Executive Protection Programs – 5 Questions You Must Ask

June 12, 2015 - By Brian Jantzen & Christian West

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Before deciding on what type of corporate executive protection (EP) program is the right one, it is important for boards to consider their options and ask some basic questions. Which EP services are relevant for your corporation? To what extent, when and where are these services applicable? How should they be provided? This blog provides an overview of the elements of a board-mandated corporate executive protection program based on current best practice. It also considers the differences between minimally viable and best-practice solutions.

When it comes to corporate executive protection, no two companies are alike. Every corporation has different needs, cultures, locations – and, not least ­ –principals with their own requirements and preferences.

But while there is nothing “one size fits all” about corporate EP implementation, the questions that a board asks before mandating a corporate EP program should be basically the same every time.

We say “should be”, because in our experience, because they often aren’t. Too many companies jump, slide or limp into an EP program without first considering all their options. Instead, they should ask at least five questions.

1) Who is to be protected?

The number of protected persons will depend on the outcome of the initial Risk, Threat and Vulnerability Assessment (RTVA), but will typically start with one or more corporate executives.

EP programs can scale from there. Depending on circumstances, protection may be extended to additional corporate principals as well as spouses or children.

2) When are they to be protected?

Some EP programs begin on an ad hoc basis, for example with travel to high-risk areas. Some are only for work-related travels and activities. Still others are designed for true 7/24/365 coverage, no matter where the principal’s work or other interests take him or her.

Whether your EP program is designed to provide comprehensive, round the clock protection or more limited security should depend on the outcome of the RTVA and the resultant program objectives.

Minimally viable programs start with the highest-risk circumstances. Interestingly, the most frequent cause of injury is far less spectacular than terrorist attacks: traffic accidents are the single-most likely cause of harm for most travelers, so well-planned EP programs often start with secure transportation during travel to selected territories.

3) What kinds of protection are necessary?

Modern executive protection is enabled by a combination of human resources and technology.

An effective, industry-standard EP program is a system that integrates most – and ideally all – of seven building blocks:

  1. Alarm monitoring, access control and trained security agents for controlling access to the principal’s workplace and residence.
  2. Security drivers trained in EP and defensive/evasive driving.
  3. Automobile(s) specially equipped for security.
  4. Flights on charter aircraft for business and personal purposes.
  5. Close personal protection provided by trained and carefully selected EP agents at home, work or while traveling.
  6. Intelligence analysts that monitor, investigate and report on people of interest, inappropriate communications and threats, and also provide risk analysis and travel risk assessments for the employee’s scheduled trips and events.
  7. Surveillance and anti-surveillance protection that identifies and deters potential attackers prior to any attack.

Minimally viable EP programs typically include some combination of the first four elements. This combination of access control and secure transportation can be considered the “baby steps” of corporate EP, and this is the right way to begin.

Best-practice EP programs include elements five and six – usually at the same time and in an integrated fashion in order to maximize the protective effect and make best use of EP manpower resources. Depending on the scale of the operation, the same group of EP agents can provide both close protection and intel – at least initially.

The seventh element, which includes the integration of surveillance and anti-surveillance services, is typically reserved for either very-high profile individuals and their families or situations of elevated threat level.

4) Where should they be protected?

Just where the employee should be protected is a key question that every EP strategy must answer. As principals move through their working and personal lives, they travel through a wide variety of locations, each with its particular advantages and disadvantages from a security point of view.

Best-in-class EP programs must be ready to function wherever the principals’ lifestyles take them. Minimally viable programs will focus on those locations that represent the highest risks, and mitigate those. Whether or not – and to what extent – the program will include all conceivable locations should depend on the risk analysis and EP strategy. Places to consider include:

At the principal’s residence

The principal’s residence should be covered by both an alarm and a video system that are monitored 24x7x365 at a dedicated central station either on the property or remotely.

In addition to this electronic surveillance, protection agents can be deployed in a number of ways. Some of these options, listed below in order of increasing effectiveness are:

  • Option 1: Contract with a third-party security provider to monitor residential alarm and video systems and respond if needed
  • Option 2: One or several security agents provide coverage from vehicles parked outside the property. With access to alarms and video feeds, they provide a deterrent and can respond to privacy or security threats. The agents are connected to a remote Security Operations Center (SOC) for communication, reporting and support.
  • Option 3: Two agents provide coverage from within the property. Working in shifts 24x7x365, one agent monitors alarms and video feeds, and the other provides response. The SOC is a room on the property with its own facilities for the security agents so coverage is continuous despite restroom and/or meal breaks.
  • Option 4: Add protective surveillance and anti-surveillance teams to Option 3 in order to monitor movements outside the property.

During commute to and from work

The predictability of the times and locations involved with commuting between home and work increase the risk of attack or harassment. Security professionals can mitigate these risks.

Again, there are a number of options regarding how to protect employees during their daily commutes. Some of these are listed below, but the one that is right for your program will depend on the outcome of a reliable EP contractor’s analysis and recommendations. Among other criteria, choosing the best option relies on an understanding of risk and risk tolerance and on the principal’s personal preferences.

  • Option 1: Provide a vehicle with a trained security driver to the employee for their commute to and from work. The driver should be trained in surveillance detection, evasive/defensive driving, vehicle dynamics and executive protection. He should also have the driving skills of a chauffeur to provide a high level of comfort and service to the employee. An added benefit of this option is that the employee can stay productive during the commute instead of driving.
  • Option 2: If the employee prefers to drive him/herself, provide a surveillance vehicle for each transfer. This requires a dedicated, discreet, security vehicle and two highly trained security agents so that one can effectively drive the vehicle while the second is alert to the environments around the employee’s vehicle during transit. It also provides a more effective response resource to handle issues and threats to the employee.

At work

One or more EP agents can be assigned to stay in the vicinity of the employee while at work. These EP agents are tasked with immediate response in case of any issues or threats. An additional EP agent should man the corporate SOC to monitor alarms and video feeds.

While travelling

An effective travel protection program includes advance work, redundancy of resources and, of course, proper talent selection. Best-practice travel protection support typically includes:

  • Two EP agents – one for advance and one for close-in protection. The two EP Agents should travel to the destination(s) in advance of the employee’s arrival with enough time to prepare both security and logistics plans using industry best practices/advance work techniques. They also ensure the quality and appropriateness of all drivers and vehicles. For higher risk or more complex destinations, vetted and reliable contracted EP resources should be utilized at the destination(s) for additional team support.
  • A primary vehicle and security trained driver for transporting the employee and others in his party.
  • A back-up vehicle and security trained driver to be used for additional group members and as a quick replacement for the primary vehicle in case the primary becomes unavailable for any reason (mechanical issues, road traffic accident, etc.).
  • An advance vehicle and security trained driver that is used by the advance agent to move ahead of the employee (30 – 60 minutes) to ensure that next destination is safe and properly prepared for an efficient and appropriate arrival.

Two of the many considerations applicable here are whether such protection should be provided whenever the employee is outside his/her home or office, or only for work-related travel.

At public or semi-public events

If the principal is required to participate in corporate or other events that are open to the public – say, an annual shareholders’ meeting – then it is important that the security around such participation is adequate.

While close personal protection of the employee would be an expected part of the EP program, dedicated event security procedures might also be relevant both to protect the principal and the corporation’s overall interests from threats.

At other family member activities

If the EP program includes other family members in addition to the employee, then those individuals will also require close personal protection wherever their schedules and lifestyles take them.

This can include school and extracurricular activities for children, work and leisure activities for spouses, etc.

5) What’s the difference between “good enough”, common and best-practice corporate EP?

Corporate boards that are not experienced in EP – and few are – often have a difficult time determining the level of protection that they should provide for a principal.

Unlike other issues on the agenda at board meetings, the distinctions between common and best practice regarding EP programs may seem unclear and unproven to board members. Whereas few boards would doubt what distinguishes unacceptable, good and great financial reporting, for example, even fewer are likely to have an informed opinion about the elements of a best-in-class EP solution – let alone a minimally viable EP program.

Given this lack of expertise in an area that is, put bluntly, of life and death importance to the corporation’s key principals or even its market value, it’s no wonder that many boards have a difficult time deciding whether or not to mandate a corporate EP program.

The resulting situation and level of EP provided for selected principals is thus not the result of a proactive decision-making process, but is often determined by inertia or reactions to sudden threat scenarios.

We believe it that it is not only possible, but indeed essential, to build corporate EP programs that scale from the minimally viable to the more complex. It is a good idea to begin with baby steps, and corporations should begin with “must-have” essentials before they move to “nice-to-have” add-ons. And they should regularly review their programs to make sure that they are “just right”.

Just how any individual corporation should do this will depend on an up-to-date risk assessment and the resultant EP strategy. It will also depend on whether the corporation is starting up a new EP program, maintaining one that works, or turning around an EP program that has run into difficulties.

Given the specialized nature of corporate EP and most board members’ lack of experience in designing effective EP programs, it is highly recommended that the board cooperate with a reputable EP contractor to help determine the right level of protection.

A good EP program is more than the sum of its parts

Now that we’ve lined up the elements of a good EP program, let’s be clear about one more thing: A corporate EP program is about much more than choosing from a catalog of elements.

In our experience, the success of corporate EP also depends on:

  • An effective understanding of how the EP program integrates with the rest of the corporate organization,
  • Knowledge of and respect for the principal’s lifestyle and personal preferences as regards EP,
  • An intelligent and thorough EP strategy and
  • Well-trained, carefully selected EP staff.

But that’s the stuff of some future blogs.

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.

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.