Considerations for starting an executive protection program

May 21, 2021
Organizations must weigh a number of factors when it comes to safeguarding senior leaders

Efficient and effective executive protection programs help mitigate risk and enhance productivity. Every company and principal have activities, lifestyles, cultures, preferences, tolerances and goals that are unique.  Executive protection programs need to be customized and designed exclusively with the client’s individuality in mind by offering flexible plans that are responsive to the unexpected.

Change, growth and evolution are constant elements in a world that is experiencing a high level of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  Executive protection programs, and the people that work in them, need to be adaptable and nimble to properly support their organizations and principals.  Measurement, training, continuous improvement, comparative analysis, and ongoing risk monitoring are all key aspects to keeping people safe, happy and productive. The key is to build trust with organizations and people through consistency and transparency over time. Consider, then, that in order to do this there needs to be a plan that provides direction.

Why Start an Executive Protection Program?

Each person and organization is unique and they start protection programs for different reasons. When a person or the organization they have built become prominent, it attracts more attention from more people. Not all of that attention is wanted and oftentimes can become concerning.  

Interruptions and approaches can range from minor inconveniences/distractions, invasions of privacy, uncomfortable interactions with strangers, to even major episodes and events that disturb the principal emotionally or harm them physically. An executive protection program creates plans that prepare teams to prevent, avoid or get away from these situations.

For executives who travel often, executive protection programs can help reduce the friction of travel and mitigate the potential risks and threats in new and unknown environments. Those risks include delays/interruptions due to logistics, work stoppages or security and safety.

A company may also decide to start an executive protection program after a series of concerning incidents that distract key employees from their goals and negatively affect their performance. This can carry over into a negative impact to the company and its shareholders.

The mission of executive protection is to keep people safe, happy, and productive. With safety as a top priority, a program needs to understand and execute on the best practices of protecting another person.

Executive protection programs should be designed to keep executives happy with the way the services are provided. Executive “happiness” with a program results from the process of integrating a customized approach that considers identified risks, organizational culture, and principal preferences. Programs built with all of these things in mind have the best potential to be perceived as adding value in the long term.

As for productivity support, executive protection is an integral aspect of sustained performance by supporting the optimization of leadership’s time, energy and focus. This can represent a significant return on investment for an organization or an individual.

Evaluating ‘Make’ or ‘Buy’ Considerations

The decision to start an executive protection program requires that companies evaluate ‘make or buy’ considerations. Make or buy considerations include core competence, cost efficiency, performance ability, and risks. Organizations need to evaluate these points in order to construct an executive protection program that fits with their vision of what success looks like and is most responsive and adaptable to the business and risk environments.

Core Competence:  Executive protection is not a core competence of any Fortune 500 corporation. This has particular implications for the HR function. Most corporations prefer not to use headcount or dedicate HR expertise to such non-core, specialized services. While the safety and productivity of the corporation’s leading principals are important, of course, the talent required to provide these will rarely rank very high on the corporate HR department’s list of priorities

Cost Efficiency:  When considering the costs of executive protection programs, it is imperative to include all direct and indirect costs, over time, to arrive at a reliable evaluation of total costs of program ownership. Direct costs are straightforward, consisting largely of salaries for protective personnel. Other direct costs include agent travel, subcontracting secure travel vendors (e.g., security drivers and locally-based executive protection agents) in foreign territories, vehicles and communication equipment. Indirect costs are also primarily related to program staff. These include all expenses associated with recruitment, training, bonuses, stock options, benefits, turnover, insurances, terminations, etc.

Performance Capability:  Specialist partners are, well, specialists. Their management teams have hands-on experience in executive protection that can be decades long. They have operating procedures that have proven their worth in practice. They know how to recruit and develop agents who go on to have success. And they can transfer skills learned working for one corporation to another. Unlike an organization that is building its own executive protection program from scratch, specialist partners which serve many clients can benchmark against other programs. They have a hard-earned sense of what constitutes best industry practice. And they bring this to their clients in many ways, from program design and implementation to full or partial staffing.

Risks:  From a security perspective, the most important risk associated with corporate executive protection is poor performance of the protective team. Should the team fail to do its job properly, the consequences can, in the extreme, be catastrophic for the principal, their family, the company, and its shareholders. Mitigation of this risk is all about understanding relevant threats and vulnerabilities, then choosing the best possible protection solution relative to the principal’s lifestyle preferences, the corporate culture, and budget constraints. Other risks related to corporate executive protection fall into two broad categories: the ever-present risk of litigation, especially but not only in the United States, and personnel risks. Both matter.


Training executive protection professionals is a necessary priority that enables operational excellence and consistency. In order for protection professionals to be properly prepared, training programs must include initial, ongoing and development elements.   Effective onboarding and initial training into the new role and establishment of annual training and development programs enable long-term sustainability and operational excellence.

Strategy for Success

The creation of a strategy is crucial to the program’s success. The strategy needs to take into consideration the various factors discussed earlier, while addressing additional internal and external factors.

Corporate expectations of what the program will cost and what resources will be included are important factors to address in the strategy. Communicating this strategy effectively within the company ecosystem will help provide an understanding of the program’s value-proposition.  It is important that the development of an executive protection program is a collaborative process in order to help all key stakeholders gain alignment when it comes time to officially start the program.

Key Success Factors

Developing the trust of the organization is the single most important element to a successful program.  You start to build trust through the following: Fitting into the culture – show that you understand and respect the culture of the organization; creating operational and financial transparency – people know what the program does, why it is doing it and how much it costs; communicating the value proposition of the program through metrics and KPI’s; marketing the program’s value in ways that the organization can understand and consistency in approach and service delivery that is created based on planning and procedures.

About the Author: 

Brian Jantzen is Executive Vice President at Allied Universal Executive Protection and Intelligence Services, a provider of executive protection and intelligence services that delivers protection programs for corporations, executives, high-risk individuals and families. Allied Universal is a global security and facility services company that employees more than 800,000 people with revenues exceeding $18 billion. Additional information is available at

About the Author

Brian Jantzen | Executive Vice President, Allied Universal Executive Protection and Intelligence Services

Brian Jantzen is Executive Vice President at Allied Universal Executive Protection and Intelligence Services, a provider of executive protection and intelligence services that delivers protection programs for corporations, executives, high-risk individuals and families. Allied Universal is a global security and facility services company that employees more than 800,000 people with revenues exceeding $18 billion. Additional information is available at