Customers welcome C-suite advocate, CipherCloud chief trust officer reports

Working as a chief trust officer has given Bob West a new perspective on the conversations security companies are having with customers – and his experience so far has convinced him that a growing number of companies are going to find value in appointing board-level executives to act as data-security liaisons between customers and the executive.

West, who spent 20 years in banking and eight years as a consultant in the past, brought his skills dealing with enterprise customers to his role at encryption vendor CipherCloud, whose consultants are busy helping customers capitalise on technology for securing corporate data as it moves to and from a growing number of cloud services.

By providing “a direct feedback loop into our product teams” his role as chief trust officer had allowed him to become an “advocate for the customer,” West recently told CSO Australia.

Customers, in turn, were responding positively as they warmed to the accessibility of a high-level executive whose concern with “more customer advocacy than product”, as West put it, was further affirmation of the company's commitment to helping them solve their business problems.

“I think having myself as part of the executive team sends a really strong statement to our customers that we not only take security seriously,” he explained, “but want to make sure there is access to the executive team on a regular basis and that we have their best interests in mind.”

Years spent working within large enterprises helped prepare West for his role as chief trust officer, allowing him to put himself “in their chair” – particularly as the growing enterprise push towards cloud platforms raises new questions about probity, management, return on investment and data security.

“I get involved in a lot of things across the company,” West says, noting that his responsibilities range from close work with the chief marketing officer and the rest of the C-suite to “anything that has to be customer facing.”

“When people are moving to the cloud there has to be a level of trust that their information is being managed properly, and they value the fact that there's someone on our side that really understands how things function in a large enterprise. It's a great role and a natural role for me.”

The idea of a chief trust officer, with responsibilities spanning conventional business units, is likely to catch on along with other new CxO titles as businesses seek to smooth the longstanding gaps between business units.

Gartner, for one, recently predicted that security-related roles would evolve to see the creation of 'chief digital officer' and 'chief data officer' roles that reflect the extension of data-management responsibilities. Chief privacy officers are already appearing at many companies to unify various corporate objectives. And PricewaterhouseCoopers recently forecasted that so-called 'data protection officers' would increasingly be appointed to manage data-privacy regulation.

As cloud computing continues its skyrocketing adoption curve and the idea of high-level data protection roles catches on, West said, the challenge for many companies will simply be keeping up with demand.

“It's clear that I don't scale, and there is definitely a need for more of me,” he said. “I'm not sure how that's going to evolve, but I would expect that as we grow, we will probably hire more people that can allow us to address a large number of enterprises at the senior level. This is something that will become more and more common.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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