For some, January can mean dusting off the CV to explore new board memberships, consulting, advisory or investment opportunities. If you’re a senior executive, it’s important to bear in mind the ways in which the vetting process may be changing and evolving. More exhaustive and varied due diligence, particularly if the new position will include a personal investment, is now commonplace. Understanding how those conducting the vetting may see things is time well spent.
There are lots of positive ways to prepare for the process, all of which are excellent profile management opportunities. Below is a snapshot of issues we recommend considering.
Creating the Right Impression
Current CV - There are multiple places where your career footprint can be identified. In addition to online biographies and press releases, this could include references to speaking engagements you’ve attended or industry papers published, photographs at personal and professional events. It is in your interest for the information retrieval process to start with an accurate version of your CV. Offer it, even if it’s not requested initially.
Online professional biographies - Who doesn’t have a Linkedin profile these days? How often do you update it and check for inaccuracies? How does the profile compare to other professional biographies that may still exist, even in cached form, for your current or former employers? If you are senior enough for press releases to have been issued in connection with your appointments don’t assume that the person drafting them is perfectly informed – check them carefully. Potential employers or co-investors will be examining any variations between the professional biographies they identify or differing accounts in media reports. Don’t give them the opportunity to question whether you are the source of the confusion or any misrepresentation.
Social media – In the future, will our career histories be an amalgamation of carefully curated online references to our activities as opposed to a formal CV? As the expectation to be an ‘influencer’ in one’s field intensifies, this certainly seems a trend to watch. Boards are increasingly scrutinizing potential candidates’ online social media profiles for evidence of activity that might generate the wrong kind of public interest. This may include political statements, evidence of insensitivity surrounding gender or other inclusivity issues, and other lifestyle factors which may jar with the company’s image or create perceived risk. Be sure you review the content of any networking sites you may have used in a personal and professional context and are happy with the image they convey.
Don’t have any social media accounts? You might want to check whether that speaking engagement you made last spring has been picked up on YouTube or elsewhere online. Just because you are not managing a digital footprint actively doesn’t mean you don’t have one.
Verifications – Many companies, in particular if they are owned by a US parent, will now insist on formal verifications of employment and education. In most European countries, this will require your consent. However, Kroll has found that following the implementation of GDPR, employers and institutions may not readily comply with such third party requests, even with an individual’s consent, or the process may be time consuming, with further disclosures required. Your ability to provide degree certificates and proof of employment, if asked, will be appreciated.
Don’t underestimate the importance that a potential counterparty may place on this, even if your career is over two decades long. Kroll’s research in the US shows that when asked why they have not proceeded with particular deals, investors rank inaccuracies and misrepresentation in the professional histories of the management team as among their top concerns.
Companies House filings –Are there any appointments which, when weighed up against the rest of your professional history, could look like a potential conflict of interest? Do you have a noteworthy investment history (perhaps in connection with a family business) which is otherwise unrelated to the rest of your career? If you haven’t previously incorporated an account of these activities in your CV, this may be an opportunity to do so. Ensure that filings are up to date for any personal investment vehicles and if you have other appointments by virtue of previous professional roles, double check that the dates of appointment and resignation are correct. This is another area where individuals take accuracy for granted.
Consider a Self-Due Diligence Exercise
If you’re an executive with a complex professional profile a self-due diligence exercise may be necessary. We find that the trigger for our work in this area can be an unexpected knockback from a potential business partner, employer, or financial institution approached to fund a possible new venture. The increased prevalence of computer driven background screening platforms can also result in ‘false positives’ linking executives to a red flag issue which is in fact unconnected to them. Pre-emptive analysis can also be valuable if you are moving from a career in or focused on frontier markets where the business and political environment is contentious and reliable information scarce, to relationships with business partners in developed regions.
Kroll’s Business Intelligence research and digital investigation tools can help you identify if a particular aspect of your personal or professional profile could be a source of concern or interest, or benefit from applied context prior to launching a new venture or being considered for a new appointment.