Make or buy? The decision belongs to the corporation, of course. And we’re fully aware that we can be accused of tooting our own horn in this blog. But we think there are some compelling reasons why practically all corporations choose to outsource executive protection services, at least in part, to specialist partners rather than exclusively trying to build internal competencies in this niche profession.
Of course we’re always open to new business. But whether the corporation ends up working with us or with one of our competitors doesn’t matter in terms of this blog.
What does matter is the safety, productivity and satisfaction of the principal, and the viability of the executive protection program. We’ve yet to meet the corporation that has set up a successful executive protection program using exclusively its own full-time employees. In fact, we’ve been called in to turn around several such programs that the corporation started – and then gave up on.
1. Specialist executive protection expertise is impossible for the corporation to match
Specialist partners are, well, specialists.
Their management teams have hands-on experience in corporate executive protection that can be decades long. They have operating procedures that have proven their worth in practice. They know how to recruit and develop agents who go on to have success. And they can transfer skills learned working for one corporation to another.
Unlike an organization that is building its own executive protection program from scratch, specialist partners which serve many clients are able to benchmark against other programs. They have a hard-earned sense of what constitutes best practice in the industry. And they bring this to their clients in many ways, from program design and implementation to full or partial staffing.
2. Specialist partners enable speedy implementation and adaptation
A specialist partner is able to implement in less than 48 hours what would take an inexperienced corporation months: put in place a fully functional executive protection program that keeps the principal safe, happy and productive wherever the job or personal interests take him or her. Given the backdrop of why we do what we do – often tangible threats to the principal’s wellbeing – fast program implementation can be a necessity, not a luxury.
Specialist partners are also able to respond rapidly to evolving program needs. Should the program need to be scaled up, domestically or internationally, to cover other principals or to provide more protection in more places, this can be done without lengthy onboarding and training processes. Other services such as event security, secure travel logistics and intelligence analysis can be added immediately.
Similarly, if the program should need to be scaled back for whatever reason, then then this can be done straightaway and without concern for severance procedures or compensation.
3. Specialist partners lighten the burden on corporate HR
Another beneficiary of outsourcing part or all of the executive protection program is the corporate HR function. Executive protection is not a core competence of any Fortune 500 corporation. So while the safety and productivity of the corporation’s leading principals are important, of course, the talent required to provide executive protection will rarely rank very high on the HR department’s list of priorities.
To staff and run an executive protection program on its own, the corporation would need to become experts in sourcing, interviewing, security screening, training and developing, compensating, on-boarding and off-boarding executive protection managers and agents – just to mention a few HR issues. Most corporations prefer not to use headcount or dedicate HR expertise to such non-core, specialized services.
The situation is of course different for specialist executive providers. They have a vested interest and experience in finding candidates that have the best chance for long-term success. They appreciate the need for developing people with these niche skills, and are accustomed to ensuring that all agents have an annual training program including drills, tabletops and recurring basic training to keep perishable skills fresh. They can provide advanced development training designed to increase agent capabilities and performance quality. And they know the importance of spotting talent, and encouraging the best to follow career paths of growing expertise and responsibility.
Specialist partners have a deep bench of pre-screened and vetted candidates for executive protection agent and manager positions. If one does not work out – for whatever reason – they can be changed quickly and efficiently. What is more, they have immediate access to a worldwide professional network of closely-vetted vendors, enabling them to provide complementary services globally.
Using special partners can also reduce the corporation’s legal exposure and eliminate the need for special licensing and insurance coverage. Professional executive protection companies will have their own use of force policies, potentially obviating the corporation’s need for such.
4. External professionalism trumps corporate politics
Executive protection is by its very nature up close and personal. If the principal becomes dissatisfied with a manager or agent for whatever reason, this might compromise the program and the principal’s security and productivity. It is therefore imperative that the principal not hesitate, due to respect for the executive protection agent’s feelings or corporate HR practices, to initiate termination of a person with whom he or she is not comfortable.
Since the principal often spends more time with executive protection agents than with his or her senior management team (and definitely more time than with the corporation’s security director or chief security officer) their position carries perceived power and heightened responsibility. Agents must be of a special psychological makeup to handle their role.
It can be unfair to put an employee in that situation. Specialist partners have better conditions for handling this sensitive situation than corporate employees, because they must treat everyone in the client organization as a customer – not just the CEO. This encourages cooperation and harmony rather than favoritism and rivalry.
5. Specialist partners have transparent costs
Are the executive protection services to be paid for by the client company, or will the principal pay for some of the costs? Often, the answer is both. This can present the corporation with accounting challenges – and lead to gaps in security for the principal. The utilization of a specialist partner provides seamless protection services regardless of whether the corporation or its employee is footing the bill. Costs can be more easily segregated between business and personal use when services are provided by a specialist partner.
Cost is another reason that corporations sometimes consider setting up their own executive protection programs. But when they analyze the “total costs of ownership” of establishing and running an executive protection program, i.e., including all costs associated with recruitment, training, bonuses, stock options, benefits, turn-over, etc., then many discover that in addition to all of the other advantages, outsourcing executive protection is also cost-competitive.
6. From one-off projects to embedded agents to full-time employee: Flexibility is key
When it comes to executive protection, corporations tackle the make-buy issue in many ways. But we do see some similarities.
One-off and special projects, such as taking care of a principal on trips to selected destinations, will always be fully outsourced.
Comprehensive programs that provide more complete executive protection are often 100% outsourced initially, as the corporate security department has neither the expertise nor other resources to establish the program on its own. This will typically include consulting on program setup, outsourced executive protection agents and/or residential security agents, and an outsourced executive protection manager.
As the program matures, the corporation may choose to make the executive protection manager its own full-time employee, with or without consulting support from a specialist partner. Doing so squarely places the executive protection function on the corporation’s organizational chart, establishes the function as a corporate priority, and enables the corporate executive protection manager to be a fully integrated part of the corporation’s security setup. Some executive protection and residential security agents may also become full-time employees, while others will be fully embedded.
Embedding executive protection agents and managers and intelligence analysts has its own advantages. These persons will live and breathe in the corporate ecosystem, but will also have the benefits of being able to draw on the specialist partner’s network of expertise. Fully mature corporate executive protection programs are often a hybrid of own full-time employees and employees embedded from a specialist partner.
So what do you think: Is it best to outsource executive protection, or build internal competences from scratch?
So let’s hear it from you. Any opinion on this issue – from either the corporate or specialist partner perspective?