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Booz Allen Hamilton CEO On Business Travel, Cybersecurity And Terrible Sandwiches

Booz Allen Hamilton offices in Washington, D.C.

Whether they store their data in on-premises servers or use the cloud, commercial real estate companies should assume that malicious actors have already compromised their cyber defenses.

At least that’s the philosophy behind “zero trust” cybersecurity frameworks. On the latest Walker Webcast, Booz Allen Hamilton CEO Horacio Rozanski walked through why such an approach makes sense even for small real estate firms that may not think they have a great deal of data to protect. 

“If somebody wants to get to your digital presence and they’re sufficiently funded, they will,” Rozanski told Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker. “You can make it easier and you can make it harder, but that’s true for any corporation.”

Though Booz Allen provides technology and management consulting services to companies of all stripes, it performs the majority of its work for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. The webcast ranged from Booz Allen’s work implementing artificial intelligence to how the consulting firm plans to bring its thousands of employees back to the office.

Walker posed the question of whether real estate companies would be any more protected from cyber attacks by keeping their data on-premises rather than a cloud storage provider, considering that recent high-profile breaches have affected cloud customers. 

Rozanski argued that the most cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions are less about keeping malicious actors out completely and are more concerned with preventing malicious actors who have penetrated outer defenses from reaching sensitive data. 

Booz Allen Hamilton President and CEO Horacio Rozanski on the Walker Webcast

“Cyber experts tend to talk about infiltration and exfiltration,” Rozanski said. “It’s easier to get into your network than to take a great deal of data from you. Somebody coming into your house is one thing. Somebody stealing your bed, that takes two people and a truck.”

He added that real estate companies should not underestimate the threat of on-premises physical breaches, as breaking into an office and an executive’s desktop in the middle of the night could be much easier than breaking through digital barriers. 

The New Era Of Business Travel

Many of Booz Allen’s thousands of employees have flown back and forth from their clients’ home offices on a weekly basis. But during the coronavirus pandemic, 90% of the consultancy’s workforce has been working remotely. Rozanski said he expects a fair proportion of the company’s employees to continue working from home into the future.

“How many days would I come to work and lock myself in my office to take calls?” Rozanski said. “I can do that from home. It’s healthier for the environment and it saves a great deal of time and money.”

While deals might still need to be closed in person, preparatory meetings could likely go virtual. Multiple round trips to London or to Sydney for hourlong meetings are likely going to be a thing of the past for Rozanski and his executive team; he described how he hopes he will never again hold a certain kind of investor meeting.

“At the typical investor conference, you go into a hotel room where they took the bed out and put in a table, you’re eating a terrible sandwich and it’s almost like speed dating,” he said. “I don’t need to be in person for that. But for the key investor that really wants to have a conversation, dig in and look each other in the eye. There’s only so much you can do virtually.”

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker on a webinar with Horacio Rozanski

Rozanski shared many real estate executives’ beliefs that working together in person creates the kinship and empathy between fellow employees that virtual connection simply can’t replicate. But one of the silver linings of the move to virtual connection and videoconferencing, in particular, could be a more intentional kind of business travel.

“When you have broader reach, like we do now, it creates more reason to go meet people and want to see people and build that relationship in person,” he said. “So I think travel is going to change. I don’t think it’s going to go away.”

On April 14, Walker will host Linneman Associates principal and founder Peter Linneman for a quarterly update on the CRE marketRegister here for the event.

This article was produced in collaboration between Walker & Dunlop and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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