Mark Theisen: A Home for Values
A Security 500 Thought Leader Profile
Sixteen years ago Mark Theisen was hired at Thrivent Financial as manager of safety and security. Today, it’s home, one that he says matches his personal values.
Thrivent Financial based in Appleton, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a not-for-profit membership organization that provides financial planning for Christians. “I get to work in a business that contributes to social good – both in terms of helping Christians make wise money decisions and in helping our members live generous lives,” says Theisen, whose current title at Thrivent is Director of Corporate Security and Business Resilience. “I am a mission-driven individual, and I want to make sure that what I am doing provides value to others. Working in the financial sector provides that for me because we contribute to helping people make financial decisions that reflect their values and beliefs. We are there when they most need us, which provides value to what I do.”
In addition, Theisen appreciates the fact that the financial industry is heavily regulated, as he says that ensures that the work he does in security and business continuity has support throughout the organization. “It is rewarding to look at a regulation or requirements and determine what controls can be implemented that meets the requirement but also does not impede the business of fulfilling their mission,” he says.
Yet, he adds, “I feel the most unique risk is that we are dealing with our members’ livelihoods, so a security failure can have a more personal and broader impact. For example, I not only need controls in place to protect the company assets, but also our members’ assets, and their personal identifiable information. To ensure we are managing the physical security risks, we need to understand the IT security controls and privacy controls, and that is why there is a strong partnership between the physical security, privacy and IT security teams at Thrivent.”
His role has changed through the years, which is not unusual, but it has presented challenges. “Security really was guards, keys and gates, and we changed that and built a Fortune 500 security department. I have a great role right now leading up the physical security team, which includes our security operations monitoring centers, physical security responders, investigation and security control group, technology team, and our safety office. In addition, about six years ago I started leading the business continuity team, which ensures that the organization can go as smoothly as possible from a crisis to business recovery.”
He has made those changes thanks to support from the Thrivent C-suite, which Theisen says views security as a business enabler and risk minimizer. “A conversation I had with one of our previous CFOs sums it up fairly well: Security is here to think about things that other people don’t think about and then plan for how to minimize that risk. I find it very rewarding when I can sit with an executive and talk about real plausible risks that could impact the organization, trusted reputation, or brand. I see my main role with the C-suite is to educate them on the risks and provide solutions to minimize them. Our C-suite is very approachable and open to listening and bringing others into the conversation. It really is nice to work for an organization where you can walk up to the CEO or others in the C-suite and have an open conversation.”
His team of 39 professionals has the same values system as Theisen does, which makes it easier to get the work done. “My team and I are members of several professional organizations and try to stay actively involved so we can learn from others and give something back to the profession,” he says. “We take pride in the things we have done and are willing to share our experiences with others. This may be by having others within the industry come into our facility and see how we accurately account for 2,000 employees in less than 12 minutes during an evacuation using our card access system. Or it’s by talking to a peer how we made the decision to move from a contract staff to a full in-house security staffing model. And Thrivent encourages its employees to be involved and to give back to the industry when and where we can, so we have support from company leadership to be actively involved in professional organizations.”
One partnership is with Habitat for Humanity. More than a decade ago, Thrivent and Habitat formed the Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity. Through that partnership Thrivent members and other volunteers build or repair homes across the globe alongside families in need of safe, decent shelter. Security ensures that Thrivent Build teams are going to countries that are at an acceptable risk level for its members.
In his free time, Theisen enjoys spending time with his family and hosting exchange students. “Since my wife and kids like to travel, having an extended family all over the world has allowed us to visit parts of the world outside of the tourism areas,” he says. “I also like to volunteer when I have the opportunity. I really enjoy leading Thrivent Worldwide Build trips for our members, and have led or participated in seven international builds and several domestic builds. It is a way for me to give back for those in need and to live the Thrivent Way of giving back when we can.”
Annual Revenue: $9 billion
Security Budget $2.9 million
• Changing Business Models
• Outside Service Providers/Vendors
• Special Event Security