Legal operations is so important, we’re writing an eBook on how to make it work for your company right now, with experts exploring its key competencies.
Rohan Paramesh, VP Head of Legal at Habito, shares his insights on records management and information governance in this preview post. For early bird access to the full eBook before its launch in September, get in touch. Don’t forget to follow us for the latest insights. The views in this article are the author's own, and do not represent the views of Juro nor those of CLOC.
The volume of data that companies collect and retain, and the way we manage it, is a critical issue for any business - particularly post-GDPR. For a high growth fintech like Habito, it's an intrinsic part of our strategic development - do it well and we have a strong platform for continued growth; but few things could derail us as fast as doing it badly.
The way we think about records splits broadly into two categories: records relating to our customers on the one hand; and everything else on the other. The first group is in some ways the simplest to think about, as our obligations are clearly defined by the regulator (the FCA in our case) as well as the clear and exceptionally high standards we set ourselves. This combination tells us what we need to do, how, where, what our disclosure requirements are, and so on. In the second group, however, we have more scope to mould and develop our approach - and, when done well, its impact on the business can be profound and long-lasting.
There’s a lot of interesting variety within the ‘everything else’ bucket. From our investor and corporate-related records and everything to do with our funding rounds; to our internal management of commercial projects; to our suite of policies, procedures and guidelines. It’s important not to just view these as mere obligations - boring records that lawyers write and keep just because they have to. This information contains the corporate memory of the business; it helps you, your colleagues, your future colleagues (and your future investors) to understand who you are, what you did, why you did it, and how you thought about and approached it at the time.
The management and version control of these records must be seamless if the legal function is to fully align with and add real value to the rest of the business; a frictionless process that retains value, records knowledge, and navigates the tension between relentless growth and first-class governance, not to mention keeping that corporate memory clear, precise and easy to recall at all times.
“Records management and version control must be seamless if legal is going to fully align with the rest of a high-growth start-up”
It’s important to define the stakeholders for each group, and make sure everyone is aligned for success. For the internal ‘everything else’ bucket, the usual podium of legal, risk and compliance are your starting point. Beyond these usual suspects, we find that it really helps to adopt an holistic approach - for example, before a policy goes live, we might invite marketing and communications to contribute so as to better engage with the reader and maintain our desired tone of voice to help the policy land better. Seeking the advice of different internal stakeholders helps us to be consistent, so that a particular policy and approach to it makes sense today, a year from now and beyond. The same is true externally; while external forces such as the FCA, or GDPR, or other ‘authorities’, direct and dictate the end at which we need to arrive, it’s our internal stakeholders that shape the means through which we get there.
The mindset matters
For us, carrying through the core mindset of how we interact with customers is a huge help when it comes to information governance and records management. As a technology driven online mortgage broker offering customers a highly innovative, easy, fast and free digital experience, as well as tailored advice from our team of qualified mortgage experts, we’re challenging an area of an industry that has traditionally been painful for the customer; reinventing that process - using automation - around the customer is our big advantage. But with that innovation comes a whole new layer of complexity. Our customers’ willingness to use live chat to access products and services, not just in simple everyday life, but also for momentous occasions like applying for a mortgage and buying their dream home, is a development that would have seemed fanciful ten years ago. Its success creates a volume of records that we have to manage carefully and successfully - or see our competitive advantage eroded.
Our response must therefore be to start with the customer and work backwards from their needs. For the longest time, mortgages largely involved financial actors working through a complex process that squeezed the actual home-buyer down the pecking order. If our aim is to put the home-buyer first and make the customer central to the mortgage process, then that has to carry through to the way in which we handle their records and information. The regulators have requirements of us that are non-negotiable - but our fundamental commitment to always prioritise the customer isn’t up for negotiation either.
This preview is an excerpt from Rohan's chapter in our forthcoming eBook on legal operations. For his thoughts on how to motivate colleagues to engage with records management, and the upside for growth, stay tuned for the full eBook. For early bird access, get in touch. Don’t forget to follow us for all the latest.