Smart business decisions are based on the best available information. Trouble is, the world is positively awash in data: market trends, loan rates, stock reports, credit ratings, earnings projections, regulatory updates, and on and on.
Making sense of it all is a key function of S&P Global Market Intelligence (MI), one of the four main divisions of S&P Global, formerly known as Standard and Poor’s. The other three divisions are S&P Global Ratings, S&P Dow Jones Indices, and S&P Global Platts.
“The division essentially provides data, analytics, and insights for clients in a wide range of industries,” says Adam Marchuck, chief legal officer for the division, “including energy, finance, health care, media and telecom, academia, real estate, and many other sectors.”
And the company’s offerings continue to grow. It acquired Trucost in 2016, which assesses risk related to climate change, natural resource constraints, and environmental, social, and governance factors. Another recent acquisition is Panjiva, a provider of global supply chain intelligence.
The customer-centric company is dedicated to providing the information that’s needed in the form that’s needed. “One client might ask for just raw data,” he says, “while another wants it in a more distilled and coordinated form.”
The legal team provides input on contract language, intellectual property rights, regulatory restrictions, and licensing agreements. All of these can vary from one state or country to another.
“China, for example, has a complex framework; we can help our internal partners develop the proper strategy for dealing with it,” Marchuck explains. Privacy regulations are a key concern as well. “The rules for handling personal information are not entirely consistent globally or even state to state.”
MI’s legal department plays a critical role in the company’s continued growth and success, and its scope of responsibilities extends far beyond protecting intellectual property and contract language.
“My team is a strategic partner, and there are few areas of the company that we don’t affect,” Marchuck says. “We provide legal advice and guidance to our sales force, product specialists, financial staff, and many other functions.
“Fortunately, we will already know how to accommodate most requirements,” he continues. “Because we’re flexible in our thinking, we can offer ways to resolve issues while adhering to a contract’s terms.”
“My team is a strategic partner, and there are few areas of the company that we don’t affect.”
Because of its complex responsibilities, MI’s legal group relies heavily on technology to maintain its reputation for operational efficiency.
“S&P owns Kensho, a leader in machine learning systems, and the company leverages its expertise,” Marchuck says. “Salesforce, a customer relationship management platform, lets us integrate the activities of various internal teams to help provide an excellent customer experience.
“In addition, we’ve applied artificial intelligence across the legal department to analyze many aspects of our ‘due diligence’ work in the mergers and acquisitions field,” he adds. “We use AI to streamline our creation of contracts as well.”
That process entails using existing language to create the basic framework of a particular contract. That framework then evolves through interactions with MI’s internal customers, plugging in locations, pricing the scope of services, and collecting other information.
The MI division works with numerous third-party providers, each of which has its own needs and regulations. “Fortunately, our data-rights management team ensures those requirements are met for every project. They maintain a system for each data set that enables them to work efficiently,” he says.
The department has also created a series of “playbooks” to standardize many common practices. “Repeatable issues are easy to manage, so when we encounter recurring situations, we add to our database of step-by-step procedures, including proper governance and controls,” Marchuck says. “It keeps our performance consistent and helps us mitigate risks.
“When S&P is readying a new initiative or preparing to enter a new market, we have a seat at the table. Because of our extensive knowledge . . . we can help the company mitigate its risks.”
“That enables even people who are not lawyers to work properly on those tasks and to respond to them correctly and consistently,” the CLO continues. “It frees our legal staff to work on the aspects of a project that truly need a lawyer’s attention. It’s helped us reduce our man-hours and costs significantly.”
All of the foregoing makes MI’s legal team a key player in developing corporate strategies. “When S&P is readying a new initiative or preparing to enter a new market, we have a seat at the table,” Marchuck says. “Because of our extensive knowledge of regulations, governance, controls, M&A, data licensing, intellectual property rights, and so on, we can help the company mitigate its risks.
“That’s the great thing about being a lawyer in a company like this one,” he adds. “We’re active in many locations and many different fields, and what we learn in one situation can often be applied in another. I feel fortunate to be leading such an amazing team of lawyers and nonlawyers. They’re all professionals, and they bring a truly collaborative spirit to everything we do.”
Coping with COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic left many businesses scrambling to adapt suddenly to a remote working model. But because of S&P Global Market Intelligence (MI)’s existing broad use of technology and lean processes, “we were well-positioned not to miss a beat,” Adam Marchuck says.
The division also provided complimentary supply chain data access to governmental and medical entities, enabling them to better track the availability of masks, gloves, and other essential gear. And in early April 2020, MI provided data to the MIT COVID-19 Challenge: Beat the Pandemic, a series of virtual hackathons aimed at tackling the most critical unmet needs caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.