Improving event security and the guest experience: Perspectives on screening from the executive protection industry


February 28, 2019 - By Mike Ellenbogen & Christian West

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Executive protection practitioners have a wholly unique perspective that differs from many others who use screening devices, including security providers at airports, sports arenas, and other facilities open to the general public.

Since they protect individuals, most often corporate leaders or high net worth individuals, the focus of private sector executive protection companies is naturally narrower than those who provide security for an entire stadium or office building. And when providing risk mitigation services for events large and small, as AS Solution also does, corporate clients expect security services to positively reflect brand values and contribute to a positive guest experience – not become a hassle for participants or a potential embarrassment for the corporate hosts.

Knowing when to blend in and when to stand out: It’s different in the private sector

It’s no secret that no one (and no thing) gets near the president of the United States without effective security screening. Entire sections of major cities are shut down to safeguard the presidential motorcade when he’s in town. We’re accustomed to seeing a variety of men in black near POTUS when he is out and about. When World Cup host Russia’s Vladimir Putin gifted President Donald Trump with a soccer ball during a 2018 press conference, it, too, was screened as routine.

But even though many outside the executive protection industry associate close protection with the president’s Secret Service coverage or celebrities surrounded by burly bodyguards, the protective reality in the corporate and high net worth segments is different.

Here, clients place a premium on customized protective services that are in harmony with the principal’s personal preferences and corporate culture – not only best protective practices. Clients want protection, of course, but they often want it to be as unobtrusive as possible. Unlike the high-profile people they protect, executive protection practitioners are normally quite happy that no one notices them at all: they need to know when to blend in (usually) and when to stand out (only as necessary).

They feel the same way about screening devices at events. Few corporate or high net worth clients are interested in forcing guests to line-up single file, empty their pockets, take off their belts, dump their cell phones, and walk through metal detectors – just to join a party, a product launch, or a press conference. While magnetometers and handheld wands can have their place in some circumstances, more discreet alternatives are welcome and even desirable.

Private sector executive protection contexts that call for discreet screening

At open-to-the-public events where a corporate or high net worth principal is present, his or her security is paramount from the executive protection perspective. But minimizing disruption and treating guests with utmost respect are also key. Similarly, at corporate events in which the principal participates, there could be dozens or hundreds of other company employees present, including venue staff, caterers, press, and more.

Corporate colleagues and vendors don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion – and they are not. But in the U.S., for example, the intentional or accidental presence of firearms at such events nonetheless represents a potential risk situation. While the probability of an incident in these contexts might be low, their impact on the principal and others, if something went wrong, could be very high.

Another situation that calls for discreet screening is celebrity protection. AS Solution has also done protection for musicians on tour, which can be considered a multi-city string of events. Access to the backstage and celebrities is limited and tightly controlled, of course, but not completely restricted. Many people are involved, some better known than others. A star’s private “entourage” and guests can number dozens of people and vary from city to city. These guests of the stars don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion, and nor do the principals or event hosts want to send such signals. But firearms are not a welcome part of any party scene.

AS Solution welcomes Evolv Edge as suitable technology for high-end executive protection

When AS Solution does Risk, Threat and Vulnerability Analyses (RTVAs) for events, the threat of a mass shooter has emerged as one of the more worrisome. Completely eliminating such threats is unfortunately not achievable, but it is possible to mitigate them. Security screening plays an important role here.

The challenge of using traditional security screening such as handheld wands and magnetometers in the kind of executive protection that AS Solution conducts is that it creates a negative guest experience. As a result, clients will often choose to opt out – even if the RTVA indicates that screening is necessary – rather than subject guests to the inconveniences and implied suspicion with which such tools are often associated. While this is an acceptable tradeoff in some circumstances, in others it is not.

Evolv Edge enables AS Solution to mitigate the risk of firearms and explosives at events with far less impact on the guest experience; AS Solution expects corporate and high net worth clients to be more amenable to such mitigation than previously available alternatives. The Evolv Edge provides a superior walk-through experience with multi-sensor technology that detects both metallic and non-metallic threats while eliminating the hassle of divesting every-day items and a need to “stop and pose.”

With enhanced security and a vastly improved guest experience, AS Solution is excited to partner with Evolv Technology to deliver high-end executive protection and event security.

Mike Ellenbogen

CEO, Evolv Technology

Guest blogger Mike Ellenbogen is co-founder and CEO of Evolv Technology. Started in August 2013, Evolv is focused on reinventing physical security to help protect people and facilities by fusing together innovations in RF imaging and compressive sensing, advanced machine learning and human computation. Evolv is developing powerful, low-cost physical threat detection technology to support our national security efforts and keep people and places safe across the globe. Evolv is funded by Bill Gates, Data Collective, General Catalyst Partners, Lux Capital and SineWave Ventures.

Mike has spent more than 20 years shaping the explosives detection industry including as co-founder and CEO/President of Reveal Imaging Technologies, Inc., as Vice President of Product and Business Development of PerkinElmer Detection Systems where he was responsible for Research and Development, Engineering and Marketing, and as Director of Marketing of Vivid Technologies, where he was instrumental in the transition following Vivid’s acquisition by PerkinElmer. At both Vivid and PerkinElmer, Mike was responsible for market research, definition and development of new products and product enhancements.

He has been issued 16 patents in the field of X-ray inspection and automated detection technology and has been broadly published within the security industry. Mike holds a Physics degree from Colgate University.

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.