Exclusive: Catching up with GE Security's Jim Clark

Jim Clark talks about the changing world of residential security, how the convergence of IT and physical security will play out and more

During the GE Security Conference & Workshop in Hollywood, Fla., earlier this month, staff from SecurityInfoWatch.com and our sister publications Security Dealer and Security Technology & Design were able to catch up with GE Security's Jim Clark, vice president of global sales and marketing, for a morning discussion about the company's take on IT convergence, supporting the dealer channel versus going direct, education of resellers, company positioning and more.

As head of GE's Security's business's marketing efforts, Clark has quite the challenge in front of him. GE's been all over the news as it has acquired a lot of big names in the security business recently, including Edwards Systems Technology and VisioWave. That presents a unique challenge in pulling all the technologies together – especially as the technology rapidly changes from its traditional standalone, low-voltage-only design to today's IT-networked capabilities. Despite the unification challenges of bringing many companies together under one umbrella, when it comes to helping dealers and integrators sell the company's products, Clark says the company is focused on marketing the company's breakthroughs and innovations. He adds that a vertical market sales and education effort is underway as part of that process.

According to Clark, the first tier verticals that the company has been able to focus on include such arenas as retail, financial/banking, education, transportation, healthcare, and government/homeland defense. Clark says that while those markets have gained top tier status in terms of the company's marketing and investment, the company is also very focused on security sales in the gaming market and to the multitude of auto dealerships that dot America's highways. And because funding is always instrumental to the sale, Clark says GE has been able to take the power of another company division – GE Capital – to help secure financing for some of its larger projects.

As in GE's case, the direct-to-consumer push of marketing to verticals has been pervasive in many of the top multi-national companies in the security business. It's a practice that has worried some dealers and integrators, who fear that they might be squeezed out as the industry's largest companies find direct sales.

That's just not the case says Clark. He adds that when GE started working directly with its verticals, it was designed as marketing and education push – and not designed to cut off any of its reseller network. The direct-to-vertical/direct-to-end user marketing, says Clark, may have brought some nervousness in the industry, but that nervousness has been dispelled.

"Our partners feared that we were going direct, but now they're seeing the benefits that we provided by educating those markets," says Clark. "They're saying, 'You're doing exactly what you said you were going to do.' Had we not done this (education and marketing effort), I think our partners see that it would have been very hard for them to compete in this industry."

And while this education effort from GE may seem to be focused only on top commercial markets, Clark says the company hasn't forgotten about its partners that largely work in the residential market.

"Residential has been a key part for our company and continues to be," says Clark. "We have millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of accounts."

But residential security isn't the same business it used to be. As a vertical, it's starting to mature.

"We're starting to see the sophisticated improvements in the residential sector," said Clark, stressing that the Baby Boom generation has fueled some of the growth of advanced residential security installations. "We're seeing the addition of access control and even remote video. And we're seeing security technology scale into the realm of assisted living devices. Many of us have aging parents, and the important thing is peace of mind."

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