Many VIPs, Executives, and even providers believe that hostile environments are defined by geography or universal threats such as violent cities or areas of armed conflict. This is both wrong and dangerous, leading Executives/VIPs to only engage protective services when exposed in those locations or circumstances, whilst placing them at significant risk on a routine basis. Providers on the other hand, over emphasize “hard-skills” such as shooting, driving and other offensive maneuvers, often offending clients, overreacting to incidents and in some instances bringing their business and brand into the media spotlight in a very negative way.
The threat or level of risk associated with a VIP/Executive can only be determined after a systematic analysis and review. This is not done by the client in most instances. However, the total opposite applies in most cases, whereby a provider gets a call or offer for tender, after a client feels the “need” based on a feeling or other influence. The client then typically tries to dictate the service, standards, costs, hours, etc, with absolutely no correlation between what is actually needed and the baseline threat and circumstances that govern the requirement in the first place. Even worse, the client simply rolls over the previous work agreement/contract from a prior provider and seeks an alternate provider, at a cheaper price.
Hostile environments can be found anywhere in the world. The resulting hostile environment could be the result of being in the wilderness where there are animals that might attack humans, first world cities with very active paparazzi seeking a million dollar exclusive, unhappy shareholders angry and company executives, developing countries with high crime and physical attacks on women or simply a location where you are clearly not local, don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with getting around and in the event that you aren’t cautious or helped you are likely to get into trouble. This could all be a matter of life safety, physical threat, information/reputational loss or a situation that is preventable and not suitable for the status and role of the VIP or executive. It could be Singapore, London, New York or Melbourne….not just Aleppo, Baghdad, Karachi or Kabul.
You don’t walk into a doctor’s office and declare your diagnosis and prescribe to the medical professional how you are to be treated and the price you will pay. Why do so many buyers of protective security do exactly that? You seek professional advice to benefit from their experience and solutions on how to approach the problem, not dictate delivery and terms. This is why there are so many non-competent and non-professional protection and bodyguard services in the world, they simply fill an uninformed client’s order, much like a fast-food takeaway order.
Elevated security measures or “hostile environment’ will require commensurate protective support and operations. This doesn’t always mean high profile resources such as armoured vehicles, multi-car moves, armed protection personnel and layers of supporting operations. It can also be at the discreet end of the spectrum. All options are considered and implementation with consultation with the client to align with their values, brand, standards, and overall culture. There is of course budgetary considerations, to cover again in a consultative approach.
VIPs and Executives that self-diagnose the threat and need for protective security support often act too late or fall into the aforementioned pitfalls. Professional buyers and users of protective security services and support engage with professionals and providers on a routine basis, collectively discussing the issues, requirement and proposed approach or solutions. They don’t get caught out or fall into the trap of telling themselves “oh it’s just Beijing, we don’t need security on this one” to then experience cultural delays, angry vendors, an unfamiliar environment, changed medical support and other factors that make the journey more “dangerous” in many regards than a trip to Baghdad.
Both professional users and providers alike will also highlight that much of the protective security benefit and realised value to VIPs and executives is not ‘security’ at all, rather business efficiency. You get more done with less delays and everything is planned and supported in advance, inclusive of all administration, logistics, health and safety considerations. Being stuck in airports for hours unnecessarily, getting lost commuting to meetings and even after hours or social events can be significant time and money drains for mobile or travelling VIPs and executives. Protective security professionals assist and streamline all of these facets.