News 12.03.19

Interview with Kate Bright, Managing Director and founder of UMBRA International, about diversity in the security industry.

This month we spoke to Kate Bright about women and diversity in the Security Industry. As Managing Director of UMBRA International and herself Close Protection (CP) trained, Kate has long been in the vanguard of stimulating the drive for equal opportunities & diversity and we were interested to hear her thoughts on what progress has been made.

Tell us about UMBRA International and your role as Managing Director.

I left my last Chief of Staff role for the last high profile family I worked 5 years ago and set up UMBRA. The core elements of our services are recruitment to identify the right people to work for our clients and a security concierge service. It was a natural progression, building on my background as a PA and Family Manager, and having built connections to the best service partners in private security, such as Vigilance. Normally, we initially meet clients through the security concierge stream of work. Many of them are going through life changing moments, such as divorce & relocation, which often lead to new security risks related to their lifestyle and may run full circle to recruiting new personnel. 

What motivated you to start UMBRA International? 

I started my career as a junior PA at Disney, and from the beginning worked with powerful, influential and wealthy people. I always enjoyed being the “right hand woman”. Working for families worldwide required an incredibly diverse range of skills; admin, operations, logistics and security protocol. I had to completely understand the importance of the trusted inner circle, get to know a lot of different people, suppliers and build teams. I did my CP training, which as a PA earned me the respect of men on my team, but as a woman without a military background also gave me valuable insight into the inner workings of security requirements and how useful I was because of my discreet presence. The business arose almost by accident; I was already being called for advice and guidance, and realised I could do it professionally.

Why is it important to have women in the security industry? 

Having a diverse team that includes more women is a great advantage. For our clients, it’s all about invisible security (hear more about invisible security in Kate’s TEDx talk here), and giving our clients the most discreet service possible. It’s also about being relatable. It’s the relationship and trust built with a client that can defuse a conflict. And, equally, if as a woman you’re not the right person for a particular situation, I’ll send in one of my male colleagues. 

The Security Industry Authority (SIA), released data in 2018 showing that currently only 5.4% of all badged Close Protection Operatives are female, but given the current demand for female personnel that number should rise – we would like to see a figure of 15% or higher.

What do you feel are the key barriers preventing more women developing careers in security?

I don’t think there are any actual barriers - from Operative across to Corporate Management - the only real obstacle could be having the wrong perception of what a ‘security operative’ who delivers Close Protection should look like, which if changed, might encourage the next generation to consider it a legitimate career path. For us at UMBRA, it’s about trying to normalise women & diversity in security. The industry regulator, The Security Industry Authority (SIA), released data in 2018 showing that currently only 5.4% of all badged Close Protection Operatives are female, but given the current demand for female personnel that number should rise – we would like to see a figure of 15% or higher, as long as the focus is on new recruits building upon industry standards and conduct being upheld. We are working closely with the SIA and other partners in the industry to make this happen.

The most common perception of what it takes to be a female, or male security operative is that they need to have prior experience in the military, but it’s not always the case. For example athletes have high levels of teamwork and discipline; I’d be happy to get a female or male former professional rugby player on a team any day of the week. It is all about the blending of skills gender and backgrounds matching with the clients’ needs and risk level. UMBRA is investing in initiatives to encourage this, working closely with top Premiership clubs such as Harlequins & Saracens and the Welsh Rugby Players Association.

Ultimately, it’s not about male and female, it’s about who or what best fits the solution.

What would diversity in the security industry look like to you?  

Women have been working in the industry for a long time. But we need more women to feel like the security industry is a career path for them and we need the Security Industry to be more open minded and concentrate on how to address constantly changing risks for the clients of the future – particularly in relation to the increasing need for invisible security solutions. Ultimately, it’s not about male and female, it’s about who or what best fits the solution.

You’ve set up a Personal Assistant networking group, ‘The Network’. What was the thought behind this? 

I’ve always been a natural collaborator, I definitely work better in like-minded teams, so when I was still a PA in 2003 I spearheaded seting up ‘The Network’ with a group of others. The Network is a network of PAs and EAs to high profile, wealthy and influential individuals and families, who share ideas, knowledge and contacts. The Network has both female and male members, but due to the nature of the PA position, the group consists mainly of female members at the moment. There are now over a 100 members that meet once a month. Being collaborative allows me to help my clients in the best way possible, navigating different suppliers through recommendation and ensuring I find the right fit. Effective collaboration is about knowing with certainty who you can trust. That’s why I’ll also reach out to someone like Ed (Mills, COO at Vigilance) and ask him to help with a particular project, because for that collaboration Vigilance would be the right fit. I know Vigilance is a safe pair of hands and I trust their team members because of it. 

Vigilance would like to thank Kate for taking the time to share her expertise with us.

As a passionate advocate of diversity, she encourages those who are interested, in particular women who want to train in close protection, particularly transitioning athletes –  and anyone who has a Secure Lifestyle enquiry – to get in touch by email: or calling: +44 (0) 208 133 6888.  

Vigilance works across public, private and commercial sectors. Please get in contact regarding your security requirements and we can create a bespoke security package based on individual assessments of your needs. Call us now: +44 (0) 203 416 5340.


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