The emerging market for transparent company data

By Sarah Arana-Morton, Chief Executive Officer, OpenCorporates

Company data is essential. It lets people and companies understand who they are buying from, who they are working for, who they are doing business with, and – ultimately – how the world works.  

But company data must be transparent. 

Transparent company data means:

  • Data that has clear provenance, with line of sight to the source directly (via a URL), and a time and date stamp of when it was collected

  • Transparency of data transformation and processing, with links back to the original form

  • Transparency about the data itself and what users can expect from it, accompanying each record with metadata

Demand for transparent company data has increased amongst innovative technology firms to power platforms and data products. 

But it is about to become even more important to a wider range of businesses for many more processes such as: 

  • Contracting with suppliers, including KYC & verification

  • Anti-money laundering and anti-fraud investigations 

  • Making decisions on lending to customers

  • Risk management

I predict that this trend is rapidly spreading beyond technology companies to all businesses in all sectors. It will become standard for companies to use and rely on transparent company data for their core activities. 

A new market is emerging for transparent, trusted, reliable company data which is available at scale and delivered as-a-service. The revolution in company data is here.

Drivers of this new market

This prediction might seem bold, but six clear trends make it inevitable:

 1. Post-pandemic expectations of transparent and responsible business: coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, customers, investors and employees want to buy from, invest in and work for companies that act responsibly and transparently. The first step in demonstrating that you are a responsible business is to be transparent about your operations. Transparent company data offers new opportunities for companies who want to demonstrate this responsible, fair and ethical approach.

 2. Evolving legal and regulatory requirements: recent laws in various countries require companies to operate with greater responsibility for a broader scope of business operations with third parties, including carrying out due diligence on customers and other firms.

 3. Technology: more companies are using artificial intelligence and data analytics to support automated workflows (such as in anti-money laundering and identity verification) and to develop new products. These solutions can only be effective if they are powered by transparent and high-quality data.

 4. Globalisation of business: businesses now operate across jurisdictions, often with multiple legal entities. This makes it essential to understand the network of relationships between them, especially when it comes to common practices like onboarding checks or credit risk assessments.

5. Low barrier to entry for new businesses: it has become easier to create legal entities with limited liability, resulting in many companies being rapidly created and dissolved. This makes it harder to keep track of who you are doing business with and creates new risks.

6. Risk management: boards, executives, shareholders and investors are more concerned than ever about risk in various forms: from regulatory risk to the reputational damage of negative media coverage or customer feedback. Companies need to demonstrate how they are assessing and acting on the risks presented by their vendors, suppliers, partners and customers.

The foundational company data source

OpenCorporates is perfectly placed to be the dominant source of transparent company data that supplies and supports this new market. 

There are many reasons why this will – and must – happen:

  • Global coverage of the company universe: we have foundational data on almost 200 million companies around the world. These are legal entities and their officers, each taken from the official company register. This means our users do not have to go to different registers to access records on companies in multiple jurisdictions.

  • Fresh and provenanced data: we already have in place the infrastructure and domain expertise to bring this data together according to a single schema while maintaining line of sight to the source. Our data is trusted, fresh, transparent, accurate and provenanced.

  • Data at scale: we have optimised the way we deliver our data, which is available in bulk or via our API. This makes it easier for firms to aggregate this data, combine it with other datasets and feed it into technology or data platforms.

  • Open data for everyone: millions of users and companies already access our open data on our website every month, and we listen to them and respond to what they want and need, therefore improving data quality. This open access underpins our core public benefit mission. 

  • Outstanding team: we have put in place an outstanding team with clear shared values and a commitment to opening up this emerging market for the benefit of companies and the wider world.

Lessons from my past

I know that this revolution is possible because I saw a similar change after I joined the data science company dunnhumby in 2001 to develop their business units firstly in the UK and then across Europe and Asia-Pacific. Early on, I pitched loyalty card data and insights to some of the world’s biggest companies. These firms said that this new and different data source looked interesting but they didn’t have a place for it to fit in (i.e. who would use it or who they would pay for it).

It didn’t take long for this dataset to become a whole new category of data which changed the face of data-lead marketing in the fast-moving consumer goods and retail sectors. All of these companies soon worked out how to use this data and embedded it into their marketing and business strategies. The first companies to enter this new market benefited massively, while some of those who ignored it have suffered.

How will you respond to this transparent company data revolution? I would love to hear from you… 

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