29 May 2024

Feature in City A.M. May 29th

By Jonathan Caswell

Since their foundation in 1983, FACT have become globally recognised for protecting the intellectual property of the film and TV industry and, more recently, the sports rights sector.

It has been said that the best organisations and teams always build from a position of strength and that’s precisely what FACT have done. Their credibility comes from decades in business as the first anti-piracy organisation and yet, in 2016, they branched out into a different arena.

In that year, Kieron Sharp, FACT’s CEO since 2006, launched FACT Worldwide and less than a decade later that decision to expand has been justified with the UK’s highest business accolade, the King’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

As the former senior Metropolitan Police and City of London Police detective told City AM: “We’ve developed and grown a successful business into one that has diversified into due diligence, corporate investigations, business intelligence and digital forensics. We still do IP protection but it was the deep knowledge and exceptional skills of our employees which allowed us to develop into these new areas.”

FACT’s sales success speaks for itself, showing phenomenal growth overseas, achieving a whopping 327.48% increase over three years.

He added: “The King’s Award strengthens our burgeoning reputation in this field and is a testament to our ingenuity in being able to adapt our staff’s skills and identify areas in which we know we could secure a market share.”

With a 30-year police career behind him, including being in charge of Specialist Crime Operations in the City and heading up Interpol’s Economic Crime Department for four years, Kieron Sharp knows a thing or two about deep investigative work.

As FACT’s due diligence arm has grown so has the team he has created – a mix of former senior police officers with in-depth knowledge of serious crime, cybercrime and fraud investigation, and highly intelligent and passionate investigators, analysts and researchers.

The comprehensive range of services FACT offer is designed to mitigate risk whether that’s in citizenship or residency by investment for governments; financial investigations for banks or asset management firms; complex multi-jurisdictions investigative work for law firms; c-suite and executive background vetting and workplace investigations for UK and multi-national companies; or analysis and verification for high-net-worth individuals (HNWI).

It’s time-consuming work with no shortcuts and with FACT’s expertise being sought across continents, it’s meant Kieron has had to grow his team since 2021 from 38 people to more than 120, who, between them, speak 40 different languages.

Kieron said: “We’re not the only ones doing enhanced due diligence but the trust we’ve garnered as an outfit comes from a combination of key elements. By using our greatest assets – our people – optimally and our decades-long second-to-none track record, we are able to approach government clients, corporates, family offices and HNWIs and provide bespoke and often necessarily highly discrete services.

“We’ve had to grow our staff, because currently humans do this work better than artificial intelligence. AI has an evolving and increasing presence but, in all cases, we are dealing with sensitive personal and company data and information, so much of it needs to be carried out by qualified humans and that influences our recruitment strategy.

“Some people arrive with due diligence or investigative backgrounds, while others come with no experience of this kind of work but, in all cases, we’ve recognised academic or language skills along with inquisitive, bright minds. To support this further, we have an in-house, mentored training programme to ensure that people acquire the right skills for the tasks they face and for them to thrive and for FACT to succeed further.”

In recent years, FACT have started to support client needs by assisting in their own due diligence, anti-money laundering and ‘know your customer’ work. In 2021, FACT acquired Morris Chase International, a boutique investigations and due diligence company with a client base of 40 law firms.

Kieron said: “This acquisition expanded our investigations division and opened up new markets. We work on behalf of their clients, including major corporations, either supporting their internal investigations teams or carrying out investigations on their behalf, particularly in overseas territories where they don’t have a presence.”

In addition to growing the due diligence division, eyeing opportunities in financial services, gaming and real estate, the next 12 months will see an increasing emphasis on digital forensics. Kieron said: “It’s a very specialised area, examining computers, mobile phones and other devices. For a long time, we’ve had this as an in-house service supporting our IP work but with our expertise and experience it makes sense to offer it commercially.”

Notwithstanding all this change, FACT still undertake complex criminal investigations for intellectual property rights owners, from broadcasters to consumer goods owners, and working with law enforcement agencies globally.

As the world turns increasingly digital, those who seek to dissemble, deflect and deceive those who are trying to provide assurance, confidence and transparency should beware Kieron and his truth-seeking team.

And that’s a fact.



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