Travel tends to be an integral part of life for just about every individual and every corporation that owns a private jet. If it wasn’t, what would they need the jet for? It is a highly expensive object to leave idle on the ramp, month in and month out. However, with increased travel comes increased risk. Many high net worth individuals are already pretty ‘savvy’ about their own personal safety, but mitigating risk should not really be a DIY operation, especially if you are flying into an area that you and your team do not know particularly well – or at all.
There are a number of companies that specialise in providing travel security consultancy and travel security support. These operations are regularly consulted by a wide range of clients, from NGOs and universities, to companies who have to send their staff to distant parts of the globe. They also provide services to wealthy folk who need or want to fly privately to potentially dangerous destinations.
Actually, of course, as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris demonstrated once again, risk is everywhere, not just in the more notorious areas of Rio, Bogota, Kinshasa or Lagos. As Ed Hill, Director of Operations at Explorer Travel Security (ETS) Global Risk Management, explains, even companies using standard commercial airlines to send executives to distant destinations need to ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care to employees. Among other things this means ensuring that they are properly briefed on how to stay safe – or at least minimise risk – once they leave the safety of the airline and the airport. The same is true for executives travelling by private jet, be it a charter flight or the company’s own jet.
High net worth individuals travelling in their own jet on their own business do not fall under the same corporate duty of care regulations with respect to their own persons, but these regulations most definitely come into play for any staff involved. They may be travelling with personal assistants or employees, or flying with their own crew, rather than a crew provided by the aircraft management company.
“What anyone who can be deemed to be responsible for the journey being made by others needs to ask themselves is: if there was a serious incident, be it a criminal, terrorist or health incident, what can I produce to show that I fulfilled my duty of care to those for whom I had responsibility?” Hill says. If the answer is “not much”, then the spectre of corporate manslaughter charges against the individual concerned could well raise its head. At the very least, expensive litigation could follow, plus there is the personal discomfort of knowing that staff may have been injured or worse because due care was not taken to ensure that they were properly briefed on the hazards of foreign travel.
Clearly, taking in-depth advice from a travel security consultancy and having that consultancy provide online or on-site safety tuition to staff about risk mitigation when moving about in a strange city would constitute quite a strong defence. However, ETS and other travel security consultancies do a lot more than this, providing everything from intelligence-based analysis of the risk profile of any trip, to comprehensive close protection, if that is what is required.
“When we meet with a company or the representatives of a high net worth individual what we are looking to do is to address the whole gamut of risks that can occur once that individual or those executives step out of the private jet,” Hill explains. “We’re looking to protect them and their staff against everything from opportunistic crime, to people who want to extort money from them or their organisation. Clearly while overseas travel increases a company or an individual’s business opportunities, it also increases their vulnerability. We look to put together a bespoke package tailored to their circumstances,” he comments.
By definition, these kinds of arrangements always have to be crafted afresh in each instance to meet the specific needs of the individual or company. “A template that works in one case will not be suited to a different individual or set of circumstances. Everything we do is intelligence-led, and is based on our detailed understanding of the factors relevant to that specific destination and the individual’s intentions and travel plans,” he says.
The popular conception of executive protection is an armoured four-wheel drive vehicle collecting the individual from a well-vetted FBO, accompanied by a squad of highly capable, former special forces folk. Sometimes that is exactly what is required, but such a high-profile security umbrella wrapped around the client can, on occasion, be counterproductive.
Hill points out that “going big” in that kind of way can sometimes attract unwanted attention and can add to rather than decrease the client’s vulnerability, while a more discreet approach could do the job more effectively. The point is that working off an intelligence-led approach, derived from trusted assets in the destination country, enables the travel security consultancy to match the level of protection to the perceived scale of the threat, as well as to the client’s own sensitivities and requirements. “Some clients want a highly visible security presence around them. For others, the last thing they want is to be surrounded by a squad of large men wearing sunglasses,” he notes.
Hill points out, too, that individuals can place themselves, their families and their property at a heightened level of risk by being too open about their travel plans on social media. A high net worth individual might not have much to do with social media, but his or her children might well be posting daily, if not hourly, to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Again, this is an area of risk that can easily be addressed once everyone has been alerted to what should and should not be posted concerning future travel plans.
“We always talk to people about cyber security as well as personal security. They generally think of cyber security as something their IT people or IT department should be taking care of, but there is a lot they can do personally to limit their exposure,” he notes.
Rick Sheer, Security Manager at travel security and personnel extraction specialist Northcott Global Solutions, argues that corporates and high net worth individuals looking for a travel security consultancy as an adjunct to their trip planning provider or department should pay close attention to the global reach of any consultancy they are considering.
“It is common in this industry for security companies to promise to act to extract individuals in difficulties within 24 or 48 hours. Of course, if things go really bad and someone is caught up in a terrorist incident, for example, that kind of response time is not much help. We have developed a network of over 7,000 supplier partners over the years and this network spans the globe. It means we can have people right at an incident site very rapidly, often within two hours or even faster,” he comments.
Northcott is very proud of the fact that it has never had to call ‘Force Majeure’ on any incident. Force Majeure clauses in insurance and security services contracts are basically ‘get out of jail’ clauses for the supplier, allowing them to claim that an unexpected and greater force has prevented them from fulfilling their obligations to the client. “We have a 100% success record in meeting our contracts with clients and this is an important consideration for anyone considering travel security,” he says.
Sheer points out that on top of all the usual planning and logistics that go into providing travel security, Northcott provides a top-of-the-range tracking service. The systems and platforms that together comprise its global real-time travel tracking capabilities enable companies to be confident that they can get access to precise information about the location of their executives if there is an incident abroad.
“This information feeds directly in to our operations room and dovetails with our Point of Incident Response capabilities. The tracking system feeds information through to the operations team, enabling them to reach out to whatever assets we have nearest to the incident. Other tracking companies do not have this response capability. So while they can tell you that yes, you have six executives in Paris today, they can’t do anything effective about it. As you can imagine, an operations room with both real-time tracking and an ability to react in real time to arrange a rescue or to extract affected personnel from the area, is very attractive to our client base,” he notes