Interview: the Value of Bruce

BT Counterpane's Bruce Schneier talks to Eleanor Dallaway about why he hasn't been fired yet

Bruce Schneier has increased BT’s press mentions in the North American press by 21% since the UK telecom giant’s acquisition of his firm Counterpane one year ago. BT insists that the acquisition ran smoothly and that the two companies are working well together, and Bruce tells us that the Counterpane people are happy. But it seems there are a few creases in the BT Counterpane story that still need to be ironed out—Bruce’s job title being the first.

“I thought that by now I’d have had a BT title, but find me the person to give me one,” Schneier said, speaking to Infosecurity at the RSA Conference on 23 October. “You see I’m not going to lose my CTO Counterpane title—it’s a good title. But I think they’d [BT] be smart to make me something in BT. But it has to be a title equally good or I’m not going to give this one up. She [talking about BT’s PR representative who accompanied Bruce at the interview] says you just do it, but I don’t know what that means. There has to be someone who says yes and no-one knows who that someone is.”

“OK, so I’ll change my title to supreme deity or minister without portfolio, and see how long that lasts,” he joked, on being told again that he can just change the job title, as long as it is not to that of board member.

Schneier argued that although Counterpane is integrating into BT’s service offerings and sales force, the staff still retain a lot of independence. “And that’s neat, surprising and smart. It was a fear when we entered the deal—but we entered the deal because we were told they wouldn’t pull our arms and legs off, and they haven’t.” He continued: “Largely they leave me be. They’ve never demanded to approve my writings and speeches, and they haven’t fired me yet, so I take that as a positive sign.”

Schneier recently conducted his own research into what he describes as “The value of a Bruce”. And he happily shares these results with Infosecurity. “I had the US PR people pull all the clippings, and Bruce has single-handedly increased BT’s press mentioning in North America by 21%—and mentions of BT and security by 330%. So I hope they appreciate that,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.

With the acquisition a year old next week, “I’m collecting clippings to say ‘so you’ve brought yourself a Bruce—here’s what you’ve gotten. If you still want one you’ve got to let me know, otherwise we’ll see how things go’. So I’ve been collecting data on the value of a Bruce, so these people [BT] know what a Bruce is worth today. I was impressed.”

“BT Counterpane is much closer than BT Bruce, but they are both close and independent in different ways,” said Schneier, who argues that the difference between small companies and big companies is much more apparent than that between UK and US companies. “I always assumed that Counterpane would be acquired. I thought it might be someone like IBM, AT&T Global Services or EDS or something like that. I’d never heard of BT… I mean no-one [in America] knows about BT, no-one’s heard of them.”

From Schneier’s own statistics however, it would seem that this is changing now that BT has him on board. “Bruce coming on board was a bonus,” said Ray Stanton, global head of business continuity, security & governance practice, BT Global Services. “It’s no secret that Bruce isn’t a typical corporate player but that’s one of the reasons why he is so valuable to the wider team. Having Bruce on the BT team brings with it mutual benefits and a heightened recognition for what was already one of the most successful global security practices.”

“We’re delighted with the integration of the two companies over the past year. The main focus for the business has been making the greatest possible success of the acquisition,” concluded Stanton.

Categories: Text, Written Interviews

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.