Meet Rebecca Lee, Chief Data Officer

Rebecca Lee, OpenCorporates CDO

What is your role at OpenCorporates?

I run the data team at OpenCorporates and so I am responsible for all of our data. This encompasses the sourcing of information from local registries, ensuring we understand the data and any quality issues, and transforming it to our standardised datasets which are used by our public benefit and commercial clients.

Tell us a bit about your background before you came to OpenCorporates?

I started off as a software programmer writing systems mostly for financial services companies but also – randomly – the US Air Force! I then spent 12 years at Deloitte and PwC carrying out forensic investigations where I specialised in going into companies and understanding the systems where their data is stored – in order to answer important questions in relation to issues such as financial crime, fraud, bribery, banking misconduct and cyber breaches.

Sometimes these investigations were heavily in the public eye such as such as misconduct by bankers and allegations against GMTV and X-Factor competitions. I was also lucky to get to work in some interesting places including Dubai, South Africa and a long stint in Iceland during the financial crisis. Before I left PwC, I was leading a group of 30 data specialists in the Forensic Investigative Analytics team.

What drew you to work for OpenCorporates?

The data that OpenCorporates holds should be integral to pretty much all of the work I have done with clients, particularly financial crime requirements such as Know your Customer and Anti-money laundering. When I met Chris [CEO] and Sarah [Chief Commercial Officer] I was really taken aback by the company’s vision and I realised that this was a pretty amazing opportunity.

This is the only job opportunity I have seen outside Forensic that has intrigued me. There is so much official public company data, but it’s not being exploited, not being properly used, and its value is not being unlocked. OpenCorporates is really changing that, and the potential is huge – we are only now scratching the surface of what we can do and what we can support our clients to do. It is exciting stuff!

Now that you have seen the potential for OpenCorporates’ data, would it have changed the way you did things at Deloitte and PWC?

Absolutely. If we had had access to OpenCorporates bulk data (rather than just using it for Corporate Intelligence research) it would have made life so much easier across a wide range of projects from a smaller assessment of fraud risk across a companies suppliers through to large scale financial crime analytics in the banking world. It is real, foundational level data about how we can trust that a company exists, which is the basis of many regulatory requirements aimed at preventing financial crime.

Why do you think what OpenCorporates does is important?

Historically, this information has been gathered and put into proprietary datasets for the benefit of companies who can afford to pay a lot of money to access it. What we are doing is not just for commercial clients but for the public benefit. The data we hold is easily accessible to everyone on the website – furthering transparency by allowing everyone to understand who they are transacting with. In an age where the companies we deal with are not just in our local country, it is important that people can search in one place for companies across the world.

Where did you grow up?

In Chelmsford in Essex. Since then I have worked all over the world but I’ve ended up going back to Chelmsford. I met my husband on a weekend visiting home, and we are near both sets of parents which helps enormously for childcare!

What was your favourite childhood snack?

Am I allowed two? I loved Sherbert Dib Dabs and Refreshers. I think Refreshers just has the edge.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I’d like to live by the sea.

But Chelmsford isn’t far from the sea?

I meant by the sea and somewhere warm! I love scuba diving and my husband likes to be out kite-surfing. But I’m not keen on diving in the cold here in the UK.

What is your favourite film?

Is it sad to say the Matrix? It was a groundbreaking film and I am excited that they are making a new one. I also love a good superhero film, and you can’t beat a romantic comedy or historical drama. I watch a wide range!

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I help run scout events such as a fireworks event every year which is attended by about 9,000 people, and every three years I help to build a ‘town’ for a jamboree in Essex for 10,000 kids. I was a Scout growing up and I think it’s a fabulous organisation which can give you amazing opportunities. From the age of 14, I spent my weekends at a campsite teaching kids how to abseil and canoe and through Scouting I learnt all sorts of skills as well as going off to different places and meeting people from around the world.

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