The Role of Intelligence Analysis in High Net Worth Protection Programs

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The practice of intelligence analysis originated in national intelligence agencies tasked with supporting national security, foreign policy, and military objectives, and used to be something that only governments took seriously.

Intelligence analysts now play an increasingly important role in safeguarding a wide variety of corporate interests, too, ranging from the protection of people to understanding risks that might impact anything from supply chains to critical assets such as production facilities, brands and reputations.

We believe the time has come to broaden the purview of intelligence analysts to include the protection of high net worth individuals and families. We are already using this in many of our HNW programs, and we are convinced that as the complexity of risk mitigation increases, intelligence analysis will prove its worth even more.

What is intelligence analysis?

Simply put, intelligence analysis is a process that mitigates risk and enables more-informed decisions by better understanding complex and often ambiguous situations.

The classical process used by intelligence analysts comprises the continuing refinement of data (or unorganized, unrelated bits of facts) into information (or data that is organized to be meaningful and useful, for example by answering questions such as “who, what, when, where…”), and, finally information into intelligence, which, for our purposes, we define as actionable insights for decision making about risk mitigation.

Intelligence analysts are not the ones who make decisions or offer recommendations. Rather, they support other stakeholders and decision makers by the process of refinement described above in order to constantly monitor and understand the many contexts relevant to security objectives. They do this primarily by preparing a variety of reports, both regular and ad hoc, on topics that impact security and risk mitigation. These reports can include topics ranging from persons of interest, evolving trends, or assessments of acute developments and major incidents.

How and where is intelligence analysis a relevant part of high net worth protection?

Solid intelligence is at the heart of any good protective program. Indeed, intelligence is what informs the risk, threat and vulnerability analyses (RTVAs) that form the foundation of solid protective work – and all protective programs should be intelligence based.

Intelligence analysis performed by experienced and well-managed intelligence analysts adds value to high net worth protection programs in a variety of ways. Let’s examine how.

The Importance of Prominence, Off-Line…

To begin with, intelligence analysis forms part of a proactive approach to understanding how the prominence of the principal and his or her family impacts their risks, threats and vulnerabilities.  Understanding the degree of relative prominence, and what drives that prominence, is critical. As was established in the Secret Service’s Exceptional Case Study, increased prominence levels correlate with increased risk for public figures and celebrities, and the actual perpetrators of attacks are not easily identifiable due to demographic markers or obvious stalking patterns.

Intelligence analysis can be a powerful way to identify and understand the threats facing the principal and family, as well as the individuals, environments, and sentiments that might play a critical role in risk mitigation. This includes, but is not limited to, keeping track of persons of interest (POIs) and groups of interest (GOIs). Effective intel allows the security apparatus to proactively prepare measures to prevent negative activity, keep abreast of (and share internally) negative messages with regard to the principal’s reputation, and assess the current sentiment around the principal and the family. The Importance of Prominence, Online…

A key piece of the intelligence analysis puzzle is identifying and assessing what information is available online regarding the principal and family members.

Social media behavior might in some cases tip off later violent behavior, and social listening can be an effective way to identify isolated threats as well as evolving threat patterns.  Lone actors who perpetrate mass shootings are sometimes found to have left trails of clues and threats of violence – unfortunately and far too often after the fact.

But intelligence analysts can also discover and report other pertinent information online. What is being shared that creates more time and place predictability, controversy or potential access?  If there is time and place predictability, what can be done to reduce the risks involved?  A well-run Intel program informs the people responsible for security of their findings to enable pre-emptive countermeasures throughout the family ecosystem.

Intelligence and Location, Location, Location

Intelligence analysts can also help us to understand location-based threats that impact family members, be they related to primary or other residences, schools, workplaces, or travel destinations.

Residential intelligence: Intelligence analysis – both the kind performed by trained intelligence analysts and the kind performed by experienced protection agents – is an important part of residential security. We need to understand all the different communities the principal might call home, including where the primary residence is located, as well as any second, third or other residences – or yacht moorings, for that matter.

Good residential intelligence can take on many forms. It can be as simple as maintaining good relationships between neighbors and protective agents. We all share a mutual interest in keeping the neighborhood safe, after all, so cooperating with neighbors to share information on what’s happening nearby is essential. As in many other aspects of life, we need to understand that to give is to get. When protective agents, who often have access to other kinds of information on local happenings than local residents, judiciously share intel that can help the neighbors stay safe, happy and productive, too, then neighbors are more likely to share what they learn that is relevant to neighborhood security.

Protective agents are also an important part of the intelligence team. They converse with neighbors, passersby and the postman. They are on the ground and play an important role in surveillance and counter surveillance. Like analysts, they need to have a proven way of passing on the intelligence they gather so that it can be useful for better decisions. And they should always maintain a customer service mindset that also extends to the neighbors – and try to benefit the neighborhood, too.

The same goes for working with local police, with whom close cooperation is essential in both preventing and responding to security incidents.

Finally, as we all know, social media groups with community focus are also a good way to keep up to date on what’s happening locally. They can also provide valuable information on local politics, cultural activities, current events, suspicious types and other topics that might affect residential security in the short and long terms.

Travel intelligence: Intelligence on destinations is an essential way to prepare for travel. This can be facilitated by general travel risk advisories such as those provided in English by the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

The U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides even more granular and updated travel advisories. Especially OSAC’s “Crime and Safety Reports” and “Analyses” provide information that is helpful, detailed and timely.

Experienced intelligence analysts dig even deeper. For one thing, they will probably have access to commercial incident reporting tools, including those sold by vendors such as Risk Line, Dataminr, and Stabilitas, so they get immediate updates on incidents as they occur in locations where the principal or family is traveling. For another, they will often have their own network of on-the-ground resources. These local eyes and ears can be invaluable in sourcing near-real-time information on everything from demonstrations on the street to road closings to labor unrest and more – all of which might be relevant to the itineraries and safety of travelers.

Reputation Protection Is a Key Function of Intelligence Analysis

Intelligence analysts also play an important role in protecting the reputations of their principals. They do this by monitoring social media and other online sources for any mention of the principal and family members, but also by keeping tabs on other keywords that are relevant to the principal’s privacy and security – both on and offline.

While the primary focus of reputation protection will usually be privacy, the security benefits are also critical. Prominent people also make conspicuous targets for theft of personal data, blackmail, corporate and personal espionage and more.

Monitoring of the principal and family’s on- and offline reputation should also include any public mention of the principal’s security program, which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the awareness that the principal indeed does benefit from residential and other protective services can be a deterrent that prevents some from attempting to breech security. On the other hand, however, media coverage of security efforts may compromise operational integrity. In either case, protection managers need to know in order to take their precautions.

Vetting, Investigations and Data Protection: Essential but Sensitive Tasks

Finally, it should be mentioned that intelligence analysts can be of significant assistance in vetting candidates for job openings in family offices, including portfolio managers, groundskeepers and everything in between, and in investigating incidents.

But while we all naturally turn to the internet to research people, there are legal pitfalls that employers need to be aware of. For example, unless the organization has a clear written policy regarding the kinds of on- and offline information that may be used, how it will be gathered and stored and by whom, the family office might make itself liable to discriminatory practices or other violations of privacy and/or labor laws.

Intelligence analysts can provide an arm’s length distance between the vetting of candidates by trained research professionals, and the hiring managers who use vetted shortlists to decide between qualified candidates.

Individual family offices often do not possess the same resources as corporations, and this can be a disadvantage in terms of compliance. For example, all corporations that do business in the European Union are (or should be!) fully aware of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which lays down strict rules on how personal data is collected, stored and protected. Families with residences and employees within the EU can easily expose themselves to liabilities if they are not in compliance.

How Successful High Net Worth Security Programs Integrate Intelligence Analysis

To our knowledge, family offices with experience in setting up any kind of intelligence analysis program are few and far between. While some families may initially rely on the principal’s corporate intelligence program for personal and family coverage, this often entails the potential for confusion about who is paying for what and is not sustainable long term. Instead, high net worth individuals and families who want the benefits of dedicated intelligence analysis support usually turn to specialist partners.

Intelligence analysts employed by specialist partners provide a number of advantages. To begin with, they have experience in hiring, developing and retaining the particular talent required for success – something those responsible for HR in the family office most likely do not.

Furthermore, they are more likely to provide an accessible network of other intelligence analysts, both those working for the specialist partner and others. Such communities of practice are essential. They broaden the geographical reach of any analyst, providing the kinds of on-the-ground intel described above; they provide broad access to deep pockets of domain expertise in case this is needed; and they provide the learning opportunities that help intelligence analysts thrive personally and professionally.

Finally, specialist partners provide scalability so that intelligence programs can quickly ramp up or down according to the family office’s evolving needs. For many, a fractional solution with less than one full-time analyst assigned may be the best way to begin. These outsourced but dedicated resources can be increased if necessary, or quickly terminated if they prove, against expectations, to be ineffective.