I was a sniper, I became a trader for 20 years, now I protect rich people
Jeroen Stam offers personal protection to (very) rich people. Think pop stars, Saudi princes, UHNW families and…private equity professionals and bankers travelling to dangerous parts of the world. He also worked for 20 years as a fixed income trader.
Trading wasn’t part of the plan. In fact, Stam didn’t even want a desk job. “I was one of the best junior ice-skaters in Holland, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay in school, so when I was 15 I ran away to try and join the Foreign Legion,” he says. “I was too young, but my parents realised I was serious. I joined the Dutch Marines, and spent four years in the ski and arctic survival division, and as a sniper.”
After the military, Stam worked in trading for over 20 years in high-ranking roles in both the Netherlands and the City of London. In 2000, he was a director in global fixed income syndicate at ABN Amro in London and then moved back to Holland to work as a prop trader at F. van Lanschot Bankiers.
By 2005, the plan was to semi-retire. Stam’s wife is Brazilian, so they moved with his young son and a nest egg he’d built and took a role as “confidante and investment advisor” for an ultra high-net-worth family in the country for around three years. But an ill-advised investment in a “semi-precious stones mine” wiped out his savings and meant that Stam was forced to return to Holland and get back into financial services in 2008.
“I went from being comfortable, to having nothing and had to start from scratch again,” he says.
Another problem – Lehman Brothers had just collapsed and, as the financial sector imploded, there were no trading jobs. Instead, he accepted a job as a risk manager at ING. He stuck it out for a year until he managed to get a broking job in London. After roles as head of fixed income at CF Global Trading and head of fixed income execution at a now-defunct Dutch trading house, Stam lost his job in 2014.
He was 49, and in the age of juniorisation of the trading floor, he couldn’t find another role. He spent two years unemployed receiving €1,500 a month in government benefits. But his experience as UHNW advisor in Brazil made him realise that not only were rich people high-risk targets for kidnapping and needed protection, but he could also provide more mundane services too.
This was a business opportunity and his firm the IST Academy offers executive protection, counter-terrorism training and firearms training alongside more everyday services.
He’s not just a bodyguard, he says: “We call the bodyguards in our team executive protection specialists,” he says. “As an example: I go with a high profile client to Brazil. I fulfil my role as PA, protection specialist and as a translator during business negotiations. We have also people who are nannies, personal trainers, nutrition specialists or who have exotic language skills.”
UHNW individuals and families understand the need for security. It’s harder, says Stam, to persuade a senior private equity professional or banker travelling to high risk parts of the world that they need any sort of protection at all.
Stam says that personal security can create some high octane moments. “I’ve stopped the child of a UHNW getting kidnapped on the way to school. There was a threat at a red light, so we advised them to run the light and they escaped,” he said.
The job isn't always about Kevin Costner-style bodyguard duties. In London, Stam says UHNW individiuals are aware of the high terrorist threat and are shadowed for weeks at a time. “There are exciting parts involving physical security and protection, but it can be quite boring – you spend hours at a time guarding the gates of large London houses.”
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