Emerging Issues in Security

Providing Executive Protection When the Exec Is Reluctant

It’s common for even presidents of the United States to chafe under the never-ending blanket of protection provided for them, in and out of the office, by the Secret Service. Similarly, executive protection must be thorough but not interfere with the executive’s ability to do their jobs and live their lives in a relatively normal way.

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The concept of providing security protection for senior executives while on travel assignments, at their offices and homes, during public gatherings, and even at their vacation homes is often driven by events. Domestic and international terrorism, kidnappings, and even carjackings can raise the need for an executive protection detail, even though the cost can be substantial.

Even following security events that could happen to executives in the course of their work, commute, or travel, they can still be reluctant to accept a security detail for a number of reasons, including not wanting to draw attention to themselves in public; not wanting to burden their companies—or their own individual department budgets—with the cost of security measures; not wanting to inconvenience themselves or their families; or even not wanting their subordinate employees to think they’re not important enough to warrant security protection of their own.

The process of providing executive protection can start small and evolve in stages, ranging from providing a personal protection member or a team when the executive travels overseas, crosses the border from the United States into Mexico, or attends or facilitates a potentially high-stress public or employee event, like a shareholders’ meeting or a factory closing. It can grow to include transportation services from home to work, to evening hours-only or 24-hour protection of the executive’s home and family. For female executives, the protection team may need female security agents to provide security, especially during travel assignments.

Last year, a CEO in California who never wanted executive protection was faced with angry threats from a disgruntled employee from his own company. The employee, under the influence of alcohol, made verbal threats to harm the CEO while in front of the CEO’s home, frightening him and his family. Security investigators intervened, only to discover the employee in question actually lived across the street from the CEO, in his parents’ guest house. The team terminated the employee, had him served with a non-contact restraining order, notified the local police about the incident, and began providing 24-hour executive protection for several weeks, up to the point when they learned that the now-ex-employee had begun in-patient treatment for alcohol abuse. Based on the volatility of that situation, the CEO soon saw the wisdom of a protection detail and thanked his security team for their response and vigilance.

Since senior executives often make their decisions based on data, the company’s security practitioners must make their business case for providing executive protection, in a variety of forms ranging from travel oversight to a complete intervention, by using valid information, costs, and risk analysis versus risk mitigation and must be ready to answer the executive’s questions as to how or why he or she needs protection.