For those of us who occupy this niche world, it was one of those phone calls that you will remember exactly where you were when you received it. It was from our New York Office and as befits CASS Global, no words were minced.
The bottom line was that there was an error committed and a particular individual required protective services in Rome, Italy starting two hours ago. Could we provide anyone on zero notice?
That timeline was not an insurmountable issue as we receive “no notice” requests on a regular basis and can move with a formidable velocity when required.
But when we found out the identity of the client the room turned…..quiet. Ultra high net worth would be a modest understatement. This was another “can not miss” situation with international ramifications should something go awry.
The immediate knee jerk reaction of every experienced officer was to push for a full team, protective services, the works. Defense in depth, and if a platoon of paratroops could be assigned, so much the better. It was that sort of client.
It wasn’t going to work.
It wasn’t going to work because the client was 20 something years old, and was visiting for social purposes to include sampling the local night life and shopping.
To his/her enormous credit, the client had done an excellent job of controlling information while maintaining operational security. Nobody knew he/she was here and he/she was very low profile. To the average onlooker, he/she was visually an unknown. Which is a good thing when you drive a convertible white Bentley for your vacation in this part of the world. And the client was adamant about having a Celebrity Protection Officer who could blend in with him/her at nightclubs, restaurants, etc. Which effectively eliminated all of us over the age of 30. Experience and accrued wisdom just went out the window.
There is a reason that CASS Global breeds from within and tries very hard to push responsibility down and forward. Jon had been with us for 6 years, starting at the ripe old age of 21. We had deployed him to Bosnia, and afterwards he was employed in Afghanistan for a significant period of time before returning to work with a USA based Ultra High Net Worth client, albeit in a different context. To be candid, we were lucky he was in Europe at the moment.
As is often the case, there was no time for formal briefings, etc. Just a “get there as fast as you can” to be coupled with a telephonic in brief en route.
So at the age of 27, Jon was given (literally) the keys to the Bentley and (figuratively) the fate of an empire, not to mention the future of CASS Global if the unthinkable occurred.
There is a right and a wrong way to supervise missions like this. All too often Corporate Headquarters, located on another planet in the eyes of a 27 year old, tries to micromanage from afar. It doesn’t work and creates chaos at the Head Office and undue stress on the young man who is physically tasked with the job.
So we kept it simple, holding a morning and evening brief, mostly providing a few quiet points of advice and buttressing his logistical plan. Because at the end of the day, if you know you have competent people (and we do), then second-guessing them all day only degrades everything. You either trust them or you don’t, and if it is the latter you shouldn’t have them there in the first place.
So while Jon silently maneuvered the Bentley in the wee hours of the morning, safely shuttling the client back to the hotel, we elders accrued more grey hair, or lost what remaining hair we had left.
As is usually the case with well trained, professional officers with experience, we needn’t have worried. Jon performed superlatively, and the client was delighted for Jon was able to access unique locales only known/available to the younger set. To be frank, the old men would have been lost, in every sense of the word.
The lesson learned was that youth, for all their peccadilloes, still have the potential to beat us old men in certain circumstances. Which is precisely why CASS Global has people like Jon around. It provides balance and harmony.
Which in turn prevents any of us from ever really growing old.
CASS Global. Accrued wisdom, tempered with age, but still young at heart.
by Shawn Engbrecht