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Data separation

Managing your most important asset

Data is the most important and valuable asset that most organisations own. When a company divests, restructures or transfers part of its business to another, successfully identifying, separating and transferring data is one of the most critical procedures of the deal.

Our Data Separation capability brings together the skills and experience of M&A specialists, legal professionals and data discovery experts to help clients identify and separate valuable and sensitive data and manage the risks of transferring it. We can help smooth the data delivery process by liaising with IT on both sides of the transaction.

Deals raise the stakes for personal data protection

Identifying and safely transferring personal data that forms part of a deal with a buyer – while making sure that no confidential information is inadvertently released – is a complex and detailed task. Data may be held across multiple services and disparate systems; finding sensitive data is the first, important step in the process. Separating data is no less of a challenge, particularly when unstructured data and shared networks are involved.

In a post-GDPR world, organisations are under intense pressure from regulators to protect the personal data of their customers and clients. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office has used new powers to issue large fines to companies that breach the law protecting consumer data. An acquisition, merger or similar deal raises the stakes considerably – due diligence to protect personal data must be robust, or the consequences could be severe.

How we work

We are Data Discovery experts in both structured and unstructured data sets, and have years of experience of discovering and disclosing data. Our teams take a forensic approach, scoping the complex data landscape so nothing is left uncovered. During a client’s deal we work alongside our Deals colleagues as a single integrated team, removing the need to engage a third party to help separate data. Our data classification services are, of course, fully GDPR-compliant.

We take a three-stage approach to data separation:

1. Understand the data landscape

Working with you and key stakeholders across all territories, we will develop a search strategy to identify relevant data from all sources, including email, network file shares, Customer Relationship Management and HR systems).

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2. Categorise

We will identify and categorise data using data indexing, analytics and search technologies. We use machine learning techniques to cluster data based on its thematic content, which allows you to pick out sets of data that need to be included (or excluded) from the deal. We carry out sample checks to test whether data is being accurately located, and offer a fully audited review platform that’s accessible to others so the processes used are repeatable and demonstrable to another party.

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3. Transfer

Using our expertise with structured and unstructured data systems, we will make sure that your data is separated effectively. This may be by migrating the data to another system, by restricting access to specific individuals, or by using technology to redact or de-identify sensitive data. We use a secure portal so that further data transfers, if necessary, can be made safely after the deal has closed.

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Case study - global data

A global investment bank was selling one of its businesses and needed to make sure that any irrelevant, commercially sensitive data (including transactional data) wasn’t transferred to the buyer. The project involved multiple territories, required identifying and removing sensitive data from emails and other data sources, and needed to be completed within five months.

We began by helping the bank define their search in terms of systems, people and the relevant dates, and developed a search strategy to identify the data in question. A sample review platform allowed the client to sense check the results for quality, giving the buyer confidence in the effectiveness of the search. Our global Forensic Technology network allowed us to provide local insights for the client, while making sure that data separation was achieved in a consistent way globally.

How can we help you to overcome these challenges?

Contact us

Amjid Mahmood

Amjid Mahmood

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7725 706322

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