Securing the Crossroads
Eric Levine left New York and moved to Indianapolis. Why? Not only for the “Crossroads of America,” as the city calls itself, but to build a security team that anticipates and understands the risks and threats that exist for WellPoint, where he is director of corporate security.
How did you get into the security industry?
I’ve worked in all facets of the security industry, ranging from law enforcement as a police officer, to the U.S. Government, to the security departments at Fortune 100 companies. I enjoy both the strategic and tactical aspects of security and the fact that no two days are the same. Throughout my career, I’ve enhanced my skill set by gaining valuable experience in many security environments. All of my work experience has contributed to my leadership style. Before I joined the corporate sector, I worked for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The skill sets necessary for that job are very similar to what you need in corporate security, such as understanding risk management and policy development and getting out in the field to do assessments to effectively chart the course for associate, physical, executive and technical security programs. In all of the program areas you evaluate risks and threats and you prioritize, which all contribute to a successful security operation.
What do you like about your position?
At WellPoint, we have more than 37,000 associates working at offices throughout the United States and internationally. My team is responsible for ensuring that WellPoint’s facilities remain safe for associates and visitors. But what I like the most is the people I interact with each day. When I was first considering the job, our CEO asked me why I would want to leave New York and move to Indianapolis, where WellPoint is headquartered. By that point, I had already met with several people in the organization and my answer was simple: the people. Not only are the people professional and friendly, but there was a good solid working team that existed, and they understood the value of a cohesive security organization. Beyond that, I enjoy the opportunity to further develop the security team. Challenges are what keep a person engaged and enthused about a job. We’ve been able to build a sophisticated model that looks at both intelligence and risk, which drives all of our actions. We’re focused on anticipating and understanding the risks and threats that exist for the company, and putting strategic and tactical solutions in place to appropriately address them.
What are the elements of your leadership style that help make you successful?
My leadership abilities have definitely been enhanced by networking. I enjoy the opportunity to talk with business colleagues inside and outside the security industry about how they resolve challenges and develop solutions. I also think my success as a leader comes from connecting with people and that means having face-to-face conversations or conversations on the telephone rather than relying on email. Technology is an integral component of our jobs, but being able to talk to my team and our leaders is crucial. From a team perspective, I think it’s important to have mutual respect with members of the team and understand the requirements, responsibilities, and capabilities of each team member so I can be responsive and provide the necessary direction to help them achieve the best results. Paying attention to detail is necessary for this job, but at a company our size, you have to entrust and empower your team to make decisions on their own. Open communication and understanding are essential in being an effective leader and having a top-notch team.
Who in your organization do you respect and take time to interact with and why?
John Cannon – our executive vice president and general counsel. He happens to be my boss, but that’s not why I named him. Upon my arrival at WellPoint and prior to working for John, I recognized him as strong leader who lead by example and showed compassion for our associates and understood the need to identify security risks and develop mitigation plans. It is John’s understanding of our associates, their opinions and his command of the issues that face our business that provide me with insight that I attempt to model and instill in my team.
What’s a typical day like for you? How do you start and end your day?
The only thing typical about my schedule is four days a week I start with a cardio workout. After that, no two days are the same, but my work day normally starts with reviewing an intelligence briefing, so I can get an understanding of any risks. Then, it is on to the regular calls with staff and colleagues about budgets, strategic plans, significant incidents that have occurred and normal course of business meetings; and usually ends with reviewing or completing emails.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My job definitely keeps me busy, but our company is one that encourages a healthy work/life balance. I enjoy traveling and being near the water – whether it’s for a walk, or a ride on a boat. I also enjoy cooking, but some people may consider me a foodie for my love of dining out and trying new restaurants. Having lived and traveled throughout the world, there are a lot of great places and cuisine! Don’t tell my mom, but I still don’t eat my veggies!