The difference between a private investigator and a due diligence professional

To me, a private investigator is someone who started for themself, who may or may not have previously worked for the police, who wanted to follow their dream. They may feel like a movie star at times, sometimes living beyond the law, taking on whatever assignment comes across his path.

I would put the private investigator on the left side of the spectrum, where everything is allowed as long as you get your evidence on the table. Next I would put the security firm, followed by the investigations firm. Not really on the scale but maybe hovering around it somewhere we find the data company which owns proprietary data but which does not have an investigative or compliance-related background. At the far right of the spectrum is the compliance firm, offering compliance solutions as well as due diligence services.

Running a due diligence department in a compliance firm means that I need to stay well within the boundaries of what is legally possible at all times. My team conducts due diligence following the strictest ethical standards and so does anyone we work with. Our sources are contracted, vetted, tested and trained in adhering to our standards. Like us, they can never cross the line. The most important reason for this is that, in the space where we operate, trust and reputation are everything.

In a way, we are just another third party like the distributors and suppliers we are screening on behalf of our clients. As a consequence, my team can never cut corners, we do not bribe, we do not endeavour to obtain information illegally, we do not advise our clients to buy more expensive reports than required, and we do not withhold information in an attempt to upsell reports and make more money out of our clients.

Instead, we take pride in advising on cost-effective solutions and being known as the firm that generates the best due diligence reports in the market, ensuring industry-leading turnaround times, created by the best researchers, utilising the most comprehensive sources available and providing clients with superior quality data which is collected, stored and delivered in a fully compliant manner.

Our product is different from the work being done by private investigators, security companies, investigative firms and data publishers. We do not use a magnifying glass or walk around with guns. We do not take on assignments which may force us to go outside of the law. We do not automate our research.

In fact, I see every due diligence report as a work of art. Our reports are an opportunity to show we can outsmart our competitors because we know where to get premium-quality data, when to dig deeper, when to stop, how to analyse findings and connect the dots, how to write reports, how to present our conclusions and how to rate the risks we identify through our due diligence.

We know what our clients want because we listen to them. Over the years, the look and feel of our reports has undergone numerous changes. Some improvements were instigated by listening to the market, others came naturally or from within our organisation, but many were actually triggered by feedback from our clients. It is all about being customer-focused and innovative. I do not want to sit and wait until the market is saturated, due diligence has become an automated commodity or the industry has turned into a low-end playing field. I want to be ahead of the competition at all times and provide a premium-quality product.

I am not a private investigator and I will never be one. I never wanted to be a movie star. However, I do not want to be a follower either. I am just a professional who wants to act with integrity, trying to deliver a quality product by being smarter than the rest. I am part of a firm which is considered the industry leader in compliance, being known for driving innovation in the industry and exceeding client expectations.

I am looking forward to 2014, when The Red Flag Group’s Due Diligence team will be aiming again to raise the bar and come up with a report style which should create a completely different customer experience. 

Ten questions to ask your due diligence supplier

  1. Does your supplier truly understand risk and compliance?
  2. Is your supplier totally passionate about on-time delivery and quality?
  3. Do they have lawyers and counsel supporting them in their due diligence?
  4. Do they offer surveillance, or any form of tracking of people? If so, avoid.
  5. Will your supplier follow the law at every single opportunity?
  6. Does your supplier say they are licensed as a private investigator? If so, avoid.
  7. Are you sure that all information collected can be used in court?
  8. Are you aware of all of the supplier’s business? Are they involved in any questionable security activities? If so, avoid.
  9. Is the due diligence analysed by an expert or just compiled and summarised?
  10. Are you paying for due diligence or paying for data? 

About the author:

Edo de Vries Robbé, Director of Due Diligence at The Red Flag Group, is an experienced and highly-skilled professional with ten years’ experience in the compliance, due diligence and research industries. He has been leading a global team of due diligence associates since March 2011 and has built up a wealth of experience in conducting due diligence and investigations across all industries and in any country in the world.

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