As the world becomes increasingly digital and companies innovate to stay ahead, there is greater pressure than ever to protect data and processes. Shifting regulatory landscapes are also forcing businesses to rethink their strategies and responses. But beyond these, gaining trust from customers, employees and investors in one’s products and services, digital systems and data collection — what is known as digital trust — will have to be the imperative for businesses that are seeking growth.

With digital trust, the goal is not just to overcome risks, but to also unleash the potential of nascent technologies, such as the metaverse and artificial intelligence (AI), with confidence. These emerging technologies have huge commercialisation potential and extendibility but may not be well trusted or seen as transparent. To this end, businesses that can manage digital trust issues well for both existing systems and emerging technologies will be able to position themselves ahead of their competition.


Giving insight to bridge knowledge gaps

To turn risks into opportunities, businesses need to have a solid grasp on new technologies and the evolving regulatory landscape that comes with it, shares Bradley Styles, Partner, Head of Digital Trust, Advisory, KPMG in Singapore. Digitally savvy companies that manage emerging risks can achieve sustainable business value, while providing confidence to the market.

On the other hand, a paucity of knowledge could result in hesitation when companies assume risks which are not there. “We are focused on filling that knowledge gap,” says Bradley, who has over 25 years of experience in the assurance, IT attestation and risk management fields.

“We want to bust the myths and tell companies ‘Here is what the technology can do and how you can harness its full potential.’ We get to the facts.”

Conversely, misguided action — jumping onto tech bandwagons without a roadmap — is another consequence of the knowledge gap. With mounting competition, businesses could be eager to dive into new technology without fully comprehending its risks, says Bradley.

These trends come as CEOs globally and in Singapore are recognising emerging technology as a top risk to organisational growth over the next three years, according to KPMG’s 2022 CEO Outlook survey. However, looming economic uncertainties have also pushed businesses to prioritise digital investments into areas that drive value and impact.

Hone confidence to leap forward

This is where professional services firms play a critical role in the continued functioning of the financial markets, through building trust and confidence in companies, says Andrew Koh, Partner, Digital Trust, Advisory, who specialises in IT internal and external audits.

For organisations to build a bank of digital trust, they have to be assured in their processes. These are what enable everyday activities, such as bank transactions, to take place as consumers increasingly expect the organisations they partner with to demonstrate reliability and resilience.

“It is trust that enables everyday transactions to be carried out,” he says. “In advising our clients, we give a level of confidence and establish controls in place to minimise errors.”

Armed with such trust, businesses have the confidence to do better. More than a third of respondents in KPMG’s 2022 Cyber Trust Insights report indicate improved profitability, better customer retention and stronger commercial relationships with enhanced trust.

Andrew explains that digital trust can be broken down into two components — safeguarding the systems and technology as well as the confidential data within these systems. With confidence developed on these two fronts, businesses can pivot from worrying about data breaches to maximising technology to innovate. In other words, to make the leap from defence to offence.

Capturing opportunities in ESG and beyond

While new technologies such as the metaverse promise plenty, organisations will also require a guiding hand to deftly steer through accompanying regulations, according to KPMG’s Edmund Heng, Partner, Digital Trust, Advisory.

Data from KPMG’s Global Tech Report reveals that 61% of businesses intend to explore disruptive new tech platforms within two years. Over the next three years, they also aim to increasingly ramp up digital investments.

Amid such an evolution, Edmund is witnessing a shift in the type of questions company boards are asking today. While concerns of the past were focused on system breaches, queries are now centred on how to best utilise emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and robotics process automation.

Another key area where digital trust is critical is in advancing environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. Amid greater stakeholder scrutiny and more stringent regulatory standards, companies have it all to do. “KPMG is driving the ESG agenda globally and we believe digital trust is a big part of it, especially when you use systems to measure, calibrate and record ESG data,” says Andrew. 

Creative and controlled

Digital trust is empowering. More than three-quarters of Singapore business leaders believe their organisation’s information security is shaped by compliance requirements rather than long-term business ambitions, according to KPMG’s 2022 Cyber Trust Insights. Building knowledge and honing confidence in your systems enables that next digital leap.

For Bradley, a chief aim of digital trust is in removing obstacles for companies to innovate — to reach the next stage of growth.

“Ultimately, digital trust is empowering businesses with the creativity to innovate, backed by robust controls that establish trust and confidence in their actions.” 


About the Partners

Bradley Styles has over 25 years of experience in the assurance, IT attestation and risk management fields. He currently leads KPMG in Singapore’s Digital Trust practice, and his areas of focus are the financial services and telecommunications, media and technology sectors. He is also the firm’s National IT Security Officer.

Andrew Koh has more than 25 years of experience in audit and advisory. He specialises in IT internal and external audits, Evidence Act certifications, project assurance, IT attestation and data analytics.

Edmund Heng has been with KPMG for over 17 years and leads the Singapore firm’s project assurance and emerging technology risk teams in the Digital Trust practice. His areas of focus include IT assurance and advisory. He also develops approaches for clients to demonstrate effective compliance through data integrity, security and privacy.

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