Opportunities flat, compensation up in the corporate security industry

Jan. 16, 2012
New applicants may be flooding the market, but positions may be hard to come by in 2012

While the security industry is flooded with new applicants, the economy is still wreaking havoc on the jobs market. In 2012, experts say the security jobs market will probably be flat, however, there is a silver lining to this potentially dark cloud in the corporate security space, as those same experts are predicting growth in the form of higher salaries and more opportunities.

"In the United States, we are seeing job replacement due to retirements or people moving to other jobs," says Jerry Brennan, co-author of the book Security Careers and content expert faculty for the Security Executive Council. He is also founder of Security Management Resources, a global executive search firm specializing exclusively in corporate security. "The real growth we are seeing is in Asia, but these are local hires. To some degree in Latin America, we are also seeing growth with respect to professional-level security positions."

"2012 is going to be very interesting," says Philip Farina, CPP, a security career expert for Manta Security Management Recruiters (www.manta1.net). "We are still in the middle of a challenging economic environment. Crime is still increasing, especially in the workplace, which is typical for a down economy. Unfortunately, because security and safety is viewed as a required expense, you will see some cutbacks. 2012 will be no different in terms of demand for new jobs at the entry and middle levels."

Uphill Climb ahead for Entry-level positions

It's quite the gloomy outlook for those people trying to break into the security industry – especially for returning soldiers who could be flooding the entry and mid-level security market in 2012. "I think the applicant market will add pressure," Brennan says. "When you look at the demographics across many federal agencies, there are a lot of people becoming eligible for retirement. That should create a highly competitive year (in 2012), especially with the new people competing with folks who are already in the private sector and are trying to move up. There's just not enough jobs out there for these people. I wish there were."

Although breaking into the corporate security world can be difficult to impossible, there are still some opportunities available. "2012 will be a better year as far as opportunities," Brennan says. "I realize that the economy predictions are not huge, but changes in companies and organizations as well as the demographics of the existing security community suggest will have a lot of retirements, etc., that will open up high-level positions."

While they are not abundant, there are still opportunities at the entry-level. "I would encourage (returning soldiers) to look at the services industry," Brennan says. "I wouldn't discount corporate security entirely, but the skill set you gain as a combatant is not the same job that you would have in a corporate security or even the services/guarding side."

Brennan and Farina both recommend executive protection positions for the returning soldiers, which, of course, plays to their strengths of protecting high-value targets. "The military does a wonderful job of training, working with others, building camaraderie, and giving people a lot of responsibility and authority at a very young age — those are very transferrable skills," Brennan says. "The challenge becomes the maturity factor and the cultural factor to fit into a corporate setting — where you have a lot of shades of grey. I think there are a lot of people that have transitioned very well; however, some do not. It is the same thing with people coming from the public sector."

Farina points out that those soldiers with government clearances should have a much easier time finding work in the security/intelligence gathering industry. "Clearances — at least secret or above — are a huge asset that can take them further," Farina says. "There are plenty of intelligence jobs that cater to people who have active clearances."

Moving up within the industry

Outside of the entry-level market, it's not all gloom and doom for 2012; in fact, Brennan and colleague Steve Walker, who is co-author of Security Careers and a partner in compensation consulting and research firm Foushee Group Inc., actually see compensation on the rise for high-level corporate security executives, and they are predicting a similar rise in 2012. Here are some interesting numbers from the 2011 Security & Compliance Compensation Survey performed by the Foushee Group:

  • When comparing all surveyed positions base salaries in the 2011 Survey to the 2010 Survey, the total weighted average market movement for all positions base salaries increased 2.4%.
  • When comparing all surveyed positions total cash compensation (base plus cash bonus paid) in the 2011 Survey to the 2010 Survey, the total weighted average market movement for all positions total cash compensation increased 5.6%.
  • When comparing the Chief Security Officers (CSO) base salaries in the 2011 Survey to the 2010 Survey, the total weighted average market movement for the Chief Security Officers base salaries increased 3.4% and total cash compensation increased 10.4%.
  • When comparing the Top Security Executive Domestic, base salaries in the 2011 Survey to the 2010 Survey, the total weighted average market movement for the Top Security Executive Domestic base salaries increased 3.3% and cash compensation increased 12.0%.

"It is my belief that companies are putting more pay at risk, such as a defined bonus plan, and allowing more positions within the company to become eligible, as opposed to building into base pay and increasing the company's annual financial liability," Walker says. "We see this trend continuing, simply based on the fact that if the bonus plan is designed appropriately, the company is not as risk of higher costs unless revenue or some other financial and personal performance measurement is met by both the company and employee. If the company does not meet or exceed its financial goals, or the employee does not meet personal performance goals, or a combination of both, then the bonus is not paid."

So, what is the key characteristic for a security executive looking to advance or get a raise? According to Jeff Snyder, president of securityrecruiter.com, the most important thing a security executive can do for advancement is contribute to the business' bottom line – that means understanding the business and the risk landscape – and being able to communicate with the C-level executives in the organization.

"Companies are asking me for business people," Snyder says. "When a company calls me (looking for a recruit), they are looking for someone who has 5-10 years business experience at least, and they frequently ask for an MBA — not necessarily for a CPP.

"Those who want to advance need to do some remedial work on their communications skills," Snyder continues. "You can't do it all with a bucket of just technical skills — security has evolved and the people who get the good jobs are enterprise risk management experts, not technology experts."