Traveling is an important part of a principal’s life, but we know from experience that it’s not as easy as it sounds. With traveling, there is a lot to worry about and prepare for. Travel risk management is a skill you will learn on your road to becoming a professional EP agent, so let’s find out what it is and what are some points to remember.
When it comes to principals, only the top ten of them in a company are assigned an EP agent. Other than that, it’s typically a travel risk coordinator who takes care of other employees that travel somewhere. Travel risk management for executive protection mostly relates to the VIPs of the company.
There are a lot of travel tracking apps and risk management apps that track principals and they have amazing features, it doesn’t have much to do with EP in my book. Let’s be honest, the top three most important people in the company already have their own EP program. Also, they don’t want everyone to know where they are every second.
I think it would be helpful if we as EP agents don’t just pick up a fancy word like travel risk management and think that we have to be travel risk managers for corporations. If you think about it, some of the big Fortune 500 companies have tens of thousands of travelers, and we can’t gain a lot from that.
So, if you want travel risk management for executive protection, that would be managing everything around those three important people. Perhaps in the private family office, you do risk management for all of the travelers. When you are in charge of a couple of people, you can be specific with your plan and get down to the details.
When you manage the risk and set up the travel programs, it’s going to be at the highest level because of the number of protectees. In the EP world, we don’t have a lot of travelers and that is why our focus is mostly on quality over quantity.
Corporate Travel and Aviation
True travel risk management for EP is a lot of times in conjunction with private and corporate aviation, and usually there is already a manager of a division that has this responsibility. It’s helpful to get good relations with these people because we can help each other.
We all know that it’s our responsibility to get the boss from the company/house to the aircraft and then the pilot takes over until we land. After that, there is a car that takes us where we have to go. A lot of people think this is enough, but travel risk management has a few more components than that.
If we go to another country, we have to know where the pilots are staying, how are they getting from A to B locations, and whether are they trained in security awareness. For example, once they land and go to the bar, do they know if someone is running surveillance on them? What if something bad happens in this foreign country and the pilot is not there, how are we going to take off?
Often, if you fly by big famous jet carriers, you don’t know where the pilot is staying, and they won’t tell you because they run their own security protocols. It’s the same if you fly charter planes, are you doing background checks on pilots, and do you even know who they are? People forget that in reality, a private plane is like a flying taxi, just an expensive one, right?
Everybody has different tastes and likings, but if you have worked with a certain principal for a long time, you know that they are very particular with pilots and boat captains. It’s important for them to find one they really like. But when we fly charter aircraft we get what they send us. This is why it matters that you have a good relationship with the pilots.
How Soft Skills Tie In
Today, it is universally recognized that both hard and soft talents are necessary for professional success. Communication and problem solving abilities, time, people, and project-management skills are all important soft skills for EP agents.
This means that you have to ask the right questions and pick up the right signals But why?
If you were to call an aircraft company and say you need the pilot’s numbers and their location, they might say no. But, if you get on a plane and directly ask them if you can have their number, they are more likely to give it to you. This means that now you have their numbers for the whole operation and that you can call them if you have any suspicion.
You can even casually ask if they have been there before or where they are staying. By not asking direct questions, they are more likely to cooperate, sometimes maybe without even realizing it. This is a double-edged sword because now you know they are not afraid of telling people where they are staying, which can become a problem.
So, with some social engineering, you can get really far and not disrupt peace or stress out other people, who are doing their job, just like you.
Also, this can apply to hotels where you and the principal will be staying. If you approach them and ask them to show you the security details of the hotel, they will most likely do it. But, if you go by yourself and sit to have lunch, for example, you can see things you wouldn’t normally.
This includes details on how the staff work, where they go, and whether are there any entries they are not paying attention to. Staying flexible and thinking ahead is a skill that not a lot of agents talk about, but is equally important as knowing how to shoot.
As we saw, travel risk management is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. Every effective security process must have the appropriate policies in place, as well as open communication lines with their personnel.
Continuous risk strategy development and listening to feedback should always be major priorities.