Vijay is qualified solicitor and former barrister, advising on complex investigations and trials, with a focus on financial disputes. Vijay left private practice to join the Financial Services Authority (FSA) as a lawyer in the retail and enforcement teams – in the latter, he investigated misconduct by regulated banks and individuals. Since leaving the FSA Vijay has spent many years leading digital forensics and data breach investigations, as well as advising on electronic disclosure and cryptocurrency forensics.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN LAW?
I enjoy finding solutions to complex problems – whether in law, business or cyber-investigations. I followed a career in commercial disputes to support clients and find opportunities to create innovative solutions for them; and to outwit our opponents through more effective legal strategies and approaches to disclosure and investigation.
I have been able to continue these passions through my career in cyber-investigations when seeking to defeat hackers and cybercriminals.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
My primary role is as an investigator. One day that may be supporting a complex legal dispute, involving the collection and interrogation of millions of documents and data points using cutting-edge artificial intelligence; and the next day I will be flying across the world to stop a cyberattack on a client’s global infrastructure.
Working at the interface between legal investigations and sophisticated criminals – be that white-collar crime, fraudsters, hackers – my role requires constant evolution and growth. I invest heavily in my team and technology to help bring my clients the best of our expertise, but every day requires me to find innovative solutions for my clients’ challenges.
This role requires me to juggle priorities, perhaps create lateral solutions, and manage clients, technologies and colleagues – each with differing priorities. I thrive on these challenges and it helps me to find the best in myself and my team.
HOW HAS YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE AS A LAWYER AT THE FCA ENHANCED YOUR PRACTICE?
Much of our work requires me to support my clients through heavily regulated environments, both in the UK and beyond. Matters may be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the FCA and a host of other regulators, and heard in courts and tribunals around the world.
Working at the FCA has helped me to understand the mindset, priorities and objectives of this regulator, and bringing this experience to my clients helps us to support the work of the regulators most effectively, efficiently, and in the best interest of both sides of their investigations.
WHICH RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CYBERCRIME AND CYBERSECURITY FIELDS SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT?
I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some of the best hackers in the world and I’ve learnt that they are intelligent, tenacious and resourceful. Cybercriminals can be highly organised and targeted, and invariably, if you have something they want, they will try to find a way to obtain it, whether that’s money, intellectual property, goodwill or political power.
Although prevention is better than cure, it’s imperative for businesses of all sizes to assume that a worst-case scenario will occur. They should prepare and be able to detect and respond with agility.
HOW DOES GRANT THORNTON DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM COMPETITION IN THE MARKET?
Digital investigations and cybersecurity are among the highest priorities for Grant Thornton, and are central to much of our work in many diverse areas. We have invested in some of the brightest minds and supporting technologies to allow us to investigate more efficiently and effectively and to stay at the cutting-edge of evolving legal and regulatory developments. Many of these solutions are developed in-house and bespoke to Grant Thornton.
By blending technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation with expert consultancy, we are developing innovative solutions to not only react to problems, but to pre-empt them. We are helping our clients to prepare for and prevent harm from occurring, saving them from damaging investigations, reputational harm and business interruption.
YOU WERE APPOINTED AS AN EXPERT IN ONE OF THE FIRST CRYPTO-FORENSICS CASES IN THE UK. HOW IS CRYPTOCURRENCY TECHNOLOGY AFFECTING PRACTICE?
Although cryptocurrencies have seen boom-and-bust price fluctuations, the underlying technologies, such as blockchain, have helped form the underpinnings of a myriad of innovative solutions, for use in cases as diverse as tracing meat suppliers, financing companies, selling houses and delivering medicines. However, as with much of my work, the pace of technological development can pose challenges for judges, lawyers and regulators required to understand and litigate issues that are still evolving.
Where I can, I seek to boil these issues down into concepts that can be understood by non-experts, establishing the empirical issues that may provide the pivotal evidence or insight.
Technology can be challenging but can also provide solutions to many of the problems it creates!
IN WHAT WAYS IS GRANT THORNTON ADAPTING TO DEVELOPMENTS IN DATA DISCLOSURE?
I have had the privilege of working with the disclosure working group to help shake up the courts’ approach to the complex and expensive issues related to ever larger matters with more documentary evidence to analyse.
Our team has worked to balance the best of breed technologies, current and over-the-horizon, with human expertise and judgement, to tackle these challenges efficiently. We leverage scalable cloud-based infrastructure, artificial intelligence, continuous learning (for both humans and our AI!) and technology ambassadors to help our colleagues and clients find the most effective blend of skills for their tasks.
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER TO DATE. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE?
I’ve had the privilege of enjoying several careers as a barrister, solicitor and cyber-investigator. I feel that the practice of law has evolved rapidly over the last two decades and I have skills that allowed me to navigate those changes.
I hope to support up-and-coming lawyers and technologists to nurture a similar passion in their own careers – and to not be afraid of the pace of change, but to embrace it and to bring the best of it into their own practice.