Expanding into the US and elevating its core education programme have been some of the key changes that have taken place at EPIC Risk Management since its inception in 2013.
EPIC Owner and CEO Paul Buck spoke to SBC News about how the company evolved, and outlined some of the key ways that its recent ISO 9001 accreditation will support further successes as it continues to grow in the UK and further afield.
SBC: EPIC Risk Management has undoubtedly undergone a number of changes in the last few years, what are the biggest changes that have taken place?
Paul Buck: EPIC was originally set up, in 2013, as a one-man band sharing a powerful personal story. We then progressed to 6 of the better-known personal stories providing authenticity and hard-hitting education and awareness sessions.
Lived experiences remains at the heart of all that we do but we have now progressed the advisory and training arms of our business in addition to the core education, and now provide sector leading training and consultancy to the most gambling harm prevalent sectors in 16 countries including the UK and most recently the USA in our groundbreaking partnership with GVC Foundation US.
SBC: It’s coming to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, what has EPIC been doing during to support its clients?
PB: EPIC has been really active throughout Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. We believe that both safer gambling and mental health awareness are year-round business as normal, but obviously a week-long concentrated focus from a wider audience helps highlight the issues and initiatives.
Across media and social media, we have been highlighting some of the work and key messages that we provide to elite sport, financial services, education, the armed forces and the gambling industry. These include that it’s OK not to be OK and that a problem shared is a problem halved. There is still far too much stigma across both gambling addiction and mental health.
Poor mental health is something that many of my team suffered from, off the back of the addiction itself. The two often go hand in hand. Now that we are mature in recovery, we realise that there is no shame attached and the problem should be shared. However, during our gambling activities, this was something we were very much concerned about. How we would be perceived was a huge worry, but it was the smallest of problems compared to the addiction itself. Reaching out is the best thing that an individual can do.
Practically, we will be providing awareness sessions and advisory to a number of audiences. We are working together with The Gordon Moody Association to provide sessions for current and former residents; we are facilitating our first session for a school in Africa, in Kenya to be more specific, along with over half a dozen UK schools for pupils and parents; we are providing population appropriate resources into prisons who have requested help at this time, and we are proving webinar sessions to elite sports teams across four different sports.
SBC: Congratulations on your accreditation audit for ISO 9001! How will this accolade support EPIC’s business growth in the coming months?
PB: We have always prided ourselves on being a modern, innovative business. We are commercially sustainable but socially driven as our multitude of social impact awards will testify. By not being a charity, we don’t have a traditional independent oversight as we don’t fit into the Gambling Commission remit for regulation and we do not fall under a Charities Commission or Care Quality Commission.
ISO 9001 is the independently assessed and globally recognised quality management standard for business operations and process. It is a stringent audit based certification process that only certifies those businesses who demonstrate consistent and high levels of control, governance, process and quality standards.
This has already started to assist EPIC’s business growth by leading to a completed deal in financial services and progressed conversations around different funding streams. EPIC now has at least as much independent oversight as any charity, CIC or treatment provider in this space. This has been independently verified.
SBC: Can you detail EPIC’s management of resources under lockdown… How hard is it to run a gambling-related organisation during these unprecedented times?
PB: As a company, we have grown to be in the fortunate position that due to our client base and contract structure, we have been able to retain all staff on 100% salary during this unprecedented period. We have had no redundancies or furloughed staff. In fact, we have grown the team by 30% during the last 8 weeks with key hires in education programmes, safer gambling and communications.
We have, however, needed to adapt to new ways of working as the majority of our programmes are traditionally delivered in a face to face setting across elite sport, financial services, the gambling industry, education directly to children aged 14+ or the armed forces.
To maintain the impact, we pivoted our offering to a remote, digital training company. This was always in the future plans but the lockdown has accelerated this offering. Our team has worked tirelessly during this period to produce content and facilitate through a digital platform, with both live and pre-recorded sessions taking place on a daily basis, particularly within the gambling industry where we have provided safer gambling training sessions for 600+ operator staff across nine different countries, and across elite sport.
As the owner and CEO, I could not be more proud of how we, as a company, have embraced these new and challenging times. Another example is that we have secured Living Wage Employer status in the last 6 weeks as well as finding out last week that we have been successful in securing certification for ISO 9001, the internationally recognised quality management standard for our work.
SBC: Can you give us an overview as to how EPIC has been supporting sport and industry clients during the lockdown – both in the UK and US?
PB: As is right at this time, we have been incredibly proactive with our clients over the last 8 weeks. This is an extraordinary time with additional and new vulnerabilities for both our clients and those who work for them. We have created numerous new resources and information packs that have been sent out to our clients in both education, the gambling industry and professional sport. We have written blogs, provided media appearances, used powerful and engaging video content and been available for our clients in terms of help, support and advice at all times.
In terms of supporting our industry clients, both in Europe and in the US, we have continued to provide training and consultancy to all of our existing clients and have held several positive conversations with new and prospective clients on both sides of the pond. As stated earlier, we have managed to move our industry training programmes to a digital platform and provide ongoing and impactful sessions.
As it stands, throughout the lockdown period, we have trained over 600 staff from 4 different industry clients, across 9 countries, covering topics such as vulnerability, risk assessments and how to effectively interact with customers, which we feel is essential and perhaps even more vital throughout these increased times of risk due to the current situation. We also continue to provide board level advice and support on all safer gambling initiatives and key cases.
In terms of sport, we have made sure we have been approachable to all players who we have seen over the past few years. Social media is a powerful outlet for players to get in touch. With increased messaging around the dangers of out of control gambling it’s a good reminder to players that we are still working to reduce gambling harm and available should they require.
During these unprecedented times, players are at even higher risk of delving into different forms of online gambling which can then lead to emotional and financial stress. Furthermore, it can also impact on their mental health which we will be signposting throughout this week at a time where we are trying to get people to speak out with any issues.