Transferring the ‘War on Terror’ to the private sector: practice perspective on organisational tensions

Meadows, Maureen; Ball, Kirstie; Daniel, Elizabeth; Dibb, Sally and Spiller, Keith (2010). Transferring the ‘War on Terror’ to the private sector: practice perspective on organisational tensions. In: Strategic Management Society 30th Annual International Conference, 12-15 Sep 2010, Rome.



The terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 prompted the search by governments of many developed nations, and international organisations, to find new ways to counter terrorist activities (Vlcek, 2008). Measures identified have included the increased monitoring of financial transactions in order to identify and counter the funding of terrorism, and the increased monitoring of individuals as they travel across national borders. However, whilst governments seek to enforce these counter-terrorism measures, private sector organisations are the point of contact with individuals whilst they are carrying out the activities of interest. This proximity to the activity or event of interest, and importantly, the ability to collect data on the individual and their activities, has led governments to require, often supported by legislation, private sector firms to collect data on their customers and report this to government agencies for their evaluation. This study explores the programmes of activity being put in place in two key sectors of UK industry; in the financial services sector, they are anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism finance (CTF), and in the travel sector, the e-Borders programme.
In addition to the legislation enforcing compliance, most private sector firms appear to recognise their societal role in contributing to counter-terrorist activities. However, implementation and operation of the measures may present challenges. An obvious challenge is meeting the cost of such measures. The cost of meeting AML regulation by UK firms has been estimated at £274 million per year, which is 40% of the total cost of financial regulations on the sector (FSA, 2006), with the cost of proving the identity of customers put at £2 per customer (PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 2007). For the charter travel industry alone, complying with e-Borders regulations is estimated to cost £13 million cost per year, with the only modest savings from the removal of boarding cards (Airline Business, 2008).
This study takes a strategy-as-practice perspective to investigate the organisational challenges of addressing counter-terrorism legislation by private sector firms. In the first phase of research reported here, key informant interviews are used to explore the organisational consequences of the new legislation, by identifying the tensions that arise from being required to carry out such societal obligations alongside traditional commercial activities. Theoretically, the research draws on ideas on framing management theory in relation to tensions in good management practice (Huxham and Beech, 2003). The following section introduces the two areas of legislation that affect the sectors of interest. A discussion of the theoretical background to the work follows; the methodology adopted is then described; the preliminary findings are presented and discussed, and plans for future work outlined.

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