with volunteers, to then outsourcing activities to service companies, and to then transition to employ key members of skilled staff to accelerate the Association from its then solid base. This is a transition that only a successful Association can make.

“I think it’s wise and timely for TAPA globally to widen its horizons because, in addition to the known criminal threats, we could see some fundamental changes in the way supply chains operate post-COVID, and there will certainly be more cyber risks in the future too.”

It’s the ‘passion’ he refers to that Laurence sees as such a powerful tool in TAPA’s armoury. “I think that’s the real strength of TAPA EMEA, the passion of those key members. I am pleased to have helped put in place the structure so these people can get on with the job of keeping the Association fit-for-purpose and ready to face the supply chain challenges that lie ahead. In Thorsten, I think TAPA EMEA has a President & CEO with the vision for that.” 

While Laurence pursues new investigation service opportunities with his LBA associates, it’s far from a complete ‘farewell’ to TAPA. LBA will retain its important Admin role for TAPA EMEA, led by Shan McCarthy, to ensure a seamless continuity of their work behind the scenes which has supported the smooth running of the Association since 2009. This includes managing the administration of TAPA’s IIS and Security Standards programmes, coordinating its training schedules, and maintaining the EMEA website. 

The last words from Laurence are to acknowledge the support he has received over the last 13 years.

“I have to begin by thanking my own team of Shan, Sara, Chelsea and Stacy Cain - who left us recently – for their hard work in maintaining the TAPA EMEA ‘back office’ . This has been so important in the delivery of the strategic objectives set by the Board and will remain a great asset supporting the next stage of the Association’s development.  

“Secondly, I want to acknowledge the Board members themselves. There are too many to mention them all by name but, without their support, it would have been even more challenging to deliver their programme of activities as the list grew year-on-year to take the Association to where it finds itself today. Thirdly, of course, I want to thank the TAPA EMEA members. We all know that with any Association, the more you invest personally, the more you gain in terms of value but, at the same time, we appreciate that everyone has their own day job to do. Without the continued engagement of those dedicated members to assist in the regional events, support our training programmes, provide incident data to IIS, or help in the development of the Standards and many more activities which are not always visible, the footprint of TAPA EMEA would not be so advanced.” 

Thank you, too, Laurence Brown. Your own personal contribution will never be forgotten. We wish you every success for the future.