From guns, guards and gates to digital defences: Key challenges for today’s corporate physical and cyber security leaders

Posted on June 21, 2019 by Grant White

Back in 2014 I was engaged by an ASX Top 30 company on a Chief Security Officer assignment. Now that seems like a world away… Over the last five years I have seen a heightened awareness of security in organisations, from the historically physical guns, guards and gates approach, to a more strategic, risk-based approach that includes the digital or IoT (internet of things) environment.  Learnings from a number of successive security assignments have continued to reinforce this new perspective.

Feedback from speaking with CSOs of leading corporates and consulting firms highlight the importance of being agile in adopting new practices and adapting your capabilities to respond to the digital landscape.  This topic is further explored in the recent Future of Physical Security, a survey of 200 global physical security leaders conducted by Microsoft and Accenture.

Key takeouts for me from this survey are:

  • Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning with cutting edge IoT are blurring the lines between logical and physical environments. Traditional security risk management and threat detection are quickly becoming obsolete and Security leaders need to embrace a digital mindset.
  • Whilst Security leaders see the opportunity to enhance risk management with digital capabilities, the industry is at various levels of maturity, and at worst is a decade behind, with reactive threat management and intuition-led decision-making based on subjectivity listed as the two leading challenges facing physical security operations.
  • Despite 89% of Security leaders stating that digital transformation was important, only 30% deemed it urgent.  Digital transformation of physical security is still in its infancy, when compared with other functions.  This threatens organisations’ high-value assets – employee life safety and intellectual property. It can also result in missed opportunities to significantly raise the organisation’s bottom line.
  • Three security aspects that were either not possible before or greatly enhanced by digital transformation:
    • Dynamic identity management
    • Proactive assessment and management of risk
    • Unification of physical and cyber security

At the forefront for me in tackling these challenges is the necessity for a true Chief Security Officer – one tasked with overseeing a converged physical and cyber security function. This has been talked about for many years now, but in the Australian market relatively few large organisations have this combined function; rather Cyber and Physical typically remaining in their individual silos.

What are your thoughts about the necessity of a combined function? What trends or challenges do you see facing the Security function in the coming 12 months?

About Grant White

Grant WhiteGrant White is a Director and leads the Corporate Services Practice at TRANSEARCH International Australia, specialising in Finance, Commercial and Risk domains.
Extensive specialist Finance experience in the Australian market is now enhanced by being part of the TRANSEARCH International global Finance community which has completed over 200 CFO, CRO and related assignments in recent years, which will provide Australian clients with access to premium global talent. Clients will also benefit greatly from the rigour and confidence gained from the use of the TRANSEARCH unique proprietary assessment process, Orxestra, which focuses on Culture, Leadership, Performance, Team and Integration when assessing candidate fit.
In a 20 year career, Grant initially spent 10 years with Morgan & Banks where he led the firm's Finance Practice. Grant has worked with the global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, where in addition to executing search assignments Grant led the Interim Executive Practice, as well as Carmichael Fisher, where he was Principal of the firm's Finance Practice.
Grant has a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) from University of South Australia and prior to entering the industry Grant had a career in finance in FMCG and the financial sector in Adelaide and the United Kingdom.
Grant has a passion for many sports including golf, AFL, soccer and tennis and plays active coaching and team management roles at his daughters' soccer club.

Grant White
TRANSEARCH International Australia
Level 7, 15 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 3 9285 5800


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