Growing demand for protection, security services
Behonce Beh 
Chew says Atlas’ course attracts candidates from various backgrounds

IN light of the terror attacks taking place across the globe over recent years, the general public is fearful of their personal safety.

Close protection officers (CPO), more commonly known as bodyguards, work incognito to protect their clients or assets from potential threats.

Though many assume CPOs to take on the demeanour of a burly bouncer, they come in all shapes, sizes and background; each with their own speciality and skillset.

In Malaysia, protection and security services remain in demand as the nation continues in its evolution into a global hub for trade and commerce. 

Homegrown protection services solutions provider Atlas Risk and Consulting Solutions Sdn Bhd prides itself as the nation’s first UK-accredited security training academy.

“The prospect of needing improved security is ever present. We have identified this as one that will benefit from knowledge transfer from a market such as the UK,” says its founder and managing director Clement Chew.

Atlas has tied up with Romanian-based security and protection solutions provider Elite International to offer the UK-certified Level Three Close Protection qualification courses in Malaysia.

The course, the first of its kind offered locally, prepare those who are keen to explore close protection as a career. Candidates will undergo a gruelling 14-day course and learn defensive tactics, operational planning, conflict management and tactical training.

Elite International operates in the area of risk management, training, private investigation and manpower allocation.

Chew explains Malaysians’ fair command of English makes them a valuable candidate for CPO positions abroad. However, many tend to underestimate their own skillsets.

“We struggled as many local candidates feel that they are not good enough to work abroad. We had to be tactful to convince our own people that we are indeed qualified and are up to par in terms of what they have to offer,” explains Chew..

The minimum requirements for the Level Three certificate in close protection is the ability to speak, read and write in English, he adds.


Experience in security

According to Elite International managing director Kyle Thorburn, the UK style of close protection focuses on being discreet; remaining close to the asset and yet inconspicuous.

Terror attacks around the world increased the demand for CPOs, says Thorburn

Chew formed Atlas in February last year after serving as a government officer in the Prime Minister’s Department, focusing on car theft, public order and police transformation.

His stint in the government also led to the coordination of major police operations to prevent and detect organised crime.

His final assignment with the government was in a team sent to an East African country assisting the president’s office in developing a major crime reduction strategy alongside the police.

Chew’s experience in the security industry spans over a decade. He started off as an event security officer working in venues and football stadiums based in Manchester and eventually moving on to door supervision and other work around the country.


Worldwide demand for CPO

Security and security-related courses remain to be Atlas’ bread and butter aside from security consultancy services.

The takeup for Atlas’ course remains encouraging, Chew says, as it attracts candidates from various backgrounds.

They include CEOs from local security and guarding companies, police officers to former military from other countries.

“CEOs who join our course want to understand how international bodyguarding is practised. Not only will the availability of such a platform contribute to raising the competency of local security personnel, the qualification will provide them with employment opportunities,” adds Chew.

The demand for protection and security services is growing amidst the general fear of terror attacks taking place all over the world.

Thorburn explains that cosmopolitan cities around the world generally have a high demand for CPOs from an executive environment.

Clients can range from dignitaries, high net-worth individuals to celebrities in those markets.

“Terror attacks all over the world in recent times such as the November 2015 mass shooting and bombings in Paris, France and the July 2016 Bastille Day killings in Nice, France did push the demand for close protection services up,” he adds.

Thorburn is no stranger to the trade as he has over seven years’ experience in international business, security operations, training, recruitment and management in Central and Eastern Europe, China, Africa and the Middle East.

He also served eight years of military service with the Parachute Regiment and Special Forces Support Group, in direct support of the UK Special Forces and other government agencies.

The demand for Chinese-speaking CPOs are also increasing owing to the burgeoning Chinese wealth, resulting in a growing number of high net-worth individuals from China.

On the flip side, the demand for Muslim CPOs is also high as clients from the Middle East or Arab nations would opt for their services when visiting Europe in summer.


Opportunities abroad

Malaysia’s multiracial background would then hold opportunities for local CPOs to further their careers abroad.

Meanwhile, hostile environments are categorised as those with a higher risk factor. Locations with a volatile background such as Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and South America do demand for protection services to ensure the safety of its clients.

“Countries with oil and gas operations are also responsible for many job openings for the security industry,” explains Thorburn.

Though protection services remains to be a male-dominated industry, the presence of female protection officers are welcomed and encouraged from the executive and hostile environment markets.

“Clients from the Middle East would request for female CPOs to protect female clients due to cultural sensitivity,” he says.

There is not hard and fast rule as to what makes a good CPO but Elite’s Thorburn says those who are fit, healthy and prepared to work in a high pressure environment are encouraged to take up close protection as a career.

CPOs who get hired are usually former police or military officers as they are familiar with the job scope.

“This industry requires people of a certain calibre and there is no way to know what they are made of through an interview or prior due diligence.

“Our trainings are militarised and by putting candidates under pressure, we will then be able to ascertain how they will deal with scenarios in real life,” explains Thorburn.

Upskilling security personnel

THE upskilling of security personnel through private courses such as those offered by Atlas Risk and Consulting Solutions Sdn Bhd is timely as personal security guards and bodyguards will need to undergo professional training with the police come Jan 1.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says the training is part of a compulsory requirement for the renewal of the carry-and-use firearm licence for bodyguards.

The proposal, mooted by the Home Ministry and the Security Services Association Malaysia, aims to have security firms’ licence renewal under Section 3(4) of the Private Agencies Act 1971 be amended and extended to every two years.

The licence for security firms are currently renewed on a yearly basis.

Other proposals in the pipeline by the home ministry includes having security firms to carry out a “self-audit” for the services rendered starting next year.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 258.