Helping Businesses Face Terrorism

As well as the very obvious human costs, terrorism attacks have an all too real commercial dimension, something business schools are increasingly aware of.

As a graphic example, as well as killing around 3,000 people, the September 11 attacks destroyed a significant section of New York's business center, offices as well as lives.

Probably the best known business victim of terrorism comes from that day: Brokerage and bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald. Located on the 101st to 105th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the company lost 658 staff on September 11, about two-thirds of its entire workforce.

Yet within a week it was trading again, exemplifying the phenomenon that saw U.S. and global markets suffer surprisingly little long term impact from the attacks.

The same apparent economic resilience has been seen after other terrorist incidents, such as a series of bombings in July 2005 on London's public transport system that killed more than 50 people.

However, experts warn, this does not mean there is no real economic fallout from such attacks.

Shortly after the London bombings, Dean C. Alexander, author of a series of books on how business can face up to terrorism, questioned the assumption that terrorists had failed to badly damage the capitalist systems they were targeting.

"The 9/11 attacks have resulted in the direct and indirect expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars globally by governments and industry on homeland security and corporate security measures," he told the Washington Post.

"Also, the threat of terror alone has resulted in business shifts: declining commercial aviation, insurance costs, increased costs of doing business, work efficiency, etc... Just because there are not constant terror incidents against financial targets or hotels, doesn't mean that there hasn't been damage to the economy."

Expert forum

With this in mind, Judge Business School in the UK, part of the University of Cambridge, is holding a two-day symposium on terrorism and security this month.

It is intended to be a chance for academics, business leaders and policymakers to get together and discuss how business can respond to the modern day threat posed by terrorism.

Among the speakers at the event will be the international risk adviser to British Airways -- which, like other airlines, suffered badly following September 11 and with later aviation-related terrorism scares -- and the senior Associated Press chief for East Africa, a region also affected by al Qaeda-linked attacks.

The list of panelists is even more heavyweight, including Robert Grenier, formerly head of counter-terrorism with the CIA and now with risk consultants Kroll, and Sir Richard Dearlove, currently head of a Cambridge University college having previously run the UK's foreign intelligence service, MI6.

The event is being organized by the Judge school's Center For International Business And Management (CIBAM), the stated mission of which is to "deepen the understanding of internationalization and managing in the global economy."

"Security and terrorism is an issue which is rising very quickly on business peoples' agendas," said Dr. Christos Pitelis, director of CIBAM.

"We hope that this symposium, through informative presentations and panel debates, will generate a free flow of information and collaborative opportunities that will assist the attendees, who are representatives from the academic and business communities, the government and civil service, in dealing with the challenges these threats present."