Assistance for high-net-worth clients
The lifestyle of the rich and famous – or high-net-worth (HNW) individuals – often includes a lot of travel. In addition to the risks that all travellers face, however, from illness to accidents and getting mugged in a foreign city, fame and wealth call for extra caution, as well as special measures to ensure privacy. Clara Bullock spoke to assistance providers about how they take care of their HNW clients
HNW individuals are used to a high degree of customised support in most other areas of their lives, so it’s no surprise that they would want the same kind of care when it comes to travel. Plus, wealth increases the risk of crimes such as breakins and kidnappings.
“Prominence makes it more difficult to fly under the public radar,” insurer Allied Universal says on its blog. “Curious people may ask for autographs and handouts. Paparazzi are always on the prowl. Itineraries and agendas get leaked from any number of sources. Bored taxi or limo drivers might send a ‘look who I’m driving with’ to their friends. The ubiquitous use of social media, also by HNW individuals themselves, can easily broadcast whereabouts, plans and other personal details.
“Another important reason that HNW families seek out specialised secure travel support is productivity. Staying connected through 24/7 online access is just one way this happens. Just as important is the extra time available when you’re not the one who has to drive the car, but can work or relax while moving through traffic from one meeting to the next – or from one tourist destination to another.”
Scott Sunderman, Managing Director at Medical and Security Assistance at Collinson, tells ITIJ: “First and foremost, we need to understand the requirements of each HNW individual and what kind of assistance they may need in their destination. However, it’s important to recognise the difference between a HNW client and an ultra-high-net-worth client. An ultra-HNW client may often have the capacity to organise their own security arrangements, and an assistance provider would look to take on a more advisory role, providing consultancy around things like security and ground truth, for example.”
When it comes to medical care, an ultra-HNW client may also have their own doctor or accompanying team to support them on the ground, Sunderman adds, who would effectively provide the support that a GP at home might. By virtue, however, general practicioners may not quite have the detailed understanding of specialist medicine and how and where to access this care in the country that they’re in, particularly if they’re somewhere where the quality of care varies. This is where assistance companies can provide real value through their in-depth experience of local conditions and expertise in international medical assistance, according to Sunderman.
Christian Deloughery, International Business Development at Penfield Care, adds: “Typically, these individuals have very high expectations and are willing to some extent to pay for the services rendered. They do not expect to encounter any obstacles and can make life difficult for the providers whether at whatever level in the process if their expectations are not fulfilled.”
Everything is magnified for HNW individuals
Sunderman remembers one specific case. “There is a famous/apocryphal story of a high-net-worth individual having a skiing accident in a European country and instead of trusting the local hospitals, the patient was flown to the US for treatment. The outcome was very poor as they should have trusted the local surgeons to perform an immediate operation following the accident. An assistance company like Collinson, which is able to understand the most appropriate treatment options available, would have politely and firmly informed the high-net-worth individual that they should go ahead with the surgery locally.
Prominence makes it more difficult to fly under the public radar
“Otherwise, when we’re working with HNW clients, expense is not usually a limiting factor and there’s a natural instinct for clients when something happens in a remote setting, for them to pay to be moved somewhere more familiar. Despite this, I remember working with a particular HNW individual who was being treated on a remote island. The gut instinct from the team on the ground was that the patient needed to be moved to somewhere less remote – and they very much could have afforded to go anywhere at the drop of a hat. But, following discussions with the treating team, it was clear to us that the patient was doing really well, and they did not need to be moved to another country, which ultimately, led to a better outcome and client experience.”
Being safe on the road
Another way by which HNW individuals will get some peace of mind on their trips is through hiring security drivers, since the largest cause of fatalities for travellers is
“Everything is magnified for HNWs – they have more influence and attract more attention,” Sunderman says. “With increased profile, a provider has to consider issues that wouldn’t be of such a concern for the everyday traveller. For example, something like waiting in a queue all of a sudden poses risks for an HNW if they were to be identified.”
On a practical level, HNW individuals are typically covered under elite insurance tiers, which would normally include pre-departure security advice and training before they’ve even left the country
The World Health Organization (WHO) counts accidents in ‘road fatalities per 100,000 vehicles’, and the spread between countries is significant. The US reports 12.9, while most Western European countries and Japan are in the single digits. China lies at 104, India 130, Nigeria 615.
While no driver can completely eradicate the possibility of a traffic accident, carefully selected security drivers significantly mitigate the risk and reduce the probability.
“For one thing, these drivers and their vehicles are vetted against a variety of criteria by professionals with international experience,” Aviva Insurance writes. “Where possible and legal to do so, they check on a variety of critical factors that may include driver backgrounds, criminal and traffic records, specialised training, and more. They also ensure that vehicles live up to objective safety and comfort standards.”
Additionally, confidentiality clauses and individual non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are built into the driver’s contracts to make sure they know the importance of maintaining the anonymity of their passengers, and that sanctions are applied if confidentiality is violated.
Providing protection agents
Another popular way of ensuring safety for HNW travellers is providing executive protection agents, whose responsibilities can include:
- Checking itinerary venues for personal security prior to arrival
- Providing close protection while the individual goes about their business
- Checking into hotels for the traveller to increase anonymity and save them time
- Making sure the HNW traveller is taken care of in unfamiliar settings, from getting forgotten medication to booking restaurants.
On a practical level, HNW individuals are typically covered under elite insurance tiers, which would normally include pre-departure security advice and training before they’ve even left the country. These tiers typically have added extras, too, like lounge access and travel assistance apps that are also usually provided by the assistance company. Once they’ve arrived at their destination, insurers need their HNW clients to have 24/7 access to medical advice and doctors, coverage for kidnap and ransom, and an increased scope of benefits with cashless arrangements and assistance.
Reducing risk of fraud or kidnapping related to CEOs
Sunderman says that with HNW clients, another big challenge is mitigating the impact of an incident in which a chief executive officer (CEO) may be. Due to the nature of HNW clients, precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of fraud, blackmail or kidnapping, which can be heightened in certain destinations. This can all be further complicated when they are travelling with an entourage.
“One of my most memorable HNW client experiences was working with the CEO of a large Australian power company and advising him before his leisure trip to Uzbekistan,” Sunderman remembers. “The client and his partner were taking trips based on the old Silk Road route, which led them to places off the beaten track, and by virtue of him being an HNW and a reasonably well-known figure, what would have already been an interesting trip, required an incredible amount of attention to detail.”
It seems HNW clients expect immediate contact with the most senior personnel, no red-tape, no delays waiting for approval of costs, and extreme attention to detail by the most experienced staff and as such, Sunderman says, will look for an assistance provider that can provide an exceptional level of service.