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Douglas Kane
  Paul Michael Viollis
Douglas Kane   Paul Michael Viollis
Silent Safety: Best Practices for Protecting the Affluent

The personal security mantra and more revealed.

August 18, 2011
by Douglas Kane and Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., PhD

Contrary to popular belief, the best security for an affluent family is typically that which you don’t see. Apart from those few circumstances where individuals/families want a “show of force,” security should be approached through preparedness measures that bring peace of mind, not overt solutions that create superfluous attention. True, this is what is typically portrayed on the big screen, but, in real life, it is not the desired path. To illustrate this point, we offer the following examples:

  1. Residential Security Architecture:

    Affluent families should be advised to select a pre-emptively designed/panel integrated solution that can neither be detected nor disarmed. This will alert them to the presence of an intruder when he first steps foot on their property instead of once he has gained access to their home. This should include an aesthetically pleasing CCTV solution that is strategically positioned around their estate in lieu of an easily detectable and obtrusive technology that is more susceptible to compromise and detracts from the beauty (not to mention the potential value) of their estate.
  2. Personal Protection:

    When confronted with this request, the advisor must remember “bigger is not necessarily better.” Hence, drawing more attention to your client by not properly pairing the personal protection professional (PPP) to the principal (person being protected) can substantially increase the risk. Let’s cite an example by offering a test question. If the principal were a petite, 5-foot-3-inch African-American female, would you prefer a well-built, 6-foot-6-inch Caucasian man or a 5-foot-7-inch African-American female? Be honest — then justify your answer.

These two examples merely set the stage for numerous discussions to follow with the underscored message that protection strategies needed by all but should be made known to few.

Cheap Is Expensive

Risk Control Strategies (RCS) was retained to conduct a due diligence investigation on the principals of a large-scale development project who were allegedly putting up millions of dollars and seeking additional private financing. Though no criminal history or prior fraudulent dealings were identified, investigation showed these individuals had few assets and did not appear to have the ability to actually produce the funding which they stated they could access. Since there were several red flags of concern, RCS recommended to the client that additional investigation be conducted to verify the funds and their source to ensure no illegal wrongdoing. The client declined and, three weeks later, called for assistance after being charged with money laundering by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Cutting corners when the outcome could have a devastating impact on your life is not just ill-advised but beyond reasonable comprehension. One may argue after looking at our resumes that we share somewhat of a tainted view of the world, but then wouldn’t you after spending a lifetime immersed in scenarios most people avoid thinking about so that others can sleep at night? Hold a victim until they stop shaking, convince someone so distraught that suicide is not the solution or look into parents’ eyes after their child has been abducted or abused — and then tell us you can put a price tag on peace of mind. Advisors should adopt a philosophy with their clients not to roll the dice when the outcome could lead to grave consequences, and affluent individuals should not be willing to bet bad things won’t happen to them.

Price is a critical element in all decisions but, unfortunately, it consistently supersedes personal security concerns. As an example, it is unfortunate but true that it is not uncommon for a family to build a multimillion dollar home and leave security as an afterthought. Once brought to their attention, they solicit suggestions from the general contractor, who recommends the same system for all his clients since he is not in the security business. There is no thought of conducting a threat assessment, evaluating the surrounding neighborhoods and understanding the family’s lifestyle. Therefore, it is prudent to advise clients to understand their true risk level and to compare “apples to apples” when trying to decide upon a security-related solution and avoid looking for what’s cheapest. Remember, if it is priced low, there is a reason.

Servare Vitas

The Latin phrase Servare Vitas, meaning “to save lives,” is the true benchmark of security consulting. Each advisor must embrace the responsibility of directing their clients down the path that is in their best interest, and not just go along with wishes that can cause harm. For example, what if your client asks for your opinion about opening a business in a location where kidnappings are rampant? If you support such a decision, without offering better alternatives or describing the inherent risks of his or her intentions, you will not be doing anyone any favors, including yourself. Insurance coverage for kidnap and ransom is valuable but won’t change the fact they were kidnapped and victimized. Moreover, Servare Vitas extends far beyond life and death circumstances. It speaks to creating the framework for peace of mind by placing an invisible hedge around the individual/family, thus protecting all their human, financial and physical assets without hindrance to lifestyle; hence, to safeguard one’s legacy.

The 21st Century Intruder

Perhaps one of the most important facts for the affluent community to remember, as well as advisors, is that this population does not attract the low- to moderate-level criminal. In fact, the sophisticated criminal is your adversary, including cyber hackers, identity thieves, con artists and those who perpetrate home invasions/burglaries.

Better prepared and equipped than ever before, the 21st century intruder conducts thorough due diligence as well as surveillance and phishing exercises before perpetrating a crime. From various international organized crime groups to very sophisticated U.S.-based criminal alliances, the affluent client (including their family office) is center stage in the threat arena. Why? Well, it’s simple. This community offers the greatest return on investment for the experienced criminal. They enjoy the maximum probability of financial reward while facing minimal risk. This is based upon the fact that the affluent community typically does not thoroughly protect themselves and navigates through life with a false sense of security. Please, keep in mind as you read on that it’s not personal but just business to the world’s top criminals as you are targeted to be their next victim.

State of the Union

  • Where are the risks coming from?
  • Who is truly being targeted?
  • What should advisors be saying to keep their clients safe?
  • What security measures should the affluent deploy?

Primarily, the risks to the affluent community are coming from cyber trollers and hackers on the outside and those in the inner circle such as employees, contractors and advisers on the inside. The cybercriminal, many of which have yet to conclude their teenage years, begins his/her research on the Internet, seeking out wealthy individuals. They ascertain as much as they can about them online and then test the waters to see how deep they can get into their lives. Acquired personal information is used, sold or brokered to others for future deployment. So if you’re wondering who is hacking into your computers and alarm systems, look no further. On the other hand, fraud, kidnap for ransom, home invasions, residential burglaries, grand theft, identity/data theft and extortion are a sampling of the crimes committed against the affluent community by their own employees and contractors. Let us not forget the Madoff-esque threats from financial advisers with nothing more than a country club resume and who become insulted when you request to verify their backgrounds. Go figure. Therefore, the more affluent the person, the more profitable the target or “mark” for this intruder, dispelling the common thought, “I’m not a celebrity, so I’m OK,” or “No one really knows anything about me because I’m a low-key person.”

In sum, the main contributing factors for these exploits are a lack of thorough background investigations, blind trust and absence of internal controls. Please bear in mind that the aforementioned points are facts. Alarming? Yes. True? Most definitely. Fixable? Without question.

Before moving forward, let’s look briefly at the most prevalent risk probability factors to the affluent community:

  • Wealth — The more information the world has regarding your wealth or the greater the wealth, the larger the potential threat.
  • Family office — A true one-stop shop for the 21st century intruder. If this office is not protecting your information properly, don’t be surprised when something happens.
  • Celebrity status — Your location and tastes will forever be public knowledge. This intruder is not necessarily attracted to your money but to you.
  • Neighborhood — Don’t fool yourself — every affluent neighborhood in the country is nothing more than a playground for the diligent intruder to break into your life.

Oh, and to address that gated community thought process — believing people can’t get in — we have but one question: How many contractors and delivery people are permitted access to your community everyday whom you know nothing about and require no form of identification from other than a name on a truck?

This article has been excerpted from Silent Safety: Best Practices for Protecting the Affluent. The publication can be purchased at CPA2Biz.com.

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Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., PhD, is co-founder and CEO of Risk Control Strategies (RCS). Prior to that, he worked for 30 years in the criminal justice field. Douglas Kane is is co-founder and president of RCS. Prior to that, he was a 27-year veteran of the FBI, where he developed an expertise in criminal investigations, strategic planning, crisis resolution, and tactical leadership of comprehensive security operations worldwide.