Security Leadership and Management

Securing the Vertical Village in Chicago

April 1, 2011
Thomas Begg
Thomas Begg, Jr. secures the tall and narrow Aon Center in Chicago, which has 83 floors and a height of 1,136 feet and is the third tallest building in Chicago. 

Well known in Chicagoland, but perhaps not so well known elsewhere, the Aon Center is a quiet, dignified building in the Chicago skyline. Height and location give its tenants remarkable views in all directions. People facing south look over Grant Park, people with west-facing windows can look at The Loop, people with eastern exposures are treated to Lake Michigan sunrises and boating activities, and people on the northern face get to look up the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago coastline that lead to its northern suburbs.

With 83 floors and a height of 1,136 feet, the Aon Center is the third tallest building in Chicago, surpassed in height by the Willis Tower and the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The building is managed by Jones Lang LaSalle. Aon has the headquarters of the Aon Corporation, and it formerly had the headquarters of Amoco.

Overseeing security for this massive building that sees 10,000 tenant employees and visitors daily is Thomas W. Begg, Jr., director of Security Life Safety, Jones Lang LaSalle Americas (Illinois), L.P. for the Aon Center.


Security: Why and how did you get into the security industry?

Begg: It was always my desire to become an FBI agent. After graduating from college, I worked two years with Allstate Insurance as an investigator handling fraud investigations. After the State of Illinois created an elite state law enforcement agency, the Illinois Bureau of Investigation, I got in on the ground floor as a special agent with the FBI. I later became a supervisory special agent, handling the enforcement of organized crime and white-collar crime investigations in Chicago. In 1980, I left the public sector and began a career in bank security with Sears Bank & Trust Company in the Sears Tower as director of security. In the mid 1980s, I joined the First National Bank of Chicago, heading up corporate investigations and fraud prevention. Later I became director of security life safety of the Aon Center, a Category 1 Class A structure.


Security: How do you start and end your work day? Is there any typical day?

Begg: I catch a 6:40 am train in the morning to be in the office by 7:30 am and catch a 6:00 pm train in the evening that gets me home by 7:00 pm. My responsibilities include managerial oversight for the entire security life safety program. Every day is different. There’s not a day that goes by without something different happening, such as medical emergencies, elevator entrapments, workplace violence, power failure, severe weather, fire emergency, water leaks, telephone bomb threats and always preparing for the worst, a terrorist attack.


Aon Center

Security: How are new and current regulations affecting how you keep your employees safe?

Begg: When I was in the bank security industry, there were many federal bank regulations that dictated employee safety. Now that I’m in the high-rise industry, I’m working with many city of Chicago ordinances that dictate employee protection and safety. As a high rise in a major city, there are also some provisions required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


Security: Have you experienced any surprises in your security career?

Begg: Yes, I have. At First Chicago, there were some high-profile investigations resulting in criminal prosecution. One was a $70 million wire transfer fraud. It was the largest wire transfer fraud in U.S. banking history involving insider collusion. We made the case. The entire $70 million was recovered and seven defendants were indicted, convicted and sentenced.

The second case involved a $12 million vendor kickback fraud. The head of the bank’s administration department created 11 different fraud schemes where he, other bank employees, contractors and vendors engaged in a massive fraud against the bank. This case was the largest vendor kickback fraud in U.S. banking history where a senior bank official was involved. Twenty defendants were all indicted, convicted and sentenced for their unlawful acts.


Security: How do you spend your free time?

Begg: For more than 25 years I officiated high school basketball in Illinois. It was great exercise during the winter months, but more importantly, I enjoyed helping kids while officiating on the court. I also enjoy watching my grandchildren participate in various sports, particularly swimming. As for myself, I periodically enjoy hitting 150 baseballs at a time at a suburban batting cage operation. I love the game of baseball. 

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