Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with David Imison, Schillings

Date: 05 May 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

David Imison, new CEO at Schillings

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your new role as CEO.

A year ago, our Chairman, CEO and Board set in motion a succession plan and appointed the search agent, Spencer Stuart, to find a new CEO to lead Schillings. I am delighted to be taking over the role.  

In the ten years since I joined, Schillings has grown from a law firm, best known for taking on big libel and privacy cases, to a crisis management group with four divisions – Legal, Intelligence & Investigations, Critical Risk and Digital Communications.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to grow and take on the CEO role if it wasn’t for the current leadership team. I am very happy that I will join them in shaping the next chapter of the firm’s history. Rod Christie-Miller, our brilliant CEO of 15 years, will take on the role of Executive Chair. Keith Schilling remains our Senior Partner and inspirer in chief, focusing on litigation strategies for our clients.

In the next stage of our development I am looking forward to building on our success by evolving Schillings into a full-service reputation, privacy and security advisory business.

Reputation and Privacy: are you witnessing any trends in the present scenario?

Contrary to what one might think, there is no such thing as a standard Schillings client. We work with public and private companies, non-profit organisations and individuals from different backgrounds, sectors and geographies. What unites the people and organisations we work for are fundamental rights – those of reputation, privacy and security. In a society that upholds the rule of law, these are universal. Because we operate in a ‘post-truth’ age, the need for facts, accuracy and evidence is greater than ever before.   

What would you suggest to individuals and companies aiming at having more control over their reputation?

In times gone by, an individual’s reputation was largely a construct of direct experience. The answer to greater ‘control’ was to say and do the right things to those who mattered to you. Nowadays, reputation is assembled from afar and is constructed of hundreds of fragmented data points. Control in the digital economy starts with understanding what data exist about you, where the data resides and how it is interpreted. Some of that is obvious – corporate profiles and networking sites, for example. Some is obscured in the deep or even dark web – accessible to those who know where to find it and who use it to make decisions about you and your business. Control starts with a better understanding of what is out there. Most of us would be surprised by what can be assembled.   

In your article, The surprisingly simple secret to protecting your reputation, you mention that many issues could be prevented with some forward planning. Could you give our readers some examples?

We see many examples in our work of risks that are reasonably foreseeable. Issues ranging from disgruntled ex-employees, to bad tempered litigation, to identify theft, extortion and blackmail, to deals that have gone wrong, to smear campaigns.  All have a set of trigger points that begin to look familiar once you have been in our job for a while. Most of our time is spent helping clients who have fallen foul of one of the above issues, or a myriad of others. But that is not to say there aren’t things that can be done to minimise the likelihood of risks occurring in the first place. Reputational due diligence, privacy exposure reports, employee risk programmes and online reputation management are just a few examples of pre-emptive steps that can have a major impact.  

Best and worst parts of your job comparing your old role with the new one.

I will have a little less time to spend with clients in my new role. I really enjoy helping clients. But the upside is that I have a fantastic business to run, which comes with its own interesting set of challenges and opportunities. 

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

In our world, the idea of not letting a crisis go to waste is an important one.

David Imison is a NEW member of our Leaders List.

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