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Last year, TriWest Healthcare Alliance ran into a problem. Someone broke into their offices and ran off with hard drives containing the personal information of 550,000 customers, enough to steal the identities of customers "from privates in the military all the way up to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Rather than hoping the story wouldn't break, then notifying everyone after the press ferreted out the problem, TriWest CEO Dave McIntyre placed his customers' interest first. He called a press conference to let his customers know their information had been stolen and spent between $1 and 2 million to provide fraud alerts and protection for their customers. Rather than pretending that the $@#% hadn't hit the fan, he moved quickly to make things right.

What I found especially surprising were McIntyre's comments about taking this kind of approach.

It's what's right for the customer. And I believe that if you keep your customer at the center, that things generally turn out right...

It's a priviledge to have customers. Ultimately we're all customers. And so we look at this from the standpoint of how would we want to be treated were we in their situation.

Since that incident, McIntyre has continued advocating for protecting customers' personal information, testifying before congress and working with lawmakers to draft legislation requiring companies to notify customers of security breaches.

I've heard a lot of talk about placing customers first in different places I've worked, even more from companies with which I've been a customer. (Among them at least one bank who experienced a security breach like TriWest and didn't notify me until the press and public pressure forced their hand.) I'm glad to see McIntyre step up to acknowledge problems and move quickly to protect customers rather than sit and wait to see if the other shoe drops.