• United States



by Christopher Falkenberg, President, Insite Security

Executive protection: Why the private sector model is broken

Sep 01, 20103 mins
IT LeadershipPhysical Security

Executive protection detail for government officials is a world of difference from the private sector. So why are CEOs being guarded like politicians?

Many approach executive protection in the private sector much like they would a presidential detail. After all, many of the professionals in the executive protection business come from either diplomatic security or the Secret Service. But protecting the president or a diplomat is very different from protecting an executive.

The president and other high-level government figures (Speaker of the House, Cabinet Secretaries and various diplomats) are required by law to receive professional protection. As a result, they are “clients” of a security provider which they cannot change and for which they do not pay a bill.

Also read Robert Oatman on executive protection

Executives, on the other hand, are vulnerable for a number of reasons including their wealth, controversial businesses, community standing, etc. Threats are very different for CEOs than they are for the president, requiring different security needs. CEOs who are in controversial industries (ones that involve animal testing, pharmaceutical products, and in the very recent past, the oil industry) require something different from CEOs in non-divisive industries. And all CEOs have unfettered discretion in choosing how they are protected and by whom.

Along with job-specific security requirements, there is the issue of qualified vs. unqualified security professionals. Security professionals coming out of traditional law enforcement are experts in, well, traditional law enforcement. This does not translate into executive protection experience. They could have been great homicide detectives or traffic cops working for a municipality, both are uniquely under qualified for executive protection. Conversely, those coming from the State Department or the Secret Service have the experience in protecting the President and other high level diplomats, but have never provided security to a principal who has unlimited control over their own security arrangements.

So, the executive protection model for the private sector is broken. The only thing that the security industry has sold is this half-baked, one-size-fits all solution that is not focused on the real needs of executives or their families.

The approach to executive protection needs to be from the ground up. Look at the legitimate risks to the executive and their family. Where do they reside, how do you mitigate vulnerable situations? Is the business risk specific? Is there a cycle of threatening behavior?

This is a wakeup call for the industry—to both private sector providers and corporate security providers—the service offering is predicated on a model that doesn’t apply to them. Executives don’t live in the “presidential” market place. As security professionals, we need to find the best intersection between conveniences and effective security.