Valeria Castellani has a wealth of experience working as Security Manager for luxury brands such as Burberry and Bottega Veneta. She agreed to talk to us about how she approaches security, current challenges in the field, and how the industry has changed in recent times.

1. What is your approach to security?

Generally, in the fashion industry, security challenges revolve around the production plants, corporate offices, and show rooms. There is also a need to ensure sales campaigns are not threatened by security incidents. That said, in recent times I have been focusing mainly on securing physical premises, as that became a top priority. With my team, we have built security processes that encircle entire buildings, including the whole perimeter, from the outer edges to the more internal sections. We also built new spaces, so we had to stay on top of these changes. In this sense, we have looked into technological developments and innovative solutions that could guarantee higher efficiency.

On a different note, preparing the necessary budget to satisfy all the security requirements is also a significant task. We dedicate a lot of time to scouting for new partners and solutions that we need to include in our annual budget. We also take care of events and the protection of various collections all around the world and some of our key figures within the company. There is also an analytical part of the job, which looks into all the security reports from various activities to review operations. We also address travel security, although this part of the job has become less intense with Covid-19.

In performing all of these activities, we rely on some key partners within the organization, such as IT, as they are a critical service to all of our projects, but we also work very closely with facility management staff, finance and human resources.

2. How is security today?

The requirements have changed, but also the awareness on the need for a security manager and a security team. Organizations are still quite not there but they are getting closer. Security is an important strategic asset that can give you information that you can use as you prefer. The value of the information and intelligence provided by security is still not quite understood as it should. Differently, management tends to see more value in the activities connected with physical security practices.

3. How do you approach security issues in your supply chain?

Finding reliable security suppliers has been a tough job, since this is still a niche market, and it can be hard to find contractors with the right competences. Over time, I have been able to create a sound network of contractors, mainly abroad. As for production and logistics, it is a combination of both internal processes and external contractors. The challenge here is to have an oversight on both, as criminals today tend to target suppliers to steal or compromise products. Organizations must have a dedicated cyber security division that takes care of online commerce. Working together with cyber security teams and running coordinated investigations ensures the right support to security teams.

4. What are the main threats to your business?

At the moment, we have several macro trends that can impact our business and our customers in several ways, such as the pandemic, the energy crisis, and the Ukraine conflict. It is important not to panic, stay focused, and embrace the fact that market and social conditions can change very quickly. In this sense, flexibility is key to stay on top of such a fast-changing threat landscape. As for more traditional challenge such as counterfeit products, organizations need to have close relations with law enforcement bodies and apply technology that allows the tracking of products. However, it is also necessary to regularly update the tracking technology and implement new measures that can meet new business needs. There are several options out there and security managers need to carefully assess the costs and benefits of adopting a new solution. In my experience, we have been very active with the legal department and several divisions of the police, also running joint investigations.

5. Any other comment?

I would like to remark the importance of top management in understanding the true role of security, which goes beyond controlling the physical perimeter of the facilities. When I first started, organizations were not even aware of what a security manager did. Today, we have improved, but not quite enough. It is key for modern businesses to understand the strategic importance of modern security functions, and it is of paramount importance that this message reaches decision-makers within organizations.

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Author: Gianluca Riglietti