It seems to me the C-suite is getting awfully crowded. I’ve recently written about the emergence of the chief innovation officer and the chief customer officer, and there are any number of other new C-level positions cropping up, from chief sustainability officer and chief cloud officer, to chief social media officer and chief perception officer. So when I was invited to interview a “chief trust officer,” I have to admit I kind of rolled my eyes.
I had to wonder, at what point does the C-suite become so overcrowded that the whole point of a position being a C-level position is diluted? But after speaking with Hmong Vang, chief trust officer at Liaison Technologies, a global integration and data management company in Atlanta, I concluded that creating the new role in this case made a lot of sense. The idea wasn’t to expand the C-suite, but to consolidate roles.
“It’s basically building a trust program that’s based on our security, compliance, and privacy programs, and making the program visible and transparent to our existing and prospective clients,” Vang said. “We want to take a more proactive approach with our programs to let them know, hey, we’re going to do the right thing with your data.”
So might we think of it as combining the roles of chief security officer, chief compliance officer, and chief privacy officer?
“Yes, I would say that’s a good analogy,” Vang said. “It’s a convergence of all three into one.” And he agreed that such a convergence was necessary.
“We’re running out of acronyms at this point, and having to reuse acronyms,” he said. “CIO can mean many things in many companies, and can have redundancies within the same company.”
Vang explained how the chief trust officer role has emerged.
“If you look at a lot of the leading cloud service providers out there, like Salesforce and Box, they’ve created this role in the last 12 to 18 months,” he said. “The reason you’re seeing it slowly coming out is because rather than adopting the traditional model of being reactive, a lot of these companies realize that in order for them to win business and market share, they’re really needing to sterilize their practices, particularly as more and more companies fall into the regulated space, and are having to do more third-party risk management.”
Vang said cloud services is an area in which companies need to demonstrate that they have the proper assurances in place. Liaison saw this as an opportunity to enhance its ALLOY data-platform-as-a-service offering, he said, and to make it a competitive differentiator. Vang said he reports directly to the CEO, while his direct reports include the vice president of compliance and the director of information security.
Vang said he’s the first person to hold the chief trust officer position at Liaison, and that he was recruited into the company for that purpose last month. He had previously held the chief information security officer position at LabCorp, a clinical laboratory services provider in Burlington, N.C.
According to Vang, his job involves building trust not only with Liaison’s clients, but with its partners and employees, as well. Like any other small company that’s trying to rapidly grow, there are always going to be challenges with employee satisfaction, he said.
“Resources could be overburdened in certain areas; [issues] may not always get direct attention from senior management,” Vang said. “Those are the things we’re trying to address, particularly in my role, to bring a level of visibility to our priorities, and to the story we’re telling our clients, so that our employees can get behind it and understand how their job is impacting trust with our clients and partners.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.