CSO roundtable: The economy’s effect on security management

ASIS International CSO Roundtable members talk strategy for security in tough times


Callaghan: CSOs who are truly engaged have to balance the realities of the economy with the risks inherent in their businesses. An example of how to balance the two is by conducting risk assessments on the products, services or properties you are protecting and then developing cost-effective measures to replace security staff with more efficient security technology.

How has the current state of the economy affected the risk and threat vectors you are presented with? For example: Are you facing an increase in property-type crimes? Workplace violence? Data theft?

Callaghan: There is no question that crime and threats have increased over the past 12 months or so in our business. Our internal investigations has so much demand that the staff has developed an "investigations hierarchy", effectively limiting the level of their involvement to cases that have a high value or executive interests. It appears that many people, both guests and employees are being impacted by the economy, leading some to pursue illegal means to compensate.

Fountain: Actually, no. We are seeing less crime-related impacts on our business. I would chalk this up to a couple of efforts. First, and perhaps foremost, was our ramping up of emphasis on these issues through training and awareness efforts. We started this about 18 months ago when we first saw the beginning of the downturn. The other action we have taken is to be more selective about the experience and qualifications of our workforce. This has led to a more proactive and mature approach to crime issues in all of our operations.

Baley: Internally, there has not been a significant affect in risk or threats. I attribute this mostly to the planning, resilience, and open communication between management and personnel. For the most part positions are secure and the company continues to maintain profitability. Externally, there have been some predictable affects. We are an insurance company and therefore have experienced increased incidents in fraudulent claims based upon a customer’s inability to meet financial obligations related to their vehicle, home, or business. This was anticipated and in most cases detected so the ultimate impact is mitigated. This effective detection of claim fraud has also generated increased threats by claimants against our personnel associated with the claim. We have been able to mitigate most of these increases through the training of our personnel, refining targeted response at the early onset of every incident, and increasing utilization of local law enforcement resources as appropriate. We have identified some risk triggers that we monitor very closely as our customized early warning signs of future trouble. We may need to engineer a response, but we should have some advanced notice even if it is only in the form of a heightened probability of occurrence.

Becker: We have seen only anecdotal evidence of this. For instance, in Spain we had a major sabotage-related product spill costing hundreds of thousands of dollars after we announced layoffs in the plant.

McDonough: Given the current economic turmoil, workplace violence, workplace threats and aggressive behavior are becoming issues that we’re finding ourselves dealing with more regularly. To help deal with the problem, we recently conducted a series of internal webinars to train human resources managers as well as business unit managers and supervisors on identifying possible workplace violence issues and how to manage situations or individuals that need attention.

Osborne: The current globally economy has required enhanced security measures surrounding key assets and critical equipment. The number of attempted property crimes at sites has increased as well as fraud matters. As the population continues to be affected financially, the motive and rationalization for these crimes rises. Establishing security systems and anti-fraud programs to increase protection and controls is imperative. Global security started collaborative efforts with risk management and internal audit to identify areas where controls are lacking and high risk items are identified. This effort allows for information to be shared within various groups and [it allows] mitigation strategies to be developed and rolled out to the site levels. One area in particular of focus has been our vendor managed programs. Proactive reviews were conducted in these areas and found instances of inflated invoicing and product substitution. We have also discovered greater exceptions in our warehouses for consumable items. Tighter controls and improved processes have reduced these exceptions.