This short Q&A was featured in our March edition of the DisruptiveTech newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletter regularly, please click here.
Kolvin Stone, partner and head of technology, Fox Williams, spoke with Francesca Porter, General Counsel of Onfido.
Q1: What advice would 2022 Francesca give to 2017 Francesca?
A Nietzsche quote I read recently sums this up for me. His advice, and something I would advise my younger self is: ‘love of your fate.’
Whatever life brings; through work or otherwise, embrace it and say to yourself: ‘This is what I need.’ It may appear to be the biggest, thorniest, most complex challenge you have seen. It may at times feel like too much, but within that is the opportunity, the challenge and the learning.
When you emerge from the stretch period, you emerge stronger, you have grown. It’s important not to lose sight of that when challenges present themselves, but to throw yourself in.
Q2: What’s the most helpful piece of advice you have received as a GC?
Don’t be an island. There is an amazing GC community in London and one of the founders of Onfido taught me the power of the network and the hive mind. There are no points for reinventing the wheel, so many answers can be crowdsourced through relationships and sharing.
Q3: How do you see the role of the inhouse lawyer evolving with the ever increasing use of legal technology and process management tools?
The role of the inhouse lawyer is evolving in an exciting, data led way. While the “T-shaped” lawyer is high in technical competence, the “O-shaped” lawyer is an individual that takes ownership, opportunities and innovates beyond their technical competence and legal expertise.
In my opinion, the data led lawyer takes this one step further, by merging the same valuable skillset, with tangible data about the business, the market and their internal and external stakeholders.
At Onfido, we have watched this concept grow organically with the introduction of legal tech and the legal ops team. We had the “O-shaped” lawyers but not the data. Once we began to track, among other things, platform usage, Legal support TaTs, resourcing, contractual obligations, customer configurations and, crucially, began reporting on it, our team of “O-shaped” lawyers rapidly began to reap the benefits of these data driven insights. Coupled with data from the rest of our commercial ecosystem, our team operates backed by a holistic, data driven, view of our business rather than in a traditional silo.
Supported by legal tech and insights, this data led lawyer can be much more effective in driving company strategy and impact, automating repetitive tasks and focussing efforts to really move the dial on business goals.
Q4: What is the most helpful lesson you’ve learnt in the journey from early stage to a more mature business and how did your role change?
Say ‘yes’ to trying things outside of your comfort zone. These are the opportunities to learn, to pick up new skills and build new relationships. My role has changed enormously during the five years at Onfido, seeing the company grow from a 100 person, founder led Series B to a 650 person, private equity led Series D. I also moved from focussing on commercial and corporate workstreams to overseeing a much broader sphere of work as GC, including public policy, IP, HR, property and regulation. This was initially daunting, but I got a fantastic piece of advice from our previous CFO, he said: ‘Francesca, all you need is a framework and good judgment. If you’re down in the weeds on one thing, you can’t be across five others at the same time. It’s time for you to step up now, delegate more and dial up your impact over a wider remit’.
Q5: What attracted you to the fast growth FinTech ecosystem?
The pace – I love being in a fast paced environment with constant change and learning. We call the years at Onfido ‘Onfido Dog Years’ because it often feels like so much is achieved in such a short space of time. This is an environment I thrive in, surrounded by energised individuals with a sense of urgency to build something brilliant.
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