• United States



by Shannon Macdonald

From Going Forward: Understanding the Future Challenges to Security

Apr 11, 20053 mins
Build Automation

Report from Dick Lefler's presentation at CSO Perspectives

During 17 years at American Express, Richard Lefler’s primary goal was to translate the interests of security and risk management into the business language of his company’s executive leadership.

“My number one goal was to develop influence strategies,” said Lefler, a retired vice president and director of corporate security at American Express. He did that by communicating on their level. “I am as interested as they are in reducing costs, increasing value of the brand,” and improving the business, Lefler said.

Lefler’s talk covered both the continued ripples that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have on the security profession and the need for CSOs to use their knowledge to advance both business and security goals. He said the terror attacks of Sept. 11 created a storm of activity for the security profession that informs today’s challenges and responsibilities for CSOs. The challenges for any single CSO are connected to the nation’s security, Lefler said, citing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s recent remarks that the federal government cannot address all terrorism risks, but must rely on cooperation and information-sharing among federal, state and private sector. Add to that the fact that the private sector owns 85 percent of the 2,400 sites designated as critical to national infrastructure protection, and it’s clear that corporate security executives have a key role to play that goes beyond their corporate walls.

“We need to rethink the security profession,” said Lefler, who is managing partner, Business Security Advisory Group. CSOs need to understand their roles in securing the global economy and protecting critical infrastructure. Lefler urged leaders from different vertical industries to gather with government officials to come up with ways that they can share sensitive information to mitigate or respond to threats at the same time as protecting government and corporate secrets.

Throughout his talk, Lefler emphasized the notion that CSOs must tackle their critical responsibilities with an eye toward business goals. The work “is no longer about a security program that costs X amount of dollars. We have to think about how we enhance the value of our companies while we are driving down costs,” he said. Thinking about keeping transportation containers moving both trims costs and improves security by reducing property loss. Holding outsourcing vendors to the same levels of security as headquarters avoids risks that could increase costs.

Lefler said CSOs should use professional organizations and conferences to address change in the profession and share ideas about working on sector-specific problems, on sharing information with government agencies. Lefler, whose former company had headquarters near Ground Zero on 9/11, started his talk by recounting how his son, daughter-in-law and grandson were all in the neighborhood on the day of the attacks. The ballroom went silent as he recounted how his family members survived the day, how the little boy asked his father, “Dad, will the people jumping out of the windows be all right?”

Then he asked the approximately 250 attendees if they thought the United States would suffer a similar terrorist attack in the next five years. Most in the crowd raised their hands.