The Fauquier Bank: The 'consultant's approach': How a bank director secured funding

May 24, 2011 | Coverage

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'I don't need to know the answers to the questions, I just need to know the questions'

WARRENTON, Va. - May 24, 2011 - When Josh Brown joined Fauquier Bank as its director of security more than six years ago, he faced the challenge of managing two separate security systems. Half of the bank’s 10 branches were operating on an aging digital video surveillance platform and the other was still recording to VHS.

A new system had to solve some serious pain points for the bank. For example, the old system couldn’t be managed from a central server, so Brown was constantly having to remotely access local servers. There were also issues with time stamp accuracy. “If we had to go to court, try telling a jury that what they’re looking at for a time stamp was 17 minutes off of when the event really occurred,” he said.

Retrieving and transmitting images from the server and sending it to law enforcement was extremely time consuming, he said. “It took a long time across the network to transfer images and it would crash with large images,” Brown said. Often he would have to reduce the quality of an image in order to send it over the network, too. 

Brown began evaluating possible DVR solutions. He attended conferences, spoke with other end users and, most importantly, did his homework. Choosing the system that met his needs meant he had to personally put in a lot of time and effort to learn what was available in the market. “My personal philosophy is that I spend an hour a day studying and I extended that same aspect to looking at DVRs,” he said.

He also reached out to other experts, including his IT department, and other security professionals who were using different DVR systems. Brown said he didn’t just ask what was good or bad about particular systems, but what those users found most interesting. Was there something they didn’t expect from the system until they started using it? “I don’t need to know the answers to the questions, I just need to know the questions,” he said.

When talking to vendors he always listened carefully to terminology. For example, it was always a red flag when he heard vendors say, “We can make it do that,” opposed to “It can do that,” he said. Customer service and maintenance contracts were also an important factor and he wanted to be confident that when there was a problem—and there are always problems—the manufacturer would be involved in resolving it, he said.

It took Brown more than a year to evaluate all the options. When he concluded his research, he then had to convince the C-Suite to budget in the money. Brown said he took a “consultant’s approach” by offering the executive team three options. He provided extensive information on the pros and cons of sticking with the current system, including estimated repair and reliability issues; going with a cheaper solution and what that meant in terms of efficiency and functionality; and finally the DVR solution by 3VR. “I want to provide them with all the information I used to evaluate these options and how I came to this point … and why I found this system better than the others,” he said.

He said it was important to present the pain points of the current system, which many of his executive team had experienced firsthand. When it came time to make a decision, he said it’s always a bit of a leap of faith. “I hate to use the ‘E’ word, but I am the expert who knows what they’re doing when it come to security equipment,” he said. “It’s partly a matter of trust.”

He also didn’t try to transition all the branches over at once, and instead budgeted the system for a number of years. “I replaced one DVR and then had spare parts to keep another one working,” he said. Taking this approach helped demonstrated to the executive team that he wasn’t just trying to immediately make his life easier, and was willing to share in the pain points of transitioning over time.

The bank has converted all but one of its branches over to the 3VR system, using its integrator, Checkpoint Systems. During the transition, Brown said he wasn’t concerned about bandwidth, primarily because he limited the number of users who could access the DVRs. “Only a handful of people have full-time access to everything and individually branch managers have access, but not to everything,” he said.

In addition, he also made sure that every single camera was recording exactly what he wanted. For example, cameras that are “storybook” shots are only recorded at 5 fps, whereas cameras that would likely be used to identify people were recorded at 15 fps.

While the 3VR system has video analytic capabilities, Brown said he’s not interested in using that feature at this point. “I wanted a system we could grow with,” he said. “The system already has analytics built in with facial recognition and other opportunities, and I know as a security administrator that we can grow into the system versus the company wishing the system could do this or that for us.”

Read the article on the Security Director News website