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On episode nine of the Trust Podcast, an SAP podcast about cybersecurity, trust and today’s landscape, SAP’s Chief Trust Officer Elena Kvochko was joined by Mike Towers, Chief Digital Trust Officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals International. They discussed how the role was created, the priorities that come along with it, and what Takeda is doing to foster trust with their customers.

Journey to becoming Chief Digital Trust Officer

Towers started his journey to becoming a Chief Digital Trust Officer by joining the IT team at a pharmaceutical company. He held various IT/tech roles within the  industry and then did a B2B partnership role at GSK. It was while he was GSK that he was approached by the COO to become the company's first senior cybersecurity professional.
Mike shared that he was "surprised as I had never done security before, but the COO mentioned that that was exactly why they wanted me".

Mike started at Takeda as the Chief Information Security Officer but recently moved to this new elevated role of Chief Digital Trust Officer after co-creating it with leadership at the company. Mike and leadership noticed that industries have started to become increasingly data driven and reliance on digital services and products in the last few decades. He stated that despite the pharma industry being behind the times in this transformation, Takeda's goal is to become the most data and digitally driven pharmaceutical company.

Trust at Takeda

At Takeda, trust is an integral part of the company with it being the second pillar in Takeda's value system of "Patient. Trust. Reputation. Business". Mike role's as Chief Digital Trust Officer is to set the foundation for this system and lead the company in earning and maintaining this trust. The Chief Digital Trust Officer role differs from other Trust Officers as it is not as focused on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) but on trust elements that should be managed and secured when dealing with digital and technology systems. The creation of this role was a natural progression for Takeda, which processes large amounts of data from patients, physicians and other stakeholders.

Trust Landscape within Healthcare

The biggest challenges with trust in the pharmaceutical industry is that there has been a lack of trust within the industry, and the digital systems are being established later then they have been for other industries.

Towers shared that over the years, there has been mistrust around the healthcare industry as unethical business practices come to light and assumptions are made about revenue being the primary driver behind healthcare. An example is the current incentivization model for the biopharmaceutical industry that is based on volume of prescriptions. Towers believes there should be a shift in the incentivization model so we are judging progress based on whether people are getting better rather than how many prescriptions are written. However, to collect that data, we need to have the trust of patients and physicians, so they know their information is being used by the right people for the right reasons.

A catalyst within the industry was the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID accelerated "a much needed digital transformation within the field". Healthcare is deeply personal so there has been a huge responsibility on how to store and share data around it. With COVID happening, there was a move to virtual visits and patient portals that made it easier to share and access data even when travelling.
"Learning from the regulatory space, building and sustaining trust is something that should be built in as early as possible so it's deeply embedded. The more you build in that level of compliance assurance, the more cost effective and straightforward it will be to maintain." shares Towers.

Future of Trust Workforce

As of now, the trust office is most common in tech companies as a tech company's success is fundamentally linked to how well they manage their data. It's been natural for tech companies to establish one. Towers suggests that if a company is "making data or digital a component of your business then a trust office is needed".
"You can make or break the reputation of your business based on the trust you build" Towers expanded.

When recruiting for trust professionals, he focuses on junior professionals as they have "grown up living in a digital world". This allows them less transition time to jump into the concepts as they have been surrounded with this ideals their whole life while people who have existed with the old systems require longer transition times. However, some other key characteristics are: strong foundation of technical capability but also a tendency to care for trust as a human emotion, risk takers who are able to make decisions based on risk/reward principles and professionals with a developer mindset that can adapt easily to the evolving landscape.

At the end of the episode, Towers shared a piece of advice for organizations that are looking to invest in trust, “Rally together all the functions that exist to contribute to resiliency and sustainability. This includes all divisions such as HR, Legal, Ethics and Compliance etc. and make game plans and set clear roles and responsibilities so everyone knows where to contribute."

The full episode will be available on February 13th. You can find it here.