In this blog, we examine the special needs of high net worth individuals and families who want to travel safely.
Why HNW families need secure travel support: Prominence and wealth increase the risks
The lifestyles of high net worth families often include lots of travel, both domestically and abroad. In addition to the risks that all travelers face, however, from the banal but all-too-common traffic accident to getting mugged in an unfamiliar city, the prominence and wealth of high net worth individuals call for extra caution and care, as well as special measures to ensure their privacy.
Prominence makes it more difficult to fly under the public radar. Curious passersby ask for autographs and handouts. Paparazzi are always on the prowl. Itineraries and agendas get leaked from any number of sources. Bored taxi or limo drivers might send a “look who I’m driving with” to their friends. And the ubiquitous use of social media, also by HNW individuals themselves, can easily broadcast whereabouts, plans and other personal details.
Furthermore, wealth increases the likelihood of crimes ranging from shake-downs to break-ins and kidnappings. Unfortunately, this holds true for parents as well as children, whether it’s young children traveling with nannies or teens and students traveling on their own.
Another important reason the high net worth seek out specialized secure travel support is productivity. Staying connected through 24/7 online access is just one way this happens. Just as important is the extra time available when you’re not the one who has to drive the car but can work or relax while moving through traffic from one meeting to the next – or from one tourist destination to another.
High net worth individuals and families are used to a high degree of customized support in other areas of their lives, so it’s no wonder they increasingly want the same kind of customization when it comes to their secure travel needs. Let’s look at some of the options.
What kinds of secure travel support do the HNW need and get?
As we’ve pointed out in a previous blog, customized secure ground travel is the missing link between business or first-class air travel, high-end hotels and all the other places the C-suite needs to visit. The same holds true for high net worth families and individuals.
So, for starters, let’s compare how secure travel support stacks up against the alternatives.
(Secure travel support)
|Airport pickup||None||Driver waiting with Principal’s name on a placard or iPad||Driver waiting with code name on a placard or iPad; telephone arrangement|
|Ground transportation from airport to hotel, to meetings, around town, etc.||Taxi, Uber or public transportation||Driver or limo service||Security driver and vehicle|
|Driver trained in security driving||No||No||Yes|
|Driver vetted by security professionals||No||Maybe||Yes|
|GPS traveler tracking||No||No||Yes, if desired|
|Driver prepped on itinerary to know best and alternative routes, best drop-off and pick-up locations||No||Maybe||Yes|
|Local police/military escorts in high-risk areas||No||No||Yes, if required and available|
|In-car amenities: water, soft drinks, snacks, etc||Really?||Maybe||Always – and according to principal’s brief|
|Security pre-check of hotel||No||No||Yes|
|Hotel check in||Wait in line at reception; check in with own name||Wait in line at reception; check in with own name||Pre-check in under alias; go directly to room|
|Payment||Own credit card||Own credit card||Anonymous credit card|
|Travel intel and executive protection|
|Intelligence updates on country and local travel risks||No||No||Yes|
|Close protection as needed||No||No||Yes|
|Advance work to secure local travel itinerary||No||No||Yes|
|Emergency response and operations center backup|
|Project Manager/Ops Center available for crisis management, problem solving and to advise client on logistics efficiencies and security developments||No||No||Yes, 24/7 operations center back up|
|Operations center can arrange other transportation on the fly (charter jets, helicopters; commercial flights)||No||No||Yes|
As you can see in the table above, high-end secure travel support adds an extra layer of safety at every step of the way. It’s not that all high-end travelers check off every box in the right-hand column for every trip. That will depend on travel itineraries as well as personal circumstances and preferences. Vetted and well-trained security drivers are normally a good starting point that provides many important benefits. Other services can be added as needs evolve.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the things that make high-end secure travel support different.
The use of security drivers is usually the first way that high net worth individuals and families improve their peace of mind while on the road.
Yes, terrorist attacks and other headline-grabbing events cause concern. But the single largest cause of fatalities for travelers is still traffic accidents. The WHO counts these in “road fatalities per 100,000 vehicles”, and the spread between countries is significant, as you can see in this overview. The U.S.A. reports 12.9. Most Western European countries and Japan are in the single digits. China clocks in at 104, India 130, Nigeria 615. You get the picture.
While no driver can completely eradicate the possibility of a traffic accident, carefully selected security drivers significantly mitigate the risk and reduce the probability.
For one thing, these drivers and their vehicles are vetted against a variety of criteria by professionals with international experience. Where possible and legal to do so, they check on a variety of critical factors that may include driver backgrounds, criminal and traffic records, specialized training, and more. They also ensure that vehicles live up to objective safety and comfort standards.
For another, confidentiality clauses and individual NDAs are built into contracts. This ensures that drivers know the importance of maintaining the anonymity of their passengers and that sanctions are applied if confidentiality is violated. This is much less likely to occur when the companies providing secure drivers have long-term, ongoing relationships with either the client or the company representing them.
Most limo drivers are primarily concerned with comfort and convenience – but are not trained in the security aspects of driving such as looking out for potential threats, defensive and evasive driving tactics, etc. Vetted security drivers are different.
Global security operations centers (GSOCs)
GSOCs provide a one-stop, 24/7 hub of communication, connectivity, travel and other intelligence, and emergency back-up services for travelers and those they need to stay in touch with. While many corporate clients are familiar with GSOCs in connection with executive protection for their C-suites, this may not be the case for high net worth individuals and families.
Depending on client needs and preferences, GSOC services can include:
- Traveler tracking via secured GPS devices.
- Daily reports on traveler movements and locations to EAs or family members.
- 24/7 responsiveness and backup in case of emergencies, including the rapid deployment of local resources as needed.
- Communication with the traveler to ensure that travelers stay connected/are reachable as needed.
- Travel intelligence in the form of daily reports on locations regarding general threats and risks, emerging or acute threats, specific threats connected to principals such as persons or groups of interest, and more.
Executive protection agents
Executive protection agents, also known as “close protection agents”, bring an extra dimension of security for travelers. This can include:
- Advances: Checking itinerary venues, from a personal security point of view, prior to the arrival of the principal – and recommending or making necessary adjustments.
- Close protection: Providing close protection while the individual goes about his or her business, or the family is out enjoying themselves. When the family is driving, the agent can do this either by traveling alongside them or behind them in a separate vehicle.
- Hotel check-ins: Checking into hotels for principals to increase anonymity, reduce their visibility and save them time.
- Local fixer: Making sure the principals get done what they need while in unfamiliar settings, from taking care of forgotten meds to getting into restaurants. This function can be especially valuable in emerging markets where knowing how things work locally – and who to call – can make a big difference.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, good executive protection agents know how to blend in unobtrusively and only stand out when necessary. Should the individual or family require even more discretion, covert protection and surveillance detection are also possibilities. These services create even more distance between agents and principals but have the same goal: to stop threats as quickly and as far away from the principal as possible.
Why it’s helpful to use a specialist partner for secure travel support
Few families have the resources, networks or time to find security drivers and executive protection agents around the world. Instead, they rely on trusted specialist partners for:
- Direct access to proven drivers and protection agents in multiple locations
- Consistent, ongoing vetting to ensure security, quality and reliability against agreed standards
- Negotiating fair prices in different markets
The convenience of “one-stop shopping”, no matter when or where the travelers’ itineraries take them in this regard is one thing. The peace of mind resulting that you’ve done what you can to protect loved ones is another.