Welcome to our Little Black Book, an inspirational series of business stories and insights from our brilliant members.

Aidan Cooper

Aidan Cooper on raising the standards of security

By Aidan Cooper

Managing Director & Head of Training - AEC Protection

At just 32, Aidan Cooper has a security services career that spans from the British Armed Forces as a Royal Military Police Officer to multiple deployments in Afghanistan as a Police Advisor and Close Protection Operative to Senior Military Generals and Ambassadors for the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as extensive experience in the UK private security industry.

Whilst still involved with military and close protection work, Aidan has also firmly established his own security company over the last decade. Founded in 2014, AEC Protection has become the highest-rated security company on the south coast with its own nationally renowned training centre.

Connect on LinkedIn

Reflecting on such an extraordinary career in security, what lessons have you brought from your experiences and put into your business today?

Working in enforcement environments and being in conflicting situations, you can't stand still. I think businesses can fail when they don't move with the times and are unable to adjust.

The experiences have enabled me to take criticism. I'm not egotistically driven; I will take on board advice. But if I see an opportunity, I'm probably going to take it. I've always been a bit of a risk taker; taking calculated risks is always something that's enabled me to grow.

You can’t get those wow moments of achievement – like the Arctic Monkeys concert last year where our team ensured that over 20,000 people had a safe and enjoyable time – without being prepared to put yourself in some difficult positions. You're not entitled to feel those rewarding feelings if you've not made the effort to do so.

Do you want more articles like this in your inbox? If so then register below...

What’s the business set-up and services?

There are two sides to the business. We have operational security services like event security, close protection, dog handling, and site security and we also have a training division.

From our initial small office set-up in 2017 we’ve quickly outgrown several premises and last year we moved to a large site on Romsey Industrial Estate. We have four training rooms now, a purpose-built self-defence suite, a full training administration and management department, and a control room that’s under construction. We’ve tripled our full-time team in 12 months, so things are growing rapidly.

What kind of clients and events do you support with security?

Our first big event was working with the Cricket World Cup in 2019. We provided player protection officers to look after the international players and we looked after the pitch and the official areas. We’ve now worked with Hampshire Cricket for five years.

We’ve worked with Southampton Football Club for the last three seasons. As well as providing security for match days, we also support their training ground, their other events, their in-house security teams, and we also provide training.

We’ve worked with country shows like the Romsey and New Forest Shows, and lots of local events like the Beggars Fair and concerts at Broadlands in Romsey and supporting Southampton City Council and Go Southampton with the Christmas lights switch-on and other city events.

"You can’t get those wow moments of achievement without being prepared to put yourself in some difficult positions."

You pride yourself on quality, how do you achieve that high level of service?

We pride ourselves on providing a more prestigious security outfit with an executive security feel – upping the security game for the corporate environment.

The security industry as a whole is renowned for paying poorly and we want to try and change that. We’re a Living Wage Employer, we pay 15-20% more than the National Minimum Wage, as such we attract better people and we’re able to provide a more premium service.

For the Cricket World Cup for example, we were able to use the best people from our military and policing connections. We were able to provide a really high level of service that gave us the exposure we needed to really up our game from 2019 onwards.

Talk to us about your work in security training.

Our training courses include first aid and medical modules which have now become a mandatory subject of study for all security training since April 2021. As a deliverer of SIA Approved Security Training, we focus our efforts on the delivery of security courses such as Door Supervision, CCTV Operations, Security Guarding and Close Protection. Training has always been an important aspect of the business; it supports the industry as a whole and it also supports our own operational teams.

Our new unit has given us the capacity and exposure that we needed. We’re now training some of the most well-known security companies, we support local colleges, we’re an ELCAS training provider, and an Armed Forces Covenant employer helping with resettlement programmes for those that are leaving the forces.

"Sitting down at the end of the event when the stadium is clear is quite a feeling."

Aidan Cooper- Managing Director & Head of Training, AEC Protection

How are you harnessing tech to improve your security services?

I love technology; I love anything that can make my team’s life easier, and some of that comes down to just basic administration of quite complex systems.

We have event management software, a platform where staff can see all the events that we have coming up enabling them to book on or show availability to work.

We have another system for our keyholding and alarm response work. Clients have their own portal to view reports and attendance to their sites in one simple place. That’s great not only for transparency, but it also helps us account better because all that information is readily available.

Our training department is also fairly autonomous now with a very good online booking system.

I’ve always driven an efficient business and I’ve always worked around building a small team to deliver big events.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I have three beautiful young girls. One of the key things for me driving so hard in the business is to get to a point where I can spend more quality time with my family.

Working so hard on the business, I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices. I haven’t really had a social life, but I get paid to go to events that people pay to go to.

At Southampton Football Club matches I’m of course watching the crowd and making sure that they’re safe, but I enjoy the atmosphere at the same time.

I’ve been at prestigious events like the King’s Coronation which was amazing to be part of.

I get the opportunity to be at festivals and events like The Killers concert at St Mary’s Stadium, I enjoy it and I embrace it and for me, those experiences are my social life.

Have there been some stand-out events that you’ve been able to attend?

Working at high-level international cricket is probably the most rewarding thing I have done – managing specialist security teams for the Cricket World Cup in 2019 and managing the World Test series that was held at the Ageas Bowl between India and New Zealand in 2020.

Sitting down at the end of the event when the stadium is clear is quite a feeling. People don’t see what happens behind the scenes – the months of work, planning, staffing, equipment, and operations.