Ki Hoon Kim didn’t grow up with a deep passion for technology, and he wasn’t a tech guru or even an early adopter of the latest innovations. But his exposure to tech and emerging life science companies as a law firm attorney planted a seed that continued to sprout at the news of an opportunity to work at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).
Kim saw a chance to help support a mission that could answer some of the world’s most pressing data-related questions.
“We’re living in a world where data is everywhere. It’s almost an overload and like a firehouse worth of water going into a straw. The question is what we do with it, what can we do with it, and what can we learn from it,” says the associate general counsel of corporate, securities and global equity administration. “I saw HPE building the infrastructure to answer those questions. We offer solutions for businesses, both big and small, to not only house the data they deal with but process it and gain insights from it.
“By virtue of supporting the board and the general counsel,” he continues, “my role allows me to see a big picture view of our strategy, where we are headed and try to execute on that vision in a clear and effective way. It’s also about being responsive to all our stakeholders and not running afoul of regulatory expectations, which allows the rest of the company to focus on carrying out our mission.”
In the past couple years, his role has become even more vital as public companies face increased scrutiny from both the investing public and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Kim says the stakes were always high but because of the added visibility, “they might feel higher.”
“It’s forced us to step up our diligence, to become more familiar with the laws and their application in our day-to-day practice. With such visibility comes greater responsibility in making sure we provide our leadership with the tools and the information they need to perform their oversight function,” he says. “We continue to sharpen our analysis and the way we practice to be able to operate within the confines of those expectations.”
One way to do that is by finding ways to leverage technology to do their jobs more efficiently but being careful so as not to sacrifice depth and accuracy. For him, it also means supporting his team. As a leader, Kim understands the challenges and the pressure that come with the spotlight his team is under. That’s why he strongly believes in the power of having an open-door policy and being there to lend an ear to his teammates, even if it’s not strictly related to work.
“I want to create an environment of psychological safety where people can speak their minds, including giving constructive criticism that might be tough to give,” he explains. “I want to encourage people to be themselves, so they don’t have to put up a façade and feel like they’re going through things alone. Sometimes talking to someone at work who understands what it means to balance this team’s particular professional expectations and one’s personal life can be helpful in a way that’s different from talking to a friend or spouse. My tenor has always been, ‘it’s OK to come to me with anything.’”
Kim and his team’s posture toward their challenging environment has not only strengthened the department’s culture but also produced results. At the 2022 Corporate Governance Awards, HPE won awards for best shareholder engagement, best use of technology, best annual general meeting, and best environmental, social, and governance reporting. The work his team did on the company’s proxy statement and annual shareholder meeting also happened to be one of the Kim’s proudest moments at the company thus far.
“It means a lot to the whole team because it really is such a group effort to be able to process so much information from internal team members and voices outside of HPE into the proxy statement,” he says. “We thought it was important that the information actually be useful to the shareholders and other stakeholders looking at it. The recognition was a great testament to the fact that we’re doing something right, we’re being responsive, and moving in the right direction.”
Kim advises young attorneys to be flexible. “Be open to trying different things, practices, and areas of the law,” he says. “Ask questions about the substance. That will help you understand whether you can envision a future in those areas.”
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP:
“Ki Hoon is a top-notch lawyer who asks thoughtful and insightful questions. Ki Hoon’s passion for excellence is evident in everything he does and makes him a pleasure to work with.”
—Lori Zyskowski, Partner