Kate Bright, a former PA for High Net Worth Individuals, talks about working alongside CP Teams and how and why she is now bringing together women in the industry.
I never meant to become a Personal Assistant (PA), I sort of fell into it fifteen years ago when I graduated from University. I knew I wanted to work in London as I had always visited as a child and been very excited whenever family days out were planned. I would ask where we were visiting, and in those days (pre-internet) my ‘recce’s’ were gleaned from the Encyclopedia Britannica’s scattered through my parent’s house, with extensive route planning using well-thumbed A-Z’s.
Fast forward fifteen years and not much has changed in terms of my approach to London and logistics. In this time working alongside oligarchs, billionaires and heiresses the key operational elements of my family days out remain ingrained. Failing to prepare routes & timings to get from Clapham to Mayfair can give a degree of variation in journey time from twenty-two minutes door to door to over an hour. My mantra has always been ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
To help myself with every eventuality, I set up a network of PA’s working for high profile & high net worth individuals ten years ago. It is now eighty strong with monthly events hosted at venues across London to share information and meet. This has been my salvation in mad moments where an inside contact, connection or piece of knowledge makes the difference between operation success or failure. During this time, I have been lucky enough to work with some of London’s best security companies and teams. In doing so, I always tried to fully integrate myself and my role as a PA with their aims and goals, without realizing the full extent of the work they were doing on a daily basis to protect myself and my Principal.
It was during conversations with the head of one such team, where the subject of obtaining my Close Protection License was discussed. The conversation was, in essence, ‘Brighty you should definitely get some training. You know London like the back of your hand and you’re really bossy so you’d be perfect as a Team Leader’, or words to that effect.
So ‘Kilo Bravo’, as I became known, went and did the SIA Close Protection Course, after which my first experience running a team of nine guys (and girls) looking after five VIPs at a black-tie dinner felt very familiar, albeit with a very different emphasis.
During my time working ‘on the other side’ I realised the value I could give to my teams simply by my on the ground London knowledge, my experience being the ‘boss interface’ and being used to managing his/her expectations. The more practical areas where I was most helpful are where it is useful to have a female/blendable element to the team, such as being part of a Security Advanced Party team checking into a hotel without being an obvious security presence, or simply acting as the ‘PA/Nanny’ when situations or scenarios require it.
During the course of meeting and interacting with more of the best of London’s teams working on a daily basis in and around the UK and it’s capital I have also enjoyed a sense of Continuous Professional Development within the Close Protection community that I did not have as a Personal Assistant, most recently undertaking a day’s training with Ultimate Car Control learning advanced driving techniques highly recommended). Having a broad range of skills to add to the team environment is necessary in today’s Close Protection environment, it seems.
It’s useful to have seen both sides of the Private Office function and now being more security-aware, and I aim to work more with PA’s in private offices to talk about ways to help communication between the two functions. I now see where barriers can present themselves when a well-meaning security team interacts with household and office staff, all working towards the same outcome of efficiency, but all with seemingly different objectives and approaches and how to overcome issues that might arise.
In being on both sides of the fence, I realized that I could try to help in bringing together opportunities by creating a network for women in security, much like the one I set up all those years ago in the PA world. With the support of the Women’s Security Society, I held my first networking event for the women in the industry in May, hosted by the Cadogan Hotel in London.
Women gathered for the first time to talk about the opportunities and challenges they face, and I spoke about my aim to create a network that enabled women working within the security industry to share, learn and be provided with a greater range of opportunities and training. I believe that the diversity offered by bringing together women with a range of security backgrounds to work in partnership to develop skills and understanding of a PA, alongside on the ground knowledge can only serve to increase the quality of women in CP work and the opportunities this will present.
Kate recently appeared at TedXClapham to talk about her journey and how she hopes to increase the presence of women in the security industry, albeit, invisibly!
From Personal Assistant to Close Protection Specialist
By Kate Bright
For more information & for women wishing to attend the next event, email Kate at: Kate@umbrainternational.com
Women’s Security Society – http://www.womenssecuritysociety.co.uk/
Ultimate Car Control – http://www.ultimatecarcontrol.com/