Malick Baulet: Crisis negotiation expert, former police commissioner and Pictet's new head of physical security

Malick Baulet: Crisis negotiation expert, former police commissioner and Pictet's new head of physical security

17 February 2014. Malick is on holidays in Villars-sur-Ollon in the Swiss mountains. 4am his phone rings. An Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying 200 passengers headed to Rome has been hijacked and rerouted to Geneva. Malick and his team have four hours to negotiate a safe landing before the plane runs out of fuel.

Following intense negotiations with the hijacker, the plane finally landed in Geneva. The hijacker was in fact the co-pilot and had taken control of the plane while the pilot was on a toilet break. "He appeared at the window of the cockpit and surrendered to the authorities.”

From the age of 10, Malick knew he wanted to join the police. “I remember watching the evening news with my dad at the height of the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s. You would hear about journalists being held hostage for over 500 days. That was the first time I heard about negotiation, hostages, and special police units dedicated to saving lives. Their commitment, courage and selflessness left a profound impact on me. I quickly decided to make it my profession."

In 1996, Malick became a criminal police inspector in Geneva. For the next 28 years, he worked in various departments, such as burglary and homicide. Malick progressively climbed the ranks, eventually becoming the captain in charge of security at Geneva Airport, before being appointed police commissioner. Whether it was a fire, a bank robbery or a prison escape, Malick was called. 

"I had to get comfortable making a lot of quick decisions with minimal information. In a crisis, the best decisions are those guided by your gut instinct. It’s the sum of all your skills and knowledge quickly pointing you in the right direction."

With the police fighting for journalists’ freedom still in his mind, Malick trained to become a negotiator for hostage situations. Malick had to learn everything about the profession: active listening techniques, non-verbal communication, lie detection, power dynamics, personality identification. “I had to be able to differentiate a paranoid person from a narcissistic pervert and know how to communicate with them."

Malick trained at the Gendarmerie Royale du Canada in Ottawa and then Scotland Yard Metropolitan Police in London. In the UK, Malick’s training fellows mostly came from secret services including SAS, MI-5 and MI-6. “It was the most demanding training I've been through. Every aspect was scrutinised: tone of voice, word choice, speaking speed, stress management, heart rate and resilience. Out of the initial 25 participants, only 16 succeeded.”

Malick earned the Colombian Legion of Honour in 2014.

Learning from his experience on the field, Malick started sharing his knowledge with executives and organisations and how they can apply these lessons to their life or business. 

“Active participation in negotiations is complex and demands a strong commitment to managing conflicts. Conflict is useful because it allows different ideas to clash and managing it well can lead to solutions that benefit everyone involved.”

Negotiations often require research and several rounds of discussion to gather information and identify hidden interests. “It's crucial to listen rather than speak, map the interests of all parties, read body language and take cultural differences into consideration. In a company or a team, the most influential person or decision-maker is not always the boss."

“Negotiating is about creating trust and empathising with the other, whether it’s a family member, co-worker or kidnapper.” Understanding the other’s positioning and adapting accordingly is essential. “An angry person usually needs to be listened to more than they need solutions to their problems.” 

Malick travelled around the world coaching police forces on keeping EU citizens safe from kidnapping outside of the EU.

After 30 years of fighting criminality in a high-intensity environment, Malick joined Pictet in December 2023. “Many people asked me if I wouldn’t get bored in a corporate context. It has definitely not been the case as it presents new challenges for me! And I’m learning a lot about the industry and Pictet’s unique culture and entrepreneurial mindset.” 

Malick has been mapping the most significant physical security threats for Pictet. And he is planning to travel to all major Pictet offices to strengthen their security apparatus. 

"My ambition for our physical security team is to maintain and improve our services in line with the evolution of the Group. And to protect the Pictet Fortress."

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