Welcome back to another edition of the Kwema Safety Speakers Series! This time, we are honored to present Brian Naeger, Vice President at Griffin Personnel Group. Apart from being a fellow Security Enthusiast, Brian is based in St. Louis which is also our Home City. Brian is highly experienced in providing security solutions for different industries, including energy, health care, sports facilities, corporate campuses, and more. He is an expert in managing security projects and investigations by using intelligence collection and threat analysis.
Kwema: Brian, please share with us your security background.
Brian: Thank you for inviting me to be part of Kwema’s Safety Speaker Series. Prior to joining Griffin Personnel Group, I enjoyed a twenty-four year career in one of the most work intensive police departments in the nation, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. I spent the last twelve years in the Intelligence Division’s Counter-terrorism Section where I served as the Deputy Director of the St. Louis Fusion Center and as a Task Force Officer with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Those opportunities exposed me to all facets of security: Intelligence collection (OSINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, etc..) intelligence analysis, source handling, physical security systems and methods, critical infrastructure protection and more. It was an unbelievable training ground. I was very fortunate to have a law enforcement career that exposed me to more disciplines and skills development opportunities than most.
At the Fusion Center, I served as the private sector liaison, recruiting and then sharing training and threat intelligence with private sector partners. This role presented me with the opportunity to work across the public sector/private sector divide. That experience provided me insights into the differences between the needs and capabilities of government agencies and the private sector. It also allowed me to create a global professional network of government and private sector security professionals. That network helped ease my transition from law enforcement to the private sector.
Kwema: Now that you are the Vice President at Griffin Personnel Group. Could you tell us about your work activities, mainly how you use intelligence collection/threat analysis for managing corporate security and risks?
Brian: Threat intelligence should be a driving force behind security decision making, but not all Chief Security Officers (CSOs) incorporate intelligence into their strategies and planning. My job is to educate business leaders on the ROI of collecting, analyzing and then incorporating threat intelligence into their decision-making processes. I work with CSOs, CEOs, and security managers to identify and then prioritize potential threats to their workforce, their infrastructure and their business operations.
In addition to helping companies identify external threats, I help them with assessing internal threats such as disgruntled or troubled employees. Our company partnered with other subject matter experts to develop an assessment tool that has proven to be valuable to our clients. That tool combined with the experience of our staff subject matter experts, allow us to assess risk, advise clients on best practices and also provide them with the assets they need to accomplish their goals.
I am fortunate that the CSOs, CEOs and security managers that I work with value threat intelligence. Many of them are part of the Intelligence Liaison Officer (ILO) program that I managed at the St. Louis Fusion Center. Through that long-standing relationship, they have come to value threat intelligence and to trust in my assessments and advice.
Kwema: We see that you are experienced in different sectors such as sports venues, health care, energy, and schools. How different are security issues among these industries?
Brian: Another by-product of my time with the Fusion Center and the JTTF is that I have been able to conduct threat and vulnerability assessments, and provide security for MLB, MLS, NFL, NHL, European Futbol clubs, stadiums, arenas, concert venues, hospitals, health care facilities, utilities, college and high school campuses. Each presents their own unique challenges, but that is exactly what I enjoy about my job.
Most mass gathering sites and critical infrastructure suffer similar risk exposures, but the prioritization of those threats and the mitigation efforts vary widely. That is the exciting challenge of this industry.
We have conducted threat and vulnerability assessments on everything from urban stadiums built within feet of an interstate, to a mostly rural utility pipeline that spans multiple states, geographies and threat environments. I love those challenges. They force you to think outside of the box, to be innovative and collaborative. No one subject matter expert can assess complex threats like those mentioned before. Identifying the best and brightest experts and incorporating them into the process is critical to the success of security projects of any magnitude.
Kwema: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you believe security concerns have changed in schools or sports stadiums now that our society is seeing a slow hint of normalcy and how will that evolve towards the second semester of 2021?
Brian: Great question, because the threats and challenges to schools, stadiums and corporate environments have drastically changed with COVID protocols in place.
First, a large segment of our pre-COVID business involved executive protection and executive travel. The travel component obviously suffered for about a year. We are just now starting to see a thawing of the executive travel freeze. I suspect that business lines will forever be changed in that C-suites will be more discerning in their decisions on when to travel and when to teleconference.
Reduced on-site populations is a phenomenon that impacts schools, sporting stadiums and corporate campuses alike. The reduced human interaction has resulted in fewer in-person conflicts but has also produced concerning mental health fueled issues with students and employees. The type of school and workplace related threats we see have morphed from verbal altercations or weapons brought on campus, to threatening electronic communications and concerning behaviors that are fueled by extended isolation and increased anxiety.
Several of the workplace violence prevention projects that we have recently worked on involved employees who hadn’t set foot in their workplace in many months. The threat dynamics have definitely evolved.
Kwema: In your view, what are other trends that security leaders should keep an eye out for in the next five years?
Brian: I think with the hybrid work and school models, we will continue to see a rise in the electronic communication and mental health driven threats. We will also begin to see a return of the traditional threats that manifest in workplaces and schools as more and more people return to normalcy.
Threats to critical infrastructure will remain high. Whether motivated by political reasons, environmental concerns, mental health issues or criminality, critical infrastructure sites are always highly desirable targets by those wanting to create disruption. Along those same lines, as mass gathering events begin to come back, the threats to those will remain high.
Kwema: Do you find safety concerns vary across different cities in where you operate?
Brian: I am watching closely to study how the post-lockdown and post-work from home dynamics evolve as schools, stadiums and businesses begin to welcome back students, fans and employees. We are in uncharted territory and there are new sets of stressors that will impact the workplace violence prevention, threat intelligence and security disciplines. Forward thinking CSOs, CEOs and security managers recognize that and are incorporating those factors into their return to campus planning.
I also see a schism developing in the corporate environment. Many polls of CEOs have been conducted and it appears that there is no consensus on how effective telework has been and how much it will become a permanent part of operations. CEOs appear to be split almost 50/50 on the topic. This divide in philosophy means that we will see a return of “traditional” workplace threats and that the newly realized threats and tactics are not going away.
Kwema: How do you think wearable technology like Kwema supports professionals in managing and mitigating different risks across your industries of expertise?
Brian: Several years ago, our company led an after-action investigation into a significant workplace mass-shooting event. Some of the lessons learned included the importance of taking inventory of employees in the aftermath of a critical event. In events like those, employees often flee the workplace or hide in place for extended periods of time. Being able to quickly locate and take count of an employee population is a critical tool in workplace emergency response.
I can also see the benefit of wearable technology for sports and concert venue staff. Again, in the immediate aftermath of an event, it is important to be able to take inventory of employees, to communicate with them and to assess and then prioritize immediate security needs.
Because Kwema’s technology is system agnostic, it proves to be a cost-effective tool for security and safety professionals who bear the responsibility of emergency response.
Kwema: What advice would you share with other security professionals to successfully lead security at their organizations?
Brian: For people looking to get into the security business, I would advise them to develop one or two specialties. Language skills, physical security systems, executive protection, investigations, fraud, etc.
Develop a network of SMEs. Be collaborative, not competitive. Big and complex challenges are best addressed with diversity of talent and perspective.
For existing security professionals, I would advise them to not be intimidated to bring in a security consultant. Some security professionals see consultants as a threat to their jobs or fear critical reviews of their practices. Confident security professionals realize the benefits of outside consultants. If your true intention is to grow and to provide your employer with best practices, hiring a consultant is a way to get an unbiased and unfiltered assessment. A consultant should be your partner, not your adversary.
Intelligent C-suites appreciate when a CSO or Security Director has the confidence to have their systems, policies and procedures assessed by an outside party. It reflects that security professionals desire to improve and provide the best possible protection for the employees, customers and infrastructure under their care.
Kwema: Any advice to somebody looking to move to St. Louis in the field of security and safety?
Brian: First, make yourself valuable. Get involved in non-profits, local governing boards and other opportunities that facilitate meeting business owners and business decision makers.
Don’t focus on St. Louis or any one geographic area for that matter. It can be difficult to crack the tightly knit and well-established security networks of mid-major sized cities (#10 through #25 rankings) but it is not impossible. Fresh perspectives and unique skill sets are coveted by intelligent business leaders.
I hammer home this point to my kids all of the time; networking is just as important as skill development. Both are equally necessary to succeed. Buckets of training and no network will likely gain you little. A robust network but no skills might win you opportunities, but they will be short lived if you cannot perform and deliver.
Kwema: Finally, what does the future look like for you career-wise?
Brian: I’m spending the majority of my professional development concentrating on two separate but related areas: critical infrastructure protection and pre-employment screening.
Between the pandemic, global political strife and environmental concerns, I just don’t see the threat to critical infrastructure going anywhere. The key here is to continue to stay on top of ever-changing social platforms and intelligence collection methods.
Pre-employment background checks are becoming more and more popular, as business leaders understand that vetting potential employees is a key component in their duty to care for their workforce. Workplace violence and internal theft both rank as major concerns for business leaders. Pre-employment background checks help mitigate those threats.
My goal is to continue to improve our background check services. Not all background checks are created equally. Throwing money at “instant checks” is counter-productive. They often rely on data aggregation services that have spotty accuracy. We pride ourselves on utilizing primary source verifications. We go straight to the sources of records generation, so that we can provide our clients with the most comprehensive and accurate information possible.
We greatly appreciate Brian’s time for sharing his knowledge and experience in security. We hope you enjoyed this edition with Brian and we encourage you to be a leading example to improve safety together. Please let us know your thoughts below about our series.
About Brian NaegerI am currently the Vice President of Griffin Personnel Group (GPG), a security and HR consulting company. I oversee both our security and our pre-employment background screening business lines. I manage relationships with our clients and partners at multiple Fortune 100, 500 and 1000 companies.Prior to my current position, I spent twenty-four years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD). While with the SLMPD, I worked in a patrol district, a federal gun/gang/drug task force, a general crimes detective bureau and with the Intelligence Division.I retired as the Deputy Director of the St. Louis Fusion Center and as a task force officer with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.Reach out Brian on LinkedIn: Brian Naeger