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The Executive Protection Industry in 2021 – Tech, E-Learning and Upskilling

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In an interview with EP Wired, Radoslav Savkov, a professional with almost two decades of experience shares his views on the status of the Executive Protection industry in 2021.

Has the threat landscape changed in 2021? And if so, what would you say was the defining moment in that change?

A: The threat landscape had not changed since last year when the Covid-19 global outbreak changed the world as we know it.

From an Executive Protection point of view, the pandemic has changed the standard operating procedures, as well as the risk and threat assessments. The top priority now is to mitigate and eliminate the risks to which clients, their families, and household staff may get exposed, relating to a viral infection and any such potential viral exposure in their offices or during international travel.

Quarantine time has become a prime time for cybercriminals. Due to travel and pandemic restrictions, the UHNW clients spend more time online, running their businesses and private affairs, browsing, and shopping. This prolonged web exposure has increased the likelihood of becoming an easy target for cybercrime.

Social engineering is on the rise, primarily through digital social platforms such as LinkedIn. Cyber attackers rely heavily on human interaction and often involve tricking people into providing confidential personal or business information.

Executive Protection Professionals have had to adapt their clients’ ever-changing travel needs to the rules of social distancing and the high hygiene standards during operations and travel.

Current statistics have shown a drop in criminal activities during the lockdown periods. However, I think that we are going to face an upsurge of crimes against individuals. I also think home invasions will rise in the post-pandemic period. This will be due to massive job losses and poverty levels rising, forcing certain individuals to look for quick, illicit income sources.

In terms of the market, what are some new trends that we can expect, and how do they relate to evolving client expectations?

A: The market has changed, without a doubt, since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Many clients have reduced the use of Executive Protection services due to limited commuting and restricted international travel.

In 2021, we can expect a rise in services offered by Security Consultants to help clients more comprehensively meet their expectations, either on an ad-hoc or retainer basis. Their services will include Risk Management, Personal Protection, Travel Security, Residential Security, and, last but not least, Cyber Security.

The Executive Protection industry is currently switching its focus from protecting executives’ physical safety to protecting their intangible assets, such as their image, brand reputation, and data privacy, while ensuring that executives’ physical safety is also guaranteed.

What would be the key traits for someone getting into EP today, as opposed to starting their career 20 years ago?

A: This is an excellent question, and thank you for asking. In my opinion, the key traits are the numerous soft skills such as emotional intelligence, sense of tact, integrity, diplomacy, etiquette, social and organizational skills, IT and cybersecurity knowledge, etc., which are required in today’s EP industry.

Perhaps 99% of the Executive Protector’s daily responsibilities are associated with soft skills, such as risk and threat assessments, planning, coordination, and organizing the day-to-day operation, advising, and consulting with the client. Highlighting the importance of soft skills does not automatically mean that the value of hard skills is underestimated.

Anyone joining the industry should have both sets of skills and, ideally, be efficient in self-defense and third-party protection techniques and have first-hand experience dealing with violent and emergency situations. This is important in order to reduce the freeze-stress response when dealing with incidents and violent situations.

Getting into the Protection Industry 20 years ago was much easier than now, and the reasons are several. If you had work experience in police services, armed forces, martial arts, or even nightclub security (bouncer), this would almost automatically provide an ‘entry ticket’ to the industry, especially if you have connections in the industry.

With the evolution of society and the rise in the complexity of threats and risks in the industry, our field has had to re-evaluate its practices. Logically, these dynamic developments have led to an increase in client expectations and requirements.

Is technology something that will enable better service, or does it take away from the skills that were thought necessary a few decades ago?

A: Without a doubt, technology has promoted and empowered better services in Executive Protection as it has made those services more efficient and sophisticated. Technology has also helped operational teams improve the quality and speed of communication, their responsiveness, resourcefulness, and coordination, providing the industry with tools to make their operations more sophisticated and efficient.

Starting from the CCTV, alarms, access control systems, TCSM, satellite phones, GPS personal panic buttons, surveillance equipment to AI mobile applications, these technological tools are adding value to Executive Protection programs by enabling them to be more proactive and effective.

However, all the tech tools are efficient insofar as the operator can operate them efficiently. In this line of thought, I do not think that technology is taking away EP professionals’ skills; on the contrary, it is adding skills and providing value to services.

E-learning platforms and online courses are having a massive impact on other industries. Can prospective EP operatives benefit from them?

A: Real professionals always look for further development, that is, broader knowledge and deeper understanding of all processes involved in the Executive Protection programs. As such, E-learning platforms offer convenient access to anyone who wishes to upgrade their skills from anywhere around the world.

The convenience of studying remotely and at one’s own pace makes the E-learning platforms extremely popular in our industry, especially given operators’ busy schedules.

The platforms are great for gaining knowledge about the processes involved in Executive Protection programs, such as planning, risk management, event management, intelligence gathering, intelligence analyses, emergency procedures, SOP, introduction to the new technology, business resilience, marketing, etc. These skills are commonly grouped as soft skills.

Close Protection (EP) courses have unfortunately become available on various online platforms. I don’t believe this trend to be a positive phenomenon.

Given this field requires the building of skills during live exercises, the acquisition of practical experience, and the development of teamwork skills (particularly if you don’t have prior experience in the industry), the quality of the initial training is essential. Also, finding a job after an online-training course in close protection can be very challenging.

What would be your advice for those starting their careers in Executive Protection in 2021?

A: The Executive Protection industry provides luxury services which makes it very demanding and highly competitive. Finding employment in this industry is not an easy job and requires a lot of personal investment, determination, and knowledge.

My advice to anyone who wants to start their career in the Executive Protection industry is to find a mentor who can provide guidance and advice on the selection of the numerous training providers, upskilling programs, and qualifications, CPD, in joining professional associations and organizations, and last but not least, in advising on how to find employment or sell one’s services.

Choose very wisely the training provider, especially if they do not have any background in government protection units, as this is your first selling point. If you get this wrong, the start of your career will not be easy.

Once you complete your initial training, then consult with your mentor what upskilling courses and qualifications will make you more attractive to the market and potential employers.

Executive Protection is like any other profession and continuously evolves due to the threat landscape’s dynamics and clients’ growing expectations. To keep up with the trends and ensure clients are satisfied, CPD is an essential part of an Executive Protection Professional’s career.

Joining professional associations and bodies offers development and opportunities to network with others to enhance your professional profile. Having an industry association on your portfolio says you are very committed to your profession and actively participate in its advancement.

The most difficult part is to get employment and sell your services to potential clients. There are three pathways to do this:

  • Look for employment within big companies with Executive Protection on their service portfolios,
  • Start as a freelancer, or start your own business.
  • Considering your background, profile, knowledge, and qualifications, your mentor should be able to advise you which path you should take.

If you are passionate about the Executive Protection industry and are ready to invest time, money and continuously work on your professional development and interpersonal skills, success will eventually come.

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