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Understanding and Managing the Family Security Continuum

Understanding and Managing the Family Security Continuum

Understanding and Managing the Family Security Continuum

Managing the security risks faced by high net worth families is on its face, a fairly straightforward task. However there are often a number of underlying factors that can leave family members exposed to a myriad of unforeseen risks.  Too often staff members tasked with security responsibilities are focused on singular events, such as an overseas trip, or on an individual member, such as the patriarch. This is especially true if that staffer is not a security practitioner by trade, and is even more likely to be the norm if security is just one of many responsibilities which the staffer must balance against shifting priorities.


Risk Ahead articleWhile this ad hoc approach may be effective in addressing immediate and readily apparent security risks, it tends to fall short when it comes to identifying and mitigating the less apparent security risks common to high net worth individuals and families. The two most common risk factors that coincidentally are the most frequently overlooked are cross-pollination and threat transference.  The first, cross-pollination, refers to risk created by the business, philanthropic or even political endeavors of the family or an individual family member, which tend to endure beyond a given situation or event.  For example, if one of the family’s business interests is embroiled in controversy or is receiving negative media attention, this may create immediate and dramatically heightened security risks for the family or individual family members that extend well beyond the confines of that particular business endeavor. In today’s age of readily accessible information this is an increasing concern, as it has become far too easy for someone to make the connection between an individual and their business or altruistic interests. In effect, the technological advances that have allowed businesses to expand globally and afford an opportunity for the affluent to have a broader impact on social causes has eliminated some of the boundaries that had, in the past,  prevented certain security risks from permeating one’s personal life. Therefore, it is simply no longer wise to presume that traditional measures meant to protect one’s privacy, such as holding companies, non-profit organizations, or foundations will adequately firewall one from potential security risks. The second, threat transference, refers to the deflection or redirection of a specific security risk from one individual family member to another.  This risk factor is often a by-product of a segregated approach to security, where protective measures are heavily weighted toward one family member or just one event while leaving another exposed to the same or similar risks.  For example, if the potential target of someone’s unwanted attention or aggression is adequately protected while attending publicly accessible events, while a sibling or child is left to their own devices in similar settings, the corresponding security risks may now be transferred to the family member who is less well protected – or not protected at all – as this may provide the path of least resistance.  This is particularly true of kidnapping risks.  While these are just two examples of the underlying risks that may not be adequately addressed if security is viewed as a piecemeal proposition, they are both common to high net worth families and may have far reaching consequences if not given serious consideration when planning or discussing the family’s security needs.

In order to adequately address these underlying security risks, family security must be viewed as a continuum as opposed to a series of disconnected or segregated functions.  When properly implemented, this continuum will result in a proactive and perhaps most importantly, transparent veil of security that protects against immediate and over-the-horizon risk equally well.  To accomplish this, the family security continuum should focus on integrating three complimentary approaches to effective, sustainable security. The first is the facilitation of effective communication between and amongst key stakeholders. This group may include a variety of staff members, ranging from the estate manager to the groundskeeper, and should extend to at least one family member with decision making authority as well.   This will help foster an understanding that to a certain extent, most staff members’ portfolio includes some manner of security responsibilities. Effective communications, in the form of periodic meetings and briefings will also go a long way towards eliminating the compartmentalization of security concerns or issues to a select few; this compartmentalization often creates significant gaps that allow for cross-pollination and threat transference to occur.  Engaging a family member in these discussions on an ongoing basis ensures that the goals and objectives of the security program are properly aligned with the family’s desires and needs. It also lays the groundwork that will allow for informed decisions to be made in a timely manner in the event that an emerging security risk requires that adjustments be made to the family’s security program. Secondly, in order to be most effective, the continuum needs to be information driven; therefore protective intelligence should serve as the cornerstone of the continuum.  This is a process whereby past events, information that is presently available through open sources regarding the family, business dealings, social activities, and philanthropic interests, as well as any future activities, events or changes that may draw attention are compared, contrasted, and analyzed to determine what, if any, security risks they may present. This ensures that security recommendations are based on clearly defined risks as opposed to supposition and that both the risks and corresponding mitigation strategies can be clearly articulated to key decision makers.  It is worth noting that while these first two elements, communication and protective intelligence, primarily serve to identify potential risks, they also share a symbiotic relationship that provides a solid foundation for the risk mitigation aspects of the family security continuum.

Family Security articleThe next element of the continuum is threat detection and is the point at which the continuum enters the realm of risk mitigation. Whereas communications and protective intelligence inform the continuum by identifying potential risks and ensuring that those risks are clearly understood, threat detection efforts utilize that information to focus on the indicators and warnings signs that someone is engaged in the sorts of activities that would likely accompany a specific security threat or would be common to more generic threats. This is commonly referred to amongst security professionals as surveillance detection as surveillance is the common denominator among a broad spectrum of potential security risks that high net worth families may be faced with. This is why surveillance detection is particularly effective when incorporated into the family security continuum. The benefits of this approach are twofold; first, when  properly conducted surveillance detection activities are virtually invisible to the family and, secondly, they feed highly granular information back into the protective intelligence process thus making those efforts even more effective with regard to identifying the most likely security risks. In turn, surveillance detection activities become more refined and focused on the most likely risks and threats.  It should also be noted that surveillance detection serves as the linchpin between the more proactive elements of the continuum and traditional protective measures such as assigning personal protection specialists (often referred to as bodyguards) to family members on a full time basis.

While the value of these traditional protectors cannot be discounted, the extent to which they are effective against emerging and over-the-horizon risks is clearly limited by the fact that are almost always forced to focus on the moment at hand and their immediate surroundings. Additionally, their effectiveness may be limited by the fact that the protective boundary established by this more traditional approach to personal protection is readily visible to the family and, often times, even the most casual observer. This may actually produce the very results they were intended to protect against – to include generating unwanted attention and infringing on the family’s privacy. Having said that, there is certainly a place for such measures in the family security continuum, provided there is evidence that a specific risk warrants a more high profile approach to protecting the family – one which has both a deterrent effect and will offer adequate protection against a pervasive and determined threat.  In reality though, the use of dedicated protectors may only be required for relatively short periods of time when a member, or members, of the family are faced with an imminent threat.

By adopting a more holistic approach to family security matters, one which views security as a continuum as opposed to an occasional necessity, it is far more likely that potential risks will be identified long before they represent a direct threat. When fully understood and properly managed, the continuum will help foster a cultural of security awareness among key stakeholders, inform the family’s decision making process, and allow a more appropriate balance between the competing priorities of security, privacy and convenience to be more easily achieved and maintained over the long run.

About the Authors:

Edward Limoges is the Director of Operations for Protection Resources International, an Illinois based provider of security consulting and security services to high net worth individuals, families and multi-national corporations. He is a former police officer with extensive experience in planning, managing and providing security for high net worth individuals and families. He is well versed in developing and implementing well balanced, proactive security programs for those who value their privacy.

Joseph Autera is the President & CEO of Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute, the foremost provider of specialized training programs relating to security driving and surveillance detection to private sector and government security professionals, to include those responsible for protecting some of the most prominent families in the world. His eighteen year tenure in the private sector includes experience as the Director of Security for a multi-national technology concern and Vice President of Global Security for one of the world’s leading risk management firms, where he was responsible for managing the security of key executives and their families .


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