4 Things Executive Assistants Need to Know About Executive Protection

 

Your boss is going to Monterrey, Mexico or Rio de Janiero and has asked you to arrange for security protection for his meetings. Like most of us faced with buying something new, you start with Google. In the case of executive protection, you have just entered into a rabbit hole that makes you more confused about who to call, what you need, and who to trust. The truth is, while the actual service of executive protection might be relatively consistent across quality providers, the process of determining who these quality providers are is difficult and the buying process and what you pay for will vary wildly. 

To help give you some background that will help you make intelligent purchasing decisions we have shared some perspective that we gleaned in our combined 60 years of contracting and delivering these services.   

  • #1  The industry is comprised of two distinct groups – international providers and local providers.  This distinction could probably be applied to many industries, but with executive protection it is especially important because of how the two groups interact.  Local providers reside internationally in the destination city and international providers (generally U.S. or U.K. based) who either have an office in a destination city or subcontract to local providers. 
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  • The benefit of using an international provider is that you get, ostensibly, American or European standards while also getting the local expertise as they often subcontract to local companies.   The main benefit of booking directly with a local company is that you have removed the middle-man; you can deal directly with the provider and avoid paying a massive markup on fees. 
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  • Why are the distinctions important to you?  While there is no arguing about which is more expensive (international providers), there is no consistent and global answer to which approach is better.  What is important is that whoever you talk to is upfront about how they are setup and why they believe this to be the best model for delivering service in your destination.  Beware of companies that try to misrepresent their business model.  A U.S. company that claims they will do all of the work with their full-time employees is a red flag as they either flying someone in with no recent local expertise or they are subcontracting and don’t want to tell you.
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  • Ask your provider if they use subcontractors, how many times they have used a particular subcontractor, and for a complete biography.  If the provider can’t produce a bio in a matter of a few hours it is an indication that they are acting more as a broker or agent and don’t have deep experience where you need it.
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  • #2  The people protecting your boss are generally not armed.  This comes as a shock to many people.  How is it possible to provide protection against an adversary, let alone an armed adversary, if the executive protection agents are not armed?  
  • Professional providers will stress that they put tremendous effort into not getting into dangerous situations.  They will use extensive planning and the latest intelligence to keep their clients (and themselves) safe.  What they might not say is that firearms can also create a massive amount of danger as they create a major threat to criminals and make them much more likely to use deadly force in pursuit of their crime. 
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  • Unless the provider specializes in providing protection in a few hotspots, the answer should be something along the lines of “we don’t use firearms in most international cities but there are specific circumstances about your trip where we think they are required.”
  • While there are many cities around the World where armed protection is necessary, you should ensure that you are talking to more than one provider if armed protection is recommended. 
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  • #3  More than 50% of your fees may be going to subcontractors.  Unless you book services directly with a provider in the destination country (something I wouldn’t recommend unless you are an expert in security), the international providers rely heavily on subcontractors. Even if they have an office in the local country, most don’t want to own large vehicle fleets are carry lots of employees on their books so they subcontract to local providers. 
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  • Why is this important to you?  If you are paying such a high mark-up you get great service and assurances that the team is bilingual and very experienced at a minimum.  After all, if the majority of your fees are for project management and brokering services, you should be getting great project management.
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  • #4  References are the best indicator of quality.  Ask for a reference that has used the provider in the destination city.  If you are booking a trip to Caracas, Venezuela you want to know that they are not learning on the job so a reference for Mexico City tells you nothing about what level of service you will get.  Imagine the comfort you will feel when you go to your boss and you justify your recommendation to use a particular provider and you can say that “XYZ Corp” has used them before. 
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  • Reputable executive protection providers pride themselves on client confidentiality but don’t let any provider use this an excuse for not providing a reference.  Great companies always have customers that are excited to vouch for their product and service.