Vanderbilt CEO Joe Grillo eyes more acquisitions and says the cloud is the future

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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
August 11, 2017

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Whitepaper: Multi-residential access management – The move to digital

Vanderbilt is a big player in access control, intrusion detection and video management and has been a prime mover in the frequent M&A activity witnessed in in the security sector in recent years.

We recently caught up with the company’s CEO, Joe Grillo, who recently came third in our roll call of the top 10 influencers among security manufacturers/service providers 2017, at IFSEC 2017.

With the help of Kim Loy, the company’s head of marketing, he discusses Vanderbilt’s latest products, its appetite for growth through acquisition and the growing importance of the cloud in physical security.

IFSEC Global: Congratulations once again on making our list of the top 10 influencers among security vendors. How has being at Vanderbilt helped you exert such an influence?

Joe Grillo: I hire really good people and we have great strategic partners.

But I also think we’ve been an active business. We acquired Siemens Security Products in 2015, and last year we did the ACT acquisition.

IG: And a lot of new integrations with other brands’ products we’ve noticed…

JG: Yes. So we’ve been busy. And I think that helps a lot. Several of our products, such as SPC, ACTEnterprise and Eventys, integrate with other manufacturers’ products and I think that it is extremely important in today’s market – to be adaptable and agile enough to offer your customers integrated solutions when they need them. It is all part of our ‘customer-first’ mantra.

“The cloud really has the momentum in the industry at the moment”

IG: What solutions are you really promoting the most at the moment?

JG: The big focus for us is on our cloud-based solutions. One of the reasons we acquired ACT was that last year they launched their ACT 365 cloud-based solution. ACT365 is an access control and video management cloud-based solution and that was something we did not have in our product set.

SPC Connect, which is the cloud-based interface for installers to manage all their installations using our SPC intrusion panel, is something we’re currently highlighting and we are rolling out some high-level features for that at the moment.

Those are our latest projects.

IG: In which industries do you get the most interest for cloud-based solutions?

JG: Kim, do you want to comment on that?

Kim Loy: ACT 365 was really designed for smaller facilities, because it has access and video. For small outlets, like retail locations, that want to manage them from one site but don’t want to have to install servers on site. They can access everything on a mobile phone.

We’ve also looked at applications outside security. So one of the signature applications was for a prestigious tennis club. They use it for video monitoring of the courts and for the scheduling system.

“We continue to see from the access control side a lot of growth in wireless locks and wireless devices”

They can schedule for certain members to use the courts at a certain time, say 1400-1500, then those members have access only during those times. So we’ve found some complementary ways to use those products just by understanding use cases and we’ll be looking at the profile of those customers where we’re successful and identifying what other types of businesses have similar profiles.

For instance, looking at the reservation system as part of that profile, there are many other applications where that could be used.

IG: Any other products you’re championing?

JG: We’ve acquired a number of other access control products from ACT. Being a smaller company, ACT were more limited in their geographical penetration, so we’re now rolling some of those products – like ACTpro and ACTEnterprise – out through the rest of Vanderbilt in Europe.

We’ve also expanded Eventys, our value video line.

IG: More broadly, what do you think are the most interesting trends in the market you operate in at the moment?

JG: Again, the cloud. It really has the momentum in the industry at the moment.

And we continue to see from the access control side a lot of growth in wireless locks and wireless devices. And there are trends towards different system architecture for access control. The influence of IT departments wanting everything to be an IP device – that’s certainly a trend we see that I don’t think will change anytime soon.

IG: How do these technological trends impact your interactions with the supply chain and your approach to distribution? Because the nature of systems is changing, it must involve IT people more…

JG: Vanderbilt has a new website, a new customer newsletter and a new partner programme, which is something Kim has developed.

So we’re developing new ways to communicate everything we’re doing, including industry trends, through our resellers. And we’re trying take advantage of the loyalty they’ve always shown to our products with these new programmes.

We’ve always sold through wholesale distribution and direct to installers. We’ll always analyse what is the right balance, and it might be regional because of the level of maturity or historical penetration of certain markets by wholesale distribution.

I don’t think those change so much. Some of the resellers perhaps have to go through changes in how they educate their installers to stay up to speed with what is going on in the IT world.

IG: Finally, in terms of Vanderbilt’s medium to long-term strategy, where do you see the company going? More acquisitions, expanding into more adjacent markets?

JG: Certainly we will be acquisitive. To date, we’ve done one acquisition every year. And it’s also important to note that Vanderbilt’s parent company, Acre, have also been acquisitive. We acquired ComNet last December, only a month after we acquired ACT.

I run the parent company, Acre, and Vanderbilt. We’ll continue to grow organically and continue to develop products with a very strong investment in technology. But we’ll also be looking at acquisition opportunities as they come forward.

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