Bodyguards (often labelled as “Security”) are typically very large men whose physical presence is meant to intimidate and impress. They are the people you see on television, typically in the shadow of a high-profile celebrity and often towing their client through a crowd. Their size, and often their demeanor, send two messages. First, it is clear bodyguards are there to do physical harm to anyone that tries to approach or confront their clients. Second, the client is sending the world a message, “I must be so important that I need
these guys to protect me” and is thus part of the client’s marketing and public relations effort. Bodyguards usually have little to no formal training except in martial arts or fighting sports and rarely do they possess licenses that require background checks. Resorting to fighting skills or physical intervention in the field often indicates a failure to plan and results in a scenario with bad optics. Bodyguards often commit significant confidentiality blunders including posting pictures on social media, selling information to tabloids, and engaging in inappropriate behavior with clients – all of which is not just a breach of confidentiality but may be harmful to the client.
Executive Protection Specialists (EPS) are highly trained, qualified, and licensed to provide a range of services to VIP clients. While protecting clients from physical harm is paramount, EPS are also experts in advance planning, threat assessment, logistics, customer service, communication, and problem solving. Most EPS are from law enforcement or military backgrounds in which they have honed these skills. Additionally, EPS are trained to deal with physical threats in an armed or unarmed capacity. The best way to describe a professional
EPS is to think of what the Secret Service is best known for – protecting the President of the United States (POTUS) and other dignitaries. but doing so through proper planning and logistics rather than resorting to physical violence. However, when needed, the Secret Service can respond to physical threats with overwhelming force.
EPS possess an array of qualifications that provide a client with numerous benefits. Let’s look at some of these qualifications.
Fitness For Duty
EPS take pride in being physically capable of meeting the demands of their job. An EPS may not be a huge person but will appear fit and healthy. He or she will have passed physical tests requiring strength, agility, and aerobic capacity. More importantly, the EPS will regularly engage in physical training that prepares him or her for the significant demands of the job.
Studies conducted by the FBI related to attacks on law enforcement officers have proven that perpetrators will rarely attack a law enforcement officer who appears to be fit and “squared away.” EPS professionals strive for that squared away appearance which is a clear and proven deterrent to bad actors.
Training, Qualifications and Experience
Most EPS have undergone significant formal training in all aspects of executive protection, including:
- Advance planning
- Threat assessment
- Communications including de-escalation skills
- Customer service
- Firearms/weapons qualifications
- Physical intervention
- Law enforcement liaising
- Basic life support/CPR/AED and basic first aid
- Advanced first aid and tactical emergency casualty care
The majority have an advanced degree and hold the appropriate licenses which require background checks, references, and fingerprinting, as well as continuing education or recertification.
EPS possess a high level of emotional intelligence, positioning them to make good decisions even in the face of high-pressure situations.
Quiet and Professional
One important quality of EPS is that they can function in a multitude of environments. They will be as comfortable in the board room as they are in a crowded entertainment venue or a remote vacation resort. They can blend in without calling attention to themselves or the fact that they are there to provide protective
services. EPS are committed to confidentiality and will usually sign confidentiality documents as a term of employment. They will not speak with media or discuss security details with anyone outside of their detail colleagues, including family and friends.
EPS’ focus is on good planning (called “advances”), de-escalation, and in the event of an emergency, nonconfrontational actions (known as “cover and evacuate.”) To EPS, a successful mission or detail results in no adverse incidents or the appropriate, non-physical response to any incidents that may occur. Engaging in physical confrontations – armed or unarmed – is usually considered a failure to properly plan and execute. Simply put, EPS professionals are not looking for a fight but are fully prepared to engage if necessary to protect the well-being of a client.
EPS are accomplished communicators. They can deal with stakeholders ranging from housecleaning staff at a hotel to executive assistants to banking officials. EPS are often tasked with protecting entire families, so the ability to communicate with adults and children is important. Of course, the most important channel of communication is that with the client himself or herself (the “protectee”). The EPS and the protectee must establish a clear line of communication including how to communicate in emergency situations. This requires advance work and an understanding between the protectee and the EPS professional that comes from appropriate planning. At the end of the day, the protectee’s life may depend on his or her trust in the EPS’ ability to communicate effectively.
An EPS’ objectives include keeping a client safe, but also ensuring that they use their customer service skills to help clients manage their busy lives and schedules. Liaising with a multitude of people that interact with the client and his management team is second nature to an EPS who is often viewed as part of the client’s inner circle and thus reflects heavily on the client himself or herself. While interacting within the sphere of customer service, the EPS will continually focus on client safety and security.
Good Decision-Making Skills
As mentioned earlier, an EPS must be able to think on the spot. Even the best plans cannot anticipate all problems that may occur. EPS are trained in how to “work the problem.” Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly and with little additional information. Therefore, advance planning and contingency plans are invaluable. Good judgment is key for any protection professional. They can use their training to make the right decisions in the event of a crisis. There is a saying in the EPS world that in an emergency “you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall to your level of training.” Making the right call under duress is ingrained in the EPS mindset.
As we have mentioned, firearms and less-lethal weapons are rarely used when it comes to executive protection. This is because, with the right planning, there will be little need to use them. However, should the need arise, EPS are trained and proficient in the use of the appropriate tools of the trade. This includes regular training and the use of a variety of firearms and other weapons to ensure the EPS professional can adapt to whatever scenario presents itself.
In summary, we hope this information provides insight into the difference between Executive Protection Specialists and bodyguards as well as the value of the Executive Protection Specialist.
Business Development/ Risk Manager
Jaguar Executive Services
"Always Safe Always Vigilant"