Success in tech key to the future of business
This sixth episode of the Institute of Directors seven-part podcast series, Across the Board Presented by IoD’s CEO Kirsten Patterson and Sonia Yee looks at the pros and cons of technology.
Artificial intelligence, robots that greet you at airports, tap-and-go payment systems, and more. We have become dependent on technology in a world where faster and newer is better.
Access to technology is essential if you want to get ahead of the game, especially for businesses and the likes of start-ups. But keeping track of technology and investing in it comes with risks and opportunities.
For boards, it is essential to understand both before launching into a world where yesterday’s invention is already old news.
“Technology is not what makes you unique or gives you the competitive advantage,” says Anchali Anandanayagam who is a partner at Hudson Gavin Martin, a corporate, commercial and litigation law firm specialising in technology, media and intellectual property.
“It’s all of the inventiveness and innovation that you come up with in your business, which is then enabled by technology.”
She says the key for boards when adopting new technology is to limit potential risks because dealing with cyber attacks is likely to be a costly exercise that could lose your company time and money.
But it can be difficult to predict how outsiders will try and crack the code until that new glittering piece of technology has been implemented.
“The bad actors are getting a lot more sophisticated in terms of cyber attacks,” says Anandanayagam who adds that mitigating risks around new technology comes down to people.
“You lead by example and the board is setting a culture of training and upskilling and keeping across the latest events that are happening.”
She says addressing this at the board level will flow down through an organisation, so that staff are trained on the do’s and don'ts.
“Something hugely underestimated is creating that human firewall.”
“Most of the incidents of data breach are often because a member of our staff has opened an email they shouldn’t have, or has attached a document they shouldn't have, or has emailed sensitive information to someone they shouldn't have emailed it to because of autocorrect.”
She says regardless of where the attacks are coming from, businesses need to continue upskilling their people.
But what if technology is your wheelhouse and the basics are already a given?
For start-ups in the tech space, making the impossible come to life is second nature.
Leighton Roberts and Sonya Williams are two of the three CEOS at Sharesies - a digital platform designed to create investment opportunities and wealth for everyone.
When the idea was born in 2016, there were six founding members of the team.
Leighton Roberts was already working in the finance sector and said he was interested in investing, but on a number of attempts he simply gave up.
“I was one of those classic millennials where as soon as the paper was put in front of me, you lost me,” he says.
“I could absolutely sense this big gap there, but of course we had no idea what it looked like at that point.”
The company grew quickly and within a year they had secured financial backing and a customer base. They also appointed a board to help identify risks and opportunities, along with a separate board of advisors.
“Since day dot, we’ve had pretty formal processes in place around our governance. We have multiple boards because we have quite a few companies now under the Sharesies group,” says Roberts.
Importantly, Sharesies also like to keep the size of their boards small to allow for pace.
“But never at the compromise of making sure we have good governance and that we’re meeting whatever requirements we need,” he says.
Seven years on, the company has expanded into Australia where financial services are heavily digitized. Williams describes the market as much more competitive and different compared to New Zealand, but says the rates of superannuation are higher, which means people are more likely to invest.
So what do the pair recommend for boards wanting to integrate new technology into the way they do business?
“Technology is where everything is heading,” says Roberts.
“We have this culture here which is to innovate on everything, and there must be a better way for everything that we do.”
Williams also has a tip for those who might be toying with the idea of starting a business.
“Surround yourself with great people and if you’ve got a great idea pursue it, ask questions and find out more.”
Listen to the sixth episode of Across the Board to hear the story behind Sharesies, Marian Johnson (Ministry of Awesome) tells us why taking risks in new tech is essential. David Bullock (EGM Technology and Operations ASB Bank) enlightens us on the creative side of tech and business, and Kiwa Digital’s founder Steven Renata talks about the pros and cons of technology for business and boards and why being ahead matters in a fast moving environment.
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Across the Board was produced by the Institute of Directors in partnership with NZME and iHeart Radio and proudly sponsored by ASB Bank.