This is a transcript of our interview with Liam Healy, SVP & Managing Director at Diligent.
You can watch the original video interview here
Boris: Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to our interview with Liam Healy. Liam is a senior vice president and management director at Diligent. Diligent is a market leading board portal allowing a parallel board management with simplicity in functionality to mitigate risk and enable effective governance. Recently Diligent launched Diligent Compliance to help organizations confidently manage risk and ensure business continuity during uncertain times. Liam, thank you for taking your time and coming to our interview today.
Liam: Thanks for having me Boris.
Boris: Liam, could you tell us a short story about Diligent? What are you up to these days?
Liam: Sure, thanks for having me. We’re excited to share a bit of our story and some of what we’re doing within Diligent. For those not familiar, Diligent is a global organization, over 17000 customers worldwide, north of 650,000 directors and governance professionals that use our products. At its core we’re just trying to help organizations modernize their governance. What we think that means to us as an organization is helping people get the right information at the right time securely so that they can carry out their fiduciary duties. And so as directors that might be asking the best questions in confidential meetings, including board meetings. If they are operators or officers, it’s making the best decisions they can with the information at their disposal. And from a governance, risk & compliance arena as you know today, you see more challenges than ever.
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Boris: And can you tell us about Diligence compliance? Is this a special department or a special tool you developed recently?
Liam: Diligence Compliance is one of the offerings that sits alongside many of our products, Diligence boards, our flagship product, as well as Diligence entities that serve the group structure of an organization. Diligence Compliance is our first step into the arena that allows us to help organizations manage through their obligations and their frameworks that they have around any and all compliance related areas. So whether it’s business continuity or organization resilience, whether it’s ESG or whether its ISO standards, all those areas Diligence compliance can help. So we recently launched that to sit alongside our other core products.
Boris: Could you tell us how Diligence differs from other software providers operating in this space? What are some examples of your customers’ use-cases?
Liam: I think what’s unique and we’re fortunate to have is our eco-system of directors and officers. Over 650,000 directors, officers and operators of governance are leveraging Diligence products and solutions and the technology to help them modernize their governance.
So you may think governance is kind of unfairly sometimes lumped into risk and compliance, the leading indicator of the results of a risk and compliance and building a good foundation and having the individuals that are asking the toughest questions and making decisions for businesses using our products is unique.
So we’re fortunate to have that footprint. Everything from data integrity, entity management to the obligations and frameworks and yes that’s a great example as you mentioned. Some of the organizations that we work with are starting to implement our common set of standards, financial and non-financial type of metrics across ESG. And I know the international business council, the IBC, in close efforts with EY and World Economic Forum is a great use case of taking a common set of standards and putting that into an agile light-weight technology that allows organizations to collaborate globally, measure one consistent set of standards and stay on top of the ever-changing regulatory requirements to producing output.
So for us what’s different is being able to pass those outputs through to the individuals at the top of the pyramid in many of these large highly regulated institutions where there are outcomes favourable and sometimes not favourable from topics like ESG having the directors be able to access that directly through our technology is unique.
Boris: How has COVID impacted you and your clients? And perhaps what are your insights of how COVID has affected the demand for risk and compliance solutions?
Liam: Let me unpack the couple of different questions there. So first and foremost, its impact in the world as everybody knows, so philosophically the unprecedented times in the economy.
So not to glance over the Macro Economics of the investment in resourcing to get more on the front foot and be more pro-active is just simply more tougher for organizations today. I think what we’re finding is that for Diligent we’ve been very fortunate that we both prepare and rehearse for, I can’t say for these scenarios, because they come hopefully once every hundred years or longer, but for unprecedented crisis we’re well-prepared to pivot.
So at the leadership of our CEO, Brian Stafford, his leadership team has allowed us to move very quickly. So from Diligence standpoint we’re fortunate to continue along our mission this year. And that mission is really to support our global customers, support others, our employees and our customers. And so we seeing the challenges that we’re seeing is that it’s just harder in a 100% distributed global work force to collaborate.
And specifically, I know we’re talking about compliance, with the assigned tasks and the collaboration that happened on the obligations to stay on top of whether it be internal policy or external regulatory requirements. Updating those tasks and projects in real time is sometimes hard when information very real is locked in filing cabinets in some cases and where you can’t get to the office to get what you need to get done, done. That’s been the biggest challenge that we’ve seen our customers face, we’ve been able to launch our products to help them be more collaborative and get any access to these solutions any time all the time and with our support.
Boris: So in your space, because I used to be a risk consultant, I wonder what’s the difference between business continuity and organizational resilience? Is it something new kind of branch of business continuity or is it a more broader perspective?
Liam: It’s a timely and relevant question. We think through it a lot but I can’t say that there is one way to capture the differences between BCP as business continuity in general and how organizations think through the resilience plans.
I’ll speak for myself and through my lands and just boiling it down, simply, I think business continuity feels a bit static sometimes and sometimes antiquated. Its a good plan as we all know, it follows policies for if things go wrong but in contrast on the organizational resilience side, it’s a bit more opportunistic and dynamic and focuses more on the adaptation of people’s skills, the processes and solves for the capacity or the elasticity of an organization needing to solve for when things go wrong. And I think they are a bit different, albeit there are overlapping similarities.
Boris: I’d like to ask you a personal opinion. What is a commonly held belief as that relates to compliance that you are passionately disagree with?
Liam: That you can be a 100% prepared. Many of the organizations and customers that I speak with are thinking about building plans that they can rehearse for a time when things are perfect and when things go wrong they will have all the downloads in a row.
I’m a big advocate of being 80% right and being flexible enough and having a foundation that you can be agile in and move from a plan, in fact my father always said “you have the plan and you can always change it and you should expect to change it”. So I think the big thing I look at is it’s never going to be perfect, so how can we be as airtight as we can but embrace when things aren’t going to go well.
Boris: So what tips do you have for risk and compliance managers to help their organizations to stay on course during this crisis?
Liam: I think that’s a ducktail on the previous question. Generically I think investing in being prepared and being agile, I think philosophically and a bit bland is your plan, rehearse, update, repeat. But specifically, you don’t lose sight, and the tip that I would give just having again in Diligence ecosystem compliance is one part of the puzzle and compliance covers lots of different things. But when the Board is asking, the directors are asking and the stakeholders are asking “how are we doing” and filling the blank, I think in todays society specifically what we have aligned aside too is not losing sight of the security of that information.
And in many cases or organizations while a lot of the information is probably not highly classified, much of the information is highly classified and sensitive information to an organization. And so it sounds odd that the security is at the top of concerns for organizations but this shift to collaboration and 100% distributed work forces creating a stress and tension between ease of use and access of information and security.
And I think the pandemic in particular has pushed that pendulum to the opposite side where organizations are really flexing to be able to access this information quickly and using mainstream tools. Which I think is highlighting in some cases and some cases catastrophically, the stress that it puts on security. So now the pendulum will start to swing back towards security and control, and it's just not losing sight of that while implementing plans.
Boris: So looking broadly in your industry, what are the major trends in your space? And what should we expect from you guys in the future?
Liam: I don't think its’ a trend because it seems to be talked for so long these days is artificial intelligence and machine learning. I think in those cases where automation is “set it and forget it” as we all know and artificial intelligence is now starting to look at test samples and sample groups and is able to give you the trends from what it’s learning and machine learning being “wow, its going to evolve along the way”.
I think not just in compliance, in the obligations and the standards that can be set, but across all of governance where many of the the different data points that are driven are replicable, their repeatable processes driving by policy which is changing everyday.
But I think in the very near future the artificial intelligence and the machine learning, at least as we’re looking at it, is going to start to take the opportunity to drive human insights and human intelligence more towards the value at decision making vs. spending the human intelligence time on what again machines can take care of for us and at the speed that we can never digest.
So putting us in an opportunity as individuals that drive our organizations to drive insights from this data. So I think A.I and machine learning is going to advance the world of governance very rapidly over the next few years.
I think the second is around visualization, I think organizations are very used to digesting information in dashboards. And I’ll bet the office of the general council, legal compliance tagged risk and in that world are still in the curve of adopting technology and jumping the scasm a bit.
I think visualization in a world where, for example, you can look at your entire group structure not printed out on an 8 by 11 sheets of paper but rather on a touchscreen and you can move them around and scenario model and then in real time have artificial intelligence and/or your technology tell you what does that change based on the jurisdictions that we’ve moved, our entities for example.
As we know compliance and policy and regulatory requirement is ultimately driven by the jurisdiction that they sit in. Do we that in real time opens up many doors for organizations, one example is merger and acquisition for large institutions. What has to change, lots of downstream effects of the dominos in those areas. So I’d say A.I., machine learning, data visualization of the data is some of the big trends that’s we’re talking about and investing. We invest a lot of our R&D into those new and upcoming areas.
So I think what you should expect from us in the near future, let me frame it in, Diligent has our mission statements and our values but I think we are boiling it down to one of the areas that we really think about is “others first”.
And others first is being our employees, customers, the community and how can we support them and make our investments that can be contributor to each of those areas.
So in the short term as we manage through the pandemic, I think next year is just going to be weird. I don’t know if that’s a technical term but we’re going to have to flow with changes so I think you should expect Diligence to be agile and lightweight in its investments and how we make put others first: our employees, communication transparency, our customers investing in our partnerships and in our R&D and the community.
We just developed a Leadership Cloud for professional leaders that we think can draw from compliance and risk in governance areas. I think the second would be what the world should expect from us and specifically in this space of modern governance that we’re solving problems. We’re coming at it from a lens of getting the right information at the right people at the right time securely so that they can carry out their fiduciary duties and report on those with confidence. And I think that the world should expect us to continue invest in our people, our process and our products to get that right.
Boris: So summarizing if someone who is listening to this interview would like to walk away with one or two major takeaways, what would it be?
Liam: The first I think would be security. I could say something really bland like “managing through the pandemic is hard” but I think everybody gets that. I think as you invest in the shift to a more collaborative, distributive work force as our businesses are, don’t lose sight of security, that’s one. Make sure to prioritize how the collaboration of your efforts are still securely contained. And I think the second would be make the investments upfront to build the proper foundation for you as an organization be able to agilely move when things don’t go the way that you had originally planned.
So make the right investments. I think the second piece is in the planning, the investment in planning upfront mathematically, putting metrics behind it, being thoughtful and intentional about the investments that go into the proper preparation to make investments.
But know that it’s not going to be perfect and you’ve got to be agile along the way and you’ve got to be able to move in the moment to get the best results and time is of the essence.
Boris: Fantastic, I think it was a great interview. And if I might’ve forgot something, do you have something to add?
Liam: No, I think we’re covered. Is there any more that you hope to get out of it or anything more you would like to hear about or that you think would be valuable for the audience?
Boris: I think that if we covered everything, I would like to thank you for your time and for your interview. I wish you a great success with growing your company and I hope to hear from you in the future and for you to create a good environment for your clients and good health to you and your family.
Liam: Thanks Boris, I appreciate it. All the best to you and your family during the pandemic, looking forward to staying connected.