It’s not easy being an executive these days. Not only are they responsible for budgets, P&L, employees, shareholders and a myriad of other responsibilities, but increasingly they find themselves at risk – personal risk. Traditionally, executive protection details are usually assigned to executives at their workplace, or when they’re traveling on business or attending an event. More than ever executives are requesting protection when at home or vacationing. Chris Morton, Director, provides some insight into this trend and some key elements to executive residential protection.
Executive risk “off the clock”
“We are getting more requests for residential protection than I’ve ever seen,” says Morton. “One reason is that executives are more accessible in today’s connected world. It can be quite easy to find out where an executive lives or is staying, where they might be vulnerable to an attack, who their family members are, and other personal information.” Armed with this information, that intent on doing harm may opt to enact a plan that targets executives when they may be less on guard, such as at home or when traveling with family. And even when an executive is not the target, threats still exist, as recent terror attacks in Istanbul, Paris, Orlando, and Brussels demonstrate.
Company leaders are realizing they are never “off the clock” when it comes to threats and are looking to be protected 24⁄7. Companies are willing to make this investment primarily to safeguard their employee and family members but also to avoid an incident that could have deep impacts on the company, its reputation, and financial stability.
Assessing an executive’s risk profile
Stalkers. Paparazzi. Disgruntled employees. Angry customers. Political protesters. Kidnappers. Terrorists. Executives live with these threats, in a variety of forms and risk levels, every day. One CEO may be the leader of a company that opened a new manufacturing facility in India, where labor forces have created an unstable and often violent atmosphere. Another may have been forced to close several retail locations, resulting in large-scale layoffs. And another may simply have voted “for the wrong guy” in the eyes of some people in the public. Religious affiliation, nationality, financial wealth and a host of other reasons exist for why someone may target an executive.
“We use a holistic approach that starts with looking at the executive’s history,” say Morton. “Are there any known threats, such as a stalker of the executive or a family member? Has there been a situation that may have created disgruntled employees or upset customers? The executives will tell us what they know, but it’s a Pandora’s box out there. We go pretty deep and always find something they didn’t know about.”
Social media has become an invaluable source of finding threats. People will often use these platforms to air their grievances or rally others in protest against an individual or company. “They also let us know what they know,” says Morton. “We will find postings that have an executive’s family members’ names, a photo of a hotel where the family is vacationing or information about the school a child attends. It can be quite scary for an executive once we report the amount of personal information people know. It gets their attention.”
Also important to assess is the neighborhood and surrounding locales in which the executive resides. Knowing what crimes have taken place and any trends that would indicate an escalated risk is important. Expanding the review to neighborhoods on the border, of the one where the executive has a home, helps with assessing the situation. “Neighborhoods change. Someone may have settled in a home 10-15 years ago and figured they had chosen a safe location. But nearby areas may have seen an increase in crime that needs to be factored in when determining the best residential protection plan.”
Another key element is screening the access people have to an executive’s home. Maintenance staff, landscapers, constructions crews, child care providers…all of them need to be vetted via background checks as another layer of protection and risk mitigation. “Even deliveries don’t get through until we’ve reviewed them. We use the protocols recommended by the Post Office to do an initial screening of packages and if something seems off, we will get the package scanned.”
Actionable intel aids in protection planning
Executives are faced with daily threats, both known and unknown, and they change all the time. An agent providing protective services needs current and reliable information so they can act to prevent incidents. Pinkerton’s Global Corporate Intelligence Service monitors information sources, including agents on the ground internationally, so that the most up-to-date information can be used. For example, had an executive chosen to travel with his family last week to Paris, immediate news of the police officer shooting would have been provided to the assigned agent so that the executive could be instructed on what to do as the situation was unfolding.
The internet, especially social media, once again plays a big role in helping keep protection details up to date. Clearly, the web is an endless source of information, both real and erroneous. Pinkerton can create a custom intel dashboard that can be accessed by agents 24⁄7, specific to issues and situations relevant to their assignment. Filtering that information so that reliable intel gets to agents in a timely manner is critical to reducing risks to executives.
Choosing the right protection personnel
Protecting an executive while home with family or traveling on vacation puts an agent in close proximity to an executive’s personal life. While the executive understands the need for the protection, in practice it can seem somewhat intrusive. It is important to assess their needs, how much visibility they want from the assigned agent and what the age/gender/personality of each family member is. “We provided residential protection for an executive who had children in their 20’s living at home. It was determined that an agent 10-15 years older would be appropriate for a sense of maturity that gave the family peace of mind while also commanding respect from the young adults so that instructions geared toward their own safety were followed.”
Trust is a big factor and has to be established quickly between the executive, their family and those assigned to protect them. Choosing the right personnel for the assignment by matching the situation with the agent’s experience and personality is critical to establishing that trust. “It may be the biggest challenges of an executive residential protection engagement,” say Morton. “It’s why we consider many factors before assigning personnel.” Today’s executive threats may seem global but they exist right at home, too. Unfortunately, these threats don’t end with the executive, but apply to those they value most… their families. As the risks rise in an increasingly threatening world, it is no surprise that residential protection is rising right along with them.