We live in a world of threat: Threats to companies, corporations, personalities, individuals and their families or a country, religion or race. With the world on show in the media more than ever, people who are in the spotlight can hardly make a move without attracting attention and some of that attention does not have the best of intention.
That is why the demand for the executive protection officers and the specialized security services they can provide has continued to grow over the last few decades.
When many people hear the term executive protection officer, they immediately associate that with being a fancy term for the word "bodyguard." Although guarding a person against imminent and sudden threats is a part of what an executive protection officer does, there is much more involved with this service than just that.
While an important and necessary role, the job of being a bodyguard is generally considered to be more reactive than that of an executive protection officer.
Bodyguards stay close to their Principal at all times Similar to an EP (executive protection) agent, their primary functions are to shield their clients from attack, fend off threats or annoyances to them - often the press - and ensure that they get from A to B safely.
Executive protection officers take a more proactive and analytical role to keep their clients out of harm's way and utilize in-depth planning, preparation and advance work to cover all aspects of a trip, identify any risks, and establish plans to mitigate them. This type of approach is designed to lessen the chances that a Principal will be exposed or that an executive protection officer will need to physically protect the Principal, even though they can expertly handle the situation should it arise.
Be it the RCMP, an in-house corporate security team, or a contracted security company the process should be the same. The first task is to review the trip itinerary and conduct a real-world risk assessment, covering all locations and events, as well as taking the profile of the person traveling into account.
Based on this a carefully planned operation will be set up that incorporates secure transport, efficient and alternate routing options, "safe" locations and suitable personnel. The key goal is to prevent a situation arising in the first place rather than having to cope with it once it has.
This careful planning is the exact approach that executive protection services take when they are keeping a client safe. Simply put, executive protection services are trained to use a much more well-rounded and proactive approach to keeping their clients safe than do other types of more reactive personal protection services.
For a team to be successful in protecting an individual who is traveling on a busy and demanding schedule, the service must be fluid, adaptable and conducted by individuals with specific training. Executive Protection officers have the skill set and ability to focus on and operate with constantly changing threat profiles and locations.
Some of the techniques that executive protection services use to keep their clients safe include the following:
Even before the client has left his home base, the security team will carefully analyze the trip itinerary, the location profiles and events to be attended. Then establish a baseline risk and put in place a suitable security operation that will mitigate all relevant, real-world dangers. Threats to be considered will include kidnap, petty crime, persons of interest, embarrassing situations as well as the risks of medical emergencies or natural disasters.
A detailed understanding of the threats against your client is paramount. In addition to this, local or firsthand knowledge of a location is essential in order to be able to operate smoothly and more efficiently in all circumstances.
Advance operations allow the executive protection team the opportunity to practice all routes to be used. Giving them a chance to identify the primary and secondary drop off and pick up points, to walk through all access and egress points and establish plans for each contingency in advance rather than having to make it up on the spot in the heat of an emergency.
Safe transportation from point A to point B is a must and executive protection services are excellent at providing it. The only time that a Principal is more vulnerable than when they are on the move is when they are exiting and entering a building. High quality, reliable vehicles with trained drivers are an essential rather than a preferable.
The security team must ensure that all vehicles are fit for purpose, fully functional, completely road legal, fully gassed and with suitable equipment such as spare tires, bulbs, and emergency equipment. The drivers must also be fully licensed, permitted and insured for such operations and preferably background checked.
Many cities and countries do not allow personal security team members to be armed in any form. Thus even non-lethal weapons such as extendable batons, mace sprays, and stun guns are illegal. As such executive protection officers must be highly trained to protect their clients, even when unarmed. To disobey the law in this matter can result in embarrassment, delay, and inconvenience for the client as well as a potential loss of operational licenses for the agent and even jail time.
An executive protection agent must ensure that the client is made aware of the local rules regarding weapons and if the team will be carrying any.
Cultural differences account for a significant number of threats against a client or their family's personal safety. Executive protection officers are experts at making themselves aware of local religious, ethnic, monetary and other differences that could potentially put their clients at risk. A key to gaining this information is local knowledge and maintaining a good understanding of current affairs within the area of operation.
Although the first order of business for any executive protection officer is to be professional and keep a low profile when escorting their VIP hosts, a significant presence is sometimes needed. This is usually done as discreetly as possible with a focus towards targeting an individual identified as a potential threat or more overtly should there be multiple persons considered a threat.
Whether a client is traveling in a vehicle or attending an event at a venue, there is always the chance that trouble may arise. Trouble may be in many forms; Executive Protection officers will always have established contingency plans for their client to egress should a situation escalate to the point where extraction is required.
We have to remember the role of an executive protection agent is to protect the Principal, not engage or apprehend the offenders. Should engagement be the only way to protect the Principal successfully, then it must be done in such a manner as to not increase the threat.
THE 10 TRAITS OF AN EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE PROTECTION AGENT
10 traits set apart high-performing executive protection agents from the "less-great". Many are interrelated; all are important. When an individual agent displays most or all of these traits strongly, he or she would make a highly successful executive protection agent - and would also do well in many other fields.
The first five traits are particularly significant for the special demands of the protective service industry. Because our overarching goals are to keep our principals safe, happy and productive no matter where their jobs and other interests take them, we must consistently come up with solutions to new challenges, and we spend a lot of time with principals without being their friends. It requires a certain kind of person to thrive in this context.
The second five traits focus on emotional intelligence, which is also essential for success in corporate executive protection. We believe these traits apply just as well to EP agents as they do to CEOs.
A good executive protection agent needs a special mix of smarts and moxie. We call it resourcefulness.
Executive protection teams are often in situations that are completely new. Changes of venue, tasks, expectations and many other aspects of the job are commonplace. Even the best Standard Operating Procedure are tested by non-standard situations. If there is confusion, the executive protection agent is the one everyone looks to make it all good again.
Resourceful executive protection agents make do with what they've got, and always try to get the best outcome out of any situation. They're creative problem solvers, adaptive and quick to think on their feet. They ask for what they need - and aren't too shy to ask loudly if that's what's required to get the job done. They always have a Plan B and C. And they never act as if there is anything but Plan A.
The mental habit of thinking ahead is another characteristic of a resourceful executive protection agent, for as Seneca pointed out several thousand years ago, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Good executive protection agents make their own luck - and deliver superior results - through forward thinking. Their approach resembles that of a chess player more than a checkers fan; They are used to thinking several moves ahead so that they can shape outcomes proactively rather than deal reactively with adverse situations.
Life is full of stress, and bad things happen - also to good executive protection agents. Resilient executive protection agents aren't the ones who never get into tough situations. We all do that. They're the ones who cope with adversity and keep the mission on track no matter what. Helplessness is never an option.
Psychologically, resilient executive protection agents are able to navigate through emotional turmoil without turning into a shipwreck. They exude a calm sense of urgency whether everything is business as usual or the situation has leapt into emergency mode. They have the skills and the mindset to counterbalance negative emotions with positive ones. Even when others are succumbing to negativity and pessimism, resilient agents know how and where to dig deep to find more optimism.
3. Professional commitment
Commitment to the task of serving the principal is an essential part of executive protection profession.
Good executive protection agents realize that the security, privacy and productivity of the principal come first, and that the needs of the principal supersede their own needs. They are able to put their personal preferences aside and stand by the client no matter what - before, during and after the detail. The same extends toward the rest of the executive protection team.
Successful executive protection agents also realize that this form of professional commitment has nothing to do with the interpersonal commitment that couples promise each other. Professional commitment is a one-way street. It's not reciprocal, and it's not about being the friend of the principal. It's about doing the job we are tasked to do in the most professional way possible.
Executive protection agents doing close protection of a principal are, well, close to the principal. That closeness extends to all kinds of situations that never can be taught at an executive protection school. In addition to protecting principals as they conduct business, agents will often be there when the principal is traveling, enjoying time with family and friends, and just getting on with his or her life. Complete confidentiality is expected in all matters.
Through it all, good executive protection professionals must maintain their integrity and know their place. Sometimes it's in the foreground and the principal wants to talk; often it's in the background, and the principals have no need to be reminded of their board-mandated 24-7 protection services.
5. Service minded
Executive protection is a service industry. It's about helping other people (notably the paying client who has other options) to meet their needs. It's not about you meeting your needs.
If executive protection agents are not comfortable working in a job where the needs of the client take precedence over their own, then they should start looking for other work. Because 85% of what we do in corporate executive protection is directly related to taking care of the client's requirements for protection, productivity, comfort and overall well-being. The other 15% the time is spent writing up after-action reviews and expense reports.
While executive protection agents might sometimes stay at five-star hotels and eat at three-star restaurants, they are also the ones who clean up before the principal arrives and make sure there's plenty of the principal's favourite water in the car. They may have even washed the car between bites of a plastic sandwich.
Some people get the service mentality, others don't. It's not so much about being servile as it is taking ownership of the job and consistently adapting to the client's needs.
Successful executive protection agents do their jobs, and they help others in the corporate ecosystem to do theirs, too. Because they are service minded, they know that if they make the principal's executive assistant, chief of staff, speech manager or others look good, they too will look good - and the principal will be more likely to be safe, happy and productive.
Executive protection professionals must know their strengths as well as their weaknesses. In addition to being clear on their own goals and motivation, they must be able to recognize how their own moods and emotions impact others.
People with a well-developed sense of self-awareness exude self-confidence. They're also able to laugh at themselves, and feel no need to over - or underestimate their own abilities.
Executive protection agents need a high degree of self-regulation in order to stay open to change and deal with new or ambiguous situations. Good self-regulation helps them choose their words carefully - and gives them the option of thinking before reacting.
Great executive protection agents also master another, very particular form of self-regulation. They are able to remain vigilant for hours on end when absolutely nothing is happening. Moment by moment situational awareness is key to protection.
8. Socially skilled
Executive protection agents must be able to work with people and build relationships in order to make things happen. The best agents are born networkers who lay the groundwork of solid connections everywhere from the C-Suite to the hotel kitchen. They find common ground where others find barriers, and they build good rapport wherever they can.
They're excellent communicators who get their message across and have the persuasiveness to get their way more often than not. They can read a principal and a situation; they know when it's time to fade into the background, when it's time to engage in conversation; and they understand the difference between assertiveness and aggression.
Empathy starts with being aware of other people's feelings, then considering their feelings when we take action. For the executive protection agent, these "other people" include not only the principal, but everyone else in his or her orbit - also other folks on the executive protection team.
Empathetic executive protection agents thrive in international corporate settings. They pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues that express an individual personality, a corporate culture or an entire nation's way of relating and doing business. They recognize the needs of others...and they act accordingly.
But the empathy of good executive protection agents is controlled, not unrestrained. Controlled empathy enables the successful executive protection agent to temper warm compassion with cool calculation. We don't drop protocols to please the principal. We recognize how people are feeling, and we acknowledge those feelings through our actions without losing site of the overall program objectives.
Here, too, good executive protection agents understand that empathy is not always a two-way street. It's not about us, or our feelings; it's about doing the job in the best way possible.
It is variously called drive, initiative, perseverance and being proactive. Highly motivated executive protection agents don't do the job for the money or the recognition. They achieve for the sake of achievement.
A self-motivated executive protection agent is a good executive protection agent. He or she maintains an optimistic outlook even when the chips are down. A high degree of motivation means the performance bar is always on the way up, and continual improvement is a way of life for the professional executive protection team.
Corporate executive protection is rarely a 9-5 job. The client's needs come first and they can change suddenly. Balancing the demands of a corporate executive protection work schedule with those of a significant other or young children can be difficult. There is a lot of time on the road, and although the work often seems glamorous and exciting, it can also get lonely. While working, executive protection agents are away from home, sometimes at someone else's house with someone else's children. They might get to go to lots of parties, but they are the designated driver every time.
In order not to get burned out, executive protection agents need to be extremely good at balancing the demands and perks of the job with all the other parts of their lives. They also need well-managed programs, suitably staffed and led, and career opportunities that allow them to develop and grow.
Questions? Let us know...for a rapid response use our contact form!
AXE PROTECTION AND SURVEILLANCE
918 16 Avenue NW
Calgary, Alberta, T2M 0K3
© Copyright © 2019 Axe Protection and Surveillance all rights reserved