Security for Visa Inc. involves traditional physical security, staffing Global Security Operation Centers (GSOC), internal investigations, global travel security, risk management, intelligence and handling security for special events that Visa sponsors. “Particularly we have three marquee events,” says Donald Hill, Vice President and Head of Global Security and Safety. “We have the Super Bowl, the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.”

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were forefront on Hill’s mind at the time of this interview. “We have 800 staff going there with 3,000 guests, and we’re responsible from the time they are in the country until they return home,” says Hill. “You think you’re ready to go, but there’s certainly that question mark with all of the external factors that you don’t control. Fortunately, our team is experienced at working these events.”

Expanding Visa to different parts of the world is one of the unique security challenges Hill finds specific to his job. “It’s just our world environment right now,” he says. “Literally within the past year, we talk about all the terrorist attacks, and we’ve had staff or offices in those locations. We’re not far from the actual center of impact. Those are the things that keep you up at night. In each of those cases, we were on the phones reaching out, trying to make sure we could account for everyone.”

Hill particularly likes the work pace and challenges he finds in his sector. “Visa is relatively new as far as being a public company,” he says. “We were private until 2008, and then we went public, and since then, the pace of innovation and opening of new offices has accelerated, particularly in emerging, often insecure, markets. Our team is tasked with decreasing our risk exposure while facilitating a safe environment that helps the business thrive in these new, developing markets.”

In order to accomplish this successfully, you need to build strong relationships with executive leadership in the regions, Hill adds. “Being a part of a team that protects and facilitates the goals of Visa, safeguards our employees, facilities and brand globally really keeps me motivated as a security professional.”

Every three years, Hill’s team conducts security risk reviews at Visa’s sites globally. Reviews of the company’s high-risk sites such as data centers and call centers occur annually. “We are heavily involved with the security design of new buildings and involved with risk assessments when we go into higher threat countries,” Hill says. “The risk review program ensures we keep every office as safe and secure as possible, regardless of location or environment.”

Visa’s security brand is perceived by the C-suite as customer focused, professional, prepared and responsive to emergencies. “We’re a bit ‘hidden in plain sight,’ if that makes sense,” says Hill. “The C-suite knows we’re there; they know we’re on it whenever a situation arises. When our executives have questions, be it about Zika or travel to a high-risk country, they turn to us for briefings and appropriate security planning.” Hill’s senior directors include several international professionals. “We cover nine different languages and have a tremendous amount of expertise from working in war zones, in military and federal law enforcement, and international security consulting.”

Among external stakeholders, Hill sees his security brand as being trusted and counted on. “We’re closely involved with OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council); ISMA (International Security Management Association), DSAC (Domestic Security Alliance Council), and PSIC (Private Sector Intelligence Council). That’s a huge piece for all of us in corporate security, being able to quickly and effectively benchmark in an emergency.”

As many other security leaders can appreciate, finding a good work-life balance is challenging for Hill. “We’re all 24/7, it’s part of the job. It’s not an original complaint, but you miss family events, sometimes your vacations are interrupted, and seldom are you really able to take a day off without being available,” Hill says. “I’m very fortunate to have a team that understands this responsibility. Through our risk and incident monitoring program, our 24/7 GSOC is able to connect with the correct security team members and quickly respond to an emergency. In today’s world, there’s no shortage of threats and challenges for which we need to be ready.”

In his spare time, Hill enjoys traveling with his wife and landscaping. “I grew up on a small farm, so I still enjoy the manual part. For me, it’s a clean break where I can get my thoughts together,” he says. “A little predictability in an otherwise unpredictable world.”


Security Scorecard

Annual Revenue:  $13 billion

Security Budget:   $31 million


Critical Issues

  • Insider Threat

  • Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Olympics (Special Events/Duty of Care)