MH: Hello and welcome to another podcast episode from Companies House. We have recently launched our new five-year strategy and one of our strategic goals is all about how we ‘combat economic crime through active use of analysis and intelligence’. So, I'm here today with Martin Swain, who is the Director of Strategy, Policy, and Communications, at Companies House. And today Martin's going to give us a bit of an insight into his work and how that work runs through who we are and what we do.
Hi Martin, how are you?
MS: I am alright, how you doing?
MH: Yeah, not bad. Thank you. So, I'm just going to start off my first question which is, can you tell me a little bit about your role and how it contributes to us as an organisation.
MS: Yeah, no problem. So, I mean you just stabbed my job title, which is kind of set it on the tin. So, I'm a Director for Strategy, Policy and Communications. That's my main roles and obviously, you know involved in developing the new five-year strategy that we launched recently and involved with lots of policy development work and communications work. But, I guess around economic crime, I have a role to lead for the board around some of the economic crime policy and our enforcement and intelligence policy, working with our service owner Stuart Morgan in that area to kind of frame how we are taking forward our approach now with the current powers that we have but also starting to shape what our future strategy for intelligence and enforcement will be when we get the new powers that we hope will get parliamentary time for, will get very soon.
MH: Cool. So, how does Companies House at the moment work with law enforcement?
MS: Yeah. That's where so we've got a great relationship with a lot of law enforcement agencies. And you know, we already do a great amount of work but I suppose it's really important upfront to say that, you know, the vast majority of companies are law-abiding and they follow the rules of the Companies Act and they comply with their requirements. So, I think it's really important to say that it is a minority of companies that are used for economic crime or illicit activities or illegal activities. So, that's really important to say upfront. But you know, we already do an awful lot to support law enforcement. We provide data where we are able to support investigations. We look at trends on the register and try to establish where we can see whether there's potentially suspicious activity. We will always follow up where there are reports of fraudulent activity and take whatever action we can. And as I say, you know, really developing more and more all the time those relationships with those key law enforcement agencies like the National Crime Agency, local police, regional police, but also working with things like the National Economic Crime Centre.
MH: Right. Well that's quite a breadth of different places and well I think it’s like quite interesting about this goal. There are obviously a few different ones but this one is sort of the newest.
MS: Yeah, and I'd say Meg this is probably for me and I shouldn't say that but it's probably the most exciting goal because this is really taking Companies House into new territory. We are moving away from being just a register to being much more of an assertive partner in law enforcement, you know and colleagues have done some really great work over the last few years within Companies House to really start us on that journey. But, I think putting this as a goal of our strategy front-and-centre that we really want to play the biggest part we can in tapping economic crime and fraudulent activity and protecting individuals from fraud, protecting businesses from fraud, you know helping the government to prevent where companies are being used to defraud the government, you know, and that's been an issue very recently around some of the government support for companies where again that small minority of companies are and individuals are using corporate entities to defraud government financial schemes and to defraud other businesses. So, it's a hugely exciting part of our strategy. I feel personally really, really excited about the opportunity. We've got within Companies House and I think you know, the strategy gives us a great framework to develop over the next few years to really play a part in this.
MH: Hmm, right. That's a great answer. Thank you. And my next question is, what are the future plans for Companies House to combat economic crime.
MS: Okay. So you know when I was talking to the team about you know, what I was going to say on the podcast, you know, what they said to me is obviously don't give too much away because then obviously people will know how we're going to try to tackle economic crime in the future. So, I won’t give all our tactics away but one thing is clear, you know, we want to really kind of up our game around this and that's in terms of the way we use our data, you know, we're an organisation that has huge amounts of data that can be used to analyse where we see potential activity, which is criminal. We really want to develop our people and that's a really really crucial part of this that you know, we are going to be moving people away from maybe transactional work into much more intuitive investigative work. So, that's a really really key part of it, you know, helping out people to grow, developing new skills and capabilities. But also, I guess it's for me, placing Companies House right at the heart of that economic crime ecosystem. You know the role that we can play, not only in supporting operational activity, but supporting the more strategic end of it. You know working with other government departments around serious organised crime, economic crime, fraud, money laundering. Really being a part of that and for me, you know, having joined Companies House just under two and a half years ago, when I arrived I could see the journey that we were on but I can see that we've really progressed over the last couple of years and the next few years are just going to be really fascinating where we end up as an organisation within that. Obviously, you know, we are restricted by the powers of the Companies Act that we have at the moment. So, we're hugely excited about the government's proposals for reform and the kind of powers that we will get through reform and the opportunities that will really give us to change the way that we can respond to some of this fraudulent activity and economic crime. So, hugely excited from a from a policy perspective, from a strategy perspective, from being part of that approach to enforcement and investigation. You know, it's just a huge huge opportunity over the next few years.
MH: Yeah, those very exciting times ahead. And I think even like personally for me like I've learned so much just from listening to that then and yeah, just really exciting to see how we're going to grow in the next few years. And regarding my next question, it's sort of separate from the strategy. What have you learned about yourself in the past year. So, you know since February 2020 to February 2021, in a personal or professional capacity or even both.
MS: All right. But on a personal level, I've probably learned that one of the most important things for me is to travel and not being able to travel is just being really really tough. And you know, I say that in the context of for so many people the last year has been absolutely horrendous, but there are amazing things which you take for granted and I guess on a personal level I've learned that there are things I won't take for granted in the future and I'll certainly treasure things which may be in the past. I just took that these things happen. Professionally, I've probably learned that you know, Companies House is a great organisation to work for, its so adaptable. It's been so able to pivot, so well to continue supporting customers, delivering against the government's agenda. You know, over eighty percent of our people are working from home, yet we still are delivering, you know on all fronts. So professionally I've probably learned that just under two and a half years ago, I made a really really good decision, which was to join Companies House.
MH: Thank you so much. I really been fascinated listening to you today. And thank you to all our listeners for listening. If you haven't already then please have a look back on our podcast channel where I just discussed some of our other goals with other team members and also keep an eye out for next month's podcast discussing our next goal. Diolch, Martin. Thank you. You've been a great guest.
MS: Diolch, Meg.
MH: Take care.