When ESG meets Wall Street and tech: a conversation with our CFO and CTO
By Susanne Katus, VP of Brand & Business Development
Originally published on 21 January 2015. In light of the market momentum around external risk management, including ESG, the message still resonates - perhaps more than ever.
Big data is the big talk of the town in 2015, and not just for technologists. It’s increasingly seen as a form of capital in business, central to C-Suite thinking around risk and opportunity beyond the bottom line. Why? “Data is powerful,” explains JP Lecourt, Datamaran’s COO.
With over two decades of experience in international trading and risk management, JP is what we like to call a “converted Wall Street veteran.” While on Wall Street, JP worked with some of the world’s largest banks, including Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, and JP Morgan, making daily decisions based on data related exclusively to the bottom line.
As JP explains, “I am a mathematician by training, was a derivatives trader for sixteen years, and only found out about the ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) space in July 2012 when I met Marjella Alma, our CEO, who has had a front row seat in the ESG space for close to a decade.”
More than two years later, JP is fully convinced that ESG data will be a game changer in business – and he’s not alone, as discussed in this recent Forbes article on why Wall Street increasingly values ESG integration into corporate and investor decision-making. Jerome Basdevant, our CTO and a software architect by training, agrees.
“The ESG landscape is a data rich industry that has, until now, only scratched the surface,” Jerome explains. “Leveraging big data technologies and analytic methods will help to transform the way we think about ESG, just as it has transformed the way we think about business generally.”
Jerome has spent the last two decades creating B2B solutions for Fortune 500 companies using data analytics and innovative technologies. That’s why, when Marjella first shared her initial idea for Datamaran, he realized that all of the technological building blocks were available to execute her vision, they just needed to be assembled in the right way.
Fortunately, Jerome knew exactly how to assemble those building blocks and construct a product that realized Marjella’s vision for data-driven corporate decision-making on today’s key competitive, regulatory and reputational risks. That’s how ESG met technology and Wall Street, over a dinner conversation one night in New York City.
Close to two years later, the once unchartered territory of ESG is now an everyday reality for JP and Jerome, two of Datamaran’s Co-Founders. For the two Frenchmen, the decision to co-found Datamaran and take on Marjella’s “ambitious yet feasible” vision was based on three key ingredients: timing, passion, and conviction.
“The timing was right,” JP explains. “Big data is a major buzzword, and ESG issues are increasingly on the top of the corporate agenda of most Fortune 500 companies. Today, over 95 percent of the world’s largest 250 companies report on ESG-related topics.”
As Marjella informed Jerome and JP during that initial conversation, the consistent and rapid growth in reporting cultivates a gold mine of valuable information that can drive improved corporate decision-making on these external risks and opportunities. It - and the business process to identify, prioritize, understand and monitor it - just needs to be made more accessible, dynamic and systematic in order to become meaningful. As JP says, “everyone talks about integrating ESG issues into corporate decision-making, but no one really knows how to do it.”
“Analyzing this data is a pretty unique challenge,” Jerome adds, “since it’s mostly unstructured textual data – or narrative – that has, up until now, been untapped by technology.” “With new types of techniques and technologies, like Natural Language Processing and machine learning, we’re able to plunge deep into this unstructured data and reveal previously unrecognized patterns and deliver digestible data,” he explains. This data can then drive pragmatic innovation in business.
In short, Jerome notes, “the ESG industry is more than ready for big data.” JP adds, “in order to be powerful, data needs to be analyzed intelligently and without bias. Data provides a robust starting point, but subject expertise and personal judgment need to be part of the decision-making process in order to achieve what has been called ‘augmented intelligence,’ where the human and machine team-up to make better decisions.”
This personal passion in the power of data and sophisticated technology to drive better decision-making and innovation in business, coupled with the “right timing” and “a once in a lifetime opportunity to look at the future with a different pair of glasses,” as JP says, is, ultimately, what drove these two Frenchmen to take on the challenge of co-founding Datamaran – and impact business for the better.
“Ultimately, it’s about the journey,” Jerome says about both his personal experience with building a tech company and the general corporate experience of integrating external and ESG risks into risk management, Board oversight and annual reporting. “And you’ll never know what will or can happen until you start walking,” JP adds.
That’s exactly what Datamaran is aiming to do – to give companies the tools necessary to start walking with confidence in today’s volatile global economy.
Fast forward 6 years
It’s February 2021, exactly six years after this interview was first published. Technology and data are still the talk of the town for C-suite and, even more so, the need to get a handle of external risks, including ESG. In the past year, these two areas have collided into a big wake-up call for corporate executives and Board members - think Davos’ and stakeholder capitalism; Larry Fink’s call for better data, disclosure and decision-making; and the public’s push for more action around social justice, climate change and public health.
Many of our clients are on a journey to integrate external risks and opportunities into key business processes through collaboration with multiple business units and with board oversight. Triggered by this uptick in media, investor and regulatory attention to these issues, independent directors are increasingly aware of the associated risks and opportunities. As a result, they are demanding more information from management about what they’re doing to proactively address these issues.
We’ve continued to act upon this demand with the development of our Datamaran Executive (DMX) offering, specifically tailored to the needs of executives. Our latest and most sophisticated technological innovation yet, DMX provides a fully automated and data-driven external risk management process powered by our patented technology. It empowers senior leaders, including CEOs and CFOs, to present a more complete view of current and emerging risks and opportunities to their supervisory boards - objectively and in real-time.
Ultimately, “data-driven companies win,” as CFO Magazine reports. We couldn’t agree more. It’s a belief that’s been fueling us since day one.
See how Datamaran can help you
Datamaran is the only software analytics platform in the world that identifies and monitors external risks, including ESG. Trusted by blue-chip companies and top tier partners, it brings a data-driven business process for external risk and materiality analysis. In house - at any time.
Datamaran’s patented and award-winning technology offers real-time analytics on strategic, regulatory and reputational risks, specific to your business and value chain.
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