Security is a head in the sand issue with very few people addressing it until it is too late, experts warn. Despite the high-profile incidents mentioned above, almost half (44%) of family office respondents in the Global Family Office Report 2015 had no risk controls for personal security. To find out more, CampdenFO undertook an eight-week online survey on concerns about personal security.
Indeed although over half (57%) of the 106 survey respondents said that their personal security situation was good or excellent, 59% had never had a security review. In addition, 65% have never had any personal security awareness training for family members or family office executives and 16% had not had any training for more than two years.
Bob Morrison, managing director at SecTech, comments: “This is all about reviewing what the actual security needs are. Very few people need 24/7 protection, but being aware of the risks is key.”
“Generally the family principal or family office executive is safer given that they have the power to release funds. It is those surrounding them, i.e. their families and loved ones, who are potential victims of kidnap either for ransom, in the case of the family principal, or to force a family office executive to release their client’s funds to ensure the safety of their own family and loved ones.”
“Distasteful as it is, you need to have a plan, i.e. who will deal with the hostage takers, who will liaise with the family, how you will make all other family members safe and mitigate against any other potential risks,” he says.
Another key security issue is when travelling. It’s important to have a rendezvous, an evacuation plan, and access to medical help if required.
“A rendezvous point in the case of an emergency and knowing the sequence of actions that will unfold is much better than making it up under stress,” says Morrison. He cites the example of an African country where all the westerners stay in the same hotel and largely use it as an emergency rendezvous point. “All potential kidnappers have to do is turn up at the hotel and wait for the targets to arrive back,” he says.
Cyber security is the other major risk — this can span from giving out information on social media to putting up sophisticated firewalls and restricting access to the systems within the family office.
David Prince, delivery director of cyber and information security at Schillings, says that even though people are aware of the need for cyber security, actual measures in place are often lacking. “Many family offices don’t seem to understand that the best form of protection is being aware of what the risks are and how to respond. For example not posting something on Facebook or not clicking on suspicious emails. In a great many cases people are the weakest links. Criminals know this and work actively to exploit it,” Prince warns.