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Interpersonal skills for security professionals

You paid thousands of dollars for training and thousands more on equipment, firearms and clothing. Add in the cost of travel, hotels, meals, time off of work and other expenses and you are finally qualified for work, according to you. But what does the Client value in a protector? It may be no surprise that interpersonal skills top the list. Good manners, eye contact, a firm handshake, a timely smile, and an expansive vocabulary are just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing how to negotiate, and more, knowing when to remain silent are also key to a Client choosing you over an ex-WPPS Private Military Contractor.

After decades in the protection industry, it is continually apparent that while “fieldcraft“ is absolutely valuable and indeed essential to a Client’s required prerequisites, it is the “intellectual” skillset with which the Client has the greatest exposure, (and hardest time finding).

Many laugh when first hearing about interpersonal skills in the personal protection industry. They believe that as long the client is safe, nothing else matters. We all know that we are getting paid for that 0,1% chance that may require us to respond to a threat and “save the client”, but the rest of our time will be spent interacting with the client, their family members, employees, domestic staff, and our own colleagues. And just as important are the paparazzi and the public, both of whom have cameras in hand. One wrong comment or gesture and the Client’s embarrassment results in your termination, and possibly a civil action.

Social interaction requires specific interpersonal skills. Your ability to react or reply appropriately is crucial. Using the wrong words with the wrong person and your years in the sand box or skill with firearms won’t save you. You will be fired within seconds.  It happens every day and some of you won’t even know why.

Below we will try to give you some tips from ours as well as our colleagues experience and mistakes and even included some comments from past clients.

Your relationship with the client:

If you have any understanding of the industry at all, you know that you are with a client because someone within the client’s entourage has a fear that you have convinced them you can quash. In a combat zone, there is real fear of capture or death. In a large city in America, spy photos of the client out in public, drinking with friends, and in Mexico, Kidnapping. In many instances, you may be with the client 10 to 16 hours a day. So how do you spend that much time with them or their family, under that kind of stress without getting emotionally connected to them? Stick to the old adage: “Be seen and not heard”.

First of all keep in mind that the client is the one paying you, no matter how unrealistic his requests may be, you must adapt to his ‘’wants’’ and ‘’security needs’’. You may not be allowed to do what the job requires or have the manpower or equipment needed but you will have to adapt and do your job with what you have. You may be asked to be in position X and not Y because the client doesn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Consider too that it is also difficult for someone to get used to the idea of having strangers around them with every step they take and with every person they meet. Consider what you are doing that might be adding to or reducing their tension. Talking, staring, where you are standing, your cologne, or your actions can all add to a client’s frustrations.

The professional is one who can work with the difficult client, not the other way around. If you are lucky enough to work for that easy going client good for you, but most of the time you will have to deal with people that will test your limits. Have you ever had a client ask you to protect him but not to be within sight of him?

New professionals usually ask how they would deal with different challenges, like “what if the client asks me to have a drink with him”? What if the client asks you to do things that are out of your area of responsibility?

If you are a Close Protection Operative of the opposite sex of your client, then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations. Traditionally mixing stress and fear with the comfort a protector can bring and the power and wealth of a client, (or his wife), and an opportunity……

Every one of us, client or Close Protection Operative (CPO), have different, social backgrounds and if you add to that different cultures then be ready to deal with more difficulties.



For many of us who have spent years in this business, (If we are successful enough to still be in this business), we have learned where our boundaries lie. If you are new in the business consider that boundaries exist for all of us. The client has them and so do you. When we are hired to protect a person, we are actually being allowed to step far inside their boundaries but they should not be allowed to step too far into ours. We will see a client in their most private and vulnerable moments, but what happens to our persona as “protector” if they see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what happens if someone outside the client’s circle identifies our weaknesses or vulnerabilities?

How do we identify a client’s boundaries, and how do we educate them on ours? It’s really very simple; we ask. We should consider their social and moral code, their habits, vices and health issues and their fears. Sitting down with the client and discussing their needs and simply asking them where their boundaries are and letting them know ours is crucial to the success of a long term assignment. It may be no big deal for a client to ask you to enter a room where they are using drugs in a party setting or where he and his wife are in bed, but this may be beyond your comfort zone, (your boundary).

What is the difference between professionalism and friendship? Here is a simple rule: “You can’t buy friendship”. If you are being paid, you can’t be friends. If you want to be friends, stop taking the client’s money. Crossing the boundary between Professional and Friend is never successful.

From my personal experience I have found that when I was acting strictly professional the client was uncomfortable. Our task is to make them feel safe but when we appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe we don’t understand their fears or what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel we understand them. It is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to us and we must show them we are listening. This is not friendship. This is part of our job.

If you get too friendly, then automatically your professionalism will suffer in your client’s eyes.  Not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your laps in professionalism suggests to him that you won’t be taking your job as serious as is needed.

Consider how Psychologists work. They cannot offer professional counseling to people who are in their family or with whom they are friends. They certainly cannot start dating a client.

It is understood that you may share many hours with the client. Talk to him only when he talks to you or when you have to say something that affects his safety. Avoid starting a conversation but always be friendly if the client decides to speak to you. If you are asked a question, try to answer it with a single sentence.

Your relationship with the client’s family members will have to be the same. Don’t be too friendly with them or other staff or guests. Remember who hired you and why. Remember who cuts your check and who ultimately you serve. You should answer to only one person. If you assist or serve anyone else, it must be with the approval of the client and then only at no cost to them.

If you appear too unapproachable or “hard”, you will intimidate those you are serving. Too approachable and the family and everyone else will feel comfortable approaching you. And it will always happen when you need to be focused. Take a middle position with your client which is addressed with professionalism. Again, prior to accepting your contract you must clarify from whom you will be given orders and directions regarding your work.

As a CPO your job is to protect you client’s life and image. You are not there to carry their briefcase or shopping bags, etc. You also should not be carrying the client’s child on your hip, or holding doors open or performing domestic chores. Remember to keep your hands free.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you are asked to perform duties which are outside of your role. The client is hiring a CPO not a maître ’de or a butler. It is professional to politely refuse to perform a task outside of your agreed responsibilities instead of accepting it and putting in danger a client or your life. He has hired you to provide security services and nothing else.

The client must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and it is up to you alone to earn his respect. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions concerning his safety will be accepted by him positively.

Alcohol? NO, NEVER, EVER…..while working. But……

What if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty? In this case you have to ask why he is calling you. Does he see you as a friend or do you think he wants something unrelated to work or to talk about your work? First, remain professional. If your client calls, you respond. Then avoid alcohol at all cost. Consider that in many countries and especially in the United States, if you are in possession of a firearm and you are questioned by police with alcohol in your system, you will be arrested.

Physical Relationships

Sometimes the most dangerous trap a CPO may fall into is to have a physical relationship with his client or the client’s spouse. Remember that movie where the bodyguard was sleeping with his client? Art sometimes copies life. Being emotionally involved with your client, (or anyone in their circle), no matter how unprofessional we see it, has happened with some colleagues. Understand that if this occurs, the CPO is always at fault. Because the client is dependent on you, they may be more likely to share raw emotion with you or let you all the way in to that last boundary, the personal physical boundary. Take advantage of this vulnerability and you are solely to blame. And if you think you found the love of your life, you will be replaced by the next person the client sees power or an emotional investment in. And who is going to write you that professional referral letter then?

Sexual Harassment is rampant in our profession. Male CPOs are approached by everyone who is attracted to the perceived power of the protector or by anyone trying to get to the client or get into the client’s circle. But if you are a female CPO it is much worse. You will get barraged from both males and females, clients, their family members, friends and then your colleagues. Additionally, sometimes due to culture, there are those who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’. There have been cases like these which have been unreported to authorities but are a common problem within the female CPO industry. Again, that sit down meeting with the client prior to taking the job is strongly suggested.


Your relationship with colleagues:

During our career we will have to work along with people who don’t share the same work ethic, qualifications, training and experience, background, morals or values with us. So whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our first loyalty is the client’s safety and the study and mastering of the art and skill toward this goal. Our second loyalty is to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.

As we all know, Close Protection is a profession that is unfortunately void of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each State has its own licensing or training requirements and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you have to work to solidify a team with people who bring with them different experience, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics in the same way a sports team or elite military unit has to work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.

It is very important that each one on the team promote and maintain a strong working relationship  with the others as well as the client, and of course other people who we may be in contact with (house personnel, office staff etc).

Some of the people you are working with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. So in each situation you must address your issues with them with respect. Never offend anyone no matter the reason, never correct someone while anyone else in present. If you believe they made a mistake you can ask if he would mind a tip or advice. Not many people are open to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect it and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.

In our work it is very important when an issue occurs, to take immediate action to address it. Later you can do your research and as a team and correct it. As in any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.

Try to avoid conversations with your colleagues that include topics which trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety.

Avoid discussion about family and do not share details about your family, spouse, kids or home life. You don’t know how the information may be used against you or your client later. Can you be blackmailed? Could this affect your client or team?

The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.

Your relationship with fellow citizens and Law Enforcement:

In most countries your authority or legal ability to act is no more than any other citizen.  Trying to get a free pass at the club or disturbing the peace will give you and your client a bad image. No you can’t stop the traffic, park whenever you want, stop people from entering in public places or ask to search them.

Many of our colleagues come from a Law Enforcement or Military background, they use to have their own language with their former colleagues and may work along with them or ask for their help. Remember that active Law Enforcement personnel have their own agendas. They are not part of our industry any more than we are part of theirs. Do not ask them to help you do your job. Some may abuse their authority and use it to get close to your client, and may even try to replace you. Be respectful and keep your distance.

Your networking activities

It is common and we see it almost every day in online networks or forums, people who hide behind a “screen” or “nickname” and make negative comments about other colleagues. It is seen by most as cowardly at best to make public comments about someone while hiding behind a false identity and further, without allowing the victim or viewing audience to verify the experience or credentials of the accuser.

Industry forums serve a couple of purposes. The first is to inform and the second is to allow comments and feedback for the purpose of informing. Unfortunately, they have become a place for the unimpressive to gain their 15 minutes of fame. These chronic complainers, seemingly have plenty of free time, (possibly due to their unemployment), and repair their egos by blaming or criticizing others. Yes, there are non-professionals and there are professionals, but a forum is not the right place to show who is who.

For those who like to comment on different articles or posts online (…that includes many of us…) before you hit “send” be sure you:

1) Read the article/post carefully. It is very disappointing to see colleagues who post a negative comment on an article when it is clear that they neither completely read nor completely understood it.

2) Offer a solid answer/opinion based on logical thoughts or facts (or evidence/search results). Recently, someone tried to show their disagreement with an author. Their only approach to a counter-point was insulting the author which actually proved the author’s point.  Someone else tried to answer him by copying and pasting parts from the article and offering negative comments on the excerpts, which further proved the subject of the article; that some people in our industry can’t adapt their soldier mentality and behavior to the more polished corporate environment.

3) Answer in a manner that does not insult the writer or others.

4) Re-read and understand the article. Stating a disagreement is fine but following up with information that goes off topic and writing anything other than what is pertinent to the subject will only make you look stupid.

5) Read the article again,

6) Read your answer again from the perspective of your colleagues,

7) Read it once again from the perspective of someone who knows you,

8) If it doesn’t look professional/logical/in good taste or relative to the article provided, DO NOT hit that “send” button or “publish now” ….otherwise again, you will only end up looking stupid.

If you think companies and recruiting agents don’t look at a candidate’s networking profiles? Think again!

The bottom line is this:

If you lack professionalism on any level or lack interpersonal skills in dealing with people you work for, with or around, you will not be able to hide behind your experience, education or other skillsets.

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & Worldwide Director

Athena Academy 




What Experienced Security Professionals are saying about women only courses

“ESI has been in the business of training Protection Specialists for 31 years. Fewer than one percent of our graduates are female agents. The ones that make it are very special women most of whom have extensive experience in the military, police or martial arts. I believe that there are many more competent women who could develop a professional career in personal protection , if the training environment was more conducive to learning free of bias.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted that prove females learn faster and retain more in the absence of males. While it is not true for all females, anecdotal experience confirms that most women absorb training principles better when not surrounded and judged by Alpha Male Types.”

Bob Duggan, President
Executive Security International


Female bodyguards – Strong enough for a man AND a woman

Women Who Bodyguard: Denida Zinxhiria, CPSS

First printed 2004 in Warrior Path Martial Art Magazine

In some countries the notion of a woman providing the service once thought to be only offered by hulking men could sound very strange and unacceptable. Although women already has make their appearance in ”masculine jobs” for decades now, they’re are still treated with prejudice and suspiciousness. Some times even they have to deal with negativity and slighting discussions for their professional abilities.

Being in the security industry since the age of 20 and in a country that female bodyguarding is something very new, I was asked to prove my abilities all the time.

The question I have always had to answer was ”Can we trust and feel secure from a female bodyguard?”. Professionals know very well that we should erase the myth that says bodyguards to have the look of a giant with a stalwart shape to cover his clients body in the case of danger or ”big” enough to hold down the attacker.

Reality and experience has shown us that the best bodyguard is the one who has done the necessary training which is based in real conditions and situations. They have the ability in an impending attack to make the best evaluation of threat and react fast and effectively.

We know that the male body, by his nature has bigger musculature structure than a woman’s. So, to the question what is going to happen in close quarter combat, we already know that if someone with a small body type is properly trained, then she can deal with someone ”bigger” than her and hold down the attacker. This is why training is especially important for women as we do not have the ability to work from our size. We must prove ourselves through proper training and utilization of our brains for strategic thinking.

Women also have the ability to pay attention to more descriptive information in an environment. If you ask a man to describe you a person who just past in front of him, the chance is that he will give you general information.. However, a woman is naturally trained to do that. We do that all the time even when we are off duty. Those small but important observations about a person appearance is very important in our job.


Also imagine a woman bodyguard with a VIP in an event. She is surely to be considered by others as his spouse, partner, or colleague. The fact is that women offer greater flexibility ins shadow security details. She can be part of a male team performing the functions of the shift or detail leader because she can be in close when the environment necessitates a close protection female. For us as female’s being able to act as an associate to our client may also prove beneficial to providing close protection to male principals. Additionally, lest not one forget, that our female principals benefit greatly from our presence. We offer peace of mind, yet bring comfort in her knowing she has another female with her to relate too. 

Ending, it is important to mention the power of influence that a female may exercise over males. It may be easier for a woman to extract information and confirmation about someone’s intentions, and secure her principal and teams safety. Women by nature have the ability to get things done with the power of persuasion. Men relate well to women and women relate well to women.

So, there is no such thing as men vs. women in our job. It is men and women who cooperate in order to decrease the percentage of risk and threat and keep their client and team secure and safe. We must all work together, but women must make their presence known and not back down in a traditionally male dominated industry. The more we share our story, the more we share and teach the advantages the more the ‘perceived’ disadvantages will disappear. We are a powerful force in the next generation of executive protection.


Denida Zinxhiria, CPSS

AKA: Athena

Growing demand for female bodyguards in Britain


Jacquie Davis (left) and Helen Cliffe, bodyguards and neighbours   

Jacquie Davis (left) and Helen Cliffe, bodyguards and neighbours Photo: DAN BURN-FORTI

Sitting in a restaurant courtyard in the pretty commuter town of Hertford, Jacquie Davis and Helen Cliffe look like a pair of elegantly dressed, lunching ladies. You’d imagine they were out to enjoy a bit of sunshine before perhaps going for a manicure and picking up the children from school. The reality, however, is very different.

‘We’re worked off our feet at the moment so it’s lovely to have a day off to stock up on cat food,’ says Davis, a smiling woman in a smart white blouse. ‘Between April and November is our busiest time of year, what we call “the season”, when all the rich Arab families come over. Luckily we have a lot of private clients at the moment. What I hate is when you get a member of the royal family. It’s the same thing every year: you have to be vetted by a guy from the Saudi embassy saying, “Oh, my God, you are a woman!” At which point you have to throw one of his blokes on the floor and stamp on his windpipe to prove you can do the job.’

Davis and Cliffe are bodyguards. Over the years they have protected a huge variety of clients, from the Saudi royal family, to Benazir Bhutto, to Liza Minnelli, to J K Rowling. Both aged 48, they are doyennes in an overwhelmingly male field. There are estimated to be about 2,000 bodyguards in Britain, of whom only about 30 are women.

Yet demand is growing all the time. Prince William and Kate Middleton have been seen with a female bodyguard, and study any photograph of a rock star leaving a restaurant, or an oligarch arriving at his football stadium, and the neatly dressed woman in the background you assume is a secretary or mistress is, in fact, far more likely to have a black belt in karate and be scanning the crowds for potential assassins.

Earlier this year the role of the female bodyguard was highlighted when Anna Loginova, a 29-year-old Russian who protected billionaire clients in Moscow, was killed when her own vehicle was carjacked. Loginova had just posed for a men’s magazine in a bikini to demonstrate her belief that a girl ‘should be a girl, not a Terminator’.

‘The stereotype of a bodyguard as a huge man in a suit, wearing an earpiece and dark glasses, is totally inaccurate these days,’ says Laura Webb, a 34-year-old who looks like Meg Ryan’s younger sister, but who, in fact, runs an agency, Global Protection, that specialises in female bodyguards. ‘Most male and female bodyguards have the same skills, but what a female has – which more and more clients require – is an ability to blend in. If you’re working with children, for example, a female can take them to the park or pick them up from school and no one’s sure if she’s the nanny or the mother, whereas a man – however fantastic he may be – will always stand out. We can sit in a restaurant and look as if we belong there, or go shopping with a client. People think we’re a friend, not a heavy. It’s much more discreet.’

Then there is the question of propriety. Arab clients, for example, are often unhappy with the idea of another man being in such proximity to their wives or daughters. Tales of clients who have become unusually close to their bodyguards are legion – Princesses Stephanie of Monaco had relationships with her minder, and Diana, Princess of Wales was rumoured to be inappropriately close to one of hers, Barry Mannakee. ‘Obviously a husband doesn’t have to worry about his wife getting too close to a female bodyguard,’ Webb says.

Few women, of course, will have the traditional bodyguard’s build. Yet, according to Webb, this is unimportant. ‘Bodyguarding is far more about brain than brawn. Most of the job is about assessing risks and minimising them. Much of my time is spent on the computer planning how to keep my clients safe, looking into their travel arrangements, understanding the politics of a country we might be visiting, pinpointing where any threat might be coming from.’

Until recently ‘the Circuit’, as the bodyguarding world calls itself, was an insular industry where virtually everybody was ex-Army or ex-police. But the field has been ostensibly more open since 2003, when the Government set up the Security Industry Authority, which licenses bodyguards who have passed an exam and completed a course, offered by dozens of security firms, in surveillance, firearms drill and defensive and evasive driving (for example, spinning a car 180 degrees to block a suspect vehicle when travelling in convoy).

While not denying the importance of these skills, old hands are sceptical about the value of a bodyguarding ‘certificate’. ‘It’s great that the industry is a bit more open now but a paper CV, however good, counts for nothing,’ confirms Webb, who started her career working in venue security. ‘This job’s always been about word-of-mouth recommendations.’

Nor is bodyguarding a career to embark on straight out of school. ‘You need to be at least 25, because the biggest thing about our job is being a diplomat,’ Davis says, inhaling on one of many Mayfair cigarettes (‘That’s the bodyguard’s diet: nicotine and caffeine’). ‘You have to have learnt how to deal with people and, at 21, you’re too scared to be pushy. I have bullshitted my way into, out of and around so many situations.’

Most candidates are attracted to bodyguarding by the money, with day rates starting at about £300, and rising to as much as £1,000 for the highly experienced. There can also be a huge amount of glamour. ‘Not in a James Bond sort of way,’ Cliffe warns. ‘But we do spend our lives flying all over the world first class and we stay with our clients in five-star hotels and accompany them to fabulous restaurants.’

Yet often the work is decidedly tedious. ‘I laugh when I see a young bodyguard all excited because he’s off to Dubai for the first time,’ Davis says. ‘I wonder if he’ll be so excited when he’s had 100 arguments with the immigration department and paid all the money [for bringing in their own alcohol]. After a while, every city looks the same.’

Then there’s the danger. During her 28 years on the Circuit, Davis has been stabbed in the leg, thrown through a shop window and shot at by Kashmiri snipers. ‘Ultimately, you have to be prepared to take a bullet, especially in this country where you’re not allowed to carry a hand gun,’ she says. ‘I’m nearly 50 and I am shocked that I’m still alive. I was shocked at 30 and I was shocked at 40. I keep saying it’s time to wind down, but I miss doing my job too much. I need the adrenalin.’

What happens in countries where it is legal to carry firearms? ‘Depending on the level of threat, we’ll carry a gun if we’re allowed to do so,’ says Davis. ‘Local contacts can provide us with firearms as and when necessary. Some countries allow a gun on a plane if you’re escorting a politician, some don’t. It all depends.’

Davis’s career began in the Metropolitan Police but, to earn more cash, she began moonlighting, protecting Saudi families in her spare time. In 1980 she took up bodyguarding full-time. Since then she has worked all over the world, mainly with Arab clients but increasingly with Russians and Chinese.

Understandably, she is reluctant to divulge too many details but it’s impossible for her to hide all her irritations. ‘It’s very frustrating working with people who have no understanding of the value of money, who think they can buy anything. There was one 10-year-old Middle Eastern princess I had to take round London. She asked: “Can you go and get me a kitten, a puppy, a baby to play with, and a tiger?” I said I couldn’t get a baby and all hell broke loose. So someone else found one for her. I think she picked it up once. She never got the tiger.’

There have also been several household names. ‘But I’m not really keen on celebrities because so many of them refuse to listen to you. They employ you for your expertise but then they won’t hear it. We turned down Britney Spears recently and then I switched on the TV and saw her in Leicester Square with some man mountain who left her to have a go at a photographer, leaving her unprotected. It was all wrong, but then she wouldn’t have done as she was told with us. That’s why I loved Jo [J K] Rowling. She did what she was told. That’s where it went wrong for Benazir Bhutto. The only person who died in that car was her and that’s because she stuck her head through the sunroof, which her team would have told her not to do. But she was an obstinate cow. I know that from personal experience.’

Cliffe, originally from Manchester, has a military background but has been bodyguarding for nearly 20 years, often in tandem with Davis, including four years on and off protecting the aforementioned Rowling, mainly in America. Of the pair, Davis is the more charming and articulate, while Cliffe is more reserved and intimidating. ‘Occasionally, I have been called the pitbull,’ Cliffe says. ‘And they label the pair of us the two middle-aged witches. Everyone thinks we’re a lesbian married couple but we’re not gay.’

‘There are lesbians on the Circuit but we just don’t happen to be that way,’ Davis adds. ‘Yet everyone assumes it, just like they assume you’ll look like a Russian shotputter.’

Davis had one early disastrous marriage and was unable to have children after a hysterectomy at 23 for ovarian cysts. Cliffe is the single mother of a 10-year-old, Michael. How does she reconcile motherhood with her long absences and unpredictable schedule?

‘A bit of juggling,’ she says. ‘I’m not your typical earth mother or your – what-you-may-call-it – yummy mummy; I don’t do all that. Michael has to fit in with my routine. He doesn’t know anything else. He didn’t like Harry Potter because it took his mummy away. But he got over it. Eventually.’ Friends and family help with babysitting. ‘It’s far more stressful than being shot at, sorting out the childcare.’

Laura Webb agrees that bodyguarding is about the most ‘female unfriendly’ profession imaginable. ‘You have to have the ability to go anywhere at the last minute, to live life on fast-forward, and it really is quite difficult to maintain a family.’ She and her husband, also a bodyguard, have made the decision not to have children. ‘We’ve decided this is what we prefer to do.

She adds that her marriage works because her husband appreciates the demands of her career. ‘He understands that even if I’m exhausted and have been working an 18-hour day seven days a week for months I still can’t go home until the client says so.’

Cliffe and Davis have succeeded largely thanks to the support they have given each other. ‘I look after Michael sometimes, and if I’m away for weeks Helen feeds my cat and waters my garden for me,’ Davis says. They live just a few doors away from each other in a smart part of Hertford. Since their arrival the local Neighbourhood Watch has become somewhat redundant. ‘There were a few problems with teenagers walking around,’ Davis says. ‘We went out and told them their future. And now there are no problems,’ Cliffe says grimly.

She’s interrupted by her phone ringing. After a long conversation she hangs up, looking satisfied. ‘That was the beautician. I went for a facial yesterday and came out in a terrible rash. But they can’t do enough to put it right.’ I bet they can’t. Because fun as Cliffe can be, you really wouldn’t like her when she was angry. Which, I imagine, is what makes her an excellent bodyguard.

jacquiedavis.com ; Global Protection Group, 0870 486 8580

On Alert as a Female Bodyguard

Movie portrayals of bodyguards often belie the reality — and the fact that risk assessment and planning usually take precedence over a gung-ho approach

Electronic and counter surveillance, explosives searching and bomb disposal, firearms training and bullet-proof vests, diplomacy, intelligence and personal security — it’s all part of the training Dublin-born Lisa Baldwin received when she forged an international career as a bodyguard seven years ago.

Baldwin, who is in her mid-20s, is head of the women’s division at the International Bodyguard Association (IBA) in the UK — the biggest such organisation in the world. She started her career as a professional swimmer in Holland and Spain, before getting into the area of personal training in Dublin. Through contacts in the industry, she was offered employment in event security for concerts and celebrity-packed parties, and it was here she learned about the work of the IBA.

She explains: “The association has a base inIreland, but the bigger courses are done in the UK, so I had to travel there and undertake 100 hours of training in order to get my IBA badge. This included a basic master class for five days, then a course in protective driving, explosives searching and electronic surveillance with a former member of MI5. Once I completed that, I undertook firearms training in Slovenia.”

To the average employee, this form of training is likely to sound incredible, given it is rarely witnessed outside ofHollywood blockbusters. Ironically, Baldwin says one of her fellow instructors (who has since passed away) was the inspiration behind the character Q from the James Bond movies.

The market for bodyguards, or ‘close protection surveillance’ as they’re otherwise known, is limited here, as our celebrities tend to be left alone when out in public. So the majority of Baldwin’s work takes her abroad.

However, she believes some Irish elite are shortsighted

when it comes to personal security. “In Ireland, many top business people or celebrities have the old-fashioned attitude of ‘I’ll be grand’, but a lot have poor security and are prime targets, particularly for kidnapping. The Arabs are the complete opposite when it comes to personal secur

ity. Sometimes the VIP will only have a secure driver, but he will spare no expense when it comes to protecting his family. Over there, they see the potential threat their wealth can bring.”

Baldwin is regularly employed by rich Arabs living in or visiting the UK, who, because of their beliefs, tend to prefer hiring female bodyguards. “They don’t like having men near their women,” she says. “Also, females tend to blend in more with the family set-up and are not as easy to spot. People assume we are personal assistants or nannies. In the UK, we call the period from May to September ‘Arab season’, as that’s when our services are required the most, in terms of protecting princesses and their children.”

Baldwin continues: “There is obviously a big Hollywood stereotype of bodyguards with ear pieces or that secret-service vibe, but we prefer a more covert way of communicating with each other without drawing attention to ourselves.”

Her line of work is not without danger, but Baldwin says preparation is key. “You look at each client and assess where the potential threat could come from — is it the paparazzi, a kidnapper, an assassin? The risk assessment helps me prepare for each role; that way, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

“We plan what routes to take when going out, so we can throw people off the scent and not let our patterns become predictable. Sometimes we will bring in a counter-surveillance team if we feel we are being watched.”

Baldwin says the role of a bodyguard does not include taking a bullet for a client if the situation arises. The emphasis is on her security as well as that of the VIP — again, this is underlined by meticulous daily preparation.

“If I’m not happy with the security, I don’t take the contract. I’ve also threatened to walk off jobs because of a potential lapse in security, for example, a really bad driver.”

The main downside to the bodyguard role is the inflexible hours and being away from family for months. But Baldwin says it is also a lucrative career with plenty of scope for travel.