Why Nannies Should Be Treated as Members of the Protective Team and Get Appropriate Training 1024 1024 ESLNA

Why Nannies Should Be Treated as Members of the Protective Team and Get Appropriate Training

By Christian West and Joe LaSorsa

Protective security for family offices and UHNW families is a team effort. While executive protection professionals have primary responsibility for the principals’ security, family employees tasked with other responsibilities should also be considered part of the overall security infrastructure and treated accordingly.

As we’ll see below, proactively including nannies and other UHNW family staff as participants in the protective effort has clear risk mitigation advantages, and neglecting to do so unnecessarily adds to risk for the principal’s family members and for the staff themselves.

Treating all household staff as equals goes a long way in creating harmony and security

In our experience, one reason personal security programs for family offices and UHNW families are successful is that truly professional executive protection agents build bridges with other family staff, not walls. Conversely, executive protection agents who fail to treat other family employees well do not last long.

Some agents are so convinced of their importance that they believe what they do is more significant than the tasks other staff perform. We’ve seen this happen more than once. Inexperienced (or, let’s say it more clearly: unsuitably vetted, trained, and managed) agents get short with other staff or otherwise fail to treat them with respect. Because they believe the physical security of the principals trumps all other interests – including the emotional well-being of family employees – these agents might think their roles justify such behavior. We think they are wrong. While such attitudes might be tolerated in other security contexts, they rarely lead to anything good in family office and UHNW executive protection. What these agents fail to understand is that while physical security is important, it is not the only thing that is important.

For one thing, principals have other security needs beyond simply avoiding bodily harm. They are also motivated by their needs for reputational, productivity, and lifestyle security. And most principals, like most other people, prefer a lifestyle that includes respect and empathy for those who help them and their loved ones get on with their lives. Those gardeners and housekeepers that protective agents get huffy with might have worked for the family for years. Nannies who care for young children achieve a level trust that goes far beyond that given to EP agents. Treating any household or family staff poorly creates disharmony, and harmony is most easily restored by getting rid of the agent – or company – responsible for the trouble, not by firing a trusted nanny or housekeeper.

However, protective agents that create friction between themselves and other family staff also fail to mitigate risk as effectively and efficiently as they could. Instead of including others in the protective effort, even in modest ways, such agents exclude them. Thus, rather than winning allies that improve protection, they alienate these potential force multipliers and make protection worse. Who do you think improves security more – a gardener who keeps his eyes and ears open for signs of potential threats and reports them, or one who has learned to stay out of the way of the security guys because they are unpleasant? You can repeat this thought experiment for almost everyone else on the household staff – including nannies.

The special role of nannies and the importance of good communication with them

Nannies play a pivotal role for busy UHNW families with preschool and school-aged children. Sometimes also known as “governesses”, nannies are indeed often women, but not always. Depending on the needs of the child or children and those of the parents, nannies can have a broad spectrum of responsibilities that range from post-natal childcare to managing children’s schedules and more. Nanny tasks might also include tutoring or hiring tutors, driving children to and from school, escorting them to playdates and extracurricular activities, and planning and hosting birthday parties and other visits to the family’s homes.

Given the nature of the task – taking care of children for long stretches of time and being “on” for sometimes far longer than eight hours per day – and a lifestyle that often includes travel, it’s no wonder that many UHNW families hire two or more “rota nannies”. Short for “rotational nannies”, rota nannies typically work 24/7 for two weeks at a time, then get two weeks off. But work schedules vary.

Protective agents and nannies often interact and overlap within the protective bubble. In larger, more complex executive protection programs, for example, the nanny might drive a child or children to school in one vehicle, with one or two protective agents driving in another as an escort. Of course, in such cases it makes good sense for agents and nannies to coordinate routes and other aspects of driving to ensure they stay close to each other in traffic.

Many times, however, nannies and the principals’ children are not within sight of protective agents. In smaller protective programs, the nanny might drive children to school and pick them up on her own without any agents involved. In most programs, nannies accompany their young charges to birthday parties and playdates while protective agents wait outside in a car.

In any case, effective communication between agents and nannies is essential to keep logistics smooth and people safe. As we pointed out in a previous blog, the most critical consequence of poor communication in executive protection is, clearly, its impact on the quality of the risk mitigation. Thus, it is up to protective agents to make sure that communication with nannies is effective and smooth. But that’s not the only way that executive protection professionals can help nannies.

Nannies can benefit from some of the same training that protective agents receive

Training is an important way to help nannies become more effective members of the protective team. While they don’t need to be as proficient as agents in most of these skills, some training in at least five skillsets is a big advantage.

Security driving: As we’ve pointed out more than once, traffic accidents are one of the main risks facing many people (regardless of their wealth), and secure driving skills are an effective way to mitigate this risk. Within a few days of theoretical and practical secure driving training, most people can significantly improve their driving skills and literally save lives. Depending on the family’s circumstances, training in winter driving, use of car seats, and other specialized courses might also be appropriate. Unfortunately, far too few nannies receive security driving training. As Christian notes, “I’ve been involved in far more Faraday cage projects than I have in secure driving courses for nannies.” This should change.

First aid: Most nanny agencies either suggest or require applicants to have some kind of first aid and CPR certification, which is great. Let’s just remember that like security driving, first aid skills are “perishable” and should be renewed regularly. Additional recommended medical training might include pediatric first aid and, depending on the context, specialized skills such as use of EpiPens, Naloxone, or other procedures.

Situational awareness: We believe training to improve nannies’ situational security awareness should be mandatory. Developing and maintaining good situational awareness habits can go a long way in mitigating risk for everyone. For nannies taking care of the children of prominent UHNW parents, such training is particularly important – both for the children and for the nannies themselves. For starters, we’d like all nannies to read and digest Gavin De Becker’s excellent book, The Gift of Fear, and understand the basics of social engineering. Still, we would add many other topics to the curriculum.

Personal/family cyber security: Like family members and executive protection agents, nannies should also receive some basic training in personal cyber security. This would, at minimum, include getting smarter about using public wi-fi and Bluetooth connections, how to avoid phishing and other attacks, and using social media without increasing time and place predictability or otherwise exposing the children or themselves to avoidable risk.

Protective program-specific SOPs: Executive protection professionals should be sure to train nannies in SOPs specific to their particular programs. For families with young children, many of these relevant SOPs will have to do with the interfaces between nannies and agents that occur around the children’s transportation and visits outside the home. As children grow, and extracurricular activities become more common, the range of relevant SOPs will likely also change and grow.

Nannies don’t have to be ninjas, but even some security training is better than none

In an ideal world, nannies would acquire more of the protective skills common to EP agents, and EP agents would become more proficient in the pedagogical and psychological skills that make good nannies great. But we’re not suggesting that these very different roles are interchangeable. Of course, things work best for the families we serve when everyone “stays in their lanes” and can rely on each other to do the same, doing their best job in the roles they were hired for.

However, we believe executive protection is a team effort. Risk mitigation improves (i.e., becomes more effective, efficient, seamless, comprehensive, and easy to live with) when everyone working for the family collaborates, not competes, to better understand the possible threats and vulnerabilities that impact the family’s security – and their own.

So, what will it be, another Faraday cage or a few training courses for the nannies? We vote for the latter.