Luc van Daele from Diligent partner Legadex, an Amsterdam-based legal services provider, shares insights into factors that have changed the way internal legal and governance teams are working for the better.

We work with a wide variety of clients, including several large multinationals, which gives us an overview of the way the approach to corporate governance is evolving.

Four key drivers have led to a recent uptick in governance efficiency:

1) Proactivity

In the past, governance professionals typically spent a lot of their time responding to queries and dealing with ad-hoc issues. As their workloads increased, they became ever more reactive. However, in recent years we’ve seen their roles take a major shift from reactive to proactive.

This was precipitated by a surge in workloads. The pressure forced governance teams to reflect and organize themselves better.

One key change we have seen is an increased central grasp of compliance. This typically involves using dashboard technology to monitor compliance activity, controlling risk by keeping on top of potential issues before any alarms are set off, and using data to make better informed decisions.

2) Transparency

A drive towards greater transparency has prompted changes to compliance workflows.

Particularly at larger companies, with multiple teams internally as well as external service providers, transparency is essential to efficient compliance processes. This is especially the case for organizations that work across several jurisdictions and those in sectors that are subject to a high degree of regulation, meaning that they need to keep accurate audit trails.

3) Knowledge center to legal processes management center

In the past a head office legal team would be the nerve center of compliance information and expertise. However, the huge complexity of dealing with an increasing legislative burden across multiple jurisdictions has highlighted the need to make access to relevant corporate data and compliance information easier.

Focusing on access to knowledge and information brings a number of benefits:

  • The legal and compliance team no longer need to hold so much information personally.
  • General counsels and corporate secretaries, as well as stakeholders from other teams, can access the information they need themselves, rather than asking paralegals for it.
  • The governance function has been able to shift towards more strategic work, adding value to the business.

4) Greater focus on risk and compliance

We’re living through an age where information spreads faster than ever. Compliance breaches can be even more damaging to a company’s reputation, now they are likely to be discussed on Twitter within days. Even poor service levels caused by unavoidable impacts of the pandemic have caused huge damage to brands.

Directors who are accountable for multiple entities worldwide are also facing a higher degree of personal liability. For them, visibility of the compliance status of their operations around the globe, especially ensuring that all filing deadlines are met, is essential.

The impact of automation

Technology has facilitated a fast transition to new ways of working that have minimized compliance risk and boosted efficiency. Automation in particular has removed a lot of the burden of routine work, freeing up governance professionals to make better use of their time and expertise.

Here are a few of the key processes that automation is now helping to streamline:

Reporting

The creation and distribution of routine reports can be automated and persona-specific dashboards created, empowering stakeholders to access information they need directly, rather than bombarding paralegals with requests by email.

Document creation

Typically, legal teams with multiple entities will have to manually create contracts and reports for each one individually. Automating this process means data fields such as the names of entities, directors and officers will be auto-filled with the relevant details pulled directly from the entity management software.

Document assessment

Artificial intelligence can be used to review documents, especially low risk contracts and when doing the due diligence for mergers and acquisitions. This is much more cost-effective than getting lawyers to check each document individually.

Data quality assurance

Workflows can be automated to remind entity holders in certain jurisdictions when they need to update the information they’re responsible for, with the central champion reviewing and approving any changes.

Software integrations

When directors and officers leave, or a company address changes, sometimes legal are the last to know. Integrating disparate software can enable data to be harmonized automatically. For example if a director resigns and the HR team note that in their HR platform, this can be flagged in real-time to the governance team as expired data.

Technology is facilitating a massive transformation in the way governance teams operate. The end result is lower risk, higher efficiency and a team that adds more value to the business.

Diligent Entities helps organizations do more with less by streamlining and automating entity management and compliance processes. Whether it’s advising the board or ESG initiatives, resource efficiencies gained enable governance teams to add more value to the organization.