Richard Kershaw is a pre-eminent data expert, lauded by peers as “super knowledgeable and bright” and a “safe pair of hands”.
Richard is a partner in Deloitte’s forensic practice, where he leads the forensic technology team in China. He also supports the discovery practitioners in Japan. He specialises in technology strategies for complex investigations and disputes, and policy frameworks for information governance and security. His primary focus is the life sciences and healthcare sectors, and he also has experience assisting technology and media companies in responding to litigation and regulatory inquiries.
What attracted you to a career as a data and technology expert?
I began my career in corporate information security in Japan. Moving then to consulting in the early 2000s, I saw the opportunity to use incident response technical skills for the purposes of preserving and investigating unstructured data and end points. I took the opportunity to go on computer forensics courses and found I really enjoyed the nature of the work.
What skills make an effective data specialist in today’s climate?
Our practice is very broad-based these days. Whereas at the start of my consulting career as a computer forensics specialist, we needed an understanding of operating systems, these days we have mathematicians, data scientists and lawyers on our team. But I would say the key skill is listening. While we do have a range of standardised tools, on complex matters it’s important to listen to what the client (and perhaps their external counsel) want to achieve, and not try to push a square peg into a round hole. As we see more of what we call “alternate use cases” – such as M&A data segregation – listening to the client, and informed SME colleagues, is key to success in our business.
What are the main issues you currently face when assisting in aligning local and global market for your clients?
At the moment, it’s the difference in needs of the corporate investigations function in China (or indeed the broader Asia region) versus corporate discovery capability most likely built for US litigation purposes. Since the mid-2010s, there has been an increase in the size of the investigations portfolio for many clients, and the old model of sending these matters to a panel of external providers proved costly, even with favourable master service agreements in place. Accordingly, many clients have created and expanded the investigations function in-region; but as a corporate function there are of course budgets to manage and cost control expectations. Some of our clients have engaged with their own discovery functions, primarily out of the USA (even for non-US-headquartered firms); but time zones, languages and differing analysis requirements have led to a desire for a more investigations-focused and local data capability. We are supporting clients in building this capability and, importantly, the metrics required to run this as a corporate-driven activity.
How has the increasingly cross-border nature of investigations affected forensic data analysis? How has your practice adapted to this trend?
In Asia, we have a mixture of common law and civil code jurisdictions, and multiple jurisdiction-specific laws on protection of data – including PII and PHI, and even some blocking statutes. A single investigation can span multiple jurisdictions, which makes the logistics of just collection a challenge. If we would like to use analytics and machine learning on a matter, the inability to have a single hosting location will also have an impact on our planning to execute that strategy. Deloitte has addressed this through deployment of regional data centres with consistent discovery and analytics software stacks. How we might transfer learning from one database in one jurisdiction to another depends on the matter and the jurisdictions in scope, but this is something we do regularly.
What was the biggest challenge in growing and diversifying forensic technology business in markets such as Japan and Hong Kong, as a data and technology specialist?
As noted, it is beneficial to have data-centre-hosting capability in as many jurisdictions as is practical, to meet the needs of multi-jurisdiction investigations, or of a client with a regional portfolio of investigations work. That obviously needs a business case. After that, ensuring we have technology that can appropriate, tokenise, analyse and score Chinese, Japanese and Korean text to the standards we have set in our technology-enabled investigation workflow has been a key focus.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Never mistake activity for action.