Locked & Loaded

The growing trend for personal security in Asia
words by Dominique Afacan

There are more multi-millionaires and billionaires in Hong Kong and China than ever before, and the latest must- have on every wealthy shopping list is not another supercar, a limited edition handbag or a new luxury property.

Top of the elite wish list right now is simply someone or something to protect everything they already own. The trend for personal security has seen a huge increase in the last few years – with the global elite prepared to pay a premium for all kinds of protection.

A top priority for many is an armoured vehicle. As James Bryce of Armoured Asia explains, “In Asia, the biggest security threat to wealthy clients is physical attack or kidnap and ransom.” So while some may joke that these suped-up super cars are simply sating the desires of James Bond wannabes, this is no laughing matter. There is a genuine need for the wealthy to protect themselves. Armoured Asia can customise any vehicle – Maserati to Maybach – and to the untrained eye, the cars won’t look any different.

“From my experience, people who own or place an order for an armoured vehicle like to keep things confidential at all times,” says James. “Visually you can’t tell the difference between an armoured and un- armoured vehicle. It is discreetly built between the panels of the vehicle.”

Extra features beyond armouring can include anything from smoke screen windows to electrified door handles, at least in countries where the law allows this.

Once the car has been set up there’s much more to consider. Martin Franks runs LGS Matrix, an organization providing security solutions to corporate and individual clients worldwide.

“It’s not always the main individual that’s the concern,” explains Franks. “Risk can fall on spouses, children, relatives, employees and so on. Assessing the whole picture surrounding high net worth clients is mandatory. If we do our job properly, a solution or plan for all eventualities can be accurately formulated. Everything connected to the day-to-day routine, from driving to the office or school, meeting agendas, dinner engagements to holiday destinations can be assessed based on local and international threat intelligence.”

Of course, the explosive growth in Chinese wealth means there is more and more demand for this kind of service. “Close protection is no longer considered an intrusion into someone’s lifestyle or a fancy luxury accessory but with the world more accessible to most people and the dangers created from political unrest or terrorism moving from place to place, it is a service that, when professionally done, can give clients peace of mind wherever they go,” says Franks.

Some clients request day-to-day ‘close protection’ even in a seemingly low-risk city. Franks is keen to point out that “this is not about weapons or being a Ninja. There is no textbook on this, it’s purely a process dictated by events at a particular time to which the CPO [client protection officer] needs to react.”

Other companies are creating smaller but no less serious gadgets for the cautious super-rich. China’s Leison Global makes briefcases that turn into ballistic shields if need be, while Miguel Caballero makes stylish bullet- proof clothing for the fearful but fashion conscious.

Sadly for the super-rich, even getting home doesn’t necessarily provide a sense of calm, and some are going to extreme measures to ensure their own abode really is ‘safe as houses.’

One Hyde Park in London – apparently the most expensive residential address anywhere in the world – boasts of panic rooms, bullet-proof glass and doormen trained by the British Special Forces. Here in Asia, many have followed suit, with alarm systems and CCTV networks to put off even the most expert criminal. For those with substantial land, there are infrared cameras that can read thermal heat signatures and fog screens to confuse intruders should they somehow make it through.

It might all seem intrusive to some, but for many, the thought of being left open to danger is far more disturbing. And of course, the hope with all these security measures – from the briefcases to the bodyguards – is that they never need to be put to good use.

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