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A Worldwide Perspective

Eduard J. Emde, CPP, took the helm as ASIS International’s president on January 1. For the first time in the Society’s 57-year history, a European is in charge, and one with a truly international perspective. With experience in corporate security management and risk analysis at international companies and agencies, this native of the Netherlands is ready to steer ASIS deeper into global waters.

Security Management spoke to Emde at his home near The Hague just before the ASIS 57th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in tropical Orlando, Florida. The location of the event brought back equally sunny memories for Emde because it was the location of the first seminar and exhibits he attended in 1991 as a bright-eyed student member.

Twenty years ago, a discount flight and a budget hotel room allowed Emde to accomplish the visit. On arriving at the Orange County Convention Center during that initial trip, young Emde was “much impressed with the ceremonial aspects of the program and the size, which was immense. I felt very welcome too. I have been to the seminar and exhibits almost every year ever since. There’s always this energy, always a hustle-bustle, and spirits are up,” he says.

It’s that sense of excitement and camaraderie that Emde would like to see and promote at every ASIS event and in the peer networks, such as the Society’s Young Professionals and Women in Security online groups. Emde refers to it as “turning up the beat.”

He explains, “We have a great heritage and high quality in, and commitment to, everything we do. I feel that without too much change, too much extra work, we could turn up the volume and increase our outreach just by putting a little bit more energy out.”

In fact, he says, “Sometimes, we’re a little too modest. We have an untapped potential both internally and externally. I am so proud of this organization and the volunteers who are active in it, but I sometimes feel a little impatient that more people should know about ASIS, more people should participate. We should share it with more security professionals around the world and also with those in related fields to whom ASIS could be a preferred second member organization, or just a trusted additional source, that they use to broaden their knowledge and networks. As individual members, we should stress the value we reap from being part of ASIS and showing with pride what we have accomplished, and what we intend to accomplish, for the future of the security profession.”

These networks are something Emde feels that ASIS should celebrate. “What I have always seen is that there is a dedication, mutual trust, support, and professionalism among ASIS members. They really go a long way when asked to help each other out, across borders as well as within chapters,” he states.

ASIS is rightly proud of its creation of standards and guidelines, the certification programs, councils, and the ASIS Foundation, Inc., among other efforts. Emde hopes that “we will talk openly with equal pride about this networking element so that we can attract new members and grow because of this quality.”

Early Days

“I was born and bred in the Netherlands close to The Hague and I still live in that area, about 30 miles from Amsterdam and also not too far from Rotterdam, Leiden, and Delft. Amsterdam is generally well known, but I find that members I meet recognize The Hague because of the international peace, justice, and security in the city. The Hague hosts the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the headquarters of Europol,” says Emde.

His interest in security goes back to his childhood. “I became aware of the importance of security because my family suffered a traumatic break-in. As a child, I was caught up in the emotion of it,” he explains.

Later, family and friends held related jobs in the business field, so the concepts of business-related ethics and transpar-ency were familiar to him. “During my school days,” he says, “I volunteered to manage the bar services provided by students at special events and when the school staged a play. When looking through old documents, I was surprised to see how seriously I took that task.... I found correspondence about the proper way of dealing with transactions and cash. Interestingly one of the persons I received guidance from was an ASIS member, but at the time, I was not aware of it. I had not yet heard about the Society.”

After graduation, Emde went to study in Rotterdam at Erasmus University. “It’s a hardworking harbor city,” he says of the town, which is the second largest in the Netherlands and one of the biggest ports in the world. “I went there to study one thing and ended up studying two. I did a degree in Dutch law—commercial and penal—and also business administration. I did business administration during the day and law during the evenings. Then I went to the United Kingdom to study at Lancaster University’s business school, and there, I received a master’s degree in organizational analysis and behavior.”

Emde did an internship with a local firm to see how he liked practicing commercial law, but he did not feel that was a good fit.

While Emde was at the university, he—like many students—sought a part-time job to generate additional income. “Someone told me that it might not be good to become a waiter. Instead, they said I should get a job as a security officer because I’d get a more interesting job and possibly better pay. I took the compulsory exams and became a security guard in some of The Hague’s office buildings,” Emde says. “There, my fascination with security grew.”

Emde first heard of ASIS in 1987. “My memory is that I wrote to the local contact person because I saw ASIS mentioned in a magazine. Don’t forget there was no Internet. I had to discover ‘what is this American Society for Industrial Security?’ and then I found out about the European Chapter and the student membership—and it all was through an exchange of letters that took some time. At the end of 1990, I think, I received my student membership certificate.”

While welcomed by the members of the European Chapter, Emde had to pay his dues. Or collect them, rather. “The chapter had a conference in my home country, and a lot of people from all over Europe came, and I was the one who had to collect the bus fee to take them to the resort in the north where it was being held. There was no euro then, so I had to deal with people handing me all these different currencies,” he laughs.

Emde’s decision to get involved with ASIS yielded him two of the Society’s many benefits—contacts and mentors. “I had a number of mentors from various industries including banking, the sector I later worked in,” he remembers. “They taught me about what they did at their companies, which was often totally different from what I did as a security officer. It showed me there was a security profession out there that was different and interesting. That motivated me to keep educating myself and to look for a job in security management.”

In 1994, he joined KPMG, a consultant forensic accounting and integrity services firm in Amsterdam. Emde worked in fraud prevention and security as well as integrity analysis and improvement of business ethics.

“Later on, I expanded my role a bit more into the people side of fraud prevention and security,” he says. “It was a fascinating time and the forensic and integrity unit grew from eight to about 45 people while I was there. I learned a lot from both the projects and my colleagues.”

While working for KPMG, Emde decided to try for ASIS’s Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation. “There were just one or two CPPs in the Netherlands at the time,” he recalls. He began to study for the exam, but his work schedule proved so arduous that “I missed the exam in London twice. Then, in 1998, I decided to make it more of a priority,” he says.

That year, there was an examination scheduled to be given in Memphis, Tennessee. “I went there with my study materials to a very basic hotel—a dull place without a swimming pool—but it made me study and study. Then I went to the headquarters of Harrah’s where the exam was being given and took it. As a treat to myself, afterwards I went to visit Graceland. So I had to go to the United States to be secluded and detached enough from my daily work to become a CPP,” Emde says. “I was lucky enough to pass the exam on the first go."

In 1999, one of his mentors at ABN AMRO Bank NV, in Amsterdam, asked Emde to join that company as team leader, corporate security risk analysis and auditing. There, Emde worked on policy to combat criminal risks, personal safety issues, crisis management, and business continuity. In 2002, he was promoted to vice president, helping to set corporate security policies and standards and guide groupwide criminal risk and crisis management.

Blasting off. “I left ABN AMRO in September 2004 to join the European Space Agency (ESA), where I became head of safety and security in the research and testing center, known as the ESTEC,” states Emde. The ESA site in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, had a work force of about 2,500 employees drawn from ESA’s many member states, as well as contractors. Emde headed a safety and security team charged with protecting unique aero­space hardware equipment, research laboratories, and sensitive information. He was also tasked with the interim ESA-wide security and health and safety coordination for the ESA Informatics and Facility Management departments.

The space agency’s culture, Emde notes, is “focused on preserving and protecting life, and protecting satellites that cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to produce. So everyone is very, very conservative in dealing with risk. We would discuss all these scenarios, and the engineers on the projects would run all these tests and go to great lengths to have layers of defense, and yet all it could take was one mistake to trigger a series of interrelated incidents with potentially serious consequences. It taught me that proper execution of safety and security actions is crucial.”

What Emde came to understand, he says, is that every detail matters and that “we have to be very humble in assuming we can control situations. It’s always different than you think and revisiting plans and improvising are often needed.”

This was also challenging because of the language barriers, cultural differences, and the varied mind-sets of different scientific groups. For that reason, he says, “even things you thought were straightforward and not too difficult had to be well-planned and checked properly.”

After three “wonderful years” with the ESA, Emde departed to join Interseco in The Hague as manager of consultancy services. The clients were primarily mul­tinational and large Dutch companies facing strategic, tactical, and operational security challenges, as well as individuals concerned about personal security.

For his new ASIS role, Emde has again made a change. “With the ASIS presidency approaching, I made the decision to follow my heart and continue with a practice of my own, BMKISS Europe, where I can focus on what I feel I am really good at, which is coaching clients with security issues and being the go-to person in solving interesting and new security puzzles,” he explains.

He adds, “I needed to be more able to select my cases and to be flexible for the years to come as ASIS president and then chairman of the board of directors. I can only perform those two roles well when I have the independent command of my own time. It is a good fit for this unique situation.”

Emde notes that he has benefited from the diversity of positions he has held and the mix of experiences he has had in the security field. “Therefore, in the longer term,” he notes, “I do see myself returning to an in-house security management position.”

Upwardly Mobile

From the outset, Emde has been an ASIS volunteer leader. “Since I started as a student member more than 20 years ago, I can tell people that ASIS involvement helps and gives certain rewards. It has helped me during my career, and it still does,” he states.

In 1994, the ASIS European Chapter disbanded into multiple European chapters as membership in different countries grew. Emde became affiliated with the Benelux Chapter, which includes the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

After earning his CPP, Emde became one of the chapter’s CPP review instructors; between 2001 and 2004, he served on the chapter’s board, with a term as chair in 2002. “This brought me into contact with regional ASIS volunteers and ASIS headquarters, and I was asked to be an assistant regional vice president in 2003. I also became a moderator at the ASIS Annual European Security Conference in 2002, and I have been a member of the program committee for that event ever since,” he says.

Emde served as ASIS Region 28 vice president in 2004-2005, sat on the ASIS European Advisory Council during 2003-2005, and has been a member of the ASIS Strategic Planning Committee since 2004. He was elected to the board of directors in 2006.

“I was honored and very excited,” he says of gaining his position on the board. Emde reached the presidency of ASIS this year after serving terms as its treasurer, secretary, and president-elect.


Of the term of office ahead of him, Emde prefaces his plans by saying, “I really look forward to meeting a lot of people—not just the ones who are able to travel and who are very active, although I am grateful to them for what they do, dedicating their companies’ and their own personal funds to attend. But there are also members and potential members who are, for all sorts of reasons, not as active and mobile. There is a bit of a blind spot in knowing how to cater to their needs, so I hope to meet people who may be less visible but who have nonetheless been very loyal members over many years."

He goes on to explain the importance of that effort, stating, “Related to that is my interest in how we make new members feel welcome and how we can expose them in the best way possible to the opportunities that are relevant to them within the Society. Generally, new members will become long-term members if we can welcome and engage them from the moment they join. I look forward to learning from the chapter volunteers around the globe about how they engage in attracting and keeping new members and what best practices can be shared throughout ASIS. Overall, I hope I can contribute to celebrating ASIS and everything it entails.”

Emde, who has been a fixture in recent years at ASIS events with his lovely wife Yolanthe and charming young son Floris, will have the chance to meet many ASIS members this year at events such as the president’s reception at the Annual Volunteer Leadership Meeting and Meeting of the Membership in Alex­andria, Virginia, this month, as well as the upcoming ASIS 3rd Middle East Security Conference and Exhibition, February 19-21 in Dubai, UAE; the ASIS 11th Annual European Security Conference and Exhibition in London, April 15-17; and the ASIS 58th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Phila­delphia, September 10-13.

Emde says that the strategic plan in place for the Society is both aspirational and practical, and there is no need to try to reshape it. His first goal, while working inside of the plan, is to increase the focus on members—“attracting new ones, keeping the current ones, motivating our volunteers, also stretching what we do a little bit in serving our members. With members, I also mean serving our peers—peer to peer, council to peer—all these inter-links that we have and interactions that we have on a daily basis. What can we improve there or is there a need to do things differently? How can we prepare best for the needs of the future and be agile enough to pursue opportunities successfully when they present themselves? How will we drive security’s future?” he asks.

His next area of focus is “being global and inclusive—truly global in terms of how we deal with current and new geographical areas,” he says. “And being truly inclusive is more than security professionals feeling invited to join and participate, but also niches—other groups in other professions that are linked to ours. We are already doing that with the IT security world with (ISC)2, for example.” This issue will be explored by a presidential commission already established by former president, now chairman of the board, Raymond T. O’Hara, CPP.

In terms of the Society’s long-term development, Emde hopes that ASIS will spread its influence to “wherever security is prevalent and there are people who share our philosophy.”

He explains, “I’m not saying that we should grow for growth’s sake, but that ASIS should exist where people who practice our profession are. For example, the Society does not have a chapter in Poland, although one is finally in the process of being established. And there are, of course, more geographical areas that we are not really present in or that we could serve more actively.”

The Society should be one of the leading parties to provide professionals with a network, and it’s vital to let them know about “all the wonderful opportunities ASIS can bring. Where there are countries with security management activities, bringing those professionals on board will strengthen the security body of knowledge and benefit the Society, too,” he explains.

Fortunately, he quips, the wonderful ASIS leaders of the recent past have tackled the creation of other programs—such as the CSO Roundtable, standards development, the ASIS Young Professionals, and Women in Security—“or else they would have been on my list. I’m very happy that those traditional blind spots of our profession are now being addressed and that we are now very active in those areas.”

Emde would also like to see the ASIS certification program continue to flourish. “Although we’ve been doing very well and have one of the best programs in terms of consistency and quality, I get slightly nervous when numbers tend to be relatively flat, because it may signal a drop in enthusiasm. So with certification, I would be tempted to ask that for the next three years, all CPPs, Physical Security Professionals®, and Professional Certified Investigators® each attract one more person per year to become certified. Just think what that would do for our base of certified members,” he says.

“If we do good things, we as a Society need to fly the flag and be sure everyone knows about us and recognizes us for the good programs and activities we have in so many unique forms and shapes around the world,” Emde concludes.