My experience as a CPO

I never intended to pursue a career in security after 22 years in the Army, either within UHNW personnel or corporate and physical security, but I sort of drifted into it for a period nonetheless. A colleague from my Army days, who had recently left, asked me if I would be willing to help out with a UHNW family, a client which was becoming problematic regarding security provision; they kept sacking people! Of course, a friend in need can’t be ignored; I jumped in with both feet and with no prior experience other than my wits, a strength of character, and confidence aplenty.

Security comes in many forms; it’s a wide spectrum. For anyone looking to try their hand at it, I’d advise looking at the role you may wish to pursue, then examining the skill set required, and determining if you possess those skills. I’ll focus on a private client and my time working as a Close Protection Officer for a UHNW as an example. For the most part, these people are winners. They are intelligent, they have achieved, and they expect a level of excellence; all the time. Everything you do within your role is accountable, and should you fail to meet those standards, you probably won’t be around much longer. On the flip side, if you meet the levels, it can be rewarding. Your client will be well-connected, so when you leave or decide to move on, their endorsement is ultra-valuable. Also, it’s extremely interesting to understand how a UHNW individual or family lives their lives; you will see it all.

The ability to navigate through any given day can be challenging. You may be with an individual, or just as likely a large family with many moving parts and different needs. Be agile and ready to respond, as a day planned will usually not be how it ends. Things change in a heartbeat. Having the ability to look ahead and plan is essential, regardless of how it will change. Always spend time on reconnaissance, meeting security personnel at venues prior to arriving, getting to know the staff (there will be many) such as Operations Managers, PAs, Management teams, the chef, and for me, the Nannies. Without them, who know everything regarding the details of the family’s movement, I’d have struggled. Don’t necessarily expect a detailed itinerary prior to a shift; it may not come. Therefore, interpersonal relationships are paramount. Be a part of their team to allow you that inch of wiggle room. Never try to impose yourself onto them. They were there before, and they will be there after you leave. Blend in, assimilate, and work life becomes enjoyable. No need to be a chameleon, just be professional, be robust in your opinions and suggestions. You are there to protect them, but you may have to lead the suggestion and allow the client to own it; be intelligent and never confrontational.

Daily routines can be very diverse from one day to the next; generally, the client does not live or work to a dedicated schedule. For me, the family had recently returned from a long period abroad. Both parents are very well known; one was working abroad for most of the time, the other was at home with a number of children and ran a business; busy to say the least. Four children, all attending different schools and all needed dropping off and picking up, and that’s before extra-curricular activities such as football practice and swimming, or a modeling assignment. Then there are the adults, and the many engagements, meetings, or work commitments. Trips abroad had to be planned and executed. Airport liaison, route planning, route reconnaissance, forward security team liaison, writing orders for the team to follow all took up valuable time which wasn’t necessarily available in a working day. Much of it had to be done out of hours, and when the pressure was off.

If you like being busy, this is for you. If you enjoy pressure and thinking on your feet, this is for you. If you like meeting fascinating people from very different backgrounds, then you’ll always get job satisfaction. If you are used to being part of a team, you’ll have it. Compensation packages vary, with some roles being very well rewarded financially; none are poorly compensated. If there are any negatives, and to some, this may not be, is time away from family and your normal life. Job dependent, you may be away often, or merely on a shift routine which is a number of days/weeks on and off. If you get it right both as an individual and as a team, your client will always be respectful and show their gratitude. Don’t expect them to necessarily understand your background, be that military, police, or otherwise. Hang your past up at the door in terms of ego, but use every bit of experience you’ve gained in the past within those careers, as that is what has got you there. Keeping a family safe and happy for you to look after them is your winning. Last bit of advice, don’t ask for selfies and autographs; it’s unbecoming!


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My experience as a CPO