SEI Investments designs a secure system in an open environment
SEI Investments designs a secure system in an open environment

Apr 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Our facilities are open but secure. We want to give the impression of an open environment in which access control is not intrusive. It is part of our general approach to work. We are creating an atmosphere conducive to work.

Imagine working in a building without offices, without cubicles ! completely open. Now imagine designing an access control system that provides security without compromising the open architecture philosophy. Furthermore, imagine a company with total integration: access control, badging, paging, fire and building management systems.

Dunham Hollister, director of risk management at SEI Investments, Oaks, Pa., faces this challenge every day at work. A 20-year veteran at SEI Investments, Hollister strikes a balance between modern security and a pleasant professional environment.

SEI Investments, founded in 1968, provides investment services for financial institutions including mutual fund management and administration. It manages family wealth and coordinates investment transactions for banks and other financial services firms. It also provides "back-office" technology for trust departments, including software.

The company's facilities are a striking example of a different kind of open architecture. "There are no offices. A totally modern set-up. You don't see any cubicles ! just 50 to 100 desks on wheels," says Hollister. The six buildings at the central location in Oaks are spread over 15 rolling green acres. There are 12 people in the security department.

SEI Investments, located about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, is modern and accustomed to change, as evidenced by the communications equipment hanging in pythons from the ceiling.

The Protection Bureau, a systems integrator and Casi-Rusco dealer in Exton, Pa., handled the installation of the Picture Perfect system. Bob Burket, a senior security consultant at the Protection Bureau, was the chief project integrator. In the 14 years he has worked with SEI Investments, he has developed an effective working relationship with Hollister and his staff. His forte is electronic systems design.

SEI Investments has had the Casi-Rusco Picture Perfect access control system for five years.

In searching for a system that would accommodate SEI's need for non-intrusive security, Hollister and his team looked at several systems. "It had to be forward-looking. It could not be obsolete in two years," says Hollister. "We wanted a system that was painless to install, and we also had just installed a brand new phone system."

The CCTV system was immediately integrated into the access control system. Building management was integrated a year after the initial installation. An integrated paging system is used to notify staff members for alarms but is also used for paging throughout the office.

The company ! some 1,300 employees, including consultants and vendors ! uses Casi-Rusco prox cards and Casi-Rusco readers. Onsite vendors and long-term consultants, many of whom are involved in ongoing projects, receive badges too.

At the Oaks facility, there are 72 Panasonic cameras, 26 of which are pan, tilt and zoom. All cameras are color. The Panasonic VCRs record continuously, and the risk management staff actively monitors the cameras. Most of the interior and exterior doors ! numbering about 57 doors ! are covered by CCTV. The cameras placed at the exterior doors are all pan, tilt and zoom and the system does integrated camera callup.

SEI Investments takes advantage of the Secure Area Management (SAM) feature of the Casi-Rusco access control system. SAM allows local addition and deletions of badges. The Picture Perfect system is evolving with SEI as it grows, according to Burket.

SEI Investments has operations at two other U.S. locations one of which is in Wayne, Pa. The Wayne facility contains the data center and server farm, and some other departments including mutual funds services. The other remote office, which is monitored from the Oaks office, is a sales office in New York City.

SEI Investments maintains offices in Paris, London and Dublin. The Oaks risk management staff does not monitor these offices.

The data center is the most secure part of the company. It requires card access and a PIN. In keeping with the overall company philosophy, security at the data center is very unobtrusive.

Hollister and his staff cannot currently monitor the cameras in the remote locations from their office. The company is transitioning from local monitoring to centralized control of all facilities. Hollister is also considering transferring to a fully digital CCTV system.

"We have a very small security staff ! in terms of guards," Hollister says. The proprietary guard force consists of two people. Burket says it is the largest space monitored by fewest people ! the electronics allow a small staff.

The fire, building management, and access control are linked to an alphanumeric paging system. The paging system, manufactured by Scope Communications, Devon, England, is programmed to page certain employees in the event of definable alarms. If the HVAC has an alarm situation, the maintenance staff is paged with the critical information. The X-03 fire system is manufactured by Pyrotronics, a division of Siemens Cerberus, Florham Park, N.J.

Five people are trained to administer badging. A Panasonic CCTV camera is used to take the pictures. The badging sytem, part of the Picture Perfect system, is integrated with an Oracle database, whose records are shared with a terminal located in the lobby of the main entrance. The terminal contains a database of employee phone numbers and pictures which visitors can use to locate employees. Employees may access the same virtual phone book from any desk terminal.

Visitors to SEI Investments enter through a single entrance. Once inside, they are greeted by a concierge ! not a security guard.

Hollister travels to the remote locations to do the imaging of personnel there.

According to Hollister and Burket, SEI Investments and The Protection Bureau have built a partnership over the years. SEI beta-tests new products for Casi-Rusco.

"Our facilities are open but secure," Hollister explains. "We want to give the impression of an open environment in which access control is not intrusive. It is part of our general approach to work. In the office, the lighting is subdued to prevent eye strain. We are creating an atmosphere conducive to work."

The company is in the process of installing additional security measures. A new parking garage is under construction that will feature security intercoms manufactured by Code Blue, Holland, Mich. The intercoms have single-button activation, and SEI security personnel will respond to calls.

According to Hollister, there have been no security incidents at the company. In the future, Hollister plans to monitor the buildings remotely ! even from his living room ! taking advantage of remote monitoring via the company's LAN.

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