As 2019 approaches, it’s a good time to look back at the past year, from a business perspective – at what worked and what didn’t – and ensure that your office or team has the right partnerships and advisors in place to help you address unexpected challenges in the new year. For some companies, that should involve a brief evaluation of whether you have the right corporate investigations firm in place and on call.
Given my front-row seat on this matter, I have a few suggestions for consideration. While some clients ask us these questions when seeking our support, not all do – although anyone with high expectations and requirements of their investigative services provider would benefit from doing so.
1. Who will be investigating this matter?
Why This Factor Is Important: Brand and reputation matter, but they’re not everything. After confirming that the firm you are considering is highly regarded in the industry – through your network or through the firm’s references – you want to get a sense of the individuals who will be doing the work. If the investigations team is composed of only senior personnel, the fees may be too high. If the provider is very large, your file may be passed off to a junior staff member on a large investigative team, whose name and resume you will likely never see. It is also very important to make sure the firm is licensed to conduct investigations and has the right tools and technology to do that work.
Our Recommendations: Look for an established firm and gain comfort that its team members’ expertise is relevant, current and aligned with the matter you are considering entrusting to them. Look for diversity of professional experiences on the provider’s team – such as personnel with backgrounds in law enforcement, journalism, finance and technology. Also look for a firm with relevant professional certifications, as well as team members who speak other languages and can conduct interviews if needed. Be sure to ask for references.
2. How accessible will the subject-matter experts and team members be?
Why This Factor Is Important: When an important decision hangs in the balance — or if critical information needs to be communicated — it must be possible to use your phone or email to contact your investigator immediately. More importantly, you have to feel confident that the investigator will be responsive and act with the same urgency.
Our Recommendations: Be sure that investigators on your case will be available to you, and if necessary, highly responsive to you at every step, from contract authorization to delivery. Ask whether this accessibility includes the practice leader or supervisor. You also want to be sure to work with an investigative team that realizes what type of information is critical in your decision-making process and needs to be passed on immediately, even if before the final report is due.
3. If your case calls for it, how much support does the investigative team have across the firm – and does that include specific other disciplines that may be critical to your case?
Why This Factor Is Important: While some matters are purely of an investigative nature, others require additional expertise at the outset or later in the process. For these types of cases, having a firm with other in-house experts with core competencies in many domains can be advantageous. What core competencies matter most to you depends on the nature of your case, but these could involve, among others: security risk management, threat assessment, violence prevention, data and financial analysis, technology, open-source intelligence (OSINT) monitoring and law enforcement. This type of multi-disciplinary approach allows for synergy, efficiency and likely a better outcome.
Our Recommendations: When discussing services with a firm, ask what resources are available to investigators — both within their own practice area and outside of it — and how much collaboration occurs between colleagues from different backgrounds. These inquiries can help determine how much support the investigations team has from the broader firm and the various tools at its fingertips.
4. What if the investigation I have requested evolves to require a new or modified approach?
Why This Factor Is Important: An investigation should be tailored to meet your needs and budget, rather than be “one size fits all.” A cookie-cutter approach is just that – and is adequate for some types of investigations. But that type of approach will inevitably result in missed opportunities to adapt the investigation’s focus, scope and tactics that could otherwise allow the investigator to uncover key details and information that otherwise might be missed.
Our Recommendations: Several factors may indicate a firm’s ability to adapt to varying circumstances. One factor, for example, is size. A smaller provider may not have the experts on hand to contribute to a case requiring input from specialists in multiple disciplines. In contrast, a larger provider is more likely to have the breadth of services you may need to call upon, but you may find your case has been shuffled to a different practice, department, office or team. Have your point of contact explain the strategy they intend to apply in investigating your matter. Ask to see a sample report and discuss the provider’s past experience within your industry. Select the firm that demonstrates competency, responsiveness and an articulate ability to communicate and collaborate with you.