Meet Laurie M Clark, Director and CEO, Onyen Corporation
Tell us a little about your organization and why you got into this space
My career has taken me to many parts of the global capital markets industry – both in trading and technology. I am very proud of being part of the success in building a trading and clearing system like Dataphile Software Ltd., now part of Broadridge; Canchek, an anti-money laundering and economic sanctions compliance system; and, Smarten Up Institute, a securities industry education provider.
So as a serial entrepreneur I could not pass up the opportunity when Ani Markova and Ingrid Hibbard came to the founders of Canchek a year-and-a-half ago and asked us to find a solution – and did so using Canchek’s software to develop an ESG reporting system.
From the beginning, Canchek’s goal has been to provide affordable solutions to small to mid-sized firms in the securities industry that don’t have the need for or resources to implement the high-priced compliance systems designed for larger companies.
With wise counsel from resources industry veterans, Ingrid Hibbard and Mark Thorpe, we recognized that the same kind of approach is needed in the ESG world.
The growing investor demand and fast-changing regulatory environment for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) disclosures places significant financial and administrative burdens on junior and mid-tier companies. We set out to develop an affordable solution that would help these companies aggregate, report, and manage their ESG data, and enable them to meet the information demands of capital providers who are looking to properly assess risks and opportunities.
As the scope of standards and disclosures has grown, so too has our team of talented developers and sustainability professionals. Our biggest asset is the energy that the team puts into creating a platform for our customers that is simple to use, but robust enough to capture all globally recognized standards and frameworks. It’s very gratifying to see the speed at which we have been able to deliver our solution, now in both English and Spanish, as well as the multiple added features.
Who are your clients and what types of challenges are they facing?
We focused initially on the junior and mid-tier resource companies, as Canada is home to many mining and oil and gas companies. However, our system services other industries as well, such as investors doing due diligence on new investments or monitoring the ESG compliance of their existing stable of investments, and consultants that help companies with ESG data collection but don’t have efficient aggregation and reporting tools. There are also other industries such as agribusiness that need an ESG data collection and reporting tools.
Our customers come to us because our system cuts through the alphabet soup of available standards and guides them to what is the most relevant metric for their industry and stage of development. In addition, tools like the Dashboard can quickly highlight gaps in corporate practices to senior executives and boards, where opportunities for improvement lie and, through year-over-year comparisons, their progress in realizing corporate ESG goals. The Onyen system is quickly turning from a reporting tool to a complete ESG management system where reporting is an outcome of data capture and real-time monitoring.
In many cases, our customers have a lot of information on environmental and social projects, but the relevant data does not always translate well to the investment community. It has been our purpose to simplify and deliver the appropriate information in a digital readable format to the capital providers who have also been scrutinizing their investments for best practices and improved sustainability performance. Companies that can demonstrate active management of their environmental and social risks are improving the availability and lowering the cost of financing. Automating the reporting process also reduces internal costs and frees company personnel to do what they do best: managing their businesses equipped with the right information.
As the movement towards mandatory sustainability disclosures and third-party verification evolves, CFOs are finding the utility of Onyen’s audit trail report critical to document the rigour behind their data quality and reporting controls. And of course, measuring progress against targets is essential for both senior management and external stakeholders.
What type of emerging technology do you think will have the greatest impact on your business/industry?
I believe we are creating the disruptive technology that leverages AI to connect all stakeholders. As capital market participants continue to invest in technology to screen and monitor their investments, it is up to the individual companies to keep up in order to meet their criteria in order to attract capital. It is no longer a “nice to have,” but rather a “must have” to create ESG reports that accompany corporate financial statements.
In the pre-Onyen world, companies were battle-weary to fulfill this requirement. A company typically needed two and a half years lead-time to come to the point of simply starting an in-house ESG report. The amount of research, time, effort and resources, both human and financial, was exhausting. Our technology, based on AI-driven foundations from trading (where huge data sets create opportunities for meaningful stories if you are willing to listen to what the data tells you), portfolio management (where data is selectively delivered to the viewpoint of the target audience and to managing outcomes) and taxation systems (like Turbo Tax) with decision tree features for ease of reporting, has paved the way to a data rich outcome. This allows companies to see their business results immediately and focus on managing those results rather than exhausting more resources to forage the frameworks and standards that seem to replicate like mushrooms in mangrove swamps.
The path to a sustainable future for all requires individual firms to find their own stride, deliver on their commitments, and be held accountable. Onyen’s technology assists customers along that journey.
Why did you join the CRTA? How do you think the CRTA will help your business (industry)?
Within our lifetimes the RegTech industry has exploded. Some of us from the securities industry can remember when stock exchange orders were communicated by hand signals, where a broker’s daily trading records were blotters and big ledger sheets, and physical stock and bond certificates were delivered by hand and trundled to bank vaults every night. Now it’s more and more difficult to keep track of relevant RegTech developments.
Our industry could not hope to keep up with its current volumes without RegTech. But a lot of that technology has been developed in silos. It has always been important for systems to talk to and support one another. It’s equally important for people in the industry to talk to, encourage and support one another. The CRTA is just the mechanism the industry needs to foster those interactions.