Bodyguards vs Executive Protection Agents

Bodyguards VS. Executive Protection Agents

          When researching or shopping for protective services it’s likely that you’ve come across two popular terms that may seem synonymous. Read about some of the key differences between Executive Protection (EP) & Bodyguarding and learn how to determine if you’re getting the appropriate type of protection for your needs and risks.

Part A – What is Bodyguarding?

Definition and function

     The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “bodyguard” as “a usually armed attendant or group of attendants whose duty is to protect a person.” 

     Stereotypically Bodyguards have a reactive approach to protecting their clients. All too often we read about lawsuits involving bodyguards and violence, or breaches in confidentiality agreements. Much like any career field, you’ll have those who are professional and those who aren’t so professional. Bodyguarding as a trade isn’t as devoid of exceptional close protection practitioners as some may believe. However, it is important to note that many non-professional protectors give themselves the title of Bodyguard. For the remainder of this article, we’ll only be discussing professional Bodyguards.  

     Bodyguards are usually fit, above-average size, and are capable of responding to physical attacks. Bodyguards protect and shield their clients from attackers using deterrence, interpersonal skills, and defensive tactics when necessary. 

Common Qualifications & Background

  • Private Security
  • Nightlife Security
  • Military Service
  • Law Enforcement

Formal Training Topics

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Arrivals & Departures
  • Conducting Site Surveys
  • Media; Concerns & Considerations
  • Etiquette
  • Professionalism
  • Itinerary planning
  • Time Management
  • Working with Venue Security
  • Red Carpet Procedures
  • Conflict Resolution
  • First Aid

Part B – What is Executive Protection?

Definition and Function

     Wikipedia defines “Executive Protection” as “security and risk mitigation measures taken to ensure the safety of VIPs or other individuals who may be exposed to elevated personal risk because of their employment, high-profile status, net worth, affiliations or geographical location.”

     EP as a protective solution is designed to protect people exposed to risk using a variety of specialized skill sets, all requiring years of formal training and experience. Everyday EP Agents ensure ease of movement, client comfort, and only the desired amount of public exposure of their client. Executive Protection Agents take a proactive approach when protecting their clients. They employ the use of protective advances, intelligence analysis, knowledge of pre-attack indicators, verbal persuasion, advanced defensive tactics, and protective firearms use.

Common Qualifications & Backgrounds

  • Private Security
  • Military Service
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Federal Law Enforcement
  • Private Investigation
  • Government Contracting
  • Military Special Operations
  • High-Threat Protection Contracting
  • Counter-Terrorism Operations
  • Cyber-Security

Formal EP Training Topics

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Etiquette & Professionalism
  • Arrivals & Departures
  • Protective Advances
  • Protective Intelligence Applications
  • Vehicle Operations
  • Protective Firearms Applications
  • Media; Concerns & Considerations
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Tactical Emergency Medicine
  • Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM)
  • Surveillance Detection
  • Pre-attack Indicators
  • Team Communications
  • Covering & Evacuating a Principal
  • Counter Surveillance Concepts
  • Protective Security Formations
  • Managing Access Control Points
  • Crowd Control
  • Maintaining Confidentiality
  • Threat Assessments
  • Evasive Driving

Part C – How to Choose Which One You Need

For those requiring protective services, both Bodyguards and Executive Protection agents could be a valuable option depending on current risks and concerns, client expectations, and the following 5 considerations. Use these as a reference to assess which service best fits your situation. 

  • Principal’s Public Exposure; how well known is the principal to the general public, how routinely are they in the open?
  • Existence of known threats; are you currently aware of active threats or persons of interest who may be planning to harm, harass, or embarrass the principal? 
  • Geographic Location; in what type of environments will the majority of the protection operations take place?
  • History of Security Threats; what type of threats (if any) have taken place in the recent and distant past?
  • Known Vulnerabilities; what type of risks is the principle most susceptible to? Travel risks? Opportunistic criminals? Hostile or competitive surveillance? Diminished public perception?

     Using what you now know about the similarities and differences, common training and backgrounds, and the primary functions of Executive Protection Agents and Bodyguards, you can answer the example questions above and use them as a starting point for deciding between hiring a Bodyguard or an Executive Protection Agent.

4 Steps to Contract The Best Executive Protection Firm

4 Steps to Contract The Best Executive Protection Firm

     Hiring an Executive Protection Agency can at times be very difficult or very simple; you should be cautious of either extreme. An agency with an overly complicated process could prove to be rigid and difficult to work with. An Agency that oversimplifies your needs will likely demonstrate a lack of expertise or professionalism. Knowing the steps required to properly vet and qualify an agency will simplify the process and add clarity to your decision making.

Step 1  – Vetting the Agency 

     Enlisting the security services of an unlicensed or uninsured agency can prove to be extremely costly and expose your organization to avoidable risk and liability. Some of the first steps you’d want to take when considering an executive protection provider is ensuring they have adequate licensure and insurance for the services they offer.

     Further, you’d want to ensure they are licensed specifically in the state or locale you require service. Another consideration when vetting a security firm is the quality (and existence) of their Agent Training & Development program. A quality program will include, in part, some of the following perishable skills, recognition of non-verbal cues, pre-attack indicators, advanced first aid, verbal persuasion, defensive tactics, and protective firearms use.

Key Points

  • Are they licensed? Where?
  • Are their agents licensed? Where?
  • Do they have liability insurance? How much?
  • Does their company have an in-house training & development program for agents? How often are agents trained? Does their training include “soft skills”?

Step 2  – Initial Consultation

     The initial consultation should be an open discussion. What you aren’t looking for is a sales pitch. You’ll want to ask relevant questions about the agency’s track record and prior experience and how they plan to address your concerns.

     You should also take note of the intent of their questions. For example, “how much are you paying for security now?”, in an initial consultation this could just be price benchmarking to help them maximize their bid. A more beneficial question (to you, the client) would be “based on your current structure and operations, what do you believe are some of the challenges we are likely to face?” One question could be seen as self-serving and the other clearly indicates the protection agency actually cares about mitigating your risks and wants to start forming a plan as early as the initial consultation.

Key Points

  • What are some of the tactics you will use to address our risks?
  • What experience do you have providing this service?

Step 3  – Scope of Work and Accepting Proposal

     After the initial consultation is complete, you then want to determine the scope of work for the firm you are considering. What exactly do you require from them? Does it include travel? Are you requesting they provide protection for family members? Will the principal’s residence be covered? You’ll want to paint the clearest picture possible of your wants and needs and get confirmation that the agency can provide that type and level of service.

     This shouldn’t at all be a one-sided conversation. A credible agency will be knowledgeable and able to offer insight and suggestions that will benefit your organization whether you contract them or another provider. After you’ve made your expectations clear and they’ve given you adequate assurance that they can meet or exceed those expectations, it’s time to make a decision. Review your notes, re-verify the company is fully licensed and insured, and accept the most attractive proposal.

Key Points

  • Designing your solutions
  • Scope of work (location, individuals, family, guests, travel, etc)
  • Accepting proposal

Step 4 – Information Request and Program Implementation

     The hard part of the selection steps are done. You’ve weighed your options and made the best choice for your organization. Now the Executive Protection process begins. Depending on the scale of the protective operation, the agency you’ve contracted may require quite a lot of information from you initially. An info & preference sheet on each principal and their closest family members, frequented locations and venues, information on your facilities, staff, current physical security measures.  

Key Points

  • The hard part is over
  • Focus on client/principle preferences
  • Relevant information will be requested

How to Select the Right Executive Protection Provider

How to Select the Right Executive Protection Provider

What Is Executive Protection?

     Executive Protection (EP) is a risk mitigation method. Often executed in three layers of protection and used to proactively provide solutions for concerns involving risk, threat, access, confidentiality, and logistics.

  • The Protective Intelligence layer makes use of skilled Intelligence Analysts and systems to identify and assess geographic, general, and targeted risk. 
  • The Protective Advance layer does the logistical planning necessary for any protection detail’s success.
  • The Close Protection layer is where skilled protectors, overtly or covertly, safeguard their protectees from physical threats, harm, and embarrassment.

     A full-service EP provider offers protective solutions that use the three (3) layers of security in concert with one another to mitigate risk at varying levels.

What Are Some Things You Should Look For In An Agency?

Experienced Leadership

     It goes without saying that an Executive Protection Agency should be led by professionals with years of relevant experience. Executive Protection is a highly specialized skill set that requires years of practical experience, and often hundreds, if not thousands of hours of formal training and education to achieve mastery of the craft. Agency leaders must be formally trained in the full-scope of Executive Protection principles to effectively manage high-quality EP operations. Professional certifications are often a great way to support a leader’s level of expertise and display their dedication to continued education. 

The specialty you require

     When choosing an Executive Protection firm, it is important to ensure the firms under your consideration have experience providing the specific type of protection you require. All EP agencies will offer general close protection services and bodyguards, however, not all will be truly capable of performing the other common specialties at high levels. Examples of other specialties include Residential Executive Protection, Celebrity Protection, Executive Travel Protection, Corporate Protection, and Covert Protection.

Relevant training for Agents

     An agency’s training program must have relevance, in that it supports real day-to-day protective operations. Training to shoot through vehicle windshields is much more exciting than studying appropriate doses of medications for a heart attack or an allergic reaction. Statistically speaking, which situation is an Agent more likely to encounter? Professional Agents possess a wide range of abilities that encompass both “the hard skills”, i.e. hand-to-hand combatives, defensive driving, or maybe, shooting through windshields; and “the soft skills” like, emotional intelligence, etiquette, or conflict resolution. A professional agency supports those competencies with structured and regular in-house training. 

In-house training & development program

     The EP agencies in your consideration should have a well-designed training & development program for their agents. A quality program will include general overviews of protection operations; which include current industry trends and updates, best practices, and basic information agents need to be effective during day-to-day operations. It will also cover the layers of security and how they work together to ultimately reduce risk for protectees. Continuous specific skills training is necessary for providing the highest quality protective solutions, knowledge of non-verbal cues, pre-attack indicators, advanced first aid, verbal persuasion, defensive tactics, and protective firearms use are some of the most important examples of perishable skills that must be trained annually at a minimum.

Professional Agents & Staff

Traits of highly effective agents 

     An Executive Protection Firm can not exist without a network of highly skilled professionals actually carrying out each protection detail. Some signs of highly effective EP Agents are maturity, integrity, emotional intelligence, calm under pressure, decisiveness, and professionalism; and these are but a small fraction of the list. 

Relevant Experience & Background

     Most commonly, prior to entering the EP profession, many agents serve as Law Enforcement Officers, Military Personnel, and/or nightlife Security. These can all be excellent launching pads to very successful careers in Executive Protection. However, none of these alone, qualify an individual to perform quality close protection operations. 

State Licensed Agents

     Verification of agent licensure is an essential part of selecting an executive protection firm. Both armed and unarmed agents must be licensed in their state to legally conduct security and protection operations. Common topics covered during state licensure include; Legal Aspects of Private Security, Role of Private Security Officers, Security Officer Conduct, Principles of Communications, Observation and Incident Reporting, Safeguarding Information, Physical Security, Interviewing Techniques, Emergency Preparedness, Safety Awareness, and Medical Emergencies.

Licensure, Compliance, and Insurance

Licensure for Agency 

     Contracting an unlicensed or uninsured agency to conduct protective services will expose you to extreme levels of avoidable risk and liability. Verifiable licensure is the most critical consideration when shopping for a close protection security provider. A firm should have all required licenses for operating a security or investigative agency within each state they originate services. Further, an agency’s insurance policy must meet or exceed the minimum general liability coverage. In addition to verifying an agency’s licensure and appropriate insurance coverage, it’s also essential to verify that the agents being tasked with carrying out protective operations are fully licensed to do so within the operations locale.

Compliance with all local laws associated with protection

     Complete knowledge of, and compliance with, federal, state, and local laws are also a prime consideration. Enlisting the services of an agency incapable or unwilling to operate within the confines of applicable laws is another way to be exposed to unnecessary and avoidable risk. Unprofessional agencies have been known to operate without necessary licenses and insurance, hire unlicensed and unskilled agents, and offer services they have little or no expertise conducting in the interests of cutting costs and maximizing revenue. 

     We hope you feel better prepared to protect yourself, your assets, and your investments by knowing what to look for in a quality Security & Protection provider.