A mantra I try to live by is “what’s the worst that could happen?” I know that sounds a little strange but when I have a tough decision to make, I find it really helpful to think about the worst potential consequences of any course of action. Once I articulate what the worst consequences are, I feel a lot more in control of the decision. If I know I can live with one set of consequences, that’s a pretty good indication it’s the right course of action for me. It certainly has helped me grasp a lot of opportunities along the way that I otherwise might have been scared of taking.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Harriet Territt. Harriet has 20 years of experience in resolving significant financial disputes and regulatory issues. She focuses on complex financial instruments, with a particular concentration on structured products such as CDOs, CLOs, and SIVs. She regularly solves disputes by negotiation, mediation, and wholesale restructuring of transactions as well as by representing clients in court and related proceedings. She has been a key part of the multijurisdictional team acting as Special Derivatives Counsel to the Estate of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. since 2009. Increasingly, Harriet works with clients on liability, risk, and governance issues arising out of the cutting edge of financial technology such as DLT (distributed ledger technology, also known as blockchain), alternative finance arrangements, and consumer-facing products. She is a founding member of Jones Day’s blockchain initiative and the coauthor of Jones Day’s multijurisdictional blockchain overview. Harriet is regularly asked to advise on complex issues related to global financial sanctions and money laundering rules. She deals with related matters including market abuse allegations and has undertaken highly confidential internal investigations and compliance reviews for clients in the financial and regulated sector. She represents organizations and senior individuals before regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority and the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation. Harriet is the co-chair of the Jones Day Women’s Group, helping to develop the next generation of female business leaders, and an external member of the Policy Committee of the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) in the UK. The SRA is the independent regulator of solicitors in the UK.
Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
I decided to study law at a university in the UK without knowing for certain that I wanted to be a lawyer, or at least with the idea that I might practice law for a few years and then go off and do something more interesting instead! No one is more surprised than me that 20 years later I’m still here and loving what I do. I think that is mostly because I’ve been open to the opportunities that came my way, even when they have involved significant changes of career direction.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
The vast majority of work I do at Jones Day is client confidential. That said, one project I’m really excited to be involved in, which is public, is the Commonwealth Working Group on Virtual Currencies. The group is made up of representatives from the 53 member states of the Commonwealth and is looking at ways to develop a structured and proportionate framework for regulation of virtual currencies. The aim is to have a single framework that any member country can adopt which minimizes the risks but, importantly, also helps maximize the benefits of this new technology. It’s been a really eye-opening experience for me, hearing from such a variety of countries about their particular needs and aims for the project, and it’s certainly challenged some of my perceptions about what “good” regulation is and how to achieve the best outcomes in such a variety of different legal systems.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have so many stories about people who helped me and kept me going when things got tough. One of the earliest though was the partner who got me my first law firm job. I wasn’t a typical candidate, I had no real understanding or experience of commercial law and I certainly couldn’t demonstrate the sort of commitment to law and a long term legal career that the other interviewees could. She was the first person I met at the law firm and she really championed me through the recruitment process. I got almost all the way through the interview cycle before being rejected following a meeting with a senior partner. She pushed really hard for me to have one further interview, which I passed and got the job. I was lucky to work with her for a number of years and I learned a huge amount about determination from her. I try and have that same determination in our recruitment process now — if there’s someone I believe in, I will push just the same way she did, to make sure they have the best opportunity to show us their potential.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
The most exciting thing is the possibility that these new technologies bring — at every level. I don’t believe that the future of blockchain is just in big-business applications, or disruption by start-ups, or in the concept of tokenising assets — it’s all of those things together and more besides. To give an example, there are some current blockchain applications in the aid sector, particularly in the context of disaster relief, which are demonstrating new and different ways to make direct payments to workers in developing countries. That’s something of huge interest to global corporations with complex supply chains.
I’m excited about the possibility that digital currencies bring for closely aligned countries to develop their own payments systems — both to encourage seamless trade between those countries but also to help with outside investment and make it easier for visitors to travel and experience those countries.
Finally, and this is some way off in the future, there’s an increasing focus on the convergence of blockchain technologies and Artificial intelligence — in particular whether blockchain could be used as a way to help audit AIs and help explain the decisions that those AIs have taken. Given that we know AI is prone to reflecting, even amplifying human biases, that could be a hugely important step in increasing trust in artificial systems.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
The biggest worry I have is around “tech ethics”. That concern isn’t unique to blockchain, but the general pace of technological change and possibility is in danger of outstripping our ability to develop the appropriate ethical rules and standards when deploying that technology. I think that people are moving away from the idea that it’s “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” but how you balance innovation with protection from unintended consequences is a major issue.
The other area is around use of data, where blockchain is both a potential cause of issues and a potential solution. It’s becoming increasingly important to consumers to know who has their data, how it’s being used and for what purposes. The immutability of blockchain technologies is a challenge to some data privacy laws, particularly where data is required to be deleted automatically on or request. At the same time, the fact that blockchain technologies allow a clear audit trail of when and how data is accessed will allow companies to meet that consumer requirement for increasing transparency.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I’ve just got involved in a really exciting project at Jones Day as part of our global Anti-Trafficking Task Force. The Task Force has been running since 2016 and is dedicated to combatting human trafficking around the world, including both labour trafficking and sex trafficking. We work pro bono with clients, NGOs, victims and government organisations to help develop specific solutions to the global problem of trafficking of both adults and children. In 2019, the Task Force wants to focus on how new technologies like blockchain can help reduce instances of forced labour in global supply chains. That’s not a new idea but the challenge is coming up with a pragmatic implementation that works. So not a success yet, but I’m going to be working on it intensely in the next 12 months!
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
Not so much a life lesson quote but a mantra I try to live by is “what’s the worst that could happen?” I know that sounds a little strange but when I have a tough decision to make, I find it really helpful to think about the worst potential consequences of any course of action. Once I articulate what the worst consequences are, I feel a lot more in control of the decision. If I know I can live with one set of consequences, that’s a pretty good indication it’s the right course of action for me. It certainly has helped me grasp a lot of opportunities along the way that I otherwise might have been scared of taking.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on LinkedIn and I post regularly there about blockchain, digital currencies, corporate governance and diversity issues.