One of the biggest stories in European fintech in the past five years is the Wirecard scandal.
Central to revelations of the German payments processor’s dodgy accounting practices was the whistleblower who went to the Financial Times, Pav Gill.
The once legal counsel for the disgraced fintech has now found himself a new career: as entrepreneur.
With longtime colleague Ryan Dougherty, he’s created a new whistleblowing platform, Confide. He hopes that the platform will enable whistleblowers to safely raise concerns without having to rely on last-resort options like going to journalists.
“It’s meant to dissuade whistleblowers from leaking outside of their organisation, while at the same time compelling management to not hide the issues or kick them under the rug,” he says.
New EU regulation
After uncovering fraud within the company in an internal investigation, Gill had his findings dismissed by execs. He says that Wirecard subsequently began sabotaging his future job prospects and threatening his safety. After ultimately being fired, Gill decided to go to the media so that Wirecard’s wrongdoing could be exposed.
He did so reluctantly: Gill says he felt there were no other systems or institutions in place to enable whistleblowing in a safeguarded way.
Since Gill was forced out of Wirecard in 2018, the European Union has brought into force a whistleblowing directive that forces companies with 50 or more employees to establish a robust internal reporting system for employees to whistleblow on company misdeeds, while protecting them from company retaliation or dismissal. The deadline for compliance with this directive — December 17 — is fast approaching, which means an opportunity for Gill’s fledgling company.
“Most companies in the EU are scrambling, not knowing what to do, so I wanted to create a solution that had a fourfold impact: that benefits companies, the people working there, regulators and society as a whole,” he says.
How does Confide work?
Confide is targeting companies small to large with its first product, a subscription to its whistleblowing platform that sits externally, so employers can’t intervene with the data that’s shared on it. Several protections for employees — like encrypted keys so that their IP can’t be tracked — are incorporated into the platform, and whistleblowers can decide whether or not they want their identity to be revealed.
The company then has a week to acknowledge that they’ve received their report and three months to investigate and report back to the whistleblower on how the case was managed.
The whistleblower can download these responses and if they feel the case hasn’t been dealt with appropriately, they can go to the media or the relevant regulatory authority.
As part of the new EU directive, every company must have an independent and unbiased designated person to manage whistleblowing cases within the company — either carved out from its existing legal and compliance team or a new individual hired for the role.
Companies can also pay for Gill and Dougherty to fill this function as an outsourced case manager, providing their own legal expertise.
A number of whistleblowing platforms already exist, from legacy software companies like EQS and NAVEX to newer startups like Vault Platform and Whistleblower Software. But Gill is hoping that his experience as a whistleblower gives Confide a USP: “I hope to be the trusted source for both employees and companies as I’ve been on the whistleblower journey myself,” he says.
It’s this outsourced case manager function that Gill expects will be particularly relevant for startups that don’t have the resources to hire someone to fill this role full-time. Confide’s team currently consists of five further ex-consultants and finance professionals, and Gill says he intends to scale the team — and, therefore, the number of companies it can provide this rather hands-on service to — after raising from investors.
Confide will also sell a tool to educate management on the importance of whistleblowing as a company function.
“Where the culture used to be to shut up and do your work, the world is being forced to change,” he says.
“Gen Z are the last people you can tell to ignore anything, and we’re slowly getting there with more of a ‘speak up’ culture. It’s just a matter of time.”
Gill and Dougherty are planning to launch Confide in October this year with an initial controlled group of clients, and are actively looking to raise.