Pre-emptive Strike

October 5, 2007

Pre-emptive Strike - By Mitch Gitter , Hannah Shaw Grove - 10/1/2007



Personal security has emerged as a top concern among the wealthy in recent years. Our high-net-worth research reveals that the majority of affluent respondents feel their wealth makes them a target for criminals and opportunists, they fear for their own safety and that of their family and friends, and expect things to worsen with time. This mindset, of course, paints a very bleak picture for the future of the luxury lifestyle favored by the wealthy.

Despite the high level of concern, very few individuals felt the threats to their safety were acute enough to warrant pre-emptive action. Based on a survey of 427 affluent individuals with an average net worth of $14 million, just 17% have crafted a crisis intervention plan of one sort or another (see graphic). It's equally insightful to learn that only 6% of the 71 people with plans had reviewed them for accuracy and applicability with a security professional within the past year. Like estate plans and other important documents that affect the wealthy and the people in their inner circle, crisis intervention plans must reflect current circumstances in order to be effective and actionable.


Pre 2The majority of wealthy individuals who realize that they need a crisis intervention plan are those facing a disaster that calls for immediate attention.

In the past, most affluent individuals needing assistance turned to their attorneys for guidance. As more financial advisors expand their practice to address the broader needs of their affluent clientele, however, they too are now receiving these pleas for assistance. Increasingly, it will be your responsibility to help your clients connect with the security experts they need at the time they need it most.

Successfully managing a crisis is more than damage control. Security professionals initiate and oversee a multi-step process to help their clients get the swift, effective and lasting resolution they need. While the execution will vary from professional to professional, these six phases will play a role in most crisis intervention efforts.

1. The first phase is Triage, during which the security consultants evaluate the immediate situation, including any associated communication, threats and criminal activities. Based on their findings, they identify and prioritize the actions needed to address the most serious issues first.

2. Containment is achieved by carrying out a series of precisely choreographed actions intended to bring the situation under control and prohibit any further escalation.

3. With the immediate crisis in abeyance, security consultants will begin the more involved process of Assessment. This includes detailed investigations to uncover the genesis of the problem and the potential implications that may create future concerns.

4. When the facts have been gathered, a plan of strategic and tactical Actions is developed to address the broader circumstances that led to and created the crisis.

5. The Implementation of the action plan may occur in a day or over an extended period of time, depending of the particulars of each situation. If the appropriate result is not achieved, the security consultants will need to reassess the situation and validate the facts, assumptions and hypotheses used as the basis of the action plan.

6. The successful containment and resolution of a crisis is rarely the end of a security professional's involvement. After the fact, it is important to take whatever precautions are necessary to limit the likelihood of future security problems. Sometimes part of Follow-Through includes helping the individual or family get the support they need to manage the psychological, and often residual, impact of enduring a crisis.

Going On Offense
Like many things, a crisis can be effectively managed with a systematic process (see sidebar). Sometimes a client will want to take this a step further and "go on offense," as security professionals put it. This means taking a highly proactive and investigative approach to ending a crisis. The degree of offense required obviously varies from case to case, but can include activities as varied as collecting evidence to support a legal claim, tracking and recovering stolen assets, or even using ex-special forces personnel.

Two areas see continued demand for investigative support from high-net-worth clients. The first is asset search and recovery initiatives that rely on forensic accounting and other forms of investigative expertise to deal with the loss of money and property. The other area is litigation, when facts are needed to mount a case. Support for litigation spans both civil and criminal cases and may be as extreme as finding the needed evidence for a murder defense or establishing rights to intellectual property.

It's increasingly common for security consultants to be used in estate litigation cases. Two recent scenarios requiring extensive and creative investigative skills that we are aware of are mirror versions of each other-finding an illegitimate child that was heir to a fortune and exposing the bogus credentials of a self proclaimed heir. In these types of cases, security consultants need a basic understanding of both the high-net-worth world and estate planning in order to be effective.

Abduction cases also benefit from an offensive approach, especially when international borders have been crossed. If a member of a wealthy family is taken while they are outside their country of residence, it presents unique obstacles that can require knowledge of the laws, extradition treaties and any reciprocity arrangements between the two countries. Another situation may involve the illegal transport of a child by an estranged ex-spouse to another country, which carries all the hurdles of the previous scenario and the added complexity of things such as custody arrangements and restraining orders. If a recovery effort is undertaken (in cases where the voluntary return of the child is unlikely), even greater preparation will be needed, as well as an exceptionally well-trained and experienced crisis intervention team of attorneys, investigators, security consultants, psychologists and other field personnel.

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