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Jazz Shaper: Kate Bright

Posted on 29 October 2022

As a Chartered Security Professional, Founder and CEO of UMBRA International Group, Kate has unparalleled expertise working with Private and Family Offices as well as the security sector.  

Elliot Moss

Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya.  What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, bringing the shapers of the business world together with the musicians shaping jazz, soul and blues.   My guest today, is Kate Bright, licensed female body guard, yes I did say licensed female body guard and we’ll talk all about that in a moment and Founder and CEO of UMBRA International Group, the secure lifestyle company.  Having spent 15 years as a personal assistance to high net worth clients it was while securing her close protection license in 2013 including training on fire arms, evasive driving and Israeli martial arts, I am being very careful in here as you will hear later, Kate experienced a lightbulb moment.  She recognised the need for a more holistic approach to security encompassing protection against digital and reputational risk as well as physical dangers.  Kate founded UMBRA in 2015, disrupting an overwhelmingly male industry with the offer of invisible security and a secure lifestyle, enabling Kate and her team to work with a wider range of clients from diverse backgrounds and extend security awareness more broadly into modern life.  We’ll be chatting to Kate in just a few minutes about the world of UMBRA and indeed the UMBRA Academy which amongst other work, supports ex-professional sports men and women entering the UK security industry. 

When I said licensed female body guard – firstly it’s lovely to have you here – but I’ve jumped straight in because obviously I was excited.  When I said that and I said well there aren’t going to be many of those.  There aren’t many Kate, I met you a few years ago winning an award or some… I think it was winning an award for something or other, why are there so few women in this industry?

Kate Bright

Oh my gosh what a big question.  I mean, firstly let me geek out on the percentages because I always like to think I am sort of one in a million but literally there are 16,000 close protection operators in the UK licensed, of which 5.75% are female.  So that gives you a little bit of the context as to how many women there are currently in the industry and I did my training 10 years ago and it was at 5.25% when I asked and sort of dug into the figures about sort of 6 years ago, so I am taking the .5% increase as a very, very slow win but having talked about invisible security for so long, I think there haven’t been many women in security as a profession, perhaps because that whole phrase of ‘you have to see it to be it’, there haven’t been many visible role models or many people talking about what they do and I think the security industry is not one that you tend to sort of hear stories about in the sort of business context.  So I think it has really struggled as a result of those, those factors.

Elliot Moss

When is the Euro 22 Woman’s Football moment going to happen then?  What’s going to change because this year has been a phenomenal year for men and women to enjoy winners and we love winners in England and also we love to take them down when they’ve won, obviously that’s a different point though Sheridan Froyde unfortunately it seems baked in to the British psyche somewhat but assuming that it’s now happening and it’s been a long journey for the women’s football team and sport in general and we will come on to your connection with sport, when is it people are going to realise that it is sort of, of course there is a physical element to this but there is much more to it and what are you doing about changing that?

Kate Bright

So I mean firstly I think the lioness moment, when we look at these sort of moments of, of change around the last two and a half, three years of big, big change in terms of Covid, I think we’ve got to break it down in terms of what we as a business are trying to achieve and the big, big sort of global goals that we have to try and encourage more people to keep themselves safe but I think if we distil it back to this idea of invisible security, I think the more that we can try and encourage young people to think more broadly about a career in security.  Take gender out of it but also the more that we can start to educate the sort of clients that we work with that diversity and security and a team or security reflecting the society that it protects as we have seen in recent events such as a huge security operation around the Queen’s funeral.  When we can start to see those visible example I think we will then start to be able to help build pipeline and as we know from women’s sport, in particular now football but also women’s rugby for example, who lag behind women’s football and historically has football and rugby always had that because it was sort of relationship.  It behoves those of us that have the stories to tell to keep telling them and you know, I am in this for the long haul, I am in this to champion an industry that doesn’t get championed, to open it and make it more accessible because it’s never really been one industry that you would say you understand all of the different sort of tricks of the trade but actually we are trying to simplify it, create pathways to join the industry and then we will start to have an industry that looks like the society that it protects and that’s really important to me because it’s a much more of a sort of a bigger picture goal and one which I think in an evolving world we can start to look at the words security not just as a physical beast but also the digital part of it as well and the huge amount of opportunities within the world of cyber for young people.

Elliot Moss

You’ve already won a tonne of awards and been recognised by the profession, you are a Freeman of the City of London, you have an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Industry Award I think last year and there is a whole tonne of other things that the business has got.  Did you think you were going to run your own thing?  I read somewhere, I mean there is no question that anyone that founds things, and I know you’ve got other things that you’ve also been involved in founding, there is no question that they are self-driven and there is no question they work hard.  I’ve got a lovely quote here which I thought was brilliant from I think it is your, it sounds like This Is Your Life or something, but your teacher, you were nicknamed ‘The Furnace’ by your school teacher because you would burn through work and want to learn more.  So I see that, I see the drive in your… in the way you look Kate and your intensity and the way you look.  What about this doing your own thing, thing, when did that start to become a real idea to you?

Kate Bright

Well people always sort of talk about the entrepreneurial journey and I’ve never really identified with the word entrepreneur or leader and that’s something that I am now coming to late and working on particularly in terms of leadership and developing my skills sort of later in life.  But I think people sort of say you know, this entrepreneur, I had to build a business because I saw and had a lightbulb moment and I wanted to act upon it but also I had to earn money and so sort of necessity being the mother of invention, the business wasn’t some sort of sat down, well thought out five year plan, executed sort of from a strategic level at all, it was I got my personal protection training, I went back to work for the, the family that I was working for at the time and I marinated this idea of being able to promote more widely the work of simply female operators and that golden thread was something that then lead to the development of UMBRA.  So I always say that UMBRA set itself up, I’d love to take the credit for setting it up but it is very much evolved and very much been something that over the last, particularly the last three years, if you said to me three years ago would the business be where it is now, and you sprinkle a little pandemic in the middle of it, I would not have you know, recognised the business that it is today.  So I think you know, I am a very much a reluctant, when words like entrepreneur are thrown round, I am very reluctant to take them on because I see and particularly in the Founder community around me, so many incredible people and so many incredible ideas.  I think the key part for me was right at the start of the business, I wanted this to make a difference.  I wanted my work and my effort and my energy to have some kind of tangible output that wasn’t sort of business or metric driven and I think early on I guess I didn’t really understand how to set up a business in a traditional way, I pushed the traditional boundaries so for me knowing that we could build a business that improved and increased visibility and diversity and knowing that I was in a position to bring in an industry and by that I mean the sort of private client world that I was so imbedded in into this industry and all of the people that have supported me along the way, I think it is just, I am very lucky that the people that I have around me and the network that I built over that 15 years prior then had such a relevance to, to supporting and championing and really banging the drum for me and I think I also benefitted from a very much a social media and online ability for business owners to use those channels to their fullest.  I first had my LinkedIn profile activated in 2014 and I fully, fully accredit the LinkedIn community as being one such driver which you know, I will happily reach out to anybody that I see that I identify as being someone that could help me and that I could help them so you know, this idea that the business started in one way and evolved into another is definitely something that I am more and more comfortable with as we grow and as I see the impact that we have on the, on the world around us.

Elliot Moss

I want to pick up on the impact point and probe a little bit but we’re going to come back to you in a couple of minutes to do that so you can start, get thinking about that question, I am giving you the question.  Right now we are going to hear a taste though from the Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions, they can be found on all the major podcast platforms.  Mishcon de Reya’s Martha Averley and Matt Robinson talk about equity, diversity and inclusion with regards to recruitment and how employers can recruit in a fair but diverse way.

All our former Business Shapers are available for your delectation on the Jazz Shapers podcast and you can hear this very programme again if you pop Jazz Shapers into your podcast platform of choice, we are so open about it we don’t mind where you go.  My guest today is Kate Bright, female body guard and Founder and CEO of UMBRA International, the secure lifestyle company.  You mentioned before the break we were talking about impact and you said you know, I just want to make an impact.  Why Kate?  I mean most people are happy to just go about their lives, do their business, get on with it and earn a living and all that but not you, you said you want to make an impact. Is that… am I right in thinking your dad received an OBE when you were little?  Was that notion of kind of doing something that was recognised, do you think it was part of your DNA?

Kate Bright

Wow, um yes and good research.  Yeah my father was awarded an OBE when I was, when I was 10 and I think that was around about the time to go back to your other question about being the, the furnace at school, I think I come from a family that’s Irish Bavarian and you cut us through and look at the DNA and it says the word ‘graft’ and you know he’s first generation, holes in shoes, born and raised in Dagenham and I think all four of us, so my three other siblings and I all do very different things and I think that’s good as well because as a family we are incredibly supportive of one another’s endeavours.  So I think with that graft and with that sort of furnace it took me a long time to actually find my purpose, my mission and I think a furnace without a mission is just a furnace and so through my first career as I call it, I knew that there was something that was really special about working with the sort of clients that I get to work with and the sort of world that I was exposed to was definitely not one that I was you know, had experienced growing up.  My father’s OBE was for machine tool engineering so he barely you know, understands the terminology and the sort of UHNWI and some of the high net worth acronyms that we use these days and I think this, this idea that something that you create can be bigger than you and I won’t use the word legacy because I’ve actually stopped using that.  I think it’s about what you do when you are here, it’s not about building something so that you’ve got a nice tombstone that looks pretty and so actually as I was building the business, it just transpired that I could work with people that I loved and people that I was inspired by being around and you consider the sort of people that me being around, not from a military background, I am exposed to people from really elite parts of military and agency and royalty protection, you know, I had to up my game and so I think as a result of growing the business I saw very quickly that I was in quite a unique position to be a sort of a kind of conduit almost as a business, to help others to either come into an industry or find their as I call it, the Ikigai, that sort of Japanese word of your mission, your purpose, your very essence of why you are put on the planet.  When you find that as a human, it’s at once really overwhelming but also it gives you an underlying reason to get out of bed, reason to push through Covid, reason to you know, look at how in chaos you can try and sort of keep that, that clarity and that vision and for me it just distilled into what is now the UMBRA Academy and for me it’s become even more important than growing the business.  I feel the Ying and the Yang of having the business but also the Academy is something that sits really naturally and really well around obviously being very commercially minded and wanting to grow this you know, I didn’t put the word International on UMBRA just for the fun of it, you know we are an international business and I want to grow it and I want to keep it that way.  But it soon transpired as I say, that there was this, this conduit, this opportunity to do more, be more, help more people and so those four strands for me are now really important and particularly working with younger and younger people within our organisation but also as I said before, bringing people into an industry for the first time, helping people to transition from military backgrounds and identifying that bringing ex-sport  men and women into the security industry may sound bonkers but when you break it down it’s actually exactly the kind of talent and skill that you need to build a more resilient and a more of a sort of a diverse looking and feeling industry so I am really driven by the stuff that we do from an impact level and one of the things that keeps me awake at night is being able to measure that and I am as much a furnace on that and as my team will attest to, how much we can do, how much we can push the boundary so much so that we are looking at a way that we can get free resources and the tips and tricks that we give to our client into the hands of those that need it the most because security should be and is very straight forward, it’s a state of mind and it is also things that you can do in the next five minutes to protect yourself and those around you so I feel really passionately there’s a few strands there that I feel like we are making a difference right now and I want to keep that, that impact piece front and centre of what we do.

Elliot Moss

.Inherent to the security industry Kate and those people in it is keeping people secure and protecting people from what is essentially their own vulnerability and their own desire to be you know, safe.  Are you the kind of person that has, and are the people in it, have they all gravitated because actually they are looking for safety themselves?  Is there something in that when you see these, whether it’s you know, people think of security people and they think of physically strong people whether they are big or small, men or women or anything else, the question I really have is though, does it occur to you that actually you wanted protection back in 2013 that as much as you wanted to see what this business was about, actually it was something to do with you and if so, where might that have come from and do you still experience vulnerability in that sense?

Kate Bright

That is a fantastically multi-layered question.  I think I would pick up on the four pillars that I believe exist within security and you know, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the baseline of security aside, I think we have a sort of a physical, a digital, a reputational and an emotional kind of need across security and the emotional need to stay safe and feel safe and psychological safety is being talked about a lot more in the workplace now and I think bringing in the kind of work that the security industry does, first and foremost the security industry is a very wildly varying fragmented industry so we need to be very clear what we mean by that but if we look at these individuals as being the frontline of or the first responders or working alongside other agencies to, to protect and keep people safe whether that’s public safety or in the case of close protection and body guarding the individual.  I think you are exposed to so much to protect other people that you can put yourself second and I definitely think if I look back to 2013 and doing my close protection bodyguard draining that I didn’t realise the impact of thinking about and looking after other people and it took a pandemic for me to realise that putting your own oxygen mask on first is something that I’ve had to hammer home to my colleagues in the industry because if you don’t look after yourself first then you can’t help protect and support other people…

Elliot Moss

But let me just jump in for a second because I love that phrase about putting on your own oxygen mask first and it is the thing I look at you know, most of us are very bad at looking at the or listening to the safety drill as you get on a plane but the only thing I care about is if I am with my children is my children so of course I go, right where is it I know that.  What does that mean in the real world for you?  The metaphor is the oxygen mask but what does Kate do to ensure that she is able to cope and be honest about what she is feeling about her own business or about life and all that.  I am just interested because you are front of the frontline.

Kate Bright

Yeah I mean I think again, I go back to the Ikigai, when you are in your zone and your flow I guess what another person would perceive as being a lot of pressure and a lot of very quick, I call them micro decisions and making hundreds and hundreds of them on a daily basis.  When that is amplified to being around someone else’s safety, I take a… it’s a huge responsibility but again the shift for me personally in the last couple of years is that you know, advancing into my forties now, there has never been more information about how you can embed tricks and tips into your, your daily life and I can bore any of my close friends will know that I talk about my aura ring and my box breathing and my meditation practice that I learnt with the London Meditation Centre.  I couldn’t have built a business had I not had all of those tips and tricks embedded within my own toolkit so I think I just keep my toolkit really sharp.  I love what I do and you know, we do work in a way that is proportionate.  I think if you are needing specific advice, particularly the pro bono work that we do, that can be really you know, very, very emotionally driven, people don’t have the resources to protect themselves that, that for me is a massive trigger I guess, maybe that goes back to you know my father’s upbringing and, and all of that but I think because we have the tools at our disposal and because we work with the sort of clients that our average age now is 38, they want to know that they are putting money in a business that is helping them that are then conversely is helping those that can’t help themselves and I genuinely think that the resilience that I keep in my own physical and mental health is something that enables me to, to sort of keep going and help others.  But I think also on a business level looking at how a CEO can replace themselves, that keeps me sharp too.  I never want to be sitting on my role, the role of the Founder and I always call myself the CE No because I am always looking at the right time to replace myself.  That is also quite a good driver as well because I can’t be complacent about my role, I want to hire better than me and those are the individuals that I want to help to inspire them to say, Kate you know, you were messaging at 5.00 o’clock this morning you know, everything alright you know, you probably need to, to leave early today you know and that’s the sort of culture that I want to create around me, the friends and the people that I know and even the clients that I work with now will all talk to me about the things they are doing to protect themselves and the first line of defence to protect yourself is to look after your physical mental health and it is not something that I would have ever spoken about even sort of you know, two, three years ago.  It is because of this crazy time and this crisis led time that we are living in that I realise that I am the most important person in my life.

Elliot Moss

Stay with me for my final chat with Kate Bright, the most important person here right now on Jazz FM with Jazz Shapers.  We’ve also got some music from Brazilian pioneer, Marcos Valle that’s all in just a moment, don’t go anywhere.

Kate Bright is my Business Shaper just for a few minutes more and she is the CEO and Founder of UMBRA International.  We were talking before about the last few years and the crisis and the kind of macro picture for all of us that has led to deeper levels of anxiety than we have ever seen across society in every walk of life and every age and gender, none of us have been spared.  You talk quite honestly as well about the fact that that emotional vulnerability and that importance of looking after yourself has shifted in the last few years.  Do you think that you are 100% better because this has happened?  Do you think that you think differently about vulnerability and safety because of the last few years?

Kate Bright

100%.  I think anyone that said the last… or any shift in life has not affected them is lying and I think for me it has been my everything time and I don’t know whether that’s because of my age and sort of the conscious being that you become as you get older and the things that… mistakes that you make and the sort of time that you can use to reflect but for context I have never worked harder than I worked through the pandemic.  When you are staring down the barrel of losing everything that you’ve furnace towards and Ikigai guide towards you know, in March 2020 I think you find out new things about yourself and you sort of shift your priorities to what I sort of was in my head I am very visual, the concentric rings of importance so the inner sphere, the outer sphere and then sort of the wider things that I can control, the things that I can’t control and I think that that experience of Covid I would never want to go through anything similar and I have said that and then you go through other crisis moments and don’t forget we backed on to that with the whole Brexit scenario which for me as an Irish Bavarian I also found existentially quite hard because of just wanting to always to feel part of a community and you know building a business is building a community and I think where I would say the Covid pandemic time has been a shift for me personally, is this idea of what is important, how I want to go and grow from these times and I think it is always good to have a reflective moment on some of those times where we were told we couldn’t do things and for me it is the pride of knowing what we could do and what we did do as a result and that care that we as a business were able to sort of transmit, not just to our client community but also to embed some of the things that as I say, are really important to me and that was the time where that all crystallised for me.

Elliot Moss

But I think also just having chatted to you now today, your definition of a comfort zone is that there isn’t one.  I think you are only comfortable when you are not comfortable which I guess as a leader and as a Founder means as you said, the CE No and the fact that you are always looking around, is that kind of exhausting truthfully or is that the thing that really keeps the fire burning in the furnace?

Kate Bright

If you are not pushing boundaries you can’t seek and find new land and maybe there’s a sort of closet Viking somewhere you know, right back that’s going and finding new, new places and spaces.  No, I mean I am, I am relentless.  I am always looking at ways that I can be better, I am always looking at ways that I can innovate and the word innovation and security have never really gone together before and they don’t necessarily go together that well because you know, the going wrong bit of security innovation is obviously not a good look but I do think there is more that we can do and there is more that I can do and there is more in me and I think I haven’t had any of the formal training that one would get to run a business, lead a business and so I think I am always making up for the lack and the perception of lack that I haven’t gone through a formalised MBA programme yet and I haven’t got those bits of sort of accreditation.  I come to things quite late and so I think maybe there is a bit of me making up for lost time, maybe there’s me looking at an inspiration such as my father who you know, 86 years old, it’s like great okay I am kind of halfway through and you know, what kind of gear can I go in next and I think when you are then alive to what you can physically and mentally achieve and be capable of you want to stretch it, you want to look at that neuroplasticity of what you can do to push those boundaries, you want to make sure it’s sustainable obviously for those around you.  Some of my friends would say that you know, I probably push those boundaries very often but I do have good things in place and good people in place to sort of say, oy, you know, that’s, that’s enough and an innovation too far but I won’t stop pushing, pushing the boundaries, I think it’s intrinsic to who I am as a human.

Elliot Moss

Keep pushing but also be kind to yourself because I think you’ve done fabulously already and of course there is lots more to achieve but I am sure you will.  Kate it has been brilliant talking to you, thank you, thank you for your time.  Just before I let you disappear, and I am thinking about the closet Viking going out just fighting, waving, waving weapons in the air, obviously in, in peace rather than in the cries of war, what is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Kate Bright

Well cries of war, Nina Simone, Feeling Good.  I think I learnt the phrase glass three quarters full from one of my icon heroes, Dame Stephanie Shirley Steve who I know you have had here speaking to you and I think what I love so much about this song is how it makes me feel first and foremost and to your point, you know I realise also that music plays a huge part in my sort of de-stressing and my switch off.  Whenever I have heard this song and in whatever remix I’ve heard this song, and as a secret Grade 8 pianist as well which is a whole other story, just the respect for the, the sort of the creation of this, the lyrics, the music and the way that people like Muse and others took it forward, it actually really responds to my whole sense of innovation but also that sort of iconic status that she holds for me as a, as a singer.

Elliot Moss

That was Nina Simone with Feeling Good, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Kate Bright.  She talked about looking at her own family DNA and it saying the word graft and just how important it is to never forget how much work really goes into creating your own business.  She talked about championing an industry that has not been championed before and that is the security business.  And she critically has identified in the last few years how important it is to put yourself first, put your own oxygen mask on first because if you don’t do that you won’t be able to help and protect other people.  Great stuff.  That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a lovely weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers.  You’ll find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive, to find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to Mishcon.com/JazzShapers.

Kate started her career garnering experience through 15 years as an Executive Assistant to a series of high-net-worth clients. before, in 2015 Katie founding the UMBRA International Group.   

UMBRA International Group quickly developed into a globally-recognised and world-leading business. Alongside its head office in London, UMBRA International Group has expanded its global capacity to include partnerships in the USA, South Africa, the Middle East and mainland Europe, with a focus on France and Switzerland in that region. 

As a leading voice in her industry, Kate is a regular speaker and panel member for the “Secure Lifestyle” and hosted round tables and webinars for Mastercard, Magic Circle Firms and many others after her well-received TEDx talk on Invisible Security in 2018.  

Outside of the industry, Kate is a Veterans’ Aid Ambassador and a member of the Supporting Wounded Veterans Committee, and regularly undertakes physical challenges to raise funds for these causes. 


I am in this for the long haul, to champion an industry that doesn’t get championed, to open it up and make it more accessible. 

We are trying to create pathways to join the security industry so that it looks like the society that it protects. 

In an evolving world, we can start to look at the word ‘security’ not just as a physical beast, but also the digital part of it as well and the huge number of opportunities within the world of cyber for young people. 

I’ve never really identified with the word ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘leader’ and that’s something that I am now coming late to - working on my leadership skills. 

I had to build a business because I had a lightbulb moment and I wanted to act upon it. 

I always say that UMBRA set itself up, I’d love to take the credit for setting it up, but it has very much evolved. 

If you said to me three years ago the business would be where it is now, and with a pandemic in the middle of it, I would not have recognised it. 

I think the key part for me was right at the start of the business, I wanted this to make a difference.   

I wanted my work and my effort and my energy to have a tangible output that wasn’t sort of business or metric driven. 

It took me a long time to find my purpose, my mission. 

I didn’t put the word International on UMBRA just for the fun of it; we are an international business and I want to grow it and I want to keep it that way.   

I feel like we are making a difference right now and I want to keep the impact piece front and centre of what we do. 

I think we have a physical, digital, reputational and emotional need across security and the emotional need to stay safe and feel safe and psychological safety is being talked about a lot more in the workplace now. 

If you don’t look after yourself first, then you can’t help to protect and support other people - and that’s why even from a client level the emotional part of our duty of care to our clients goes across their physical and mental wellbeing. 

I couldn’t have built a business had I not had all those tips and tricks embedded within my own toolkit from my earlier career - so I ensure that I keep my toolkit really sharp. 

I genuinely think that the resilience that I keep in my own physical and mental health is something that enables me to keep going and help others. 

I think on a business level, looking at how a CEO can replace themselves, that keeps me sharp too. I never want to be sitting on my role. I always call myself the CE No because I am always looking at the right time to replace myself.   

I am always looking at ways that I can be better, I am always looking at ways that I can innovate. 

The words ‘innovation’ and ‘security’ have never really gone together but I do think there is more that we can do. 

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