Being Proactive About Risk

How General Counsel Scott Kitching helps ensure Ceridian and its customers are as productive and risk-free as possible

Scott Kitching learned the importance of hard work at a very young age. His family’s three-thousand-acre farm outside Winnipeg, Canada, produced corn, potatoes, oats, wheat, and barley. Kitching did just about everything to help bring in the crops, driving tractors and combines for both the planting and harvesting. “It’s essential to pitch in when you live on a farm and your family’s livelihood depends on its success.”

Scott Kitching Ceridian
Scott Kitching, CeridianPhoto: Paul Markert

Rolling up his sleeves to tackle whatever comes his way continues to be his modus operandi. After earning his bachelor of laws from the University of Manitoba, Kitching spent nine years focusing on business law at one of Winnipeg’s largest firms, Taylor McCaffrey. “I handled mergers and acquisitions, commercial lending, real estate transactions—whatever business needs the clients had,” he says. “I didn’t want to be siloed in a narrow practice area, so it was a great environment for me.”

One of the firm’s clients was Ceridian, a Minneapolis-based company that provides human resources software and services. In 2003, Ceridian hired Kitching as general counsel for its Canadian division. “It was a great opportunity to be part of an exciting and growing business,” he recalls.

As the company’s first in-house counsel in Canada, Kitching tapped into his childhood and law firm-honed skill of multitasking and did whatever was needed. During the next ten years, he created a legal infrastructure, including a team of in-house attorneys and paralegals specializing in contracts and regulatory work.

In 2013, the company split its operating units into two distinct companies. The commercial fleet card payments division, known as Comdata, was split from the rest of the business and subsequently sold to Fleetcor. The remaining human capital management business continued to operate under the name Ceridian. Around the same time, Ceridian reorganized the management structure of its operations globally under one single management team directing 4,500 employees. As a result of that reorganization, Kitching became executive vice president and general counsel of Ceridian, though he continues to be based in Winnipeg.

In his current role, he has taken on additional legal areas, including corporate governance, privacy, and compliance. He also oversees enterprise risk management (ERM), which he defines as “identifying all the risks inherent in or facing a company and then properly managing and mitigating them.”

“Risk is always present in any business, in a variety of areas and degrees, and a proper ERM program isn’t simply about trying to avoid or eliminate risk entirely,” he adds, “but knowing to what degree you can accept and manage certain risks without prejudicing the business. You have to make sure you’re focusing on the right risks and that you have the right strategies and risk tolerance level for each circumstance.”

For instance, when it comes to protecting customers’ personal information, Kitching says they have a zero-risk policy, and emphasize data protection in every product and interaction. When California’s Consumer Privacy Act was passed in June 2018, it was flagged as a high priority to ensure that Ceridian was compliant with the new strict standards.

“Like we did when the EU passed its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, our ERM team and group of privacy lawyers worked to make sure every department of the business was reviewed and to ensure all necessary processes and controls were in place to comply with the new California standards,” says Kitching. “Fortunately, we had a head start, since we had already undertaken a wholesale review of our privacy program in connection with the enactment of GDPR.”

To ensure all possible risks are managed properly, Ceridian has implemented specific risk management software that inventories and tracks all identified risks, including all mitigation efforts and detailed project plans. The tool also has an intuitive user interface and reporting tools, allowing Ceridian to create a “centralized dashboard” to easily review and report on the key risks and related activities. Through a variety of different processes and mechanisms, the ERM team is able to identify and track risks in real time, which Kitching says is critical to any successful ERM program.

“The ERM team assigns a risk level and develops an appropriate mitigation plan,” Kitching says. “For example, the business strategy team might be considering a new market or acquisition. That would be flagged by the ERM team, so people from finance, legal, marketing, and all other stakeholders can assess the pros and cons, identify potential stumbling blocks, and recommend a course of action.”

“Our comprehensive approach to managing risk makes us nimble by giving us a process for quickly assessing new opportunities, evaluating their inherent risks, and determining how best to move forward.”

The process also enables Ceridian to respond quickly to market demands. “Our comprehensive and real-time approach to managing risk makes us nimble by giving us a process for quickly assessing new opportunities, evaluating their inherent risks, and determining how best to move forward,” Kitching says.

A case in point is its on-demand payment solution, which enables employees to access their earned wages whenever they want, which means they do not need to wait for fixed paydays. The requests, calculations, and payouts happen seamlessly via Dayforce, Ceridian’s cloud platform. “We kept getting requests for on-demand pay through our customer suggestion portal, especially from workers in the gig economy,” Kitching observes. “Our culture of rapid risk assessment, teamwork, and focus on the customer enabled us to be the first HCM company to offer a solution.”

The approach seems to be working. “We consistently receive world-class Net Promoter Scores (NPS) from our customers,” Kitching notes. “We’re very proud of our customer service numbers and work hard to continue to deserve it by staying on top of everything that affects our clients, whether it involves new wage and hour laws or ways to improve employee satisfaction.

“We’re not just selling a product,” he continues. “We establish partnerships with our customers to help make their companies and employees more productive and profitable.”