Digital doorstep trust

Top 100 global leader, Nicola Lishak, on the role everyone must play when it comes to handling data

Achieving global recognition for her work – and that of Royal Mail – was a “humbling” moment for our head of privacy compliance, Nicola Lishak, and one that has spurred her in continuing to meet the data demands of our colleagues and customers. After being named as one of the top 100 leaders in information security by Corinium Global Intelligence’s Business of Information Security, Nicola sat down with PAUL SMITH to chat through her team’s vital work and the role everyone at Royal Mail Group must play when it comes to data protection.


There are many unique elements to the work of Royal Mail Group – from our “feet on the street” network providing environmental benefits our competitors can’t match to the unrivalled history more than 500 years as the UK’s postal provider brings.

Above all else, though, is our reach. Our Universal Service Obligation takes us to every household in the UK. It’s an incredible presence but brings with it huge demands, not least – in this post-General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) era – when it comes to safely and securely managing our customers’ data.

It’s an unheralded but no less important part of how we make that end delivery. A significant role in the Royal Mail pipeline. What we do with that data is crucial to how we operate and unlocking that all-important trust.

Nicola says: ‘If you think about our unique position as the designated service provider, we handle letters and parcels and we deliver to all delivery points in the UK. That means millions of items of personal data and that is the bloodline of the business.

‘Not only is it customer data and making sure that our customers trust us and that we collect it, store it securely, keep it safe and use it in lawful ways in line with what our privacy notices say – but also you’ve got to think, from a colleague’s perspective, we’re one of the biggest workforces in the UK. That’s all of the personal data that we process when it comes to managing our people and doing the right thing by our people.

‘We’ve got a really unique data protection footprint and that’s why it’s so important that every single one of us understands our personal responsibilities when it comes to handling Royal Mail data.’

While GDPR has presented multiple obstacles for Nicola and her team in the five years she has been at Royal Mail, keeping up with the pace of change and helping with our transformation are certainly very current challenges.

‘More and more, we’re seeing that customers want assurances,’ explains Nicola. ‘Take the strategic contracts we’re contributing to – such as Covid-19 test kits and the potential health-related data that involves.

‘We’re enabling transformation and running as fast as we can to keep up with that pace of change – which is pretty impressive at the moment – moving away from the view that data compliance is a blocker to innovation and growth, but rather, if there is one message for anyone reading this, it’s to see our team as someone you can work with on all change initiatives, and get the added bonus that you will be using data ethically and compliantly – enhancing that trust agenda.

‘This is because data protection and information security are all about maintaining trust. That’s trust at the doorstep and trust at our digital doorstep. We partner with the business to provide that pragmatic privacy advice. Focusing on the should and the could – of what we do with our data and how we process it. As our Data Protection Officer says, “who cares, wins”.’

Nicola, who graduated from Manchester University before joining the Deloitte graduate programme (‘where my passion for data and data protection began’) has been sharing our story at conferences and network events discussing the approach a company like ours must take and the unique data protection profile we have. It’s this that helped lead to her recent recognition as a global leader.

‘It was really humbling and came as a bit of a surprise,’ says Nicola. ‘It was a career highlight for me. I was just proud it shows the hard work that’s going on here.’

16 Jun 2021