Few people would argue that over the past decade the speed with which the threat environment has evolved has increased dramatically and threats to personal safety and security have become much more diverse. In response, close protection, as a professional service has had to evolve also, to become more holistic, sophisticated and proactive.

Modern close protection needs to be both strategic and yet relentlessly focussed on detail. The function needs to be supported by intelligence and analysis which looks sufficiently far out to identify changes in the environment and events which have the potential to manifest as a threat now or in the future. At the same time the close protection function has to be closely ‘dialled’ into the principal’s lifestyle, family, schedule and should operate like a well-oiled machine, whether the model is to run an overt protection regime emphasising the physical presence of protective capability or a discrete and low key capability.

Crucially protection needs to be considered from a physical, cyber, organisation (systems, processes, policies and procedures) and human security perspective. Any credible protection regime needs to harness, integrate and exploit appropriate technologies such as digital secure communications, cameras, GPS based tracking and monitoring applications and biometrics in order that threats can be anticipated and mitigated.

Perhaps more important is that close protection is supported by layered intelligence support which is capable of capturing and analysing threat intelligence. This should range from the strategic to the tactical and in appropriate cases have dynamic and real time capabilities in a higher threat environment. This does not need to involve huge cost if it considered proportionately and thoughtfully planned.

Ultimately, the aim of supporting the protection function through intelligence and analysis is to ensure the protection regime can not only react to events but can anticipate threats intelligently and be proactive in avoiding or mitigating them. In this age of technology and information, it is possible to achieve this cost effectively and there are credible providers in the marketplace who have the experience and know how to design, implement and manage very high quality security and protection packages.

As the world becomes more insecure in geopolitical and social terms, even governments are stretched to be able to deliver on all of their protection requirements and aspirations. In the UK, for example there has been a shift in aspiration for the protection of elected politicians as the perception of threats has intensified. This is why it is important that there are highly professional private sector providers who can provide extra capability for the government sector if and when needed and be available to those who fall short of the criteria for state funded protection but nonetheless have to contend with very real threats.

So, what should buyers of close protection services be focusing on when seeking to meet their protection needs? Here are a few suggestions which those responsible for choosing the right provider might wish to consider:

  1. Experience and Training

Does the provider have the capability to field highly experienced and trained personnel. What are the backgrounds of the operatives and those who are leading them? It may be they have gained this experience and training in the world of private security or in state security such as police close protection or in a military setting.

Does the company have access to sufficient skills sets to deliver a tailored and nuanced security regime that is appropriate for the client’s needs. Does it have the ‘know how’ to operate seamlessly with state security provision where a client requires this, for example at high profile events.

  1. Intelligence Led and Proactive Security and Protection

Modern close protection is intelligence led and proactive in scanning the threat environment. It will harness available intelligence utilising a range of tools such as open source intelligence including social media, sentiment analysis, closed data sets, vetting and screening and many other sources and tools. The output can be analysed, and the product deployed to continually inform and adapt the security posture at the strategic and at the day to day level.

  1. Leadership and Management

Is the organisation led by professionals who have credentials and credibility in this discipline?

Does the organisation have intrusive and robust supervision systems to counter the effects of the routine and the familiar?

Are staff subject of proper regular professional and performance assessment?

  1. Multi-disciplinary and Resilient

Effective security is a multi-disciplinary endeavour and must utilise not only competent operatives but also intelligence specialists, analysts, cyber and information security expertise, and others to ensure operations teams and individual operatives have the right information and support to discharge their roles effectively.

Is there evidence the provider is using a range of tools and techniques to anticipate threats before they materialise and respond accordingly by implementing additional targeted security or adapting security plans?

Does the provider form strong professional relationships to ensure it can leverage these and work collaboratively with other actors or providers of security or security related services? Is there an infrastructure to support the operatives on day to day operations to ensure resilience?

  1. Holistic

Is the protection designed to be effective across all the security domains of physical security, cyber security, human security and organisational security? Does the provider have the internal capabilities to deliver across these domains itself or is it sufficiently collaborative to ensure the protection regime has considered these aspects and is able to address any current or likely vulnerabilities.