Secrets of Success: Kate Bright, CEO, UMBRA International Group

In the realm of private security, Kate Bright, CEO of UMBRA International Group, shines as a trailblazer redefining safety and protection in a modern world.

With a unique selling proposition centered on navigating the intricate landscape of the private security industry, UMBRA offers a paradigm shift towards what Kate terms ‘Secure Lifestyle.’

As the only global business providing this comprehensive approach, UMBRA empowers high-profile individuals and their families to take control of their safety, fostering situational awareness and resilience in an ever-evolving permacrisis environment.

Kate’s journey as a female founder in a traditionally male-dominated field adds a distinctive dimension, attracting a new generation of clients drawn to UMBRA’s innovative and future-proofed methodologies.

Grounded in core values of trust, transparency, family focus, collaboration, and peace of mind, UMBRA’s ethos shapes every decision and interaction, ensuring a client-centric approach. Kate fosters a culture of empowerment and innovation within her team, valuing their input and prioritizing their well-being. From personalized birthday celebrations to mental health support, UMBRA goes the extra mile to show appreciation for its team members, fostering a positive and inclusive work environment.

In terms of messaging, UMBRA communicates directly to its audience, focusing on values rather than product-driven content. Kate’s dedication to making the private security sector more accessible and sustainable is evident in UMBRA’s outreach efforts, including educational initiatives like the Secure Lifestyle Coaching program. With a commitment to transparency and impact, UMBRA is on a mission to revolutionize the industry, leaving a legacy as the Founding Mother of Secure Lifestyle.

Amid economic challenges, UMBRA navigates inflation and interest rates by balancing fair pricing structures with a commitment to value and loyalty. Regular assessment of financial and market data guides strategic decision-making, while technology plays a pivotal role in addressing evolving security risks and opportunities.

To relax, recharge, and hone focus, Kate embraces biohacking, music, yoga, and meditation, aligning personal well-being with professional excellence. With a growth mindset and a commitment to sustainability, UMBRA pursues B Corp accreditation and international partnerships, striving to make a positive impact on society and the planet.

What is your USP

We are the only business globally providing a navigation through the complex and sometimes hard to understand, private security industry. We have brought a new paradigm of ‘Secure Lifestyle’ to an age old industry and are crashing through the stereotypes of what it is to be protected and feel safe.

We work with the world’s most interesting, dynamic and successful people and their families empowering them to take ownership of their feelings of safety, and help them hone their own ability to become more situationally aware in a fast-paced permacrisis world – focusing on education rather than simply a protective sticking plaster.

As a female founder in a historically male dominated industry we tend attract a new generation of clients who learn about our unique and future proofed ways to protect them, and who value my journey through the Close Protection world as a woman. These are often specifically the reasons they will hear about, be referred to, and ultimately work with us.

What is the main problem you solve for your customers?

We help prominent high profile people and their families with complex needs to feel safe. It is often hard for our clients to be able to build teams of trustworthy talented people, get the right advisory network in place, and regularly review the physical, digital, reputational and emotional support they need to be safe. We are a unique boutique ‘Secure Lifestyle’ navigation advisory for UK & international clients who take these problems away. We do this by vetting & recruiting the right people, providing timely risk-based advice and concierge style project management on behalf of our clients under one roof rather than having to work with multiple suppliers and services.

What made you start your business – did you want to rock the status quo, was it a challenge or a gap in the marketplace that you could fill?

I definitely saw a gap in the provision of ‘Invisible Security’ and Secure Lifestyle in all its forms. This was mostly from my unique standpoint as one of only a few women in the industry at an Operator level, and prior, as a gatekeeping Chief of Staff, where I struggled to bring together the right holistic security strategy in the way that UMBRA does. As I developed the business I saw there was a huge need to challenge the industry norms, and I was gradually able to change the industry mindsets around the modern private client and their holistic needs, based on my deep knowledge and now decades of experience working directly with these families. The fact that no one had coined the term ‘Secure Lifestyle’ seemed to give UMBRA an instantly recognizable ‘concierge’ type white glove approach that traditional security companies seemed to be struggling with as it is time – and labour – intensive compared to corporate security provision.

Our team are proud to be able to bring the best services and suppliers to our clients in a jargon free manner, sitting always at our client’s site of the table through times of change to their circumstances. This change can be through relocation, liquidity event, succession or any number of reactive life events that alter our client’s perspective of their risk and emotional safety. We are proud to work with some of the worlds most impactful leaders and philanthropists who share our vision to create a safer world for everyone through our UMBRA Academy projects – and we are delighted to see other companies in the sector following suit and realising that growing businesses sustainability and with impact at the core is precisely why the modern consumer engages with any business.

What are your brand values?

WE have an internal document called THE UMBRA WAY – A CLIENT FOR LIFE – this sets out how we deliver our services around core themes: PERSONAL, PROACTIVE, POSITIVE, PRACTICAL. We are priviledged to work with some of the most interesting dynamic people and we like to make sure we are focused on them as the person, solving problems before they are problems, approaching their problems and quest for a Secure Lifestyle with a ‘glass half full’ mentality, and think outside the box to bring good advice, people and project management to the table.

OUR VALUES sit around these core themes, and we have them on our signature block so everyone we touch with our services knows what to expect when working with and for the team. These are – TRUST : TRANSPARENCY : FAMILY FOCUS : COLLABORATION : PEACE OF MIND. We are privileged to get to know our client community really well, and want them to know they can trust us, be open and empower themselves through the work we do. We work with multiple generations of families and so the needs of our own Team UMBRA family always comes first. A unqiuely collaborative business, we champion our industry and work with the best of the best from within it, as ultimately we want our clients to ‘feel safe’ – however that manifest for them.

Do your values define your decision making process?

Absolutely. Everyone in the team is empowered to understand the importance of ‘intrapreneurial thinking’ so I will regularly ask for advice from them amongst the zillions of ‘micro decisions’ I make every day. From our employment contracts giving benefits over and above that which a business our size would be giving to enable the team to work in a way that is best for them and their family, to decisions about who we work with, who must share our vision, our values go before us. As a leader I challenge myself regularly through coaching, strategy review and reflection to ensure that we are living and breathing why, and how, we do what we do.

Is team culture integral to your business?

Yes, as is leading from the top. The pandemic was a huge test of company culture – for most businesses. Creating team spirit and engagement now in a hybrid world, as well as ensuring the right timely in person face time with the team, clients and wider business community are all ways we ensure that every touch point with the business is aligned with our goals – to make the world a safer place.

I therefore have prioritized making UMBRA a safe place to work for the team – psychologically as well as physically. I still carry out 1-2-1 time monthly with the inner and wider team and make sure I ask how they are, and what more we can do for them.

A happy team is reflected in the interaction with clients, sometimes at the most stressful times of their life, so it is important our ‘wealth of health’ mantra is clear for all to see.

If team culture is integral to your business, what do you do to go the extra mile to to show your team you appreciate them?

The little things are the big things. I wanted to create an environment I could only have imagined working in. Flexible on working location and style (focused on delivery and quality), and remembering the important days, and celebrating the small and big wins.

Everyone gets a present (and day off) on their birthday. We celebrate everyone’s UMBRAversary, the day of their joining, with either an in person lunch if we are having a team day, or a virtual ‘high five’. Everyone receives a voucher on that day aligned with their needs and interests (family-focused, sport, learning etc).

One of our team days incorporated vitamin IV ‘drips’ and infusions for those who wanted a health boost, as well as days out to see the sights of the UK, including a strategy day on the British Airways i360 at 460 feet to really encourage ‘blue sky thinking’! we’ve signed up to the Fertility pledge, alongside huge businesses like Natwest and Channel 4 so the team know that whatever the stage of their family journey we will support them.

Mental Health First Aid training is a mandatory part of new team induction so we can look out for each other, and ourselves, and there are Mental Health days off written into contracts so that everyone can take preplanned long weekends to do something important to their overall wellbeing. A recent one of mine was a long weekend in Lisbon spent walking round and discovering the city and joining a local yoga club.

In terms of your messaging do you think you talk directly to your consumers in a clear fashion?

When you’re not selling a product that is clear, eg Coconut Water, and your services are breaking new ground as we are, we have to work harder to communicate who you are, what you sell and how you sell it.

A lot of what I talk about in my panel and keynote speeches, as well as through social media, is values rather than product driven. I talk a lot about the impact we want to have on the industry, the way we think outside the box on behalf of our clients, and the bigger mission we have to make the world a safer place.

We make use of professional platforms to talk about what we are tangiably doing to make our industry more accessible not just from the client side, in terms of services, but also from the perspective of working within it, such as our Sport to Security programme, encouraging & suppoprting ex sportswomen and men to transition to a career in security

I believe that any messaging can always be clearer, and I see examples of big brands ‘getting it wrong’ or not hitting the mark, and so we are working hard to articulate what we do through eg our Instagram channel currently in the way of more ‘FAQ’ and relatable ‘tips style’ content, and more widely in the form of our Secure Lifestyle Coaching for a broader audience. Our clients work with us because of these unique ways that we broaden the reach of services that are typically reserved for the super-wealthy, to a wider audience of those of us who simply want to know how to feel safe.

I would love for us to be known as the Founding Mother (not Father!) of Secure Lifestyle, and that as a legacy, I’ll take that!

What’s your take on inflation and interest rates – are you going to pass that on to your customers or let your margins take a hit and reward customer loyalty in these tougher times?

A mixture of both. Because what we do services the premium end of the market, and we want to value the team and wider service partners we work with, we have to have a pricing structure that is fair, transparent and that moves with the times. Our investment of profits into purpose is part of the loyalty and community we inspire with our work. I’m reading ‘Net Positive’ at the moment which is inspiring me to think even bigger about our goals, and we are on the B Corp accreditation journey which will in part enable us to keep ensuring value for money as well as being able to reinvest into providing our services for those in need – our pro Bono work is often where we do most of the learning.

How often do you assess the data you pull in and address your KPIs and why?

Financial data is the lifeblood of any business and I keep a keen eye on our monthly targets, paying suppliers weekly instead of monthly. Having been on the supply side I know the importance of individual’s own cashflow for their financial security so will always stand by a weekly payment run being good for business. Our year-end is always a time to reflect on the past year, reset budgets alongside a refreshed 1 and 5 year strategy, and as a result we are proud to be growing steadily year on year, with 0 external investors.

Market data, Private Client and Wealth migration trends we pay close attention to, and increasingly we are using AI to assist us to understand geographical mapping of wealth migration trends. This informs our thinking around international expansion – where and how our clients are moving and relocating for education, work and enjoyment.

Is tech playing a much larger part in your day-to-day running of your company?

Absolutely. Particularly across the digital and cyber risks our clients face. We have to stay abreast of ‘risks’ that can change on a moment-to-moment basis, and the opportunities of where technology can provide mitigations to those risks in the form of services and solutions that are created on a moment-by-moment basis.

Chat GPT is a prime example – we started working with this AI based tech through our legal advisory network – I’ve used it to help me remain current with security trends for my talks, to compare / contrast our contracts and to gain insight & bolster knowledge around certain aspects of our service. I’m in my mid-forties so like to think I am digitally aware and enabled as well as having remembered a time before the technological revolution.

I’ve always said ‘as technology advances humans will have to become more exceptional’, and I stand by that. I am a human being who loves humans AND technology, and I keep an eye on Dame Stephanie Shirley’s incredible work with the Oxford Internet Institute – where we need to be aware of the societal/social and ethical effects of the internet and technology. She is an inspiration to me in terms of her early adoption of technology but never failing to prioritize the people – a hard balance to strike

What is your attitude to your competitors?

We don’t have competition, just collaborators. It may sound cheesy or arrogant to say it, and probably annoying to those who consider themselves to be our competitors (if you’ve not worked with us yet please get in touch to collaborate ) but genuinely there is no one doing what we are doing, particularly in making our sector more accessible and sustainable.

As such more and more of our industry and wider advisory community are approaching us to work with us. I believe in a ‘Formula 1 pitstop’ approach to our work – sometimes I am very much channeling my inner Toto Woolf, bringing the projects to our network of specialists and managing the outcome, other times we are called in to be a part of someone else’s pitstop team. Low ego, huge servings of humility and a hunger to provide the best service, on time, at the right price, with tangible benefits to the society we will be leaving behind is my mantra.

As a fiercely competitive person, growing up in a family of 2 brothers and a sister, the only competition I believe in now is the one with myself – to drive my own high performance and drive my own metrics of striving to be 1% better everyday, fail forwards fast and look after myself to the best of my abilities.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in business?

Look up the Japanese word ‘IKIGAI’. When the going gets tough, which it will, frequently, have something to remind you why you do what you do. Noticing a gap in the market for something is a really good start, but being really obsessively into what you’re doing, will see you through.

When your passion, mission, profession and vocation overlap you’ll never work a day in your life, just the problems you’re facing will become more complex, and the micro decisions of which I make 000s per day, increase in number and dimension.

Prioritize your physical, mental and spiritual health and always ask for help and advice. My advisory team – both official and unofficial are my guides and champions – and I could not have done it without them.

It can be a lonely and pressured place to be as the lead decision-maker of the business. What do you do to relax, recharge and hone your focus?

I am obsessed with the world of biohacking. So much so that it has now overlapped into my day job, I regularly host clients and our UMBRA community in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber – a room big enough for 4 people where we breathe highly pressurized oxygen to help boost cognitive performance and longevity. Its benefits are multifold, and as a massive fan of multitasking, that pleases me greatly.

I love music and am learning to DJ – I realized as a Grade 8 pianist way back in the dark ages, that I actually have an ear for a good tune and the power of music to help switch off and relax. Since a friend helped me download my shazam playlist to spotify and got me set up on mixing software I have not looked back.

Yoga has been a stalwart of my life for 20 years, as has Meditation since I did the London Meditation Center course years ago. Yoga, in all its forms is my ultimate safe space. Everywhere I go in the world I check into a local class, and as a result was doing breathwork before it became mainstream and highly recommend it for times of high stress as well as optimizing downtime. I regularly send clients pictures of the ‘box breathing’ framework when they are having a stressful time in their lives. I think you could say I relax, recharge and hone my focus like I do my day job – with enthusiasm, passion and energy!

What is your company’s eco strategy?

We are in the process of the B Corp accreditation to bring together all the work we do a a business to prioritize sustainability and impact. We are being helped by others in the B community and very much in growth mindset around what more we can do to ensure we play our part in addressing the problems we face as a society and planet.

What three things do you hope to have in place within the next 12 months?

Firstly I’d like to see more progression on our B Corp accreditation and meet more of the B community. Secondly, I want to expand the delivery of our Secure Lifestyle Coaching, making what we do more accessible to those who want to understand how to empower themselves through simple things they can do to feel, and be safe. We are on course to have developed 2 of our international partnerships more fully – putting the ‘International’ into UMBRA.

We would love also to partner with other businesses that want to work more closely to represent the ‘best of british’ – I’m talking about this a lot to everyone I meet. Clients love the idea that we as a British Business have a grounding in a unique history and culture. As an internationally outward-facing business I almost act as a Trade Ambassador on my international travels, and I think it is really important in a post Brexit world that we get strategic about doing business in the UK/ I want to fly the flag more for our sector and encourage more clients that UK PLC is very much open for business despite the challenges we have faced as a nation in recent times.

Cherry Martin

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.
Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.