CEOs and top company executives are increasingly visible embodiments of their companies. Indeed, some top executives are now brands unto themselves, and the celebrity of entrepreneurs has reached new heights. One businessman/brand/celebrity has ridden his profile all the way to the White House.
But with greater visibility comes increased risk—and an increased need for executive protection.
In 2016, for example, Sons Caliphate Army, a group aligned with Islamic State, issued a 25-minute video threatening two of the nation’s more recognizable CEOs, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and featured bullet-riddled photos of both company leaders. Sparking the threats were moves by the companies last year to limit the ability of ISIS and its sympathizers to use the social media platforms to spread propaganda and for recruitment.
Resentment of executive compensation also remains strong—another source of risk—and the information that can be gathered online about executives is unprecedented. Finally, while companies often benefit by humanizing its image, it makes the corporate “face” a more viable target for anyone with a gripe against the firm, from a disgruntled shareholder to an individual who disapproves of the company’s business practices.
Such threats are not uncommon. In February 2016, for example, an angry customer of Micro Center, an electronics retailer with stores in 16 states, reportedly told an employee over the phone that he would “stop at the CEO’s house” while he was in Columbus, OH. And Paula Schneider, former CEO of embattled retailer American Apparel, said that during her tenure she faced death threats and frequent protests, which included a piñata with her likeness being bashed to bits in the company’s parking lot.
In light of the risks, corporate loss prevention and asset protection management may want to assess whether home and family security is sufficient for key executives and if the threat now encompasses workers for whom home security has not previously been addressed.
When assessments indicate that security away from work is an issue for select workers, retail security officers need to address a range of key security issues—see the checklist below—and to consider strategies to prevent or mitigate threats that are not physical in nature, such as home network security.
Spending Benchmarks for Executive Protection
In addition to spending for security to protect top executives while at work and conducting business, companies can extend security monitoring to executives at home and during personal travel as a perk of the job. Some data on the amount that companies spend is available in financial reporting documents. For example, Apple reported security expenses in the amount of $699,133 in 2014 for its CEO, Tim Cook, according to a company proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Verizon spent $153,741 on security for CEO Lowell McAdam. CVS reported spending $26,538 on security services and systems for CEO Larry Merlo.
Facebook spent more than $4 million for an overall security program to protect Zuckerberg, the company said in an annual report, “to address safety concerns due to specific threats to his safety.” Also at the high end, is data showing that retailer Amazon spent $1.5 million on bodyguards and home security to protect CEO Jeff Bezos. The amount “represents the approximate aggregate incremental cost to Amazon.com of security arrangements for Mr. Bezos in addition to security arrangements provided at business facilities and for business travel,” according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. “We believe that all company-incurred security costs are reasonable and necessary and for the company’s benefit,” the filing adds.
The percentage of Fortune 100 companies that provide personal and home security to their chief executives has fluctuated only slightly over the past five years, ranging from 45 percent to 54 percent. The median spending on CEO personal and home security at Fortune 100 companies was $28,618 in 2013, a drop from $58,600 in 2012, according disclosures of executive perks in annual proxy statements compiled by Equilar, a provider of executive data. The figure does not include spending on corporate jet and other aircraft perks, which are disclosed separately. “Though values are subject to large year-over-year changes, the overall trend has been a mild annualized decline of 6.4 percent from 2009 to 2013,” according to Equilar.
Executive Protection Checklist—Home Security
A good home alarm system is key to keeping executives safe while away from work, but not the only concern. After identifying key personnel that need home security support, the executive protection team should:
- Help them prepare for emergencies. Review or help them devise a family emergency plan, fire/evacuation plan and escape routes, an adequate stock of emergency supplies, and a current list of emergency numbers.
- Improve their privacy. Make sure the floor plan for the home is not accessible online (including at realtors’ websites, if the house is for sale); encourage the use of an unlisted phone number and a P.O. Box or other address for receiving personal mail.
- Conduct a physical security survey of their home and all out buildings. Basic elements: clearly delineated property line; perimeter fencing as appropriate; layered security; adequate locks professionally installed, including double-cylinder deadbolts on doors near windows; an alarm system with alarm contacts on all doors and windows; battery power back-up in case electricity is lost; bars on windows, if necessary; spotlights with motion-sensing devices; panic alarms throughout home; an interior safe room; smoke detectors and other environmental safety sensors (carbon monoxide, temperature); and first aid (kits, automated external defibrillator, and adequate supply of prescription medicines).
- Provide practical security education. “Keep safe” reminders might include: Vary the route for driving home, always carry cell phones and other emergency communication devices, travel with proper medications and records, and ensure regular maintenance of detection equipment and fire extinguishers.
- Apply the same process to all home locations. In addition to the primary residence, key personnel for whom home surveys are deemed appropriate should also receive a security survey for seasonal/vacation homes. Take additional security measures to make sure personnel is as safe on vacations as at home, such as making sure that GPS device is included in recreational vehicles like boats and snowmobiles.