SCL Seminar Report: Is technology risk a threat to your business?

December 7, 2011

The seminar’s focus was the corporate governance risks presented by developing technology, and social media in particular. There were a number of big name speakers who provided thought-provoking insights from legal and practical experience as to how governance strategies can overcome potential technology risks.

Tim Cowen, partner in competition and regulation at Sidley Austin, explained that the aim of the seminar was to address the practical issues surrounding technology and business. Tim pointed out that current corporate governance systems do not deal with the risks of new technology, as demonstrated by the failure of governance systems to respond to cloud computing. Against this backdrop, the speakers were asked to present their views on the topic.

The first speaker was William Long, Counsel in data protection and regulation at Sidley Austin. William explained that technology risk is not new. However, it is a topical issue because of the increased concerns about data protection in society (through the increased use of social media and cloud computing). This heightened concern has been magnified through recent corporate governance failings, in particular security breaches. William explained that new EU legislation and current financial regulation require companies to have adequate risk management systems in place, but many companies fail to undertake a data risk assessment. William recognised that, although an administrative burden is placed on companies through the need to constantly update their corporate governance systems, this is the only mechanism through which compliance with the regulatory framework can be achieved.

Clive Davies, Senior Counsel at Fujitsu Services and Chair of SCL, provided an interesting examination of the management of technology risks in contracts. Drawing on his many years of experience negotiating technology contracts, Clive presented a series of methods through which contracts could be more successfully managed, at different stages in their life cycle, to ensure that potential conflicts are limited or even eliminated.

Richard Given, Deputy General Counsel at HSBC, then dealt with the internal interactions that are required within a company to ensure that the business needs are best served. Richard emphasised that it is important to ensure that there is dialogue between the various divisions in a company. Although technology poses difficulties for internal governance, this can be overcome through education and understanding.

Andy Hodgson, Global Chief Information Security Officer at QinetiQ, examined how individuals and companies do and should respond to the threat of cyber crime. For Andy, management of the potential risks presented by technology can overcome the governance concerns. As stressed by Richard, continual monitoring, education and communication can protect the identity and reputation of the company while, at the same time, providing evidence to regulators of the existence of effective corporate governance systems.

Finally, Ronan Langford, Director at Deloitte, presented his views on digital governance and the considerations that companies should be taking into account when establishing corporate governance controls.

The seminar was both engaging and interesting and provided the attendees with different perspectives on corporate governance in the face of ever more sophisticated technology.

Stuart Pibworth is a trainee solicitor at Sidley Austin LLP.