Whilst in training to become a Royal Marine, I remember the world standing to a halt, watching the news in disbelief as we were presented with a new type of threat – one that would see 10-plus years of military operations and a global fight against terrorism. It was clear that the Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001 was going to be a defining moment that changed many lives, but for me it was the most memorable starting point for where I am today.

Early Military Training

I completed my training in February 2002 and was sent to 45 Commando and deployed immediately to Afghanistan. It was to be the first of 4 tours as a Royal Marine commando. I loved every minute of my career in the Marines and was so eager to continue working in an operational theatre that I decided to leave and complete a close protection course with the intention of working overseas in a private military armed-protection role.

The SIA (Security Industry Authority) licence had not long come in to play at this point, but with the military presence in the Middle East being so prevalent, the security industry was thriving. From a young age, I had always wanted to be a bodyguard. What had once been a fictitious dream was now a viable career choice, and would soon become reality.

I completed my SIA course in 2006 and began working as a Licensed Close Protection Operative. Although an experienced Marine, I was still young to be working in the private sector and well aware that I would need to work my way up through a new type of hierarchy in order to prove myself. After carrying out security for blue chip companies, as well as static guard and eviction work to get my foot in the door, I decided to focus on surveillance.

Surveillance Skills In A Developing Industry

Surveillance was something I was already interested in from my close protection course, where we touched on the subject for obvious reasons: the ability to carry out surveillance, and to avoid or spot hostile surveillance, is imperative in a protective role. I began working for a company specialising in fraudulent insurance claims. We would start early in the morning in our adapted vehicles with covert equipment cameras and follow the claimants throughout the day, recording evidence on their movements.

The surveillance industry has changed significantly over the last 15 years, making the technology we used back then seem almost comical. What I do realise now is that this type of surveillance in small teams, while sometimes viewed as less professional, is the perfect platform for the commercial industry where evidence gathering and results are key. Without realising, this would become a great platform to build on.

The Middle East Years

The Middle East was still a very busy jurisdiction at this time, so after several years in the UK, I joined some ex-colleagues and good friends in Iraq, where the PSD (personal security detail) armed protection work was in full swing. It was back to business where bad decisions cost lives, and working with different regiments and nationalities you had to conduct yourself with the upmost professionalism. This also meant that the clients would be taking direction from ‘you the operator’ and would always adhere to the instruction without question.

It was an extremely volatile time In the Middle East and this only reinforced the need to make sure your individual skills and drills were of the highest level. It wasn’t a case of ‘if’ you were going to be taken on but ‘when’. So it was imperative that you were confident and competent.

A New Direction

Over the years, as Iraq became more stable, and the infrastructure was rebuilt, the work began to slow down and contracts evolved and others ended. Right on cue, however, anti-piracy work was on the rise and the contracts started to lean towards the maritime sector which, as an ex-Royal Marine, should have been the obvious choice. But having spent enough time on boats, I decided to try something completely different. A friend had been working in Ibiza looking after VIPs and celebrities, and it sounded like something I’d enjoy. I’d always wanted to cover as many different competencies as possible within the security industry, and although we had worked closely with clients in Iraq, I hadn’t yet worked in a one-on-one capacity, and not with higher profile clients or celebrities.

I left Iraq and within a few months the summer season in Ibiza began. I had purchased a luxury vehicle that was ‘client worthy’ in order to maximise my value and have the opportunity to work with as many clients as possible. I have always loved hard graft – and in Ibiza there was no shortage of hours to put in. Although a completely different working environment it was equally demanding – and equally noisy.

The Role of a VIP’s Bodyguard

Working in some of the biggest clubs in the world, I developed a deep understanding of how clients of this kind operate and the unwritten rules and protocols of table etiquette. Now I was the one being briefed rather than the other way around. In many cases some requests would step outside of what would be deemed as a security detail and more towards concierge, but going above and beyond to help make a client’s life easier, you quickly learn, goes a long way.
Surrounded by super yachts and VIP clubs dealing with paparazzi and press – it was a different world to the one I was used to, and it became a pivotal part in building my experience as a personal bodyguard.

I worked back and forth for the summer season in Spain for a number of years, and had an amazing time and met some great friends, which I’m happy to say are still in my life now. One great thing about this industry is the friends you pick up along the way. You are only as strong as your network and mine had begun to grow globally.

Taking It To The Next Level

I returned to the UK where I slipped back into a surveillance role. I had always recommended that operatives whose profile would lend itself well made sure they were proficient in surveillance as well as close protection, and I still offer the same advice now. Although the industries and networks tend to be separate, those who have the ability to cover both are seldom out of work and usually have a much more in-depth knowledge of assessing risk.

I had only worked, before this point, in small teams, alongside operatives with similar experience to myself, but I was lucky enough to meet and work with a company whose operatives had a much higher level of trade craft. The teams comprised ex-military, ex-government and ex-specialist police. Although working with a multitude of different backgrounds we were able to work cohesively as a team.

With teams in excess of 20 operatives on the ground at any one time, everything needed to be strategic and well coordinated. Working in teams this size you need to be able to work both independently and as a team player so it tested not only your attitude but also your own personal ability. This was a fantastic time to sit back and learn from the wealth of experience I was surrounded with.

London

I developed a good relationship with the team leader and directors who decided to take me and a few others aside for one-on-one training, where we would go through our mobile and foot drills. Having ex MI5 and MI6 trainers teaching was invaluable, and I was able to learn from some of the best in the business.

We continued to work as a team on high level surveillance and counter surveillance tasks throughout central London and I began to develop a greater understanding of intelligence gathering and countering techniques. Throughout my career I have switched between security and surveillance and, in essence, this is how Valorous Group was born: the ability to view risk from the eyes of the protector, the hunter and the hunted. This allows a much better insight into assessing and mitigating risk.

Super-High-Net-Worth-Clients and Close Protection

I had worked with a multitude of VIP and high net worth clients at this point but I hadn’t yet worked full-time for a client as their personal bodyguard, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Now confident enough with my extensive driving knowledge of London through my surveillance experience, I joined a team looking after a SHNWC (super-high-net-worth-client).

I stayed with my first client for almost 5 years and went from newcomer in a three-man team to running the team myself… all the way through to cutbacks and working as an IBG (individual bodyguard). This was where the bulk of my experience came from – the picture-perfect close protection role. Luxury vehicles, fast cars, super yachts, global travel and Michelin star restaurants and hotels.

Each year, we did the rounds of super high-net-worth playgrounds. From the south of France, Monaco, Cannes, St Tropez and sailing the med, to Dubai, New York and back to Ibiza, we travelled everywhere. Coming from extremely humble beginnings it was a welcome change, and a fantastic opportunity to learn.

Manners, appearance and conduct in these high-end establishments really matter. You are a direct representative of your client, and how well you conduct yourself – both around them and away from them – is watched with scrutiny. Your interactions with guests, family members, colleagues and house staff have to be conducted with the upmost of professionalism but the end result was an unforgettable chapter of my life.

Over the next 10 years I worked with a range of different clients. Across all nationalities, living and working overseas whilst always reverting back to an investigative or surveillance role back in the UK.

And Valorous Group Was Born

After almost 20 years, I was hungry to take things a step further and I started to think about how I could create the perfect service that not only provided quality protection for clients but also for my own operatives. I was lucky to have experienced what I did during my earlier career, but I was well aware that not everyone had been given that opportunity. I understood that for operatives to do the best possible job, they needed support, guidance and cutting edge equipment.

So with the focus not only on the client but the operatives themselves, Valorous Group was born – built on this very precedent, a network of colleagues, friends, business partners and trusted companions, with no better description than valorous to describe the character and mindset of the men and women in the industry, and ready to pioneer a new era for the security and protection industry.

This article was written by Valorous Group CEO, Chris Timothy – a former Royal Marine and a close protection specialist with over 20 years’ experience.

If you are interested in joining the Valorous Group network or would like to learn more about our services, get in touch at www.valorousgroup.co.uk

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