William McGuire is President of Global Elite Group, a company he founded in 2002 as Global Security Associates, after serving as Vice President of Virgin Security Services for 8 years. Global Elite Group is an international aviation security firm with twelve offices worldwide serving over 50 airlines and airports. Mr. McGuire has been a volunteer fireman for over 27 years. He has received numerous awards and citations including Fireman of the Year. Will’s passion for the men and women on the front lines, led him to start the Global Foundation for First Responders in 2015. He developed the foundation into a successful charity providing for the needs of families left behind after tragedy has struck. Each year he oversees several charity events raising thousands through his foundation.
1. Global Elite is an internationally recognized organization that has won awards in the security industry over the years. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Yes we have won numerous international awards, including 2018 ASTORS Platinum Award winner for Best Airport/Aviation Security Program, and in 2016 and 2017 we were awarded Outstanding Contract Security Company (OSPA). Closer to home, I felt the most honored by the Man of the Year award received from Christ the World Church. Being recognized by the JFK community (where I started my career in aviation security) and accepting the award with my family, colleagues and friends present is something I will never forget.
2. Philanthropy is clearly a driving force at Global Elite, with the Global Foundation for First Responders. How did the foundation come about and who does it serve?
About 5 years ago we started a company Golf Outing that was initially intended to be a client appreciation event. Due to its success, and our industry affiliation with many of the Law Enforcement and Fire Fighter Associations we decided to give back and try to help fill the financial need of families of firefighters and police officers that have been killed in the line of duty serving and protecting us from harm. We felt we needed to take care of families that gave so much and we therefore created the Global Foundation to support this crucially important cause.
3. Technology is evolving constantly, especially in regards to aviation and security. What do you think are the most exciting advancements that we may not even know about yet?
There are numerous exciting advancements in aviation security as it relates to technology. If you walk through an airport today, you will see advanced technology that did not even exist 5 years ago. This is indicative of a rapid development pace that is certain to continue as we progress. The use of biometrics will continue to grow and ultimately I believe we will see passengers traveling without any paper documentation as every element of identity will be verified by electronic and biometric means. In the very near future, we are likely to see technology that fully addresses the concerns related to liquid explosives and we will no longer be required to remove liquids from our carry-on baggage.
Similarly, the technology does now exist that allows for more effective screening of footwear – here too, we will no longer need to remove shoes for screening. While there is continued focus on technology speeding up passenger screening and ensuring better detection capabilities, we must still remain cautious in our approach. We must never forget that technology alone will not mitigate all threats – there will always be a human element to security countermeasures and we must not forget that this is the most important aspect. We should invest in people as much, if not more, than just the technology.
4. Being a business owner and entrepreneur is never easy. What advice would you give someone thinking about leaving a great job to make that leap?
It is a difficult decision to leave the safety and security of a stable job, but there is enormous gratification and reward in going out on your own and being independent. One has to be 110% committed to your vision and have the motivation and drive to weather the ups and downs. It’s hard work and one must be patient and confident in what one is doing. Success does not come easy and there are a lot of sacrifices that will be made, but the rewards of watching your business evolve and creating a successful enterprise is an incredible feeling of accomplishment and gratification. In the case of our company, Global Elite Group, my vision was to provide specialized aviation security services to an industry that had been severely disrupted after the 9/11 attacks.
5. Airports are always changing the way they handle security and threat assessments. Which airports or countries do you think are currently leading the industry in innovation?
There are many airports in Europe that stand out for innovation in airport security. London Heathrow is implementing new 3D scanners that will not require passengers to remove liquids from their bags. Brussels Airport that has unfortunately had experiences with terrorism continues to enhance its security posture to meet the ever changing security landscape and has adopted a community / stakeholder approach that should serve as an example for all airports around the world. If one has the ability to build a new airport from the ground up, it is a lot easier to integrate all the security advancements from day one which is what we are witnessing in Asia and the Middle East. In the US, we are essentially limited to the existing airports and while we develop at those airports with an established infrastructure, it is a lot more challenging to achieve standards that we see elsewhere in the world. The security climate is in constant flux and while we design airports for today’s needs, the focus should be on the ability to adjust and adapt to changing threat vectors.