Interview With Skip Brandon

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The Big Story With John Gibson
Interview With Skip Brandon
Published By: International Wire
Publication Date: July 22, 2005

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Hi, everybody. This is "The Big Story." I'm John Gibson.

British police arrest two more men one day after that latest bombing in London. They say both arrests are terror-related. But only one has a clear connection to yesterday's attacks. Police also shot dead a terror suspect this morning in a subway station right in front of stunned commuters.


MARK WHITBY, WITNESS: So, I looked to my right, saw the guy run on to the train. He was running so fast, he half-tripped. And bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, five shots.


GIBSON: London police released photos of the suspect in yesterday's attacks. They are asking the public to look out -- to be on the lookout for these four men.

David Lee Miller live in London's Stockwell station with the latest on this investigation.

David Lee, how you doing?

MILLER: Hi, John.

So far, we're doing well, two arrests today, and the day is not over. It's 10:00 local time here, still two hours to go. A massive manhunt is still under way throughout this country.

Let's start with the latest information here at the Stockwell subway station here. Just a short time ago, the authorities here, not far from where I am standing, they arrested a man in connection with the anti-terror investigation. The authorities have not revealed the reason why that arrest took place. But they also point out that they did search some type of home or a business. This is a largely residential area, so we can only presume it's a business.

But, again, on that point, the authorities haven't said anymore than somebody has been arrested following the search of a facility in the neighborhood.

Earlier, one man was shot and killed here. The authorities are saying that his identity is not being released, subject to formal I.D. And, at this time, it's not officially known if he is directly linked to yesterday's bombing.

What happened earlier today is that authorities had a suspect under surveillance. This particular suspect was wearing a very heavy coat. That is highly suspicious because the temperature was well into the 70s today. It was a very warm day. They followed the suspect into the subway station directly behind me here, the Stockwell station. They asked him to stop more than once. They ignored his commands.

He jumped over a turnstile. He entered one of the subway cars and, at that point, he was shot five times and killed. One of the witnesses said the scene was utter chaos.


MOSTAPHA ZAROU, WITNESS: At least 15 to 20 people armed with machine guns shouting. Everyone was, you know, running into the station. And the actual passengers, they were -- some of them were crying. They were scared. They didn't know exactly what was happening.


MILLER: Now, at this hour, a search is under way for the four men believed to be the bombers responsible for yesterday's botched attacks. Authorities here have literally looked at hundreds and hundreds of hours of surveillance video. They have come up with these four images, the quality of the pictures very good indeed, these pictures being broadcast all around the U.K. tonight.

Tomorrow, they will be published in every newspaper here, the authorities asking friends, family and the general public to come forward if they have any information about these four men. But, at the same time, they are very quick to add that these men should not be approached, that the authorities should be contacted. These men are considered extremely, extremely dangerous.

And this is not just a local problem here in London, John. There is also a nationwide terror concern here. And just a short time ago, we got word that, in the second largest city in England, in Birmingham, the authorities there have made an arrest. That, they say, is in conjunction with the terror investigation. Under the U.K. terror laws, they have also confiscated two suitcases.

And very, very importantly, lastly, we should point out, John, that a major clue here could be the knapsack that authorities already have in their possession that was confiscated yesterday that was found on bus number 26. The bomb didn't go off as intended. And it could provide a treasure trove of possible clues -- back to you.


GIBSON: David Lee Miller in London -- David, thank you very much.

British police are not messing around, after two terror attacks in two weeks. They chased down that one suspect at Stockwell station, tackled him and shot him dead before he could set off any explosives. Of course, it turned out he didn't have a bomb on him.

Here to talk about how the Brits are going on the offensive against terror suspect is Skip Brandon. He's a former FBI deputy assistant director of counterintelligence and counterterrorism, as well as a founding partner of his Smith Brandon International, a consulting firm.

So, Skip, what kind of grade do you give the Brits today?

SKIP BRANDON, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: Probably an A-plus. They are under a lot of pressure. But ever since the original bombings a few weeks ago in London, I think they have moved very, very decisively, very quickly. I'm impressed.

GIBSON: What about this business of that very dramatic scene in the subway of a tackle and kill team.


GIBSON: Chasing this guy down, three cops, three or four cops, tackling him and then one coming behind with a gun and shooting him dead. What about that, especially since he didn't turn out to have explosives on him?

BRANDON: Well, we don't know all of the details on this.

But I think the message is that, in fact, they are, effectively, trying to guard the British people. And when you get somebody that doesn't -- doesn't stop when you say stop, under those kinds of circumstances, dressed like he was, running away from them, it's a tough call. But they may have acted properly.

GIBSON: And what do you think about this kind of instant replay, where we're seeing the four bombers?


GIBSON: Within 24 hours, their pictures all -- well, over the world, but certainly all over London, and certainly neighbors are going to know who those people are. If -- if the cops don't already know who they are, they will in a few minutes.

BRANDON: Yes. I sure hope so. And I think that's going to happen, because, in fact, not only have the police done a marvelous job in the U.K. From what I have read, all of the communities, all of the communities have really responded to this threat. And I think that's what we hope for.

GIBSON: Skip, what are we supposed to learn from what the Brits have done? What can we do better that they have done in the last few days?

BRANDON: Well, long range, I think one thing for us to look at -- and I'm not being critical of our police at all, but the British have always been very, very effective at what I guess is called, commonly called community policing, the police officer on the beat, the same police officer every day.

They get to know the community. And the community has trust in them. That's what we have to make sure that we develop, so that we get the help for our police. The police get the help that they need. The second thing is, and I think there's a message here for us. It sounds trite to say it, but our world has changed and it may have changed for a long, long time. It may have changed permanently.

The British are reacting properly. The British citizens are used to this. They have given up a lot of freedoms that we take for granted, the freedom just to walk on the subway, for example, without being searched. We're going to have to live with some of that.

GIBSON: Skip Brandon -- Skip, thanks very much.

BRANDON: Surely.

Highlights of the Article:

(...) Although the economy is doing well, companies that want to conduct business in the global market should not throw caution to the wind, said Gene Smith, founding partner of Smith Brandon International, specializing in international investigative services. A significant sale can go sour after the product is delivered due to a lack of background knowledge and business intelligence, she told delegates. (...)

"Some business gurus advise Western-based businesses to set foreign sales targets of 40 percent of all business revenues. But any global ventures must take into consideration the potential risks as well as rewards," she said. (...)

The Internet enables companies to do business around the world by connecting them, but global connections also "create serious security concerns," said Harry Brandon, founding partner of Smith Brandon International. The "Love Bug" virus was created in the Philippines but quickly swamped computer networks around the world, he reminded delegates. "Is the credit information you have on file secure from hackers?" he asked the delegates. (...)

Even with the risks associated with the Internet, Brandon says companies have "no choice" but to embrace electronic commerce. "The goal is to do it right, in a safe, secure, protected environment." (...)

For the full article see below.

If credit managers felt they were somehow immune to the business effects of the digital revolution, electronic commerce innovation and global economic transformation, they discovered differently at "Exploring the New Frontier", NACM-Canada's second annual Credit Conference and Expo held in Toronto, Ontario on October 11 and 12.

The Internet brings disparate cultures together for social and commercial interactions. Global communication at Web speed changes both the nature of societies and the culture of business, conference speakers told the NACM delegates. In a world where almost every new business venture begins with an "E", geographic boundaries are disappearing, and companies are open 24 hours a day.

Instant digital connectivity creates a host of business opportunities and challenges, delegates were told. Credit managers need to protect corporate financial interests while supporting the development of new opportunities. Armed with new digital tools, they can process information faster and make decisions quicker. At the same time, they are dealing with more information from more sources than ever before. That's life on the new frontier.


When it comes to overall financial matters, "the global outlook for the next 18 months or so continues to be upbeat, not withstanding the sharp increases in oil and natural gas prices," Dr. Lloyd Atkinson, chief investment officer for Perigee Investment Counsel Inc., an investment and money management solutions firm, told conference delegates.

Growth is driven by the technology revolution, and the pre-emptive action taken by central banks, most notably the US Federal Reserve, to keep inflation in check. The result: US productivity has increased significantly at inflation-safe speeds. Inflationary pressures have been contained and there have been real gains in wages, salaries and corporate earnings.

While there will be economic slow downs, "they will be much more muted than in the past, and there is no recession in the five year forecast... Barring economic accidents, such as occurred in Asia in 1997, we continue to be very optimistic about the longer term," Atkinson said.

While business-to-consumer e-commerce ventures such as have received a great deal of media play, Atkinson called them "small potatoes" compared to business-to-business e-commerce. The old economy--automotive, financial services and other traditional sectors--are using the tools of the new economy to change the way they do business. For instance, General Motors will use the Internet to reduce distribution costs by 30 percent over three years. This is a direct benefit to General Motors and suppliers who adapt to the news ways of doing business in the digital age will also benefit.


Although the economy is doing well, companies that want to conduct business in the global market should not throw caution to the wind, said Gene Smith, founding partner of Smith Brandon International, specializing in international investigative services. A significant sale can go sour after the product is delivered due to a lack of background knowledge and business intelligence, she told delegates.

Even though there are risks, "there is no option to sit out e-commerce." Forecasters indicate that e-commerce will generate $ 1.3 trillion dollars in global sales in 2003. "Some business gurus advise Western-based businesses to set foreign sales targets of 40 percent of all business revenues. But any global ventures must take into consideration the potential risks as well as rewards," she said.

To successfully tap global markets, companies require strategic plans that integrate e-commerce into their overall business strategies before they build secure, transactional-based Web sites. And they cannot afford to overlook due diligence. "A classic case of 'it's too good to be true' is often accompanied by an online request--or even demand--to evaluate a proposal quickly and sign the necessary papers at once," she said. "If the prospect is so compelling, it can wait until it is given adequate review."

If a new client places an order from your web site, how do you determine who they are, if they have the authority to place such an order and if their company has the ability to pay? A company can "proceed on faith," or it can sort out all potential transactional dilemmas before hanging its shingle in cyberspace. The Internet is making it easier for companies to conduct business in foreign countries, and it is making it easier for companies to conduct credit checks on foreign companies, said Julie Gage, business project manager, Dun & Bradstreet Canada, a NACM-Canada Credit Conference sponsor. Companies like Dun & Bradstreet can help credit managers adopt to the new global reach of the Internet by providing them with background and credit information online or by e-mail, she said. Scott Blakeley, partner with Blakeley & Blakeley LLP, concurred. The most dramatic effect on the Internet "is the shortening of the credit cycle," he said. Vendors are using the Internet to conduct background and credit checks on com panies, cutting dramatically into the time required to approve credit.


The Internet enables companies to do business around the world by connecting them, but global connections also "create serious security concerns," said Harry Brandon, founding partner of Smith Brandon International. The "Love Bug" virus was created in the Philippines but quickly swamped computer networks around the world, he reminded delegates. "Is the credit information you have on file secure from hackers?" he asked the delegates.

Companies are even posting order acknowledgement forms and invoices on secure web sites that customers can access. While clients enjoy the freedom of accessing information any time, they want to be assured their credit and purchasing history is secure, or they will look for other vendors.

"Computers are efficient, and they empower employees, but there are downsides," Brandon said. Fraud cost North American businesses $ 350 billion in 1990 and $ 400 billion in 1999. Computer fraud grew exponentially over this same time. Damages pegged at $ 300 million in 1990 hit $ 50 billion in 1999. Over 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies are computer crime victims, and employees have perpetrated many of the crimes.

Risk avoidance is obligatory. Firewalls and virus protection are required to keep hackers out. ID, passwords and other internal measures, including forensic audits, are required to prevent or track down illegal activity by employees.

Even with the risks associated with the Internet, Brandon says companies have "no choice" but to embrace electronic commerce. "The goal is to do it right, in a safe, secure, protected environment."


Using technology to do it right also includes employing information technology systems to make the credit department more efficient, says Brian Cheney, vice president technology, IHS Solutions Limited, an information management solutions technology company. Companies can increase collection efficiency without increasing operational collection costs using technology, he said.

Companies moved from paper-based document management to microfiche and then to CD-ROM. Now they are moving to Web-based data that puts information in the hands of clients. For example, if a vendor establishes a secure e-business web site, clients can search for the status of orders or for lost invoices based on purchase order number, product code or other criteria. Centralized credit databases and computer networks allow credit managers to fax or e-mail "lost" invoices from their desktop to overdue accounts while on the phone. This gives the credit manager the opportunity to say: "It's there now, so let's talk about the bill."

Information management automation is not a process than can be implemented overnight. Companies must review existing business practices and define ideal practices and then build systems that meet defined needs. Staff input is important if they are to buy into, rather than resist, automation, Clients also have to be kept in the loop and reassured that credit and payment information is secure.

Automating the credit department and integrating back office databases with web sites can be expensive propositions. The results, however, can include streamlined business practices, improved productivity and a higher rate of closure on outstanding accounts, Cheney said. "But why stop there?" asked Mark Visic, vice-president sales, Kubra Data Transfer Ltd., a document fulfillment, management and e-commerce company. Although companies have automated many aspects of traditional "print and mail" bill presentment, they still spend time and money printing invoices, stuffing and stamping envelopes and mailing bills. The post office then takes time delivering bills, which customers lose or claim they did not receive. Some companies have outsourced the entire print and mail process, which means a third party has to spend time doing what internal staff once did. And the post office is still involved in the equation. An automated electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) can reduce the time it takes to get invoice s in the hands of customers and payment in the bank, Visic said.

EBPP is an emerging technology that will eventually replace mail, fax and electronic data interchange (EDI). "EBPP offers corporations the ability to send invoices or statements to consumers via the Internet and process an electronic payment. Companies employing EBPP can post bills on their web site, with a financial institution or a third party clearinghouse. The client receives a secure notification and can view and pay bills online using credit cards, debit cards or other forms of electronic payment, trimming time off the invoice-to-payment cycle. The electronic bill is traceable from the moment the client receives notification, Visic said.

While 7 in 10 companies indicate that billing cost reductions are key to EBPP, the process can also be used to bring clients to a vendor's web site, allowing the vendor to market its brand and continue to sell to the client. "Now bill payment can be used to increase brand awareness, loyalty and sales," Visic said. "This represents a new opportunity for businesses to strategically use billing to sharpen their competitive edge in the new electronic economy."

EBPP is not yet simple or inexpensive to implement. "There is considerable sticker shock," said Visic. The return on investment is not there for every company considering it. Even so, the future holds some form of EBPP for most companies.

If you are still skeptical, look back over the last five years and review how the digital revolution has influenced the way your company does business, and the way you work. "When it comes to advances in technology, we haven't seen anything yet," said Dr. Atkinson. "In five to ten years, we'll look back at the technology we are using today the way we look back at dinosaurs." In other words, companies and credit departments will continue to evolve with the digital world and global economy, or face extinction.

Paul Lima is a freelance journalist and workshop leader based in Toronto, Ontario.

As companies begin to conduct e-commerce in the global market place and move to online billing and payment systems, they must tackle the issue of international law head- on, speakers at NACM-Canada's second annual Credit Conference and Expo told delegates in Toronto.

"In the virtual world, as in the paper world, commerce is based on contracts," said Marie-Pierre Simard, copyright lawyer with the law firm Brouillette Charpentier Fortin. Before a dispute over a virtual contract arises, credit managers need to know what makes virtual contracts acceptable to the courts. "Sometimes it seems as if the law cannot keep up with the information age. Yet, people involved in e-commerce must be able to identify the laws upon which e-commerce relies so that [virtual contracts] may be seen as a valid, enforceable, credible way to do business."

The federal governments in Canada and the US are developing national standards to govern e-commerce transactions, but many provinces and states have different laws, as do different jurisdiction around the world.

In some countries, only contracts with handwritten signatures are allowed in court. In other countries, an electronic signature (fax, scanned document, use of a PIN or password) is acceptable. Other jurisdictions--particularly in North America and Western Europe--will accept digital or encrypted signatures to prove a client ordered a product, and the vendor shipped in good faith.

In the US, electronic signatures cannot be "denied legal effect, validity or enforcement solely because it is in electronic form", said Scott Blakeley of Blakeley & Blakeley LLR. However, an electronic signature does not mean a company will win its case. All other laws for commerce come into play.

Blakeley also warned credit managers to be careful about what they write in email, especially if discussing a client's credit information with a third party. E-mail is easy to send, receive and forward, and sometimes people forget slander and conspiracy laws that cover the printed word, he said.

There are risks and opportunities associated with doing business in the global economy. When dealing with new clients in foreign countries, companies can protect themselves by insuring receivables, explained Angela Boston, business development manager, Export Development Corporation, which is a Canadian crown corporation that helps credit managers mitigate risk in 160 countries.

Her thoughts were echoed by Mark Hall, associate broker and credit insurance specialist with Dan Lawrie Insurance Brokers Ltd. Hall, which offers credit insurance for both domestic and global markets. "This is not a replacement for due diligence or a well-managed credit department," he said. "But it adds another layer of security."

If companies are having difficulty collecting uninsured payables, they can use training or technology to improve their ability to collect, or outsource collectables.

"Effective training can show people how to be assertive, not aggressive and collect more while retaining customers they want to keep," said Tim Paulsen of T. R. Paulsen & Associates, a company specializing in "creative receivables management."

Automating the collection process can boost the rate of return, says David Phillips, Guthrie Phillips Group (GPG) president and CEO. GPG's CAT2000 recovery system puts complete customer history in the hands of each staff member and schedules follow-up correspondence and calls. It can be connected to the company accounting system and updated the moment an invoice has been paid, so collectors are working from current information.

If collectables get out of hand and hiring more staff is not an option, then companies might look to outsourcing some or all the responsibility, says Robert Ingold, president of The Commercial Collection Corp. He admits some companies resent having bills turned over to collection agencies. However, his company can "work as an extension of the credit department" so the overdue client doesn't know the account has been turned over to a collection agency.

Smith Brandon has a network of experienced professionals throughout the world.

Smith Brandon International has a network of experienced professionals anywhere in the world.

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