Introducing the SSI Industry Hall of Fame Class of 2020
For security pros there’s no greater recognition than earning passage into the SSI Industry Hall of Fame. Here are 2020’s inductees.
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Jeff Kessler |Managing Director of Research, Imperial Capital
- Born 1951 in Summit, N.J.
- One of four siblings, father was a WWII U.S. Army Air Corps hero and luggage merchant, mother ESL school teacher
- Married 40 years to wife Phyllis, with two sons and three granddaughters
- Earned undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in political economy from McGill University; and postgraduate degree in journalism at Columbia University
- Five times cited by Institutional Investor Magazine as an All-America selection in Business Services
- Says if career had taken a different path would have stayed with early position as an economics reporter
- Other interests include golf, tennis, travel, spending time with grandchildren
Why He’s on the List
- 30+ years providing reasoned industry/company analysis to both the industry and the investment/lending community, filling a glaring void for much of that time
- 21 of those years were spent serving as the senior security industry and business services analyst for Lehman Brothers, with the balance spent at Imperial Capital
- Insights have not only informed security professionals and publications but been referenced financial institutions and investors to help “legitimize” the industry and its companies as being credit worthy and sound investment opportunities
- Along with SSI Hall of Famers Sandy Jones and Les Gold, founded the Securing New Ground Conference (now owned by the Security Industry Association)
- Presently covers 15 leading publicly traded security companies, publishes the quarterly Security Monitor and is involved in Imperial’s Security Investor Conference
Keys to Success
“I am a big fish in a small pond. The research analyst community is shrinking in today’s financial services industry and there are really no other pure security analysts left. My competition comes mainly from all over the map, including ‘multi-industry industrial analysts’ on some of the larger companies I cover, ‘software-as-a-service’ on some of the recurring revenues companies and general technology analysts on analytics-related companies.
“As a result, while my firm is not always the first mentioned on the tongue of industry executives seeking to trade stock, our entire security team at Imperial Capital is as well-known and respected as any large lending bank with resources many times ours. I have to credit my wife and family for encouraging me to stay strong in this niche. My wife used to joke that she sometimes felt I went to bed with her and Sensormatic Electronics.”
A Survivor of 9/11
“At Lehman Brothers, I witnessed and survived two bombings. We worked directly across the street in the World Financial Center and actually saw the plane crash into the World Trade Center Tower. We evacuated our tower, as per the security plan that was drawn up after the first bombing, and then watched in horror from the park across the street as the buildings burned. Some of us walked uptown to safety, some took ferries to the New Jersey side. When we arrived in Hoboken, we saw the buildings collapse. Lehman had to move because the area was destroyed, the trauma was too much and there was a giant girder lodged through two of our floors, including my office.”
Top Wish for Industry Change
“I would instantly raise the ‘IT IQ’ of the industry’s sales, installation and service teams, as well as the interoperability of systems and sensors being installed. That way everything the client wants to know about is laid out in a very easy-to-understand manner, and that the information gathered from each sensor only adds to the solution of whatever needs the client wants solved. One other wish: that overnight, most of the companies in which I am known suddenly become a lot more critical for investment firms to own and to trade in.”
What Dealers/Integrators Must Do
“Increasingly, one will have to have either a very strong sales-oriented personality with some smarts or hire STEM-trained graduates who can talk, sell and consult with clients that need very complicated problems solved in simpler ways. Regardless, if you are trying to convince some-one to pay $60 a month for home automation or to set up a multifunctional access control system across 2,000 doors, there’s two imperatives for your rep. They must be able to make their point, knowing what they are talking about technologically, and be able to interact with C-suite or outside consultant personnel who have heard similar stories from sophisticated competitors. Why is your value proposition better and why can this relationship last longer?”
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