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Ask the expert: Partner Fred Duff Gordon discusses Digitalis’s work in the financial services sector

August 2022
 by Fred Duff Gordon

Ask the expert: Partner Fred Duff Gordon discusses Digitalis’s work in the financial services sector

August 2022
 By Fred Duff Gordon

Digitalis’s Financial Services Partner Fred Duff Gordon helps clients to manage the online narrative around a given issue or event. He takes a few minutes out to discuss his work and some of the opportunities for his clients in a world of rapid digital and societal change.

  • Tell us a little about your background, how you came to work at Digitalis, and how your role has evolved.

Back in the noughties I started out in banking communications at a consultancy that specialised in corporate lending, treasury and commodity markets. We also spent a lot of time with clients in the market infrastructure space during a time of rapid growth for electronic trading venues and risk management platforms. A recurring theme was the deployment of new technology and systems for enhanced evaluation and risk management processes. I then moved to a communications consultancy providing branding and strategic communications support for investment management organisations, with a focus on alternative investors.

I joined Digitalis to help build our business in the financial services space. A major element of this is event-driven and special situations, including contested M&A, take-privates, shareholder activism and proxy contests. We help financial services organisations to manage, control and leverage the information available to stakeholders in the open source and social media environment, seeking to ensure it better reflects their business objectives, while diminishing any information risks across their operations.

  • What challenges do you help clients address in the financial services sector? How do you approach these?

Managing the availability, accuracy and sentiment of online information (including social media) relating to a business, its people, and its interests is business-critical. The prioritisation of narratives presented online can be extremely powerful in influencing opinion around contended or otherwise disputed high-value events. It’s vital that when stakeholders seek information about an issue online, they find an accurate and up-to-date representation of your business, its people and its objectives.

Digitalis’s online narrative management toolkit is invaluable in our work to address these needs across all categories of special situation and corporate event, enabling clients to regulate the searchable narratives and to reach new audiences, as well as providing powerful leverage in battles to win the debate around a contended issue.

Having spent many years in strategic communications for the financial services sector, my experience enables me to add value to our financial services clients and help them maximise their position in the online record. The combination of the team’s expertise and Digitalis’s specialised technology enables us to bring positive and differentiated results to our clients, which makes all the hard work worthwhile.

  • What changes are you seeing in the digital space, and what are the implications of these for clients in the financial services sector?

We’re seeing increased media scrutiny directed at teams and individuals involved in large deals within the financial services industry. The focus of this scrutiny is shifting towards those involved at a more personal level. Negative online sentiment and historical online activity, as well as associations and the activity of family members, are frequently used to oppose transactions or reduce support, having a damaging impact on the individuals concerned and the companies they represent. There has also been a recent increase in the levels of activism around major transactions and campaigning either to advance or block their progress.

With media scrutiny becoming ever-more aggressive and personal, it’s vital for individuals and companies to be aware of their digital footprint and to ensure information that exists about them online can withstand media scrutiny. Digitalis’s proprietary technology, combined with the team’s expertise, can help our clients to tackle these evolving threats in new and innovative ways, identifying and managing risks and enabling them to be proactive in protecting themselves and their interests for the future. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our work is developing and delivering new ways to apply the latest technology in support of clients’ evolving needs.

  • Finally, what does the future look like for digital risk in financial services? Can you make any predictions of how things will evolve as the digital world changes shape?

The universe of open-source information constitutes a critical go-to resource for real-time research, while the indexed web remains the enduring digital archive for any business and its stakeholders.

The way that this information is prioritised online influences all stakeholders, including counterparties, investors, investee companies, consultants, and employees, when undertaking informational research. In the years ahead I think we will see organisations increasingly working to regulate open-source information that relates to them and to those issues they care about most. In the meantime, a proactive approach to online reputation management, combining technology and expertise to identify and minimise threats, is vital for those working within financial services.

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