Kidnap and ransom risk (K&R) is far more common across the globe than the public and even corporate entities realise. Assistance provider Global Guardian is one of the companies constantly monitoring global events and outcomes.
K&R is one of the world’s oldest forms of extracting something from another party, spanning all nations and cultures, and doesn’t simply fall into an exclusive category of tackling criminality or terrorism.
Paul Grant, VP of Europe & Middle East Operations at Global Guardian, told ITIJ: “Global Guardian has amassed an immense amount of global operational experience managing dynamic and complex kidnap, ransom and extortion (KR&E) scenarios and environments. Our global team is focused on achieving the prime objective in all KR&E scenarios - a successful outcome for our clients.”
To prepare for worst-case scenarios, Global Guardian’s ethos is to ‘always expect the unexpected’. “We have consequently developed our operational approach with a continuous evolution of our K&R teams and networks,” Grant said. “As part of this continuous evolution, we ensure our presentations, briefings and training modules remain relevant to a changing K&R world.”
AXA is another insurer offering K&R cover. A spokesperson for the company adds: “Incidents like kidnapping are difficult to predict and when they occur, they require a swift, organised, and expert response. The financial impact of a crisis can be severe on any company or family. We offer specialised knowledge and a wide range of insurance coverages to help clients manage their risk landscape.
“Expert assistance is also vital when handling a high pressure, stressful situation such as the kidnapping of a colleague or loved one. Immediate access to independent, experienced advisers to help at such a time can be invaluable and is often the driving factor when purchasing a K&R insurance policy.”
A spokesperson for Howden Insurance, a provider of K&R cover, adds: “For most of us, kidnapping is something that only happens in movies. But unfortunately, in many parts of the world, it is a very real threat. It can be traumatic and even life-threatening for the victims, and incredibly expensive for businesses and family members who are forced to pay extortionate ransoms.”
K&R is changing
For most of us, kidnapping is something that only happens in movies. But unfortunately, in many parts of the world, it is a very real threat
The K&R world is changing in several ways, including increased cyber threats and express kidnappings being more common. “During the previous two decades, we have witnessed a huge global change within the traditional kidnap, ransom and extortion (KR&E) environments,” Grant comments. “Insurers are developing new endorsements to the standard KR&E policy to cover evolving risk scenarios; cyber endorsements are being withdrawn from many KR&E policies in favour of a standalone product due to the size of ransom demands in many cyber extortion incidents.”
- Victim profiles are now more diverse, with local nationals being targeted. The objective is a rapid payment and release
- The targeting of individuals who work for high value corporations. The corporation can pay more than the individual, and has a duty of care to its employees
- Tiger kidnapping - where the family of the kidnapped party is held hostage in an effort to coerce them into committing a secondary crime, such as forcing a manager to remove merchandise or cash from their business on behalf of the gang - is still an issue for high-end store and banks managers
- Kidnapping is now becoming common in places previously deemed as safe, with express ATM kidnappings in particular now no longer specific to designated high-crime environments or high-risk countries
- The internet and the introduction of cyber currency has spawned a diverse range of kidnappings and hoaxes, which net criminal gangs vast sums of money.
Diverse victim profiles
As victim profiles are becoming more diverse, insurer AXA has broadened its list of client profiles. “You don’t have to be a billionaire or a foreigner working in a war zone to be a target for kidnap and ransom related events,” the company says. “Companies or individuals can find themselves at risk through their travel exposures, the location of their permanent operations, their specific industry or their public profile. AXA XL offers worldwide K&R coverage to all industries. Some sectors find themselves at higher risk due to the nature of their business and the locations that they tend to work in.”
These could include:
- High net worth individuals
- Humanitarian and aid agencies
- Media and journalists
- Oil and gas
Cyber-based ransom is at the forefront
“Cyber-based ransom is at the forefront of the global corporate and state government focus,” says Grant. “This dynamic has area of risk, with an immediate impact, and we are seeing a developing trend of the targeting of corporations/companies who are within the final process of significant merger and acquisitions undertakings. While this may comprise the largest segment of the current K&R activity, we are also seeing additional K&R scenarios and developments.”
To adapt to the new world of K&R, Global Guardian regularly updates clients on the threats they might face and uses technology to keep them safe. “We brief clients on the most relevant and likely threats they face when travelling to a particular region or country,” Grant says. “We offer tracking apps on mobile phones which allow our clients to hit a panic button at the first sign of trouble. These apps also provide real-time alerts of ongoing criminal and terrorist activity, as well as weather or natural disasters. We relentlessly demonstrate our understanding of the client’s needs, environments, and conditions they operate within. We know and understand that no two clients are the same.”
The company also provides education through briefings, presentations, training packages and webinars. “Our global tracking and alert platform is a key component of ensuring our clients are kept safe,” says Grant. “During previous global events, we have geofenced clients and immediately alerted them to the risks, in many cases well before they were aware themselves, and where necessary, deployed our global ground teams to assist and evacuate.”