Robert Achenbach lifts security profile at First National of Nebraska

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Carol Carey

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Today's security director needs to be a manager of people, places and technology, with both law enforcement and business skills. Working with upper management to get budget initiatives passed, he or she must then train and motivate employees to follow those initiatives. The ability to create a positive working environment for a security staff can be particularly challenging at the corporate level, at a multi-facility company.

For Robert Achenbach, such challenges are everyday occurrences.

According to Gary Miller, physical security specialist for First National of Nebraska Inc. (FNNI), these challenges have been handled admirably by Achenbach, who became corporate security officer of FNNI in 2005. Achenbach has given his department a higher profile in the corporate structure of the Omaha-based financial services holding company, Miller says. That role has led to a solid, multi-million dollar budget, along with initiatives which have standardized and centralized security functions for the company's approximately 8,000 employees.

Given the size and scope of FNNI, this has been no small feat, Miller says.

The parent company to First National Bank, FNNI is a 150-year-old institution with banking locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. It serves more than 6.6 million customers in 50 states. The company is one of the 50 largest bank holding companies in the United States, with nearly $16 billion in managed assets.

Among the improvements Miller has seen Achenbach implement are physical security upgrades, the establishment of a dedicated Security/Safety Department intranet, enhancement of the Corporate Security Operations Center, central monitoring of more than 100 FNNI locations, improved employee training and education in security and safety matters and implementation of security assessments at all FNNI locations.

“We currently have assets in more than seven states, and Robert has started a program that requires us to perform Security Assessments on FNNI locations in each state on a yearly basis, to ensure that all locations are performing to the Corporate Security/Safety standards,” Miller says.

Achenbach, who holds a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice and a MCAS certification from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board, says that he took a comprehensive look at existing security systems and procedures upon joining the FNNI family.

“I looked at ways to enhance our security posture by upgrading technology, internal resources and physical security,” says Achenbach, whose previous experience has been in the military, law enforcement and private security.

He is particularly proud of having tied 75 to 80 percent of FNNI's locations under a standardized security umbrella, with centralized monitoring of more than 100 locations now in place. “The physical access control systems were already there,” he notes. “We have standardized and upgraded the program and procedures.”

“One of the most important program upgrades has been to employee access levels,” Achenbach adds. “We have restructured access levels of employees to put them more in line with their actual shifts and job functions.”

“We took a completely fresh look at what existed and restructured it. Before, it was very open. We put ownership on the business unit managers. They're accountable for who does and doesn't have access to a particular space at a particular time. They communicate this by sending a list to our department.”

Changes in procedure can be daunting for employees, particularly of a corporation with multiple locations. The addition of a dedicated intranet for the security department has made employee training easier, and facilitated the implementation of an online training program. “We built a program on our intranet capability,” Achenbach says.

“Previously, there was no environment for annual employee training in security procedures,” he notes. “We've created an online training environment that is pushed out to all employees annually and implemented at specific locations. Employees participate in training sessions on a personal computer, and the sessions must be completed by a certain date. We've had two years worth of training thus far, dealing both with overall security and safety procedures and those that are job-specific.”

Training topics include the access control program, as well as workplace violence, Department of Homeland Security initiatives, safety procedures and emergency evacuations.

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