Managing Director, FTI Consulting
Hakan Özbek recently joined FTI Consulting’s Technology segment as a Managing Director in Germany, bringing 20 years of experience in digital forensics, e-discovery, internal investigations and compliance audits. As demand for expertise in data-related challenges and expertise continues to grow in Germany, Hakan is supporting clients with their complex cross-border matters on issues including compliance violations, antitrust, IP litigation, data leakage and financial crime. We recently spoke with him about how his background maps to the challenges FTI Technology’s clients are facing today and how recent regulatory developments are making investigations and e-discovery work more complicated and intense.
Hakan, you’ve recently joined the team in Frankfurt. Will you share a bit about your previous experience with compliance audits, investigations and e-discovery?
My educational background is in computer science, so I’m particularly attuned to technology in the context of compliance. I’m a certified examiner, information systems auditor and data privacy advisor, and of my career has been spent in internal investigations, audit and anti-financial crime roles. Most recently, I worked as a lead auditor for Commerzbank’s Internal Audit department, where I managed and executed global compliance audits across various jurisdictions. I’ve also worked across two of the Big Four firms in global and cross-border compliance relations and advising C-level executives on data, compliance and e-discovery issues.
The experience of working in-house at a large financial institution has given me a much clearer understanding of the inner workings of the financial services industry and the global regulatory pressures they face. This perspective is proving to be beneficial in my work with clients in my current role, as I can relate to what they are going through and can share my personal learnings in how to integrate digital forensics and advanced technology into anti-fraud efforts.
After having worked in-house and with two large consulting firms, what brought you to FTI Technology?
I’ve known Renato Fazzone, the lead for the Germany Technology segment for a long time, and he approached me about returning to an advisory role as part of his team. I was really drawn to the growth mindset across FTI Technology’s global team, and the immense opportunity we have in Germany to innovate and create new solutions for our clients. Clients are experiencing a new set of challenges relating to the pandemic—including data privacy and compliance concerns, data management issues and an increase in financial crime. It felt like the right time to extend my expertise to a broader set of organisations in need of support and guidance.
What are the biggest issues facing clients in Germany right now? What have you seen most impacted by the pandemic?
One big challenge for clients in Germany right now is the overlap between legal and regulatory requirements of the European Commission and local authorities. For example, maintaining GDPR compliance or responding to a data breach is not only a question of meeting the Commission’s guidelines, but also dealing with it in the context of each country’s existing laws. This is an ongoing issue that we’re seeing many clients struggle with.
Another upcoming challenge is the implementation of the EU’s whistleblower directive, again in the context of local legal requirements. This directive will be effective at the end of the year and will require organisations to take additional steps in safeguarding whistleblowers and conducting internal investigations in response to their claims. Many companies will experience an uptick in investigations activity when this comes into force.
In terms of the pandemic’s affects on clients in Germany, of course global business operations have been disrupted. Notably, this includes anti-fraud programs and fraud risk monitoring. As instances of fraud continue to increase, organisations are likely to increase their budgets for fraud prevention technology, anti-fraud employee trainings and external advising on these issues.
FTI Technology has been growing rapidly worldwide. How do you view FTI’s unique position in the region compared to other firms?
FTI Technology stands out against other providers in that we have strong global capabilities alongside specialised local expertise and presence to solve the issues for our clients anywhere, all as a single organisation. Our teams deal with some of the largest legal and regulatory matters in the world, and we can do that effectively because of the reputation and reliability of our people. Because we also focus on technology expertise as a strategic differentiator, we’re able to create solutions that are ahead of state of the art and positioned to help clients meet numerous regulatory requirements across borders.
What trends are you watching closely this year?
Information governance and managing data issues in the context of privacy and security are top of mind for most organisations today. I’m very interested in the interplay between governance needs, investigations and AI as a means to solving problems. The skills and technology needed to leverage advanced machine learning for identifying gaps in governance or notifying an organisation of potential wrongdoing as it happens are now emerging, and I expect we’ll see a lot of progress in this area in the near future.
Can you share any lessons learned from a recent client matter that are relevant to the landscape today?
There’s an investigation I’m working on right now that is serving as a stark reminder of how important it is to conduct deep analysis of privacy, security, governance and third-party risk at a target company or potential partner. In this client’s case, this type of deep analysis was overlooked during the due diligence phase, and certain concerning business practices at the target company surfaced after the deal closed. The client is now dealing with a significant internal investigation.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your philosophy towards work?
Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen and investigated a lot of wrongdoings. Through that, I’ve learned that it’s important to always keep sharpening your positive mindset. At times it can be shocking what people will do for perceived personal gain—so it’s important to keep a positive perspective, or else these things can become disheartening.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.