Viewpoint: Do Business Travelers Need Executive Protection or Bodyguards?

Credit: Global Rescue

The world can feel like a dangerous place. Whether it’s a deadly kidnapping in Nigeria, an abduction in Mexico, or a hostage-taking in Brazil, the political unrest and high-profile kidnappings that occupy front-page news make it easy to feel vulnerable when traveling. It’s also compelling many business leaders to consider executive protection. 

Do you need executive protection for business travel? 

When planning an international business trip, having an extra level of security is an appropriate standard to meet your duty of care obligation. But what you think might keep you or your employees safe could put business travelers at higher risk unless you separate the myths from the facts about executive protection security details and bodyguards. 

MYTH: Bodyguards are the same as Executive Protection. 

FACT: Bodyguards are reactive to emergencies, and executive protection is proactive to emergencies. A bodyguard provides a deterrent to threat through its physical presence. Bodyguards may not be aware of impending threats or their clients’ vulnerability and cannot effectively avoid danger – defeating the very purpose of security. 
Executive Protection security details consist of two elements; an advance element and the close protection element - or main body.

The advance element provides risk mitigation, from the planned primary and alternates routes to reviewing the physical safety of the visited locations and facilities. They prepare for the safe arrival of the client and the main element of the executive protection detail - this efficiency increases overall safety by increasing the level of awareness which allows the security detail and the client the capability to avoid any escalating security situation. The close protection element's main role is to directly accompany and transport the protected persons in order to recognize and avoid any direct threats- and keep those protected from harm by quickly evacuating from a sudden crisis. 

MYTH: Only very wealthy people need executive protection.

FACT: While high net-worth individuals are inherently vulnerable to various criminal threats, additional factors other than wealth may require support through executive protection. Some of these factors include the geopolitical environment at the travel location, the reliability of local infrastructure, and law enforcement capabilities. Employees of large wealthy and well-known organizations may be targeted during travel to exploit or leverage the organization. Persons who are citizens of specific countries may also find themselves more vulnerable while traveling abroad.  

MYTH: Clients do not need training to use executive protection; they just need to follow instructions. 

FACT: Executive Protection professionals, understand you must prepare your client, whether an executive, a scientist, an engineer, or anyone else. CSO Online states, “Teaching the executive how to remain safe, emergency procedures, expectations from the security detail, and familiarization with protocols can be a tremendous asset in an emergency.” 

Additional Tips 

Cost. Security details are not cheap, but pricing will vary depending on your destination. According to DMAC Security, you could pay around $1000 per 8-hour day per executive protection professional and about the same for each required vehicle and driver. 

Armored Cars. Armored vehicles provide additional protection should you encounter local instability while on the road, like a riot, which can happen suddenly. Armored vehicles can also reduce the risk of injuries during a vehicle accident. Armored vehicles are regularly provided through executive protection details. 

Local Driver. Driving a vehicle in a foreign country is a high-risk activity. Always hire a local driver who knows the area. Being unaware or confused by directions can bring you to a vulnerable location or make you an obvious target for attack. Make sure your driver is well-vetted and trained in security driving techniques. The driver should always remain on-site or very close by to provide the ability to separate from the consequences of an escalating incident. The driver’s responsibility is driving. A separate professional should provide the executive protection that accompanies the executive. 

As a veteran of hundreds of security details that include dropping into a country ahead of time, assessing area security, establishing relationships on the ground, and executing the entire operation, I know the best security detail will avoid crises and, if necessary, respond if something happens. But the real success is in a smooth, safe trip, where all threats have been avoided, so business proceeds uninterrupted.

Harding Bush is a former Navy SEAL and senior manager for security operations at Global Rescue, a worldwide provider of medical, security, evacuation, and travel risk management services. Bush, while on active duty, was a leader for the security detail for the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister and has provided private executive protection throughout the world. He is an expert in high-risk travel, cultural awareness, crisis preparedness, leadership, and operational planning.