3 predictions for the executive protection industry in 2020


January 7, 2020 - By Christian West & Brian Jantzen

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As we open our calendars to the new year – and a new decade – Christian West and Brian Jantzen share some insights on the trends they believe will be most important for the executive protection industry in 2020 – and make three predictions.

1. Increasing attention to personal cybersecurity will bring about the first executive protection technology officers in 2020

Hardly a week went by during 2019 without more news on digital security. Most of it was not good. Here are just a few of the items we’ve seen recently:

  • During the worst year on record for data breaches, an estimated 8.5 billion records were exposed in 2019 – and those were only the ones that got reported.
  • About 20 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by the end of 2020.
  • Just last week, Wyze announced that a data leak exposed the personal information of 2.4 million customers who use their popular IoT cameras.
  • Facial recognition technology – already nearly ubiquitous in China – recently received massive new boosts when…
    • …Chinese airports (and train/metro stations) started using facial recognition to process people through everything from check-in and immigration to buying duty-free goods. Convenient, yes. But also concerning.

Does anyone really think that 2020 will be less eventful in terms of digital security? Will companies worldwide stop business travel to China, or anywhere else, because of digital security? We don’t think so. But we do believe that executives will be more concerned about their personal digital security – and that executive protection professionals will play an increasingly important role in providing it.

During 2019, we wrote about the importance of TSCM (technical security countermeasures) and mail screening for executive protection programs. Corporate security leaders will become more aware of these protective activities and the threats they mitigate in 2020. And we’re sure that increased TSCM and mail screening programs are just the beginning.

As more CEOs and their corporate employees travel to more places and stay connected while on the road to colleagues, friends, and families – not to mention social media followers –  their exposure to personal digital security vulnerabilities will only increase. At the same time, bad actors will continue to shift from physical to cybercrime and adapt otherwise helpful technological advances for their own reasons.

To meet these growing personal security challenges, we expect a new specialization within executive protection to become a reality in 2020: the executive protection technology officer, or EPTO.

EPTOs will first appear in larger corporate EP programs. These members of personal protective teams will share all the qualifications of a good EP generalist, but they will specialize in digital security. While they will not be dedicated TSCM experts, for example, they will be able to perform basic TSCM techniques. And because they will know the difference between good and bad TSCM, they will be charged with selecting, briefing, and supervising a growing number of TSCM vendors worldwide.

EPTOs will play a similar role vis a vis other digital security risks: it will be their job to understand the ever-expanding range of digital threats and vulnerabilities and to devise the best mitigation that time and budgets allow.

Once larger executive protection programs gain experience with EPTOs, we expect the usage of EPTOs to grow. While we don’t expect EPTOs to be commonplace in 2020, we do believe they will start to play an active role in the coming year.

2. More executive protection clients and providers will start measuring quality in 2020

We’ve already thought and written a good deal about quality control, operational optimization, and standardization in the executive protection industry, and the quality issue is nothing new. That does not mean that it is not important or that its significance will be unchanged in 2020, however.

What will be different in 2020, we believe, is that more clients and providers will be focusing on the issue in more measurable ways.

One quantifiable method we expect to see more of is ISO 9000 certification, which provides clear standards and tools for consistent quality control and ongoing quality improvement. While time-consuming and clearly not for all, we find this approach to be extremely helpful as it focuses attention within the organization on the quality of services and provides customers and vendors with a transparent and reliable means of understanding whether agreed quality guidelines are actually adhered to.

Measurable quality parameters will also feature in more RFPs for executive protection services in the coming year. We can already see this in interactions with many clients. Quarterly business reviews with program-specific quality metrics are increasingly common. And we are even seeing innovative uses of metrics to help in measuring things that are hard to quantify.

Take employee turnover as it relates to company culture, for example. While turnover is a problem in many professional service industries, in one like ours it presents particular challenges. How an EP agent “fits” the assignment – both relative to the principal and to the rest of the team – is very different in a job where you can get fired for wearing the wrong pair of shoes.

Metrics on employee turnover are one indicator of how well EP companies meet the “fit” challenge. Below the surface of turnover statistics, however, lie other metrics that can help predict how likely EP agents are to stay on. Case in point: clients have recently begun to use statistics from Glassdoor to evaluate the attractiveness of employer brands, including overall ratings, of course, but also how many reviewers would “recommend the workplace to a friend” or “approve of its CEO”.

Watch out for even more focus and innovation regarding quality metrics in EP programs and providers in 2020.

3. Executive protection providers will play a bigger role than ever in corporate travel in 2020

Sure, virtual meetings are great and trade disputes and other uncertainties kept some executives at home during 2019. But corporations are still spending record amounts of money on travel. In fact, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that corporations worldwide will spend an unprecedented USD 1.513 trillion on travel in 2020.

That’s a lot of money. But the figures also represent a lot of an even scarcer executive resource: time.

According to a fascinating paper published in the Harvard Business Review, How CEOs Manage Time, the average CEO of major companies (average annual revenue = $13 billion) puts in 62.5 hours per week on the job. Interestingly, less than half of that time, or 47%, was spent working at corporate headquarters. The rest of the CEO’s working time was spent at non-HQ sites (6%) and outside the company (47%). In other words, more than half of all CEO working time is spent on the road. Although we don’t have any statistics on other members of the C-suite, we imagine that they, too, spend a significant amount of time away from their desks.

This jibes with our experience. For many years, we have seen non-stop growth in activities that support executive travel, which provide secure drivers and vehicles along with protective agents, intelligence and operation center backup, among other services, for a growing number of corporate clients. 2019 was our busiest year yet, and we know that colleagues in the industry are also reporting strong growth.

We expect this trend to continue and even accelerate in 2020 and beyond. For one thing, more executives are traveling to more places – including emerging markets where risk scenarios are different than in developed markets. In many developing economies, an objective evaluation of travel risk reveals that traffic accidents and crime are far more likely to harm travelers than terror incidents. As travelers become savvier about these destinations and their security situations, they are more likely to look for solutions that mitigate the risks with the highest probability and impact.

Just as important as mitigating personal security risks, however, is the ability of executive protection professionals to enhance productivity for travelers. Reducing or removing attention-draining friction points, speeding up transit times, and personalizing travel experiences are all collateral benefits of executive protection that enable more efficient use of time. And time is something we will all looking to get more of in 2020.

What do you predict will be important for the executive protection industry in 2020? Ping us on social media and let us know!

Photo by Se Nuno on Unsplash

Christian West

Founder and CEO

Christian has been active in the executive protection industry since the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. Upon returning to Denmark, he founded his own EP company, which he quickly grew into Scandinavia’s largest, before it was acquired by Securitas.

Christian founded AS Solution in 2003, and again in 2009 followed his international clients to the US, where he is now based. An active member of ASIS and a leader in the corporate executive protection industry, Christian has personally planned and led high-profile engagements in over 76 countries for a wide variety of corporate and high net worth individual clients, including the international roadshow for the biggest IPO in history.

Brian Jantzen

Executive Vice President

After leaving the US Marine Corps as a captain in the early 1990s, Brian has pioneered corporate executive protection services internationally for Fortune 500 companies, high net worth families and NGOs.

Brian has provided protection at the highest levels of corporate and philanthropic environments in over 35 countries. With his demonstrated ability to align security operations with both the client’s organizational goals and personal preferences, Brian uses his strong relationship building, collaboration and project and vendor management expertise to create security solutions that deliver program efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Brian graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Sociology and is the subject matter expert chair for the ASIS Executive Protection Council.