Remote Protective Security Management and the New Normal

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In this blog, we’d like to dig into just one aspect of the new normal in a world with COVID-19: the increasing importance of remote protective security management.

Clients still have protective security needs all over the world. The fact that most of our corporate clients have stayed home for the last few months doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in the world. Although globalization has its discontents and plenty of vocal detractors, according to the DHL Global Connectedness Index, “the world is still more connected than at almost any previous point in history.”

Global Connectedness Index

Multinational companies are still, well, multinational. They continue to have people and assets around the world with protective security needs.  Some of these needs have been reduced or practically eliminated during the COVID-19 outbreak. As we all know, international travel has all but evaporated over the last few months. Even the most adventurous road-warrior CEOs have been grounded and, like millions of their employees, many are working from home. So, the need for international secure travel support has fallen drastically – for now.

Other protective security needs, however, remain more or less unchanged. For example, local executives of multinationals still need to stay safe, happy and productive and continue to require residential and domestic travel support. As supply chains continue to churn – even if at lower rates – and business continuity is still on every board’s radar, protective intelligence is still relevant. High-value assets still need to change hands, even if the exchanges are trickier. Disgruntled former employees are still disgruntled; now, there might be more of them.

Still, other protective security needs are even greater due to the pandemic. When wealth inequality is exacerbated, and millions are out of work, highly prominent CEOs whose net worth is public knowledge get more attention – not all of it friendly. When layoffs spread their trail of devastation throughout communities, workplace stability can become an issue.

What’s changed is they – and we EP providers – can no longer jet off to handle everything.

The lockdowns instigated to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 – and to “flatten the curve” – have had far-reaching consequences for economies and individuals the world over.  In terms of protective security, the most immediate and obvious result of travel bans is that corporate and third-party resources can no longer deploy internationally to take care of business.

Let’s imagine a fictitious company, Acme Inc., based in the U.S., that has protective security challenges to be solved in India. The challenge is such that local resources cannot be counted on to handle the task – someone has to travel to India to do this. Of course, we’re only interested in protective security here, but Acme Inc. could just as well have an analogous problem with a production line, ERP implementation, or in any number of other areas of expertise. You can’t Zoom your way out of everything – sometimes, you need boots, hands, hearts, and minds on the ground.

In pre-COVID days, someone from corporate or a trusted specialist partner would fly to India, do what had to be done, see with his/her own eyes that everything was OK, then fly home again.  In COVID times, the protective security challenge has not gone away. What’s different is that Acme Inc. can no longer send someone in from abroad.  Whatever needs to get done has to get done with local resources because now, there’s no one else to do it but them. But aren’t these the same resources we previously didn’t think were up to the task? Does Acme Inc. neglect its duty of care and protective security needs, or does it find another way to take care of business?

Now is the time to say hello to the new normal of remote protective security management.

Acme Inc. executives most likely want to find another way to take care of business. The company is a leading multinational because it, among other capabilities, is an outstanding innovator. Acme executives are going to expect someone else to start innovating, too, and come up with new solutions to new problems – not throw up their hands and say “sorry, we can’t help because we’re stuck in Peoria.”

Thus, arises one of the challenges of the new normal for protective security professionals: we need to develop ways of protecting people and assets in places we cannot visit. Remote management means coming up with reliable ways to enable local resources to handle tasks that they previously couldn’t – and doing it all from afar.

There’s nothing new about remote management. Companies have been doing this for years in all kinds of domains and for all kinds of reasons. What’s new is how suddenly remote management is the only option – and how protective security tasks previously deemed too sensitive or too critical to manage remotely must now be conceived, controlled and implemented from afar.

Both reliable local resources and solid operational processes are key success factors for remote protective security management.

1. Local resources need to be capable, trusted partners

If you want to get things done in a remote location, the first thing you need is reliable people on the ground in that location. In our experience, the local partners that perform best share a number of characteristics:

  • They have a range of necessary skills and abilities that include, but are not limited to:
    • Secure transportation and EP
    • Protective security assessments and audits
    • Protective intelligence
    • TSCM
    • Investigations
    • All-round fixers, facilitators – the go-to people to get things done
  • They have the resources (including good management, 24-7 responsiveness, quality control) to provide services repeatedly and reliably – and to scale their services flexibly as demanded.
  • They are vetted, both through working with them and by their local/national reputation, and they have a proven track record with us based on experience.
  • They are licensed/permitted as necessary to operate legally and above board.

2. Operations need to be transparent, reliable and based on proven processes, systems and tools

The other side of remote security management is solid operational systems that connect on-the-ground resources with partners and clients that can be halfway around the world. Here are some hallmarks of operational procedures and knowhow critical to the manager’s side of remote security management:

  • Plug-and-play – and adaptable – SOPs: Standard operating procedures must be in place and ready to use for all relevant protective security tasks. These SOPs have to be proven in practice, readily available, and easy to understand for all involved. They will probably also need to be adapted for specific circumstances.
  • Quality assurance: Even in close-proximity collaboration, trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. In remote collaboration where people’s lives can be at stake, trust is good – and control is better. That’s why quality assurance programs must be in place to ensure that agreed SOPs are followed.
  • Training capabilities: The ability to remotely teach people what to do, how to do it – and to certify who has learned what can be critical. This could be through interactive e-learning portals or via video platforms.
  • The right tech: Tech must support the use of SOPs and quality assurance systems – and facilitate communication and reporting.
  • 24/7 accessibility: Whether this availability occurs through an always-open operations center or otherwise, when responsibilities are global, remote security management resources must be accessible 24/7.