Study: Role of security directors changing

Dec. 2, 2014
Responsibilities, knowledge required by contemporary CSOs continues to expand

An intriguing aspect of the recent study, "The United States Security Industry," published by ASIS International and the Institute of Finance & Management (IOFM), was profiling they conducted of security directors.  The study highlights the role, the challenges faced and ultimately points to a concerning gap in training for the job. Despite the fact the study estimates the U.S. market for security product and services at $350.5 billion, at least in the physical security field, 90 percent of the current jobs listed are as guards.

The study includes a full review of the security industry, and within the scope of that review, an intriguing and previously unreviewed snapshot of the role of a security director. 


The profile includes the current demographics of the field.  Just as with the industry itself, the field and career path of the security director is expanding due to:

  • A growing sense in the business community that a robust defense is a sound business investment
  • The secondary nature of property crimes in police prioritization  
  • Regulatory requirements and new industry standards for security, reducing liability
  • Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and creation of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Domestic terrorism such as mass shootings
  • Globalization expansion to emerging markets
  • Natural disasters
  • Sophistication of security technology increasing industry professionalism

The study estimates that the overall security market will grow by about 6.59 percent in 2014 with IT security growing slightly faster than operational security.  Additionally, enterprise risk management (ERM) and enterprise security risk management (ESRM) are emerging as more holistic views of security risks.


Profiling current security directors in the industry revealed the following demographics:

  • The median number of years in the security industry is 25
  • 92.9 percent of incumbents are male
  • The median age is 50 years old
  • 63 percent of the incumbents have backgrounds in the military, law enforcement or both
  • 37 percent of top security directors have a master’s degree

Given these demographics, security directors may face challenges in the future in dealing with a younger and more diverse workforce.  Additional issues may eventually arise from stymied ranks. While 90 percent of the current jobs are as security guards, the median rate for an unarmed security officer is currently $14 an hour.

Challenges of the Job

Security directors continue to face challenges in securing investment in an environment of tight budgets. They also face significant downside risk in the event of failure and only modest upside potential in the event of success.

Therefore, the following factors are important:

  • There has to be unprecedented awareness of what they are trying to accomplish. No security system or investment is going to be successful without a clear understanding of what is needed.  Security directors can reduce the pressure on this issue by relying on vendors that are familiar with their market. There is a premium on correctly identifying lifetime costs and avoiding any downstream surprises due to maintenance.
  • Similarly, there is a preference for relying on proven technologies. Security strategies that are based on the flawed perception of a device’s capabilities are inherently vulnerable.
  • There needs to be greater awareness of the values that security technologies bring to the business other than merely reducing the cost of theft, such as:

          - Providing a safer environment for employees can reduce turnover

          - Avoiding interruptions in a customer’s supply chain can lead to greater customer retention, etc.

  • Conversely, false alarms raised by smart video systems may harm the ability of the security director to realize value from investment. If software constantly sends signals and alerts which demand closer inspection, the technology fails to deliver on its promise to act as a force multiplier.

Information Security Director vs. Physical Security Director

There is a decided interface between an information security director and a physical security director when it comes to crime, so there definitely needs to be clear and ample communication between the two.  But beyond the interface of crime, they diverge into two separate, dedicated and necessary fields of study.  A sizable company with a solid security platform will definitely have need of both.

I fully support the new trend towards hiring security directors at the "C-Suite" (i.e. chief security officer) level. I would argue that the job requires significant education and a great breadth of experience. The security risk environment is increasing while corporations are simultaneously being required to provide an economic response to threats. Additionally, the security director is being asked to implement solutions which have minimal negative impact on operational efficiency and morale. The job definition equates to alchemy: Change the lead into gold.

A chief security director who can meet today’s challenges possesses education, understanding of law enforcement, a firm grasp of rapidly changing technology, and detailed understanding of the corporation’s operations, as well as strong procurement and communications skills.  Add to that mix that even success in thwarting any security challenge creates a high degree of personal risk, with little to no upside potential, and it is clear why thought leaders in the industry are pursuing C-Suite level hierarchy and individuals.

About the Author: Jack DeMao is President and CEO of Columbia, SC-based Electric Guard Dog, LLC, the largest supplier of electric security fencing in the U.S. DeMao is a mechanical engineer by training and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He previously served in executive roles at C.C. Dickson Co., Desoutter Ltd., and Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co's automotive division.