June 22, 2018

Age of Accountability

Age of Accountability

Politics aside, I was tremendously relieved, as I’m sure all of you were, that President Trump finally put a stop to family separation at the country’s borders. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, I hope we all can agree that resolving our immigration challenges, which are many and certainly complicated, should not require the removal of children from their parents. As a father of five, I shudder to think of how traumatic that experience was for everyone concerned. I hope these families will be reunited immediately and that our policy leaders can come up with more constructive and humanitarian solutions to protecting our borders.

The public outcry about that policy and swift reaction is a sign of the times. In an age of social media and 24/7 cable news programming, it’s easier than ever for both the public and political leaders to make their voices heard if they believe something wrong is going on.

That applies to behavior by companies, as well. While tobacco firms must place warning labels on cigarettes and pharma companies must get FDA approvals for new drugs, it wasn’t all that long ago that many firms could get away with introducing new products without really looking ahead to the effects they might have on society. But now that we’re seeing some of the unintended consequences of innovations like video games, social media, and driverless cars, for example, it seems like those days are over. Consumers have gotten more sophisticated. We expect companies to think ahead to risks that may come with their products and innovations – and prevent them. And there’s really nowhere left for companies to hide. Customers can and do shout from the social media rooftops about brands they love – and brands that let them down (or worse). And millions of other users hear them, loud and clear.

Public officials aren’t giving innovators a free pass, either. If states can sue drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid crisis, it’s not a big leap to imagine some of them going after game makers in this environment, as well.

In this new climate, I wasn’t surprised when the World Health Organization announced “gaming disorder” is officially a mental health condition. Of course, like a lot of you I’m sure, my kids are well equipped with the latest gaming equipment and Apple gadgets, and it definitely is a little scary to see how addictive playing video games or apps can be. But we make sure they have plenty of other activities to keep things balanced.

Who knows what too much gaming is doing to kids’ developing brains? The good news is the new classification should make it easier for anyone who has become addicted to get reimbursable medical care.

All companies need to be thinking about risk management more in the current environment. Thinking about the risks that come with being on the cutting edge and mitigating them is going to become more and more important for innovators in all industries going forward, including small and middle-market firms in their early years of growth. Risk management at Marcum takes up more of my time than I care to admit.

This isn’t an easy area to navigate. It can be tough to strike a balance between encouraging your team to innovate and protecting your brand from unexpected risks. If you don’t have people on your team with experience in considering the potential hazards and ethical issues that might emerge when you launch new products and services, now’s the time to find risk management professionals to help you.

I don’t mean to suggest that new technology or innovation is bad, by the way. As you know, innovating and applying technology in our business is a top priority for Marcum. And in terms of the way we are all living now, there are many ways it’s making us safer. You may have heard that iOS12, the operating system that will be powering iPhones and iPads next year, is including a new feature that will help emergency services automatically locate someone who has called 911, if they become disconnected. This will be a tremendous relief to anyone who has purchased a phone for elderly parents or teenage kids and worries about what might happen if, for instance, they got hurt and couldn’t speak to emergency responders.

That said, we’re entering a brave new world when it comes to a lot of the new products and services coming onto the market. It’s going to keep a lot of us on our toes – and the news media very busy – as we consider what they mean for our lives and whether they’re helping or harming us, and our kids. I’m hoping we get this right. There’s a lot riding on it.

On another note, yesterday was the official start of summer and the longest day of the year. Sunrise where I am was 5:15 am and sunset was at 8:23 pm, over 15 hours of daylight. Although the weather should start to get better and warmer for the next two months or so, the days will gradually shorten, day by day. Let’s enjoy the long days and outdoors as much as we can. Have a good weekend all.