Author: John Honovich, Published on Jun 22, 2015

Amid declining exhibitor attendance and membership troubles, the richest man in security management is leaving.

Michael Stack, ASIS CEO, famous for $600,000+ annual compensation, is retiring at the end of 2015. ASIS confirmed to IPVM that a headhunter / search firm has been retained and ASIS is in the process of identifying / hiring a replacement.

ASIS Problems

More than half of ASIS' ~$30 million annual revenue comes from seminars, most importantly exhibitor booths fees at their annual event (see ASIS financials). However, attendance is down over the past 8 years from ~22,000 to ~19,000 (the earliest audited exhibition statement available was 2007). And the companies who pay ASIS the most money, manufacturers, are unhappy with the show.

Membership is not doing well either. Ten years ago, ASIS reported 33,000 members. Last year, they reported 38,000, implying a sub 2% annual growth rate. Now, after a controversial 30% membership price hike, ASIS removed public reporting of membership count from its site.

Update: Though ASIS responded to our original question about the CEO leaving, they have not responded to the member count question, further signaling that membership has declined notably after the price hike.

A New Era?

On the positive side, this gives ASIS an opportunity to find a new leader for a new era. Stack has been CEO since 1993, when there was practically no commercial Internet and electronic security systems were simpler and less critical.

While ASIS remains strong for in-person end user networking and retains the most widely respected security manager certification program (CPP), ASIS has not adapted well to the changes of the past two decades.

In particular, the rise of technology manufacturers has swelled ASIS coffers with tens of millions in advertising, sponsorships and exhibition money. At the same time, this has crippled ASIS ability to report or cover on technology, increasing central to the roles of security managers. It is obvious that ASIS does not want to criticize or offend technology manufacturers, their core revenue providers.

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What's Next?

A number of people suggested that Michael Gips is a likely candidate to be the next CEO. A Harvard-educated attorney and an ASIS employee for more than 20 years, Gips LinkedIn profile highlights his ambition and focus:

"I implemented and oversaw an overhaul of [Security Management magazine] division, restoring profitability"

"Introducing a powerful revenue generator: content creation and marketing"

"I previously built ASIS's blue ribbon CSO Roundtable from the ground up, achieving profitability in three years and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue"

The first two speak to getting more money from technology manufacturers while adding in 'content marketing' that transforms journalists into PR people for vendors. The latter forces security managers to pay ASIS even more money (another $500) for essentially a premium tier of membership.

In fairness, profitability for ASIS is important and something they are struggling with. In their most recent disclosed financials (2013), ASIS lost more than $1.5 million. On the positive side, the organization reports $26.7 million in net assets built up over the years.

The reality, though, is that ASIS can be financially viable for a long time, as it has a large enough brand and strong enough position in credentialing that they can reorganize / cut costs to make things work.

The big issue is what ASIS want to be. Does ASIS ever really want to provide good, fair and accurate information on security technology that their members spend billions on or is ASIS happy to take vendors money to sell their members to those manufacturers?

1 report cite this report:

Weak ASIS 2015 Show Upsets Manufacturers on Oct 02, 2015
Though ASIS is supposed to be dedicated to security professionals, their main customer base and revenue source ($10+ million) is...
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