What Security Executives Should Know about Finance

A Q&A with Wharton's John Percival on how corporate financial needs meet with security department goals


The analogy is like learning to play tennis or golf. You can gain a certain level of expertise quickly. If want to be really good at it, then it gets much harder. You put in a lot more time and effort for smaller gains. It can be very complex at some level, but it does not have to be that complex. The finance sessions during the Wharton/ASIS program are not designed to convert participants to finance experts but to get them fairly quickly to a level of competence so they have the confidence to interact with finance people. You understand what it is that you do know and what you don't know.

You talk about the intersection of strategy and finance in your program session. In many organizations, these are seen as separate worlds. How are finance and strategy related?

We look at the objectives of the organization and how we achieve those objectives. That is the link between finance and strategy. I tend to be more practical about strategy than strategy people are. For example, some people in strategy may say "strategy is a series of questions." You may start with a series of question, but I am concerned not only with the questions of strategy but also the answers we come up with. This is a more practical approach.

How do you explore financial issues during the Wharton/ASIS program?

There are two parts. We spend time reading financial statements and looking at discounted cash flow. This offers an applied look at how to read, interpret, and understand these statements. This helps make participants better at reading them, understanding the thought process and language of finance, and making their own financial arguments. We also look at case studies to show how these concepts play out in a broader strategic context. A lot of this comes down to using finance to make your arguments more effective.

Learn more: Business Management Skills for Security Executives

The Wharton/ASIS program superbly stimulates security improvement through educational reform by promoting better business comprehension and decision making by security executives. If you are interested in this program, please call 800-255-3932, and mention code: ASIS072506, research and sign up for the program online at http://execed-web.wharton.upenn.edu/course.cfm?Program=ASIS, or send an email to execed@wharton.upenn.edu. Interviews with professors from the Wharton/ASIS security executive managment training program will be featured regularly on SecurityInfoWatch.com.