Security leaders rely extensively on policies and procedures when traveling with VIPs. But can you be too prepared? Nathan Ackerman, President and CEO of Riley Risk, is on the show this week. In this episode, he explains why sticking too rigidly to templates can lead to unexpected outcomes, how to tailor communication strategies for individual travelers, and how to prepare travel briefings clients actually read.


Robert Baillieul: Now, Nathan, before we hit record, you and I had a really interesting conversation. You mentioned that one of the common mistakes in travel security is getting too attached to policies, procedures, and templates. This approach can backfire in the field. Could you tell me more about that?

Nathan Ackerman: Certainly. It's not to diminish the value of policies, procedures, or best practices. It's about remaining agile. What works in one region, like Afghanistan, may not work in another with different cultures, resources, and risk profiles. It's essential to have a checklist, but also to be aware that adjustments may be needed based on the specific context, risk profile, and region.

Robert: What might be some unintended consequences of being too rigid with templates and procedures?

Nathan: The primary consequence is being caught off guard by unexpected events. You might realize, after the fact, that you should have done things differently. Factors like culture, risk profile, and the context for travel can change, and it's crucial to adapt accordingly.

Robert: Why do you think people get stuck in the behavior of relying too heavily on templates? Is it due to regulatory requirements or inexperience?

Nathan: It's a complex issue. One key reason is that many security departments are over-tasked, leaving little time for deep dives into every operation. To address this, it requires an agile mindset to stay updated on global events and to understand that context is crucial for problem-solving and decision-making.

Robert: What specific details should be considered when customizing travel security advice?

Nathan: Start with the traveler. Consider their risk profile, what they aim to achieve, and their experience. Also, the destination and region matter. Stay informed about current events, environmental hazards, political tension, and security situations. Tailoring the information to the traveler's needs is essential, so they can digest it and know what to do if an incident occurs.

Robert: Many travel briefings provide broad information, but details vary based on the specific location. How can you present information that is more relevant to the traveler?

Nathan: Begin with a high-level overview of the country but then dig deeper into the traveler's plans and activities. For travelers with unique risk profiles, such as entertainers or public figures, tailor your approach accordingly. Provide information about their professional background, what they aim to achieve, and help them understand the context of the destination. Make the information concise and easy to digest.

Robert: How can you make sure that clients understand and adhere to the advice you provide in travel briefings?

Nathan: Tailor the approach to the client's profile. If they are new to international travel, provide comprehensive information to help them prepare. For experienced travelers, focus on their specific activities and their understanding of the destination. The key is to use soft skills to build a relationship and establish trust. Ask questions to better understand their needs and adapt your approach accordingly.

It's crucial to avoid making assumptions and ask questions to understand the individual's perspective. The key question I start with is, "What are you planning to do at your destination?" By getting to know the traveler and their objectives, you can provide more relevant information and build a more productive relationship.

Robert: The main takeaway from our conversation is the importance of communication in the security field.

Nathan: Absolutely. Communication is key. The more advanced notice you can give your security team, the better prepared they can be, and that's beneficial for the organization.

Robert: And how can listeners get in touch with you if they want to learn more about your work?

Nathan: You can reach out through our website,, or find me on LinkedIn


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