Executive protection: tips for overseas travelWritten by Linda Johnson Monday, 07 May 2012 10:00
Communications technology is shrinking distances every day, but these advances have not stopped executives crossing oceans and continents to conduct business. With each venture to a foreign city, however, executives take on a host of risks — from political instability and street crime to reckless driving habits.
Table of contents
(Page 1 of 2)
“Executive protection today is about intelligence,” says Desmond Taljaard, national vice-president, corporate investigations and security services at AFI International.
Few executives these days travel with a security coordinator or bodyguard, he says. Some companies contract with a local firm, which meets them at the airport with a driver and an escort that protects them for the trip’s duration.
Most often, however, due to budget restrictions, companies receive travel awareness training from a professional security company. Then, it’s up to them to prepare their executives, he says.
“The first thing you do is a threat assessment on the risk level of every individual travelling. No. 1 is, how important are they to the functioning of your company? If it’s very high, then you take extra precautions to protect that person,” Taljaard says.
Analyzing the “stress level” of the destination country is a key aspect of the assessment, he adds. The Canadian Embassy, the Internet and local travel agents are good sources of information.
Some companies provide detailed information on countries exclusively to clients. The global risk-consulting firm Control Risks, for example, has an online service, RiskMap, which provides a critical assessment of global and regional risks. Senior vice-president Bill Daly says its “country risk forecast” updates changes in countries and cities daily.
To assess local crime, Taljaard says, the best source is people on the ground. In the Congo, for example, he generally relies on a network of companies and colleagues in Africa whom he has worked with and trusts.
“They can give me an accurate picture of local crime: ‘Right now, there’s been a rash of car hijackings or car break-ins, so don’t leave your laptop in the car.’”
Independent security consultant T. Lee Humphrey says it’s important for executives to read this research. Many of them ignore it because they’re too busy, see it as a low priority, or believe they’re experienced travellers and don’t need it. Sometimes, they think being Canadian puts them in a kind of protective bubble.
“Having with you the information you need, whether it’s extra passport scans, emergency contact numbers of your security provider or local contacts — the preparatory parts are where they get into trouble. So when something goes wrong, they don’t know what to do,” he says.
Driving in foreign countries can carry a lot of risks, Taljaard says; in places like Africa and the Middle East, driving habits are very different, and accident rates are high.
The best course is to hire a driver from a known company and use a different driver for each trip; information on routine can readily be sold. A rented car should have central locking and power windows, as well as low kilometres to reduce the risk of breaking down and becoming vulnerable to an opportunistic crime.
Daly says business travellers often get into trouble because they are easily identified. The most pervasive threat to any foreigner is street crime. High level, but less common, threats include kidnapping, extortion and targeted robbery. In all these cases, executives make themselves more vulnerable by standing out from the crowd.
“They’re wearing a nice suit, nice briefcase and expensive wristwatch. Some people are targeted because of the company they work for or because of who they are. But those cases are exceptional; a lot of preplanning goes into it. You’re more apt to become a victim of happenstance because you have more money than the guy down the street,” he says.
“We always tell people who are travelling to maintain a low profile. Be the man in grey, and blend into the background.”
Published in News