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AI Visionary Jackie Orchard Says the Best Tech Partners Have 3 Crucial Qualities

Mark Sekulich

Bringing artificial intelligence and other tech aboard for an in-house legal team requires finesse, passion, and practicality. But a good tech partner? They can make all the difference in establishing a future-proof tech strategy. Jackie Orchard is head of monitoring and surveillance, execution at Westpac, an Australia-based bank, and has a special formula for how to choose the right technology partners for her team.

What are some of the structural barriers that keep your industry from adopting new technologies? How and why did you take an interest in AI? 

In my experience, there are often a number of reasons that pose challenges in adopting new technology. However, in the context of AI, I have encountered three key barriers to adoption: stakeholder concerns around algorithm bias, data security and privacy, and a general fear of embracing new technology.

For me personally, my decision to embrace AI was borne out of a need to keep up with the endless growth of data. In the financial services sector, the ability to quickly respond to legal and regulatory data challenges has historically depended on the speed with which humans can review electronic information. As the growth of data continues to explode, this archaic method has become largely redundant as more sophisticated options in the form of computer-aided review come to light. Advancements in AI enable us to significantly reduce the volume of the relevant information required for review.

How can technologies like AI help you uncover more value?    

For me, the true value of AI comes across in the levels of efficiency and productivity gains that can be achieved when dealing with high-stakes scenarios. Some of the AI-backed technology we have adopted over the years has allowed us to handle tasks at a scale and pace that ordinary humans are unable to match. Simultaneously, by taking the responsibility away from human workers, AI has allowed those same workers to focus on other, higher-value tasks that technology simply can't do.

Embracing technology is one thing, but finding the right technology partner is quite another. What do you look for in your technology partner?

There are three main qualities I look for in a technology partner:

Expertise. A good technology partner should have sufficient years of experience in helping clients achieve their business goals. I enjoy working with a tech partner who understands that their job is to make their clients more successful, not merely facilitate access to a product.

Culture. In my experience, if a technology partner does not operate on the same cultural wavelength and assumptions as our organisation, there’s likely to be significant miscommunication in the business relationship. This often leads to cost creep, erroneous work output, and eventual disappointment.

Exceptional partners have a strong appreciation of the needs of our business as it evolves and continuously look for ways to improve overall service delivery.

Innovative and futuristic spirit. In the fast-paced world of technology, we need partners who are solution-focused rather than just product-focused. This is critical in scenarios where alternative technologies play a vital role in ensuring the best possible outcome is achieved. Exceptional partners have a strong appreciation of the needs of our business as it evolves and continuously look for ways to improve overall service delivery.

What project or major milestone that you’ve completed at Westpac are you most proud of?

One of my biggest accomplishments was the establishment of Westpac’s e-discovery capability. This was an unprecedented function within the bank and included establishing a team of industry specialists. I introduced the supporting technology that enabled the collection of data, review, and production processes for the bank.

Within the first 12 months of establishing this sophisticated and robust internal e-discovery capability, the team was recognized as the ‘Legal IT Team of the Year’ (SME) in the prestigious Australian Lawtech Summit Awards.

What were your interests early on and what drew you to your line of work? 

My early aspirations were quite different from my current line of work, however, there are some synergies. I had always wanted to be a forensic pathologist; however, life happens, and our course changes.

My change resulted in my move into banking almost 30 years ago, which saw me pursue a career path in physical and information security from retail banking. This change appealed to the investigative side of my personality. I have never been afraid to do something different—it is about having the confidence to back yourself and learn quickly.

What do you do when you are not working? How do you decompress? 

I really enjoy spending time with my three children and travelling (when we are not in lockdown). My eldest daughter was a competitive dancer from a young age, which meant I became a dance mum.

I enjoy creating things—a passion shared with my 8 year old son. We build Legos together, and have recently completed a 4,000-piece Manchester United Stadium (although he does prefer Liverpool). An upcoming project will be a 4,000-piece rollercoaster.

Growing up, I enjoyed competitive sports and am always on the lookout for a tennis opponent. I am also known to enjoy the occasional wine while listening to Jazz.

Which person (living or deceased) do you most admire? Why?

There are a number of people that I have respected and had high admiration for throughout my personal and professional life; however, the most significant influence in my life and early career was my mentor, Fiona Dawes. Fiona was an incredibly intelligent woman who helped me navigate the world of collaboration and technology. Fiona was a very genuine person and always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism, even when dealing with challenging stakeholders. I was able to observe her in meetings, which we would regularly debrief afterwards and often over champagne. That time with Fiona was invaluable and I still reflect on these learnings today.

Our mentoring relationship turned to one of friendship and I was fortunate to be able to return the support to her when she became terminally ill. Life is a balance of give and take, and we should never take anything for granted.

What do you consider the most underrated quality or skill? Why?

I consider one of the most underrated qualities to be confidence! I have seen and personally experienced people being intimidated by confident people. This is a quality that I highly respect and regard; it is this quality that enables a person to positively challenge the status quo when they feel the need to question the “why” if it doesn’t feel right. Confident people will speak up and are not intimidated or threatened by other capable people. People with this quality recognize that everyone suffers from the same insecurities and instead of comparing their worst to other people’s best and feeling jealous or envious, they recognize what they have and are grateful for it.

Mark Sekulich is an account executive on the Trace team at Relativity.

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