Security Technology Executive

MAY-JUN 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 18 of 91

May/June 2016 • SECURITY TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE 19 the world build, protect and advance their financial well-being through retirement, insur- ance, and asset management solutions that fit their lives. Our employees are passionate about helping clients of all income and portfolio sizes achieve their goals – offering innovative ideas, investment expertise, and real-life solutions to make financial progress possible. Cowie oversees site and personnel security/ safety and has global business continuity respon- sibility for the company, including investigations, access control and physical security planning, executive protection, intelligence, emergency management and two global security emergency response centers. Yet, her ascent to the lead secu- rity position at Principal was unique for two rea- sons — one, she became among the few women security directors at a Fortune 500 company; and t wo, Cow ie did not have a traditional security background. She began her career at the company spend- ing more than 10 years in the Retirement and Income Solutions divi- sion managing pension plans and leading teams who managed plans. S he moved into the security management position in 1993. " O n e o f t h e f i r s t realities for me was the importance and relevance of transferable skills," she says. "If you are a leader in one area of the company and know the company well, you can make that leap. I understood pretty quickly that working in the pension area and retirement investment services areas, the fun- damental elements of leadership are essentially the same — you have strategic skills in com- munications, brand awareness, relationship building, company knowledge and the ability to deliver a value proposition. "With a finance management background it was not that much different, so that took away a lot of my apprehension; and my boss at the time was way ahead of the curve because he saw that it is a different technical area of focus," Cowie con- tinues, remembering that at the time the security department was very tactical. "It was typical hard security, heavy with guards, gates and greetings." Cowie says that management's goal was to get security aligned and integrated with the " One of the first realities for me was the importance and relevance of transferable skills, " — Sandra M. Cowie, Principal's Director of Global Security and Business Continuity organizational strategy so that it became a com- ponent of the organization instead of a tactical overhead function. It had previously been run more as a police department rather than an exec- utive department. "Our initial goal was to make sure we could deliver a value proposition and that we were risk and strategy-based and not a tactical and reactive group," she says. The Marriage of Business and Security Integrating the business function into the secu- rity risk picture has been fundamental to the department's success and helped Cowie's group grow in relevance. In the months following Cow- ie's assuming a security role, the immediate focus became building the business value of the depart- ment, as well as her immersion in the industry. Cowie's upper management reassured her that having come from a business unit, understanding the alignment concept transition would be quick. They gave her a couple of pieces of advice: • Learn the technical aspects of the job; and • Surround yourself with talented people who will provide good advice. Unfortunately for Cowie, the script went awry on her very first day as the new security direc- tor. "The reality of the job came on the first day I'm unpacking my office — my boss called and said you need to come over right away (because) there is a significant security issue we need to address," she says. "All I could think of was it sure is a pretty steep learning curve while still trying to get your legs under you. I learned quickly that you don't always have the luxury of time when things occur." Roadmap to Success Cowie's business background and understand- ing of the corporate culture encouraged a holis- tic approach to managing risk and implementing security systems and protocols — which quickly became a fundamental building block. Creating an all-encompassing roadmap that could be defin- able and measurable was the prime objective for Cowie and her management staff. While she admitted it might sound somewhat elementary on the surface, it is a piece many Sandy Cowie, Director of Global Security at Principal (left), shares a moment with senior members of her security staff, Jim Ellis, Assistant Director of Site Security (center) and Pete Lowell, Assistant Director of Personnel Security (right). Photo Courtesy of Principal

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Security Technology Executive - MAY-JUN 2016