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AN INTERVIEW WITH CLOSE PROTECTION OFFICER, GEOFF WINGFIELD

August 11th, 2015

1. Tell me about yourself... 
I entered the Close Protection industry in 1995 and quickly established a reputation of being a reliable, diplomatic and a trustworthy Close Protection Officer. I have also been known to rotate effortlessly between the various duties whilst ensuring that my clients were afforded a high level of service in addition to the requisite protection. I am originally from North East London, but nowadays, I split my time between Spain and France where my properties are located. I would say I am a very sporty person. I used to play football, rugby and I was a Boxer for the army for many years. Now I like to keep fit by a regular workout at the gym and playing tennis at club level. I am into motorbikes and I am very passionate about motorsports. I can also play a few chords on the guitar when time permits.

2. What made you pursue a career in Security/Close Protection?
My career as a CPO began in the British Army in 1986. This army position provided me with the ideal platform for my current career and this is where I developed the solid attributes of self-discipline, courage, determination, resilience and adaptability. I also have a true belief in team ethos and some of my former colleagues had already chosen this path, so it was a natural progression for me.

3. What is a typical day like in your role?
Being a CPO is not as it appears in the movies. My job involves waiting for prolonged periods of time, whether it's sitting in a vehicle, private jets, the hotel lobby, restaurant or even standing in the street or in high-end stores with the clients.

4. What do you think makes a good Close Protection Officer?
In my opinion, a good Close Protection Officer needs maturity. They should be confident with a positive attitude, methodical and reliable, socially and morally acceptable, honest and truthful, patient and tolerant, realistic in expectations, tactful, courteous and diplomatic. They should have the ability to be single-minded in relation to prioritising, use their initiative and have common sense.

5. Why did you choose Quintessentially People to help you find a role?
Quintessentially People are definitely a cut above all the other recruitment agencies I’ve dealt with in the past. They champion their candidates, and in an industry where ultimately the clients get what they want, the candidates are never compromised with poor service. This, to me, was showing an excellent duty of care when recruiting and an excellent managing ethos, ensuring all their clients have the best possible candidates available.

6. How did you find Quintessentially People?
Quintessentially People were recommended to me by a colleague within the security industry. He spoke very highly of them, and I second him entirely.

7. What are the most important skills and qualities to have as a Close Protection Officer?
There are a lot of important qualities and skills needed to be a CPO, for example, minimum age and life experience requirements. Life experience is such an asset when providing protection for clients, some skills cannot be taught, some skills are developed by your experiences. Mental strength and physical fitness are vital, as this role is one of prevention rather than a cure. An ability to anticipate any potential threats directed towards your clients, avoiding any hostile situations at all costs, reducing the risk or opportunity of attackers by detecting these in advance. On-going training gives you the specific skill-sets to maintain operational standards, application, knowledge and conduct, professionalism and confidence.
Lastly, the three A’s: attitude, appearance, and awareness. Having the right mindset and attitude is essential when dealing with HNW clients and the ability to carry out tasks for demanding clients, meet impossible deadlines and fulfill unrealistic requests is a must. Regarding appearance, clients expect the best from their specialist providers and associated staff which includes a high standard of personal hygiene. Whether this is for informal or formal events, it is the CPO’s job to know the occasion and how to dress appropriately. Then, there is being aware. Whether it be by vehicle or on foot, pre-empting threats and mitigating risks, requires a high a level of observation and always being 3/4 steps ahead in your anticipation and advance planning.

8. Is being a Close Protection Officer what you expected it to be?
I’m very fortunate to work in the field that I do, it’s an enjoyable occupation being a Close Protection Officer and there are not many people that can say they like their job in this day and age. I’ve travelled to some amazing places all over the world over the last twenty years and have had the opportunity to see some truly spectacular sights. Academically, I struggled and started my education in the military. I have been to university twice in past years and have since received two security related degrees. However, I’m a firm believer that the greatest education in life is travel, whether it’s with work or for recreational purposes. The experience you gain is invaluable, giving you a real appreciation of life. Being exposed to different cultures, religions and environments are fundamentally the elements that map us as human beings.

9. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of being a Close Protection Officer is communication. This can be communication with your client, his or her family, or the staff associated within the client's inner circle. When you are able to communicate effectively, a CPO can ensure the clients schedule or travel is as simple as possible. Poor communication, incompetent staff, and the indecisiveness of the clients are common challenges in this position. Addressing poor communication issues with viable solutions will help mitigate poor communication.

10. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of this job is knowing the client is safe and content, and when the client makes you aware of this in some way.

11. What advice would you offer to others interested in becoming a Close Protection Officer?
When giving advice to others interested in this field, I would want to make sure they understand how currently flooded the security industry is and that it is a very cut-throat business. With that being said, there are some very good professional companies and officers that I’ve worked with during my twenty years in this industry. If anybody is looking to enter into the industry, they to need speak to an active Close Protection Officer, that has a healthy reputation and longevity. Even after that, it takes years of networking, determination, perseverance, and building a solid reputation.

12. How important is the relationship between a Close Protection Officer and their boss?
The importance of having professional working relationship with your clients is critical. Installing boundaries respectfully is essential, and when you begin your job, start as you mean to go on without compromising your integrity. Being discrete and knowing what to do and when, is important. CPO’s are hired to ensure client safety, not to be friends or social workers.

13. What is the most significant experience you have had on the job?
There are so many experiences both personal and work related, that have shaped me into the person I am today. There’s twenty years of stories, incidents and traumas, so pinpointing one in particular would be too difficult, as all them were different for numerous reasons, some good and bad. However, I do value client confidentiality so with all due respect, I’ll keep them in Pandora’s box!

14. How do you separate work-life and personal life?
I separate my work life and personal life by getting away to two humble properties abroad. Here, I have no TV, it is very quiet and non-commercialised, and I also leave the cell phones and Internet behind. These are the only places in the world where I’m never concerned about the time and tend to totally switch off. I don’t really do that much so when I am there, I like to have very lazy days with no routine. Plenty of swimming, some sea fishing with a local Spanish guy who looks after my wreck of a boat, some leisurely lunch and reading on the beach. Nobody knows me and I can come and go as I choose without being bothered.

15. What are your future aspirations?
My future aspirations are to be happy. I think we become so concerned with what we haven't got, that we lack the appreciation of what we have. Ideally in respect of work, I’d like some more clients who lead hectic lives and are constantly globetrotting, or securing another regular client a little closer to home or London would be very appealing, or even managing the Close Protection/Security department for Quintessentially People!


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