In Your Company we Trust

I trust you, a phrase easily tossed around by some, while to some trust has to be earned, and most importantly, maintained.

Just like how one learns to trust another, so does a client learn to trust your company, through your actions. The issue of erosion of trust has been an increasing concern by regulatory authorities, however it is not a new concept for companies to grasp. The only difference is that, now more than ever business leaders are being called into action, demanded to ensure that whilst their providing services, they deliver as promised for trust to be earned.

A client is entrusting you with their financial and personal information, believing that such data will be handled diligently and not misused to foster company’s own objectives. They want to trust the company their wallet is opened for. Employees as well, need to trust the vision and management of the company, for them to stay and keep working rather than pursue opportunities somewhere else. Regulatory bodies and other stakeholders have to trust that you will operate within established stipulations in accordance to the code of conduct to maintain going concern.

In 2010, Toyota, a well known auto brand of almost 100 years, learnt the hard way, how you can take forever to build trust, but crush it all in just a matter of seconds. The company found itself in an effort to recall a total of at-least 8 million vehicles due to their cars experiencing a malfunction of accelerator pedal making them loose control, for which prompted a car crash that left four (4) individuals dead.

The hard earned reputation of excellent quality of vehicles manufactured by the Japanese automaker hit ground, as Toyota admitted to covering up safety issues that caused unintended acceleration so as to continue making more vehicles to generate more sales and profit at the expense of safety of the individuals who will be driving those cars with defective parts.

The cover up was far more worse, as Toyota officials kept on implying that cars were still reliable and safe to drive, only for them to be caught in their web of lies later on. They learnt first hand how loss of trust can be cost full, as they incurred payment of $1.32 billion as settlement for charges filed against the company by Government prosecutors.

Concern for trust is broad and applicable across all institutions. Wells Fargo came under fire after abusing the trust their clients placed on them. It created a reward system that motivated employees to open up accounts for clients, whom didnot request for them in the first place. They would then charge those clients insurance and mortgage fees, on respective services for which they never requested for. Season 2 of Netflix’s Dirty Money docu series, has done a great job unveiling the timeline of the entire scandal.

Tech Companies like Facebook and Uber have not being immuned from trust issues. The former is a constant example of how companies can mishandle personal information, to create content that would easily manipulate them and meddle with the elections choice in the US. Top Executives of the Facebook have been constants in congress questioning and testimonials, where they have used that platform to downplay, dismiss and diminish such problems and deflect the blame. On the other hand, Uber received backlash due to dysfunctional culture and sexual harassment allegations that was not condusive to women. Female employees have flagged it as a place of work that cannot be trusted, as opportunities and the culture favor those of the male gender more.

Wirecard, the Germany payment processor, a recent case to suffer in the hands of regulators and the public because of abusing the public trust, found itself in an accounting fraud scandal after Financial Times reported irregularities, which led to short sellers betting against the stock and auditors Ernest & Young uncovering €1.9 billion of cash missing. Ever since the story broke out, the then CEO handled his resignation and was later detained, and now out on bail following accusations of manipulating the market and falsifying accounts. It was an abuse of trust in it’s highest form, as the fintech group took advantage of the trust the clients placed on them, by letting them handle their payments. It misled it’s investors, as the company is a public company trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, once boasting a networth of €20 billion. Lenders of the company also have incurred a costly mistake, as due to the scandal, the company has been forced to file for insolvency and over-indebtness, which affects the financial institutions from which it drew credit from to finance the operations of the business.

Tiktok, a viral social media sensation whose origin raises trust concerns in various territories it operates in. It is an established fact that China, home to tiktok’s parent company, ByteDance, demand social media apps to offer access of users’ information to the state, hence there is a genuine concern that China might use the sensitive information of the individuals for their own advantage. Due to lockdown measures across the world, the app has been downloaded over 2 billion times (if you assume, 1 person per download, that represents a third of the World’s population), which is quite alarming as the Chinese ownership of Tiktok by parent company ByteDance poses an issue over regulation of privacy and security of users’ information. Wells Fargo and Amazon all issued an order to their employees to uninstall the app from their company phones, for which the latter retracted the statements on grounds that it had been sent in error, while the former stuck with it.

The uncertainty and worries about Tiktok stems from the fact that it is owned by Chinese’ ByteDance. What type of control does ByteDance have on Tiktok? and if so, how much of its control can it exercise, and to what extent? It collects a lot of data (including data on other apps installed on your phone, keystroke data, location data) from it”s users, to be used for what purpose exactly? All social media apps does the same thing, why are the authorities of different countries being so hard on tiktok then?

For Tiktok, they have maintained that is a company based in the United States, being led by an American CEO Kevin Mayer, however the parent company ByteDance is Chinese company, subjected under Chinese Security law, for which Beijing can have access to the user data, in event it chooses to, hence its ties to China can not be ignored. We all are aware of how China heavily regulates and monitors internet activities, and how practically involved they can be in overseeing that their companies adhere to their rules and regulations, how is it that Tiktok is exempted from this?

Can tiktok maintain it’s independence and steer clear from its parent company? That is still unclear, hence to some extent prompting decisions by authorities like The Indian Government, to list Tiktok and other 58 apps for a ban. Following such a strong stance and action from India, the scrutiny the app faces from other Government powers such as the US has intensified, whereas President Trump suggested he could utilize his emergency economic powers or an exective order to ban the app from operating in the United States, as policymakers on both sides have warned that the app poses a potential national security risk.

For Tiktok’s argument however, there is a genuine concern that US hides behind privacy as a reason for the backlash, while the reality is US wants ownership of the larger than life social app. This notion can’t be dismissed, especially now that Microsoft has publicly declared it’s interest in buying tiktok operations in the US, Canada, New Zealand & Australia, for which President Trump has stated that if the deal is to fall through, the country should get a slice of the sale price as settlement for clearing the deal.

In the words of Marc Benioff, excerpt from his book, Trailblazer ,”….No company, no matter how venerated or beloved, can afford to become complacent when it comes to trust. And that work needs to begin inside your company“. It is a duty of every CEO and employee to ensure that as much as the company is pursuing growth, so should it strive to maintain the trust and reputation that it has been bestowed with by the public. When Investors, lenders, clients, employees and other stakeholders take a chance on the vision you perceive for the company, it is only right that in return, you work diligently on a daily basis to earn and maintain that trust.