By Cynthia Hetherington
International research requires global tools. Certainly Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn created some handy, quick-find sources for conducting due diligence, and I’d always endorse the easy way to get an answer. However, depending on the country you are reaching into for your answers, the nature of data is not always as obvious or transparent. Whether language is a barrier, or you’re up against stringent privacy laws in the EMEA countries, or the country is deliberately evasive—as many tax-shelter islands can be—company information is still required for compliance and due diligence demands.
International research has come a long way, since I began my information research career as a librarian. Back then it was all about bricks-and-mortar buildings, where we pulled books off the shelf and updated clipping services. Databases were available (searched in Boolean language) but expensive (per-minute charges—at 300-baud!). Today’s $45 report was $200+ back then. University business libraries offered access to collections that local libraries couldn’t afford.
Today, the expectation is that all information is freely available online and only one simple mouse-click away. New vendors and service providers are helping us researchers in the field meet those expectations. In this 4-part series, we review four of my favorite go-to resources: Kompass, SkyMinder, Sayari, and Bureau van Dijk.
Where to Start
Open sources are good; a finance Google search can render much info. However, many of your research needs may require specific and industry-focused resources, such as a Harvard Business School’s Bloomberg library catalog offering. I will often spend an afternoon crawling a library index such as Harvard’s just to see what is new for my investigations. Try it yourself sometime.
An especially notable resource is the Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online, offering up one of the best international and multinational legal databases for locating information country by country.
Fortunately for us, bankers, lawyers and business professionals have a required information need, which forces the creation and maintenance of excellent information products. The products outlined in this article are resources that may not circulate as much as the international due diligence products of Dun & Bradstreet, Thomson Reuters, and LexisNexis. This week, we review Kompass.
Kompass, a self-avowed business-to-business solution originated in Switzerland, is now present in over 60 countries and offers a very reasonably priced collection of information on more than 35 million companies from more than 75 countries. With a subscription, you can locate the executives of companies, obtain addresses, corporate structures, names of key figures, company turnover information, company descriptions, product names and services, trade and brand names, and location of branches.
Kompass offers free searches for the following topics:
- Region: Locate companies geographically
- Products/Services: Type of product
- Companies: Name of company
- Trade names: Name of product
- Executives: Search by the top person
- Codes: NAICS, SIC, and other government-related codes.
Using Kompass, I searched the name “Bill Gates” in the United States and discovered multiple returns to explore, including a marketing firm in Florida, a property developer in Cape Coral, and a dentist in Durham. I also found the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.
Selecting Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the free results are the start date of the company, website address, physical address, number of employees, and other basic information that will get my investigation started.
This is a considerable amount of information when you are starting from nothing. The address and phone numbers are leads that can be explored in Google and other databases, such as D&B. Having a ballpark number of employees is also helpful to an investigation.
Kompass also provides classification numbers, if applicable.
Currently, the free version of Kompass provides enough information to rival expensive business reporting services. Even in the past, when you had to buy credits to obtain any report, it would’ve been as little as a few dollars per report.
Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on global due diligence? If so, check out Hg’s webinar series, where you can attend live sessions and receive CEUs or watch previously recorded sessions to beef up your investigative skills.
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Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.