Company Profiles

Putting Physical, Digital Security Under One Roof As Threats Swirl

Tom Burroughes Group Editor September 22, 2023

Putting Physical, Digital Security Under One Roof As Threats Swirl

The world is an uncertain place and whether physical security is an issue, or the cyber kind, HNW individuals and families need protection in business, at home, and on the road. A variety of firms cater to such needs, creating a complex web of options. We talk to a US-headquartered organization that says it puts all the pieces together.

(Editor's note: This news service and its sister publications examine a range of issues under the theme of "protecting the client." This article is part of a continuing series.)

Geopolitics isn’t getting easier and with global supply chain disruptions encouraging firms to source from new countries – some with challenges of their own – physical and cybersecurity is never far away as a concern.

High net worth individuals who are running businesses, or their beneficial owners, have an ever-present need to be safe, whether it is preventing physical threats or hackers trying to get a ransom. (This publication recently commented on how HNW individuals must be mindful of rising crime in places such as London.) While not a comfortable subject, security is part of the wealth management advisory “value proposition.”

An issue for wealthy individuals and families is that their physical/digital security needs are often covered by numerous and separate providers, and that’s a challenge in itself, Michael Coleman, senior vice president of strategic partnerships, government and corporate solutions, Global Guardian, told this news service recently. His company, which is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, has an office in London. It also operates a facility in Charlotte, North Carolina: the asset security division. Global Guardian handles areas such as residential security, investigative matters, cybersecurity, and others.

Coleman said his business puts security under one roof, eliminating complexity. “Clients at the moment often juggle three or four providers and it is very frustrating,” he said.

The business has to track trends that open potential new threats – and lines of work. One trend is outsourced manufacturers, for example, moving from Asia to countries such as Mexico, although in the latter case they have to consider threats from the drug cartels, Coleman said. (A June 2023 study from Morgan Stanley entitled Mexico Is Poised To Ride The Nearshoring Wave refers to this.)

And developing digital threats – with AI added to the mix – is a constant source of work, Coleman continued. 

“We are seeing a lot of clients coming to us for data privacy such as personal identification information (PII) that is on the internet, and to remove that information,” he said. The availability of PII data on the internet makes it easier for criminals and others with malicious intent to target people, he said.

This desire to help reduce a digital footprint is the flipside of people and businesses wanting to boost their search engine visibility. For some, having a high profile is great as it drives ad revenues. But the downside for some is that it puts reputations and privacy on the line. 

Multi-billion sector
The business of protecting people from physical and cybersecurity threats is large and growing. According to Allied Market Research, the global physical security market size was worth $104.6 billion in 2020 and is projected to rise to $192.9 billion by 2030. As for “cyber,” the global market is about twice the monetary value of the “physical” one – around $202 billion in 2022, and estimated to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 per cent from 2023 to 2030 (source: Grand View Research). The physical side can cover areas such as CCTV cameras, bodyguards, security patrols, investigators, protection devices (including those licenced in certain places to carry firearms), locks and monitoring tools. Another metric is cyber-insurance that covers breaches, ransoms and loss of business because of an attack. The market is expected to rise from $10.3 billion this year to $17.6 billion by 2028 (source: Markets And Markets.)

The rise of organizations such as Global Guardian – now 12 years' old – demonstrates how threats have created whole new business sectors. In mid-August, Align Capital Partners invested into the firm. In July, Global Guardian issued the family and family offices edition of its Digital Threat Report. The document gives some flavor of contemporary concerns, such as a chapter entitled “The Dangers of TikTok" (referring to the Chinese social media platform); “Improper Social Media Hygiene”; and “Blind Spot: Insider Threats.” 

At last week’s FWR fintech summit for family offices, held in New York, this news service heard about cybersecurity and other industry figures talk about the threat – and potential promise – of AI. Coleman said tech such as generative AI and other tools will only increase the chances of attacks – but can help defensive methods as well. A point made to this publication at the New York conference is how AI is good at noting patterns and potential red flags. (Editor: This news service will provide an account of its conference in due course.)

Turbulent times
The business of executive protection, for example when people work remotely, etc, has gotten more challenging since Covid-19 and the changes to working patterns, Coleman said.

“The role of executive protection has become more substantial. We are seeing a lot of clients asking for that," he said. 

A cause of calls for more physical security is how lawlessness and social problems have worsened in certain cities, such as in the Bay Area around San Francisco, he said.  

“People are moving to using private residential guards and for them to be 24/7 in their homes,” Coleman said. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Global Guardian has recruited people from government agencies such as the CIA and FBI, among others. But this isn’t purely an American story: Global Guardian is an international business and has clients in hundreds of countries.

Coleman said Global Guardian has a network of subject experts on the ground around the world, and that local knowledge is a key part of why the business succeeds. 

A lot of opportunities exist in Africa, where continued political, social and cultural problems create a need for improved security, he said. Coleman also expects a continued exodus of foreign firms and businessmen/women from China.

“China continues to make it difficult for companies to operate in the country,” he said. 


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