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article / March 18, 2023

What is executive protection?

Black suits and earpieces — these descriptors are commonly associated with the executive protection security officers that guard high-profile individuals. That image isn’t necessarily inaccurate but paints a limited picture of executive protection’s meaning. The truth is that “executive protection” can mean many different things depending on an agent's environment. Here’s everything to know about executive protection, its history, the agents who work in the field and the tools they use to protect their clients.

What is executive protection?

Executive protection, otherwise known as close protection, encompasses all methods of protecting high-level VIPs, such as corporate executives, celebrities, politicians, and more. Executive protection security personnel will often have backgrounds in law enforcement or the military, experience that proves invaluable when facing unpredictable threats.

Because of the elevated risk of sophisticated, coordinated attacks on the people they protect, becoming an executive protection agent isn’t easy. They operate in a high-level niche of the private security industry that demands a refined set of specialized skills, often beyond basic armed security certifications. The field is crowded and competitive, especially for new agents, so many will turn to additional proficiencies, such as an EMT certification, to stand out. Typically, they’ll enroll at specialized schools to acquire a full suite of necessary skills.

The day-to-day responsibilities of an executive protection agent will vary, but there are a few everyday tasks clients expect them to perform.

  • Threat assessment. Executive protection agents must maintain an understanding of potential threats and the severity of risks that they pose.

  • Route Planning. Charting secure paths to and from locations is an essential aspect of an agent’s duties. Many agents will take defensive and evasive driving courses to ensure the safety of their clients should a route be compromised.

  • Accompanying VIPs during travel. Besides route planning, agents may be expected to accompany VIPs on flights, car rides, or any other method of transportation.

  • Protecting locations from threats. Agents may find themselves protecting a set location rather than performing bodyguard duties. For instance, a famous musician may have an agent guard a dressing room while they perform.

Executive protection agents have, in essence, existed for millennia — important people have always required defending. However, the modern executive protection definition comes from the United States Secret Service, which popularized the term in 1970 when it was called the Executive Protection Service.

In the United States, executive protection is typically regulated at the state level, often requiring agents to maintain proper licensing, training and insurance to operate legally. However, executive protection is a global industry and is particularly popular in areas with high crime rates and terrorist incidents.

How do you hire executive protection services?

Those interested in hiring executive protection will find that the field is full of options, so it’s crucial to understand how to vet and hire an executive protection agency. Anyone looking for executive protection should first define what they want from their experience. If you expect an agent to travel frequently, for example, communicate that expectation. Once you’ve established a tangible list of needs, you can contact executive protection services for price and contract-length quotes.

No executive protection service is one-size-fits-all, but there are some desirable traits you can look for in agents that will ensure you have a positive relationship. Hard skills should be addressed early in the vetting process, but there are desirable soft skills to look out for when finding an agent.

  • Resourcefulness. Dynamic, threatening scenarios may emerge anytime and in uncontrolled conditions. Executive protection agents must demonstrate a propensity for overcoming difficulties with limited options.

  • Discretion. Executive protection agents will spend a lot of time around you, and will likely be privy to sensitive information. Agents must protect that information. 

  • Snap judgment. Agents can’t afford to be indecisive. The ability to quickly and effectively gauge and react to situations is a must.

What tools do executive protection agents use?

Executive protection agents must be properly trained and equipped to handle a variety of scenarios. The exact kit an agent uses depends on the environment they’ll be working in. For instance, a firearm may be an unnecessary part of an agent’s kit if there’s a low risk of violence.

However, agents should equip themselves to de-escalate any tense situations and carry the tools necessary to document adversarial interactions. 

Medical equipment

Basic medical equipment is a must for executive protection agents. Even a standard first aid kit can help stabilize an injured person in the event of a serious injury, making it a must-have resource in virtually all scenarios.

Pepper spray

Pepper spray can quickly and non-lethally end or de-escalate a violent scenario. An agent can store a small canister of pepper spray on their body discreetly while keeping it in an easy-to-reach location.

Body cam

It’s crucial to document interactions between agents and adversarial individuals regardless of whether or not they turn violent. Agents can use footage from any event to perform future risk assessments or preserve it as evidence for a court case. Body-worn cameras (BWC) are the easiest method to capture such footage, allowing agents to respond to a threat with both hands while maintaining a video feed.


A TASER is an invaluable tool for de-escalating violent scenarios non-lethally. With their robust utility, quick access, and ease of deployment, a TASER is a critical component of an executive security agent’s toolkit.

Axon has a long history of connecting executive protection agents with the tools they need to carry out their job duties and de-escalate threats. Axon Body 3 and the TASER 7 are two such tools that mitigate the risks and liabilities executive protection professionals face in the field. Axon’s enterprise solution is a comprehensive, connected toolkit built on years of feedback from law enforcement agencies. Contact us today to learn more.