Corporate Executive Protection (EP) can often be viewed as an unnecessary expenditure, especially during the current financial climate, but it's important to note that although Executive Protection teams and personnel do not make the company money, they do potentially save the company, both financially and through mitigating the risk of reputational damage. Also, and if a company has a good Executive Protection strategy, it enables a competitive edge by providing value added services that allow for more productivity, and when you have a CEO and Executive leadership Team that travels a lot, that can be invaluable.
The function of Executive Protection for many is viewed as solely safeguarding the company CEO and its most prominent Executives. This is a role that is unlike any other within the company. EP personnel may look as though they are simply standing around with time on their hands, but the reality is they are constantly thinking of the 'what if', planning for the next movement, and preparing for things to change, because they more than most, know that things always change. The reality is that EP personnel are professional watchers, thinkers, and planners, and if through the running of an effective program and in knowing the principle inside out, it's a role that can often be enjoyable, but the flip side of that is that if it's not done right, then it's highly stressful and demanding, and that can often show.
Executive Protection can often be viewed in a negative way by others either because they aren't involved in the protective program or they don't see it as a role that is necessary, which can be an unfair opinion, or, as can often be the case, the Executive Protection program is not running efficiently, where the C-Suite and other key stakeholders are not gaining from the benefits that an EP program can provide. Although the primary role of EP is clearly understood by many, it's also an important business function that collaborates with other departments within a company to ensure the workings of the protective program runs smoothly, because your information to them, and their information to you, can be essential.
One thing you can't do is force people to like or embrace a Corporate Executive Protection program, but what you can do to help that along is show that the benefits are not only experienced by the CEO and C-Suite Executives, but those within Marketing and Event teams, Public Relations, Aviation, as well as domestic and international support personnel, all of whom work closely to support the EP program. For that to run smoothly though, it's essential to have a good protective strategy which is often not the case, and because the strategy isn't right, the overall function of the Executive Protection program isn't delivering the right level of support that can really benefit the CEO and other C-Suite Executives.
While few corporations would admit to not having a Marketing or Human Resources strategy, many of these same corporations have never thought about formulating a corporate Executive Protection plan or program. Companies base their strategies on a proactive process of risk analysis and mitigation, corporate culture, and personal preferences. Others take a more reactive stance, employing a wait-and-see strategy that only changes when circumstances demand it, but then it may be too late. Consider the impact if it does indeed become too late, and for many companies, that impact isn't something they are willing to roll the dice with, hence having a Corporate Executive Protection program that contributes greatly to safeguarding their CEO and Executive Leadership Team. Some may only cover the CEO, while others will support several leaders in the C-Suite.
Proactive protection programs are grounded on risk analysis and mitigation of risk to acceptable levels. First, the full spectrum of threats and vulnerabilities needs to be understood. Then, it’s important to assess the impact of the risks, or losses, that the corporation would suffer should these threats breach vulnerabilities. Only then can measures be taken to mitigate risks so those rated as unacceptably high are reduced, and those rated as acceptable are tolerated for a reason. Good Corporate Executive Protection programs are grounded in the company culture and the personal preferences of those to be protected, because without this grounding, the program never really takes root and becomes effective, and ultimately that’s what an Executive Protection program is there for, to be effective.
There are several reasons why more comprehensive versions of this service are usually reserved for members of the C-suite, and this is the area I’m focusing on in this article where EP safeguards shareholder investment in C-level personnel. For some CEO positions, board-mandated EP programs come with the territory, or should. The prominence of some CEO’s is one factor that plays into this, as highly prominent business leaders, they may be more at risk from “persons of interest” due to their role, and this is not something that should be ignored. The risks to them are not just security related, there may be medical risks or something else that the board deem enough cause to implement EP support.
They may be in the news nationally and internationally for business reasons, so they are notable individuals and viewed as high value assets by the company, its board members, and to a certain extent, the financial market. Their profile may be increased due to media appearances, the spotlight can often be on them, and it can often be an unknown if some take a dislike to them. It could be a current or former employee, or it could be someone who has no association to the CEO. It could even be against what the company does, and the focus of their attention is on the CEO or other members of the Leadership Team. These are matters that should be taken seriously, because they can spiral out of control if not taken as the threat they likely are. As public figures, many people may recognize the CEO, and some, without his, her, or others knowledge, may even be fascinated by them, how they live, and even what their family life is like.
Persons of interest (POI) might have a grudge towards them, or they might be looking for a hand-out since their own income is considerably lower. CEO's may be at risk of potential kidnappers, which is something that poses a risk to all Fortune 100 CEO’s, regardless of how high or low a profile they have. A risk analysis will often show that potential threats towards a CEO can be equal to or greater than those of other celebrity status with whom they would never otherwise compare themselves. Having worked with several A list entertainment individuals and Fortune 50 CEO’s, I’m alarmed at the similarities with the adulation and even risks that can come their way.
Importantly, boards consider the business and investor impact of an accident or incident occurring to the CEO especially, and as has been amply demonstrated by several unfortunate incidents with other companies, corporate reputations and share prices can be closely linked to an individual CEO’s wellbeing. The best way of countering this is by implementing a dedicated Executive Protection Program, overseen by a subject matter expert whose responsibility is to safeguard the CEO through effective and professional strategies to manage and reduce the risk of the CEO and his or her leadership team. For many, it’s a cost worth paying for, but for others it’s not something they see as necessary.
Executive Protection, in addition to keeping the CEO and Executive Leadership Team safe, also enables higher productivity by making travel, logistics, and fast paced agendas, run smoothly and efficiently.
There here have been several articles published about Executive Protection for CEO’s including the budgets that are in place for it and how much money different corporations spend on it. The unfortunate side to these kinds of articles being published is that it can increase animosity towards CEO’s, with some viewing it as an unnecessary perk. What the reader may often not understand however is the great deal of risk that can often come with the role of being CEO, and that companies are being preventative rather than reactive. To do that effectively then it costs money, sometimes a significant amount depending on the size of the company, the profile of its CEO, as well as how many others within the company who are being designated with Executive Protection.
For those employed to protect these prominent business leaders, the overwhelming majority are honest, moral people. Most are military veterans, former or current law enforcement and former government agents. They have families and children and friends, just like everyone else. They are often in dark suits, maintaining a low profile and, operating covertly to do a job that they love, and they hold values that are meaningful to them in every way, values that are their guiding principles such as sacrifice, honor and service, and true Executive Protection professionals are dedicated and disciplined, and believe in loyalty to their principle. What the average Executive Protection specialist is not is mean spirited or overly aggressive, because those types simply don’t fit into the corporate environment.
The TEDCAP team, along with our valued associates, have worked extensively within Corporate America over the past twenty-five-years, and through attending hundreds of major business events, we have seen it all when it comes to Corporate Executive Protection as well as engaging with many others who work in this field. There has of course been a lot of good that we’ve encountered - people, methods, professional standards, program, and team infrastructure, as well as methodology and the level of visibility that EP personnel project. With that said, we’ve been a part of and seen the complete opposite, teams at each other’s throats, individuals who are poorly trained, if at all, as well as a lack of EP standards.
These are some of the reasons why we chose to write this article, because having a good EP strategy is more meaningful than just having someone in a dark suit walking rear right behind the CEO’s shoulder. Consider an EP program as a form of insurance, it's a plan that doesn't need to cost millions per year, but it is protecting you to make sure an incident doesn't happen. That is what Executive Protection is there for, to anticipate and protect you ahead of an incident, because the damage has already been done at that point.
It's also important to note that those at the CEO level make up less than one percent of the global population. But the reason these individuals require maximum protection is their importance to not only the company they lead but also to the economy. If something were to happen to the CEO, the results could be catastrophic on the business side, but look at the personal side to this too, they have families, husbands, wives, kids, they want to do their business and return home to them safely, again, EP is the insurance policy that helps to safeguard that, and most CEO's welcome the idea of Executive Protection, it is generally the cost that's the stumbling block but there more benefits than negatives for sure.
For many in the corporate world, Executive Protection is a necessity — either on an ongoing basis or during certain trips or events, while some of the bigger companies have full time Executive Protection programs that are staffed to support the CEO and even other members of the Executive Leadership Team. By the nature of their role, CEO's and members of Fortune 100 leadership teams attract physical harm, and although it may not be something they have done or said, it could simply be down to the company they lead or what the company does, and then those within the C-Suite become a target. We've seen this happen numerous times.
They could also become a target by just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps they are overseas, and they aren't familiar with their surroundings, they could be in a restaurant with friends or colleagues and something untoward occurs, it happens. This is where EP comes in because their job is to always be watching and being available to help and support, regardless of the setting or situation. Today’s EP operators bring a dynamic level of service that is beneficial to those it’s being provided to, with value added support that can often save the principal time and hassle, and when you’re the CEO of a Fortune 100 Company, that is often well received.
Executive Protection is serious business because of the potential impact they are there to help CEOs avoid, that is why having the right Executive Protection strategy, program, and team, is essential.
As operators, trainers, and leaders in Executive Protection, we have often seen over the years the deficiencies of protective programs and have been alarmed at the lack of support provided to some, and as has been the case, the way that support is given. We are firm believers that a good EP program doesn't need saturating with too many people, but they must be the right people, and they must be working to a solid strategy that is in line with the CEO's likes, needs, and expectations, as well as that of any other's within the C-Suite who are designated with EP support, all of whom may have very differing needs and requirements.
What exactly qualifies someone to develop and lead an Executive Protection Program? Experience, first and foremost, vast experience at that. Working in the industry for anything less than ten-years, where the job has only been EP, that's experience, and that's at a minimum. It’s important that during that time the experience gained has been varied, complex even, because that all helps when developing an EP program, and of course, it all must be verifiable. What doesn't qualify a person is someone who may have worked for a few years in a variety of roles, investigations, event security, and a bit of Executive Protection here and there, that is not enough experience to develop and lead an EP program.
There are vast differences between investigations, event security, and Executive Protection as each one is a specialized area, so it troubles us when we see or hear of an investigator or someone who specializes in event security to then work Executive Protection, likely as a fill in role or a cost cutting situation. We are talking about those who have very little or even no experience in EP. You can't just play at it because the repercussions of something going wrong can be extremely impactful, and it’s not a risk worth taking with so much on the line if it does. In same token, you can't just take someone who specializes in EP and ask them to run an investigation or secure an event. They may have the basics of each role, but that's all they are.
Nobody from our team would feel comfortable running an investigation or would we have in-depth knowledge of event security because they aren’t our specialized fields, but Executive Protection, yes, we know that because we are dedicated to our craft. On the flip side of that coin, we wouldn't expect an investigator or someone from the event security team to go and setup and manage a complex multi-country visit for the CEO and lead an EP detail. These are areas that can often interlink, but the only way they function correctly is if each role is carried out by people who know what they are doing in that particular field, and if they don't and are asked to do a job they aren't familiar with, then mistakes will happen and could prove costly. of course, people can cross train and even change tract and pursue a specific job, but it must be taken seriously because any job within the security field should be taken very seriously.
An efficient Corporate Executive Protection program not only benefits the CEO and Executive Leadership Team, but key partners such as Marketing, Events, as well as Aviation personnel and teams.
Far too often there are people and companies who say they can do something just to get a contract, but the reality may be that they aren’t experienced or proficient in the job being asked of them, so they either do that job and hope for the best, or they mark it up and contract it out. Fair to the client? Of course, it isn’t, not when they might be paying a significant amount of money and hoping for a quality service. In such a case, it’s generally not too long before the client sees the deficiency in service or a lack of transparency perhaps, and then they start their search again. The term ‘You get what you pay for’ can be aptly applied in such a scenario but the importance placed on due diligence must also be taken into consideration by the client.
When you have a company that is turning over billions of dollars, perhaps hundreds of billions as is the case for Fortune 100 Companies, then you need to make sure you have the right person or people, as well as the right strategy in place to safeguard those responsible for leading that company. Executive Protection as we have said is serious business, if done right then the Executive Leadership Team is in good hands, but if the program is just put together with a mismatch of people who don't have the right experience, then you're simply rolling the dice.
We firmly believe that all Fortune 100 companies deserve to have a world class Executive Protection program, but only a few that we’ve seen are anywhere close to that. This isn't an area that should be in question, the stakes are too high, but having the right person leading it, and the best people supporting it, will go a long way to ensuring the CEO and Executive Leadership Team can go about their business supported by professionals who have a clearly defined strategy that they are working to, contributing to a greater competitive edge for the company.
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