In today’s fiscally challenged business environment it may be difficult to justify providing an Executive Protection Program for an organization’s key executives. However, in making this important decision one also has to consider what the cost would be to the organization’s bottom line and, perhaps more importantly, to its reputation should a key member of the senior leadership team be the target of an act aimed at harming or embarrassing the individual and the organization.
Executive Protection Discussion
Any decision regarding enhanced personal protection measures for corporate personnel should begin with a complete understanding of the threat environment. This requires the development of a detailed understanding of the environment within which executives may find themselves – better known as the threat assessment. Detailed threat assessments allow the practitioner to see danger factors in a different light, appreciating both the contextual and progressive dynamics of a given environment. In general terms, Presidia has noted the following types of general threats faced by organizations and individuals:
- Personal Threats: Threats specific to the individual. These include threats from someone who may resent or have a personal issue with the Principal or the Principal’s family.
- Professional Threats: Threats that may arise due to the Principal’s specific position within his or her chosen profession or working environment.
- Business Threats: Threats that may be specific to an industry; in particular, those that may stem from special interest groups that may seek to cause harm or embarrassment to a Principal or the organization and bring attention to the subject’s cause.
- Geographical Threats: Threats specific to a location that a Principal may be visiting.
These threats can range from threats of violence from criminal or dissident groups to environmental threats such as weather, disease or natural disaster.
The above-noted threats have been exacerbated in recent times by the increase in the use of social media. A controversial or perceived negative decision or action by a corporation or its executives can now reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people in literally minutes. This has increased the risk of responses from individual activists, or organized groups who are willing to use extreme measures to make examples of organizations and individuals with whom they disagree.
As a result, it is extremely important for any decisions regarding executive protection measures to begin with a clear understanding of the threats, risk and vulnerabilities facing the organization and its management team. Further, these findings should be clearly documented, along with appropriate recommendations for protective measures, and communicated to members of the senior management team so that well informed decisions can be made.
Once a complete and thorough assessment has been completed and a decision has been made that one of the appropriate risk mitigation strategies is the development of an Executive Protection Program, then the next question is “how does the company go about doing that?”
A proper Executive Protection Program will be based upon the threats, risks, and vulnerabilities that were initially identified, bearing in mind that these factors will change with time and as such will require continual monitoring and updating. Although every situation will vary slightly there are key factors that exist in all Executive Protection Programs. They are:
- A robust intelligence program to ensure a clear understanding of the current threat environment
- Development of procedures for special events
- Deployment of properly trained chauffeurs
- Use of counter surveillance tactics
- Office and residential security programs
- Deployment of Executive Protection Operators
The primary aim of any Executive Protection Program is to provide the appropriate level of protection to the designated individual with the least amount of disruption to their professional and personal life. In fact, a properly developed and implemented program will enhance the life of the individual being protected. One of the big misunderstandings, often perpetuated by television and movie renditions of bodyguards are that the role of the Executive Protection Specialist is to be large and imposing. This is far from the truth. These specialists should be of low profile and unobtrusive while ensuring, through proper advanced planning, that the day-to-day activities of the principal being protected proceeds smoothly and that any potential threats have been planned for and all possible advance mitigation factors have been implemented.
Now that we understand the basic components of an Executive Protection Program and how a properly trained and experienced Executive Protection Specialist can assist the organization, we will now take a brief look at what an organization should look for in the firms and individuals who may provide these services.
The image of the television or movie version of the large, imposing bodyguard clad in a black suit is the opposite of what is required. A professional Executive Protection Specialist’s primary skill sets are intelligence, sophistication, and diplomacy. These members must be able to easily blend in with the executives at professional and social events. Although the ability to react in the event of an untoward or violent occurrence is important, it is more important for the member to be able to be proactive and to identify and mitigate potential threats before they have a chance to take place.
The single biggest attribute of a proper firm or individual providing executive protection services is their ability to conduct advanced intelligence gathering and meticulous planning. In selecting a firm or individual to provide executive protection one has to consider their experience in conducting intelligence-based threat and risk analysis as well as conducting background investigations on individuals and locations. The individual Executive Protection Specialist must be physically fit, professional and knowledgeable on security strategies. Often individuals are hired for these types of roles based upon their background in policing or the military, which alone does not make them appropriate for the position. An inappropriately trained and inexperienced member can quickly become more of a liability than a service.
Unfortunately, in Canada, unlike other countries such as Great Britain, there are no legislated or regulated standards for firms and individuals providing executive protection services. In all Canadian provinces and territories, all that an individual has to have is a general security guard license, the exact same as anyone providing security services at malls or other such locations. That is why it is extremely important when seeking firms or individuals to provide executive protection services that a complete review of the firm and their team’s training and experience is necessary. Ask for references from past clients who have received services similar to that being required by your organization, have interviews with the prospective firm or individual where you seek their response to scenario based questions. At the end of the day when the well-being of the member being protected and the reputation of your organization is at risk you do not want to enhance that risk by hiring firms or individuals who are untrained and ill-prepared to provide the professional services you deserve.