Vision, passion played the primary role when Wells Fargo re-evaluated its security operations. CSO William Wipprecht, CPP, and consultant David Gibbs, embraced the company’s vision and business passion to go world class.


Security is the purpose of the company and a business tool, too. Pictured at the Wells Fargo vault: Jeffrey B. Smith, CPP, project manager, On Line Consulting Services; Theodore P. Barron, CPP, vice president, technical security, Wells Fargo Company; Bill Wipprecht, CPP, executive VP and CSO, Wells Fargo Company; and David Gibbs, CPP, senior vice president, On Line Consulting Services.

Vision and being passionate about a company’s values. That’s at the foundation of Wells Fargo Company and its security operations as it moves forward and grows.

A part of the San Francisco financial district since 1852, Wells Fargo and its trademark stagecoach are forever linked to the lore of the Old West. But the company today is anything but a relic of American history. It’s the largest financial institution headquartered in the Western United States; the stock market value exceeds $100 billion; it’s ranked in the top 20 among all U.S. companies in profits and market value.

The company executes its customer-driven business plan with purpose and precision. As it does its security plan.

Technology played a role in Wells Fargo’s world-class security upgrade, according to Theodore P. Barron, CPP, vice president, technical security, Wells Fargo Company, and Jeffrey B. Smith, CPP, project manager, On Line Consulting Services.

Proactive approach

Wells Fargo has always taken a proactive approach to every aspect of its development. It seems to be part of our DNA. So in a post September 11th world, along with other companies, we have a heightened awareness of security and are so proactive about it that it’s a significant part of our business plan.

Although security for our large, multi-use world headquarters complex located at 420 Montgomery Street has been continually upgraded to meet evolving standards, we were listening to new alarms that began sounding in corporate boardrooms across the country and around the world. Could we protect our customers and their assets, our own resources, our people and our future from isolated individual attacks as well as sophisticated assaults on the building? What were our areas of vulnerability? Ted Barron, our vice president, technical security, was assigned the responsibility of identifying and managing a specialized security consulting company to help up navigate this complex project.

A transaction counter security video with customer display is viewed by Jeffrey B. Smith, CPP, project manager, On Line Consulting Services; Theodore P. Barron, CPP, vice president, technical security, Wells Fargo Company; and David Gibbs, CPP, senior vice president, On Line Consulting Services.

Analyze this!

The right company was across the bay in Oakland. On Line Consulting, characterized by the entrepreneurial and technology-savvy spirit of the New West, has steadily created a reputation for excellence in the building security industry. In business since 1984, founder Sandy Zirulnik has carefully assembled a team that is capable of and conscientious about delivering consulting, design and management services that define industry best practices. Their DNA is all about doing right things and about doing things right. In keeping with our desire to select the most technically proficient and knowledgeable team, David Gibbs, CCP, On Line senior vice president, and Jeff Smith, CCP, On Line project manager, were selected to manage our project.

Accustomed to working with large corporations that are regulars on the Fortune 1000 list, On Line has designed systems covering a wide range of security challenges. Typically, clients have included AT&T, Ford Motor Company, Whirlpool, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.

Our cultures, values and capabilities proved to be a good match. We worked closely together to reconfigure security architecture with new processes and procedures.

The diverse operations that are housed in the Wells Fargo building create a multitude of security scenarios that, on the surface, defy an integrated approach.

Since security begins outside of the building, the considerations become even more complicated when the internal situation is combined with site realities. David Gibbs performed a thorough internal and external site analysis as the first step of creating a series of recommendations for Wells Fargo. Following is a synopsis of the security challenges.

A main corporate elevator in the lobby boasts a proximity reader so that cardholders can call an elevator and it goes to an authorized floor.

Compounded Complexities

Following is a synopsis of the security challenges.
  • The Wells Fargo headquarters is comprised of three adjoining buildings, which share a common lobby and basement. Three major streets and a working alley border it. There are multiple access points from each street and the alley.
  • The building has three primary functions: branch banking, public museum and branch/corporate administration.
  • Every day, customers, employees, special guests, contractors, delivery people and the public enter the building without restriction. Public restrooms on the ground floor are accessible by anyone but are also used by Museum guests.
  • An independently conducted analysis of external crime around the neighborhood revealed that the area is rated as 2.6 times higher than the county average in terms of crime incidents. High-profile neighboring businesses and organizations presented additional challenges to securing Wells Fargo space.
  • Although internal crime is very low, the free and open access to the building and its elevators is a liability.
  • Commercial delivery services and private individuals make direct floor deliveries.
  • The lobby has an open design with no access restriction barriers.
  • Though security measures have been taken, access to the building through external openings such as air vents, windows and roof hatches is possible.
That’s a daunting list and, over the years, we have done a better than average job of installing security systems and implementing effective precautionary measures. But we were no longer interested in having something that was pretty good; we wanted to take our systems to a world-class level.

Sensible solutions

On Line recommended that we structure the system renovation in five inter-related projects:
  • Shipping/receiving/mailroom operations
  • An identification badge system for employees and visitors
  • Main floor lobby security desk repositioning and redesign
  • Comprehensive control of elevator, floor and workspace access
  • Design and construction of a new Security Operations Office

  • ID badge operation: Although originally envisioned as part of the shipping/receiving area, this new operation was assigned to the second floor because of space limitations. We also established a separate “secure” Security Operations Center on another floor that includes the Security Department’s telecommunications system, security video and alarm monitoring station, and investigations.

    Main lobby and traffic flow: The redesign of lobby traffic flow, positioning of reception security and elevator access control needed to be tightly integrated with the new employee/visitor badging system. Working with an architectural firm, On Line Consulting repositioned and redesigned the main lobby security station. All visitors, contractors and employees are screened at this desk. Non-Wells Fargo visitors and contractors are required to show personal identification. They are issued a temporary badge upon satisfactorily establishing the nature of their business and identifying the person they are visiting.

    Elevator, floor and workspace access: Although several scenarios were evaluated, we wanted to create a single card system for use with the elevators and work areas. All elevators are now equipped with internally mounted proximity card access control readers. All elevator buttons are deactivated until a proper access card is presented to the elevator cab card reader. Once inserting an authorized card, the employee or visitor then pushes the button to a specific floor. The access card and card readers are individually programmed for each employee or visitor, providing access to the necessary areas and floors. Business can be conducted in a controlled yet user-friendly environment.

    When we completed the five projects, all of the security system portions were successfully executed on time and on budget. We certainly made minor adjustments along the way, but as I reported to the Board of Directors, “mission accomplished - in a manner consistent with our Wells Fargo tradition.”
    • Vertical access to the corporate offices is controlled.
    • Employee work and task flow is smooth and is not impeded.
    • Key clients have the access needed.
    • The public areas are easily accessible.
    Vice President, Technical Security Ted Barron reflects on the project. “As a customer-driven company we needed to be especially mindful of the impact this could have on our customers and our employees. I really must give On Line major kudos for making the entire process seamless for me and for our staff. I have known of On Line Consulting for many years and we chose them because the company has a reputation for using current technology, meeting time commitments, and completing projects under budget.”

    Now, a year later, we can truly say that our security processes are out of sight; our security issues are out of mind, and our security system is world class. V

    Dogs like Jack were used in the Gold Rush days by Wells Fargo to protect gold shipments on their way from the mining camps to the Wells Fargo office.

    SIDEBAR 1: The People Factor

    Jack the Dog, the Wells Fargo Detectives’ mascot, knew about mission and the need to work as a team with human beings.

    Implementing a project of this size and scope was certain to disrupt the daily routines of many employees. And because it’s part of it culture for employees to take personal ownership of their jobs at Wells Fargo, the security executives there needed to make sure that these changes had a foundation in trust and confidence rather than in skepticism and resentment.

    It’s tempting for senior management to simply go along with the old belief that people hate and resist change so the only way to accomplish anything is to stuff it down their throats. According to Wells Fargo’s William R. Wipprecht, CPP, “We didn’t and don’t believe that and neither did our project partner, On Line Consulting. We operated together on the principle that it isn’t change that people resist but that opposition occurs when change is implemented without explanation and involvement.

    “So, we balanced the dreaded ‘C’ word ‘change’ with the desirable ‘C’ word ‘communication.’”

    David Gibbs, senior vice president at On Line, Ted Barron and Wipprecht developed a plan in conjunction with the internal communications group. As part of the plan, the team systematically communicated the need and value of the new security project, asked for ideas and feedback and provided regular updates. Included were groups at all levels so that buy-in and understanding would be established vertically and horizontally throughout the organization.

    “I can’t stress enough how important it was to the success of our project that On Line took the time to understand our culture and had the resources and the savvy to bring this type of comprehensive planning to the table. In a nutshell, they ‘get it,’” concluded Wipprecht.

    SIDEBAR 2: Business Goals Drive Security Plans

    Richard M. Kovacevich, chairman and chief executive officer, Wells Fargo Company, sets the tone for the company and its security operation. He has written, “It doesn’t matter what our responsibilities are, our levels or titles, what businesses we’re part of, or where we live and work. We all should know our vision. We all should know how we contribute to achieving that vision. We all should be passionate about our values and share them with others…We believe everyone contributes to Wells Fargo’s being known as one of America’s great companies.”