Digging really deep in hunt for evidence
MD, Verity Consulting
Who needs investigation services?
Verity Consulting's clients are financial firms, legal firms, corporations, insurance companies and even individuals that require investigators. Over 50 per cent of our projects, though, are for legal firms. They need evidence and we have to collect it. What we apply in our investigations really depends on what sort of litigation or lawsuit they are working on. Investigation is quite a broad term and it really depends on needs. Then you find expertise in that area to provide the services to gather evidence.
What is an average day at work like?
We have different positions and time schedules. More than half of our staff are field investigators who work on nine-hour shifts. The starting time is different in every operation. We provide staff with a taxi allowance and vehicle support when in the field. They also get at least eight rest days each month. The other departments stay mostly indoors doing report-writing, research, IT forensics and back-office support.
Have you ever been threatened or in danger while doing your job?
In my 14 years of experience, nothing dangerous has ever happened to me or anyone I know. Hong Kong and China are relatively safe places. Yet it is important for our investigators to have a sense of danger. That's why, when we send out our teams, they always work in pairs at least to ensure that if something dangerous or urgent happens, then they have a partner to rely on.
How do you train your investigators?
We are starting to develop our own in-house training and development programme. Besides internal training, we also invite speakers and lecturers to give presentations to staff. A few weeks ago, an ex-police inspector, who is also a psychiatrist, conducted a training session about social engineering, interpersonal skills and the psychological aspects of investigation. We also provide legal training both to existing investigators and newcomers.
We want to have our own systematic training programme so that we can lift up our investigator's qualifications. As market needs are evolving, our investigators must update their knowledge and skills as well. In certain areas, such as computer forensics, our staff have to take certified courses in order to qualify to do such work. If they're not certified, they won't be able to testify in court about their findings.
What about work-life balance?
We arrange a lot of work-life-balance activities, such as charity work, parties, training and team-building activities, to keep staff motivated. Many of our employees were born in the '80s and '90s, and for them, work is not just about salary. You have to let them do the things that motivate them.
How do you see the corporate-investigation industry five years from now?
Technology and the legal environment will have a huge impact. In Hong Kong particularly, people are becoming more conscious about privacy. Legal restrictions are getting tighter. Starting next year, it will become harder to get company records and data.
We will still be able to use internet research and surveillance to investigate a case. For example, the law doesn't allow us to take photographs in hospitals, but we can still conduct surveillance and take photographs when the subject is out of hospital.
With the advancement of technology, there are more footprints for us to investigate. However, future investigations will probably not be as labour-intensive as today. We will need fewer investigators as we use more technology to achieve the same results. In a sense, we will be able to provide our services in a more cost-effective and efficient way.