Evolution of the CSO

David Kent's experience at biotech firm Genzyme is familiar at organizations around the world that have decided to place a top security officer.

It's been almost 15 years since David Kent first came to Genzyme, a biotech firm headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., that develops medical treatments for ailments such as certain genetic diseases and some forms of cancer. In 1994, the company had less than $200 million in sales, and only about 1,000 employees-a stark contrast to its worldwide workforce of 11,000 today and the $4.6 billion in revenue it reported in 2008.

Kent's first experience with Genzyme was as a consultant. The company had lost some of its intellectual property through a theft, and Kent-then working for Bolt Beranek and Newman as a security manager-was called in to help evaluate the situation. His work with the firm grew into a job offer to be Genzyme's director of security. The goal was to have someone aboard with an intense focus on the security position of the organization to prevent other thefts from occurring.

"At that time, I think there were about nine different card access systems. One person was handling their voice and data and their office services," says Kent. "It was an organizational design reflective of a rapidly growing business. There was no thought put into security, it was a lower priority. It was sort of a barren landscape from my viewing."

His first project was to look at the situation around laboratory and notebooks in order to ensure there would not be a repeat theft incident. After that, he moved on to assessing the physical security of the building and addressing the multiple card reader situation by implementing a single card solution. Kent and his team began pushing for security standards around the corporation, slowly picking away at information systems security challenges as well. It was a forge-ahead and forward-thinking philosophy for security that had not been seen before in the firm.

"Left to its own devices, we wouldn't have the program we have today. We would have separate silos. There had to be someone in the organization to drive this stuff."

As the company grew, more emphasis was placed on security. But it was the Bio International Exposition held in Boston in 2000 that gave Kent the perfect opportunity to show how his department could go beyond reactive protection to proactive security.

"It was the first major East-coast meeting following WTO [the World Trade Organization meeting] in Seattle. The members of the Genzyme senior management team were the chairs for the meeting in Boston. We were asked to coordinate security around the meeting. There were about 14,000 people expected in for this event, and demonstrators could shut down the show." Kent says for several months he talked with area law enforcement agencies and other companies that might be targeted for demonstration and urged them to prepare. By the time the event arrived, Genzyme security officials had coordinated the work of 80-plus agencies and was holding regular meetings with multiple organizations.

On the opening day of the expo, 3,200 demonstrators turned out in front of the hall. Their presence, according to Kent, was uneventful; exactly what he hoped for.

"Nothing happened," he says." So we got tremendous visibility for that. When bad things happen, you've got to have the ability to have a good response. Those are the things they remember."

Soon after the event, Kent was elevated to vice president of security. The promotion, he says, marked the official beginning of the security group operating under a CSO model.

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