A new year is upon us – and our thoughts naturally turn to thinking ahead to prepare for new challenges. This blog focuses on what we see as the most important trends facing the corporate executive protection industry – and what they will mean for both corporate clients and the specialist partners that service their EP needs.
1. Professionalization and consolidation will continue to shape the corporate executive protection industry
We expect the EP industry will mature even more in 2016, as specialist partners professionalize their services and operations to keep up with the requirements of demanding corporate clients. We also believe that we will see more consolidation throughout the entire industry, as security firms who are able to serve major corporations grow in expertise as well as market share, and smaller firms either give up or experience flat growth.
Like other fragmented industries, Mom and Pops continue to have a disproportionate share of the corporate EP market. Security companies that service shopping malls and banks are still called on to provide close personal protection for corporate clients. We believe this will change even more in 2016.
Our industry matures alongside – indeed, is driven by – our client’s growing expectations. Corporations’ focus on the quality of their EP programs – and thus on the qualifications of their EP agents and managers – will only increase in 2016. The role of the EP manager will be even more in focus. This means that more emphasis will be placed on soft skills, training and real corporate EP experience, and less on simply having a background in law enforcement or the military.
Better performance management and ongoing quality improvement programs will play an increasingly vital role on the HR side. Planning that integrates EP into overall corporate strategies, values and culture will be more commonplace. Even finance departments will be more involved as cost drivers become more transparent, and only properly funded specialist partners will be able to take on large-scale projects without worrying about cash flow problems.
Since the businesses of practically all of our corporate clients are inherently global, specialist EP partners must also have a broad international footprint. We need to be ready to serve our clients wherever they go. This, too, will mean that smaller local and regional players will often come up short when travel needs grow.
2. Corporations will place more importance on EP’s business value
2016 may well be the year when the term “executive protection” gets an overhaul. A more descriptive name for what we actually do (albeit not as easy to say) would be “executive protection and productivity enhancement”.
We have known for a long time that good corporate EP must do more than mitigate risk. It must also enable the principle to get more done in less time. Smooth travel logistics allow “the highest paid person in the room” to be in more rooms in more places, get there with less stress, and be as productive on the road as at home.
We believe that is why more and more boards are putting a pencil to the derived benefits of best-in-class EP programs. In addition to duty of care toward highly prominent execs and protecting shareholder value, enabling better productivity is good for C-suite principles and good for business. Everything else being equal, it even boosts competitiveness.
3. The need for secure travel logistics will grow even more
As globalization and international instability continue to escalate in 2016, more companies will be looking for more protection in more places.
This trend will only be reinforced by other forces such as increasing focus on disparity of income and the internet’s insatiable thirst for celebrity stories. The prominence of high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals and their families will increase, creating the need for better understanding of the consequent risks, threats and vulnerabilities – and how to mitigate them.
But we predict that requirements for secure travel will increase not only for members of the C-suite. Lower-level execs, service technicians and others will also be provided with more travel support, especially in emerging markets. Travel, HR and legal departments will consider duty of care obligations alongside growth opportunities in unfamiliar territories – and this will be reflected in more decisions to mitigate predictable risks for travelers and expats.
We also believe the corporate EP market in China will continue to grow. Yes, the stock market is tanking, but China still boasts more billionaires than even the US. We plan for growth there.
4. Insider threats and workplace instability will emerge as clear risk factors
It’s a little-known fact, but one of the most serious risks many corporate executives face derives from within their own organizations: disgruntled employees with real or perceived grudges.
A number of our clients are particularly exposed to this kind of risk, and we are already actively involved in detecting and preventing threats for them.
The number and scale of corporate mergers and acquisitions in 2016 is expected to keep pace with 2015 and even increase. This, along with other factors mentioned above, will mean that threats that originate among the tens of thousands of employees that major corporations hire and fire will continue to grow.
5. New technology will continue to create problems as well as solutions
It’s been said before, but that makes it no less true: practically every new technological advance in the security sphere creates opportunities as well as threats – no matter which side of the protection equation you are on.
The bad guys keep up on tech news like the rest of. Every time we start using a new piece of tech to improve security, somebody somewhere is trying to figure out a way to breach it.
One example is the “Internet of Things”. Wireless security cameras have become so good and portable that they are now an integral part of our “halls and walls” surveillance on many details – also on the road. But as more and more of the things we all use, from cameras to cars to thermostats, include embedded computational devices connected to the internet, the amount of data they generate about what we do grows exponentially. Gartner estimates that as many as 26 billion “things” will be connected by 2020. The privacy and security implications are massive, and too complex to cover in this blog. Suffice it to say that we are constantly upping our game, and that 2016 will bring even more challenges.
Drones are another example. In just a few years these unmanned aerial vehicles have transitioned from top-secret military technology to something any kid can buy at ToysRUs. We already routinely have to defend against them to protect the privacy and security of some of our clients, and we’re also using them proactively for the same purpose. Could 2016 be the year when we see drone attacks that go beyond the intrusive to the dangerous? We certainly hope not, but smart corporations and their specialist EP partners are preparing for the worst. Read our two blogs on drones and corporate security here and here.
Other tech developments will be further improving the efficiency and reach of corporate EP. Our own apps, ADVANCE and ODIN, launched in 2015, are a case in point. ADVANCE helps EP teams improve the quality of advance work, and saves hours and hours of paperwork; it is already used by many EP teams – not just our own – and we expect greater use in 2016. With the ODIN tracking app – connected to emergency response services – we believe we will be able improve security for many more beyond the C-suite.
6. Intelligence analysis will become more widespread at the corporate level
We saw a significant increase in our intelligence analysis services last year, and we are confident that this trend will continue in 2016.
Many companies already understand the value of gathering and analyzing information of all kinds to improve operational continuity and inform better business decisions. As globalization continues the need for information that is timely, accurate and relevant – even for far-off markets – continues to grow.
There are two interesting trends within corporate intelligence analysis that we expect to see more of in 2016.
One is that more and more companies are establishing dedicated teams of in-house intel analysts rather than relying solely on off-the-shelf intelligence. These companies want to fine-tune their analyses to the organization’s specific requirements. Analysts are tasked with a broad range of projects related not only to security, but also to operations, planning, reputation management, CSR, etc.
The other interesting trend is that even though corporations want these intel resources in house, they are increasingly turning to specialist partners to get the job done. We hire, train and manage a growing number of intel analysts for our clients, then embed them within the client organization. This gives the client all the advantages of dedicated intel staff that are connected to and can draw on the corporation’s own resources – but can also rely on our own network of agents and partners on the ground around the world.
Dedicated intel analysts have another advantage specific to corporate EP: they can provide ongoing risk, threat and vulnerability assessments (RTVAs) for the principles we protect. While any EP program worth its salt builds on an accurate RTVA, far too many fail to update them and rely on a static evaluation even though factors affecting the principle’s relative prominence – and resulting risks – change constantly.
7. Personalization will drive more security programs
We believe personalized security services will become more prevalent in 2016. Not because it’s trendy, but – as more people and corporations are discovering – because that’s what actually works best.
Let’s start with residential security. We’ve been closely involved in a number of complex residential projects recently, and personalization played an essential role in all of them. Unfortunately, many integrators still don’t get this. Even though a residential security solution is state of the art, with all the latest tech installed by the best in the business, it won’t work unless the family turns it on. If the solution is developed without a real understanding of the principle’s lifestyle and personal preferences, chances are it won’t get used as planned. We’ve seen it happen far too often in the past; but we believe it will happen less frequently in the future.
Executive protection is no different. We predict demand for highly personalized programs will only increase in 2016. Why? Because clients are becoming more savvy about what EP can be, and will be less likely to settle for plain vanilla solutions when they would actually prefer – and be better off with – something that caters specifically to their corporate cultures and personal lifestyles.