Security Practitioners, The Neo-Centurions

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

The decline of the Roman Empire preceded a gradual breakdown of the Roman Empire’s economy; thanks in part to the constant barbarian invasions; this demonstrates a striking similarity to the watershed moment we are witnessing today. Globalization has created empires of wealth around the world, but an economic decline and the rise of a global illicit economy, threaten to impose new regimes based on intricate, interlocking networks.

To protect the legitimate global economy the 21st century security practitioners would resemble more a Centurion from antiquity.  Able to command legions of other security practitioners across networks, co-opting their services based on expertise and results orientation; banding together to tackle their clients’ toughest asset and people protection challenges across geographic boundaries. 

The rise of these Neo-Centurions is predicated on the growing risk of highly organized; vertically integrated (But flexible) criminal syndicates, which would continue to rise and challenge the global economy as we know it today.  Since organized crime actors maneuver in the shadows, aided by geography, often in so-called failed states, it superimposes the need for a more astute, defensive player to counterbalance the onslaught on corporate entities and business in general.  What it calls for is a network of well trained security practitioner networks to become significant stakeholders (in the raise for profit assurance) and engage organized criminal networks in asymmetrical conflict at a superior level.    

Centurion qualities like being “vigilant, temperate, active and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers” are well suited for today’s security practitioners. We’d operate like a fleet of agile ships navigating through rough waters, through discipline and well timed execution.  For some time we have ponder the skill sets needed to triumph on the business battlefield, much like the centurions did throughout their conquest campaigns.  It has been said that:

“In addition to law enforcement and military skills, a security leader must understand his or her firm’s business from finance and strategy to business continuity, competition and profits. The security leader must employ executive leadership skills appropriate to the corporation as a whole. He or she must be able to communicate, manage large projects, create strategies, assemble cross-departmental teams, execute plans and more.

A security leader must understand IT security and must maintain an awareness of emerging issues that may affect the company. He or she must follow legislative and regulatory trends, developments in globalization, trans-national crime, security research and development, and other trends that may one day alter the corporation’s fortunes.”  

Much like the centurion, the security practitioner must be able to both apply the knowledge and skills aligned with the next-gen security leader and teach its team how to implement them in their execution. I recently saw a precise description suited to the new practitioner “A security leader is a visionary, someone who can drive strategy and who understands the levers of power in the corporation, and someone who can clearly articulate his or her vision. He or she must also exhibit the ability to produce results, lead people, delegate and develop employees.”   

Our civilization is undergoing an epochal change requiring the restructuring of economic, societal and overall power structures.  The transition could be tortuous for many organizations.  Security organizations are not exempt.  We must respond to a fragmenting world by developing new paradigms in operations.  The redesign is already underway, sadly without much input from business security professionals.  But is not too late, security practitioners can still take the helm by postulating new protection schemes. If our future is headed towards neomedievalism than we must hone in the skills of the next-gen security practitioners to create those networks of cross-skill professionals that can nimbly tackle security issues our organizations would face.

A new global security operating model would require both the nimbleness and leveraged that a contract security center of expertise (Shared Service Center).  Whether it is on a retainer or charged per service the aim is to reduce shared service cost, by simplifying what support functions we’re expected to deliver and eliminate nonessential activities by focusing on what’s most important to the business.  The key here is to focus on the most essential processes, eliminating steps that don’t truly contribute to the business.  Many security-related services could be effectively conducted on a need-to-be-in-situ basis.  Of course, some security practitioners will always be sourced locally from strategic locations overseas to handle particularly sensitive, specialized, or high-risk tasks.  As a recent RAND report stated “Although globalization is promoting homogenization in some sectors, significant cultural, language, political, and societal factors still make each country unique. Our need to understand these countries in their true complexity is increasing, not diminishing.”

Why centurions and not the Knights which are more appropriate of the medieval age protection professionals?  The answer lies in a conceptual interpretation and allegory I’m attempting to draw. I know that I’m generalizing on one of the most significant period in the history of human kind, but bare with me on that part; my focus is to turn the security organization on its head as we project forward to events over the horizon.    

Under the new operating model economies-of-scale would require a reliance on teams of security practitioners that assemble for specific protection projects.  The teams are assembled from the legions of global security practitioner networks being formed today.  These flexible organizational structures are more inline with the way Centurions skillfully organized their fighting units to protect conquered territory.  They were essentially leaders of small, nimble division of a larger army.  Likewise the security practitioner would lead small, independent teams of professionals paired together based on their subject-matter-expertise, applied to the protection needs of organizations from disparate industries, across boundaries.

History has important lessons. I’m sure that centurions were instrumental in protecting even the far flung reaches of the Roman Empire. But even their discipline and superior knowledge of warfare were not enough to offset the larger economic and social forces that prompted the decline.  Today the operating risk environment is changing dramatically and complex issues (global illicit economy, regional wars, etc.) affect global businesses.  The neo-centurion (Security Practitioners) applies acquired analytical abilities to postulate new organizational designs, which lead to competitive protection of people, assets reputation and brand services.

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