Opt-4 shuts after 15 years as coronavirus takes its toll

opt4_2Opt-4, the pioneering data protection compliance consultancy launched by industry stalwarts Jenny Moseley and Rosemary Smith, has closed its doors after 15 years in business; in effect the sector’s first high profile casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, which Moseley describes as one of the hardest of her career, also comes just over 12 months after Smith passed away.

Set up in February 2005 to help marketers balance data protection compliance with their data-driven marketing strategies, the launch followed the duo’s collaboration on a book, “The New Data Protection Liabilities and Risks for Direct Marketers”.

The pair, who had been lifelong friends, initially continued with their separate business interests in addition to running Opt-4.

At the time, Moseley was chair of mailing house Grange Direct and had other consulting businesses, while Smith had her own data company RSA Direct. Both had also been chair of the DMA, while Smith went on to be chair of the DMA’s Governance Committee.

However, with data protection soaring up the boardroom agenda, and the then looming introduction of GDPR, Opt-4 came into its own and both took on expanded roles at the consultancy.

It also hired a number of other data protection experts, including former Bauer Media chief Simon Blanchard, ex-Royal Mail head of new business Debbie McElhill, former Experian executive Stefan Elliott, and ex-Guardian chief revenue officer Julia Porter, and former Acxiom head of data protection complaints Philippa Donn, among others.

As well as advising companies on their compliance strategies, the consultancy ran courses for the IDM and provided input into the lobbying efforts of both the DMA and Fedma.

In 2014, Smith and Moseley also founded the Data Protection Network, which many Opt-4 executives have also worked for. The group publishes views, analysis, practical resources and guides aimed both at experts and non-experts.

In July 2017, the DPN published the definitive industry guidance on the use of legitimate interests under GDPR, which was warmly welcomed by the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Data Protection Commission in Ireland.

But now many companies have switched their focus, believing that GDPR has been “sorted”, Opt-4 has seen a drop in business in recent months. And with the Covid-19 outbreak hitting its existing client base hard, Moseley has decided to call it a day.

Moseley said: “Needless to say, I am so upset that Opt-4 has gone into voluntary liquidation. I am so sorry for my late partner, Rosemary, the Opt-4 team and our clients.

“In the year after GDPR, many companies felt that they had done enough, and went back to normal business and we found new business harder to come by.

“Then when the coronavirus hit, it became impossible, and some of our clients in the travel and leisure industry, in conferences and exhibitions and charities are themselves struggling to stay ahead. Data protection is at the bottom of everyone’s list at the moment so I thought it was time to quit before it hurt too much.”

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