“It’s been a year where many people and businesses realized how connected the world is and how things that happen on foreign soil can have an impact back home.” That’s the overall impression Pinkerton President Jack Zahran has about 2016. In this post, we talk with Zahran about the past year, what surprised him and how things look for the security industry in 2017.

The Year of Global Connectivity

“Fears of the global economic slowdown pointed to an atmosphere where security budgets would be cut. But then several events took place that shook up the world, putting security front and center of corporate concerns.” Among these incidents was the Paris terrorist attack that took place in late November 2015, claiming 130 lives. “That set the tone for 2016, ” explained Zahran. “It was as if people suddenly realized that attacks could take place anywhere, including a popular international tourist destination. Companies started to think that this could happen in their city/town and they needed to be prepared if it did.” Tragedy would strike France again in July 2016 when a cargo truck was deliberately driven into a crowded promenade in Nice, killing 84 and injuring more than 400. According to the BBC, since the “Charlie Hebdo” attack of January 2015 when a gunman opened fire in the newspaper’s office, France has been the target of 11 attacks, even if some of them were thwarted. 

Zahran says this was a wake-up call for companies throughout the world. “The world started to see France as being under attack, even though the perpetrators were acting independently. The attack in Brussels in March [2016] furthered the fear that it could happen in ‘my backyard.’ Companies realized that their people and operations were not immune to the impacts global events can have. Disruptive incidents can happen anywhere and that nothing is local anymore.” Ending 2016 with the Berlin Christmas market attack and the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey is further evidence that threats are not limited to certain types or locations. Companies need to understand how these incidents can affect their business.

Companies Examining Risk Profiles

“This year, companies really started to examine their risk profile with more concern and actions, ” said Zahran. “Risks they thought perhaps didn’t apply to their business were now put into the mix so that a comprehensive plan could be developed.” As technological trends keep developing that create a more connected world, so do the advancements used by those looking to harm companies and individuals. “Cars are now being hacked and controlled remotely. Drones are being used to gain intelligence. Social media and GPS are being used to coordinate groups looking to create major disruptions. Advancements are made to help people and business, but there is almost always a downside. The same advancements can be used by those looking to do harm, creating more risks.” 

Understanding your company’s risk profile is key to being prepared for doing business in an ever-increasingly connected world. As we’ve written about before, it starts with a Risk Assessment, which this year is as important as ever. Understanding the difference between risks, threats and vulnerabilities continues to be critical as companies look to mitigate the impact events can have on their business and employees. “Companies have to realize that their risk profile changes year-to-year. Where they are vulnerable ebbs and flows with fluctuations influenced far more by global events than ever before. Taking a more holistic approach to your overall security programs is not only just a good idea, but we believe it is critical to mitigating risks your company and employees will face.” Zahran says his team is being asked more and more to help companies centralize their security operations so that they can fully understand the risks inherent in an interdependent, global business atmosphere.

Backlash to Interdependent World Creates Uncertainty

Zahran sees some 2016 events as a backlash against the global interdependence in which companies and countries are operating. “The Brexit is a good example of people revolting against being too dependent on other countries, their policies and their economies. But when the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union, that left the world wondering what impact it will have and what other countries may follow suit.” In the United States, President-elect Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again, ” resonated with people wanting the government to focus its attention on its citizens more than international affairs. 

“Both the U. S. election and Brexit were signs that the tide of interdependence was going to be met with some pushback. And that, again, created instability that has caused companies to examine their risk profile internationally.”

Security Industry Outlook for 2017

“I see all of these trends continuing and growing in 2017, ” says Zahran. 

“We are just now seeing companies really dig into their risk profiles and want to create comprehensive plans that address issues they never before considered. Security executives are getting a seat at the table right at the start of annual planning, whereas before they would be brought in later in the process. Things like facility expansion plans, increased staffing, policy changes and even employee travel are all being considered with more depth than ever. What this creates is a greater need for trusted intelligence and risk management advice. Just reading about conflicts in certain regions of Africa, for example, is not enough. Companies need people with boots on the ground, connected to the local culture, security and government operations. As we enter our 167th year, Pinkerton is proud that we have continually adapted as the risk landscapes changes, servicing our clients with the latest approaches and techniques in an increasingly connected world.”

Published December 21, 2016