‘Trust is everything’: SAP’s chief trust officer reveals how the software provider embeds trust at every level of its business

SAP chief trust officer Elena Kvochko on how the enterprise software developer builds trust with its customers.
Alex Kraus—Bloomberg/Getty Images

This week I spoke with Elena Kvochko, chief trust officer at enterprise software giant SAP. In April 2020, Kvochko became SAP’s first chief trust officer, and she leads a team of regulatory advisors, software architects, and content experts spread across 40 countries.  

Kvochko says she’s seen a lot of leaders and companies placing “trust” as a key tenet among their values but still struggling to implement and deliver on that goal. If that sounds like you, then hopefully this interview will provide some valuable insight.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Fortune: What is the role of the chief trust officer?

The scope of the chief trust officer is focusing on four pillars of privacy, compliance, security, and transparency, and we’re building a one-stop shop for our global customers based around those pillars. We added the transparency angle to really emphasize the need to stay open, transparent, and maintain constant communication with customers. 

How do you build trust with customers?

Internally, we incorporate trust as part of our services. So, within the security pillar, for instance, what we do is implement controls and monitor controls, we embed security at every stage, we automate activities; within the privacy pillar, we make sure that personal information is handled appropriately, we educate our employees on best practices, and we also open up our education platforms to external stakeholders when possible, to show how we protect their data.

Externally, for clients, we also build trust through a content delivery mechanism. So there are compliance reports that need to be delivered, there are questionnaires that need to be asked of a vendor, and those are the types of services that we deliver through papers, self-service videos, and other means that help customers better serve their business needs and safeguard their own information.

What is the most challenging task in your role?

I think, for me, it’s balancing the needs between security, privacy, and that customer experience will always be an evolving challenge. Demand for issues around trust is only going to grow, and we will aim to drive leadership in the space by setting responsible policies and frameworks with our customers, to deliver on those expectations.

But I think for organizations that are just starting out on the journey, the biggest challenge could be defining the scope of “trust” as a factor of business. Because trust is everything. It’s that invisible thread that underpins every aspect of the business. So just defining “trust” in a way that’s going to be core to their own business, their own technology, or their own people and strategy—that’s going to be probably the biggest challenge. 

Should other companies have a chief trust officer?

I think every company is unique and they should be defining for themselves where and how they deliver trust to build the services and products that most correspond to their core mission. We know that for us, as a software business and as a cloud company, cybersecurity and privacy are at our core. But depending on the business and the industry that the company is operating, they can focus and measure other domains.

But I do believe that the demand for issues around trust will continue to grow in the marketplace so it’s very much my personal hope that more companies will embrace it and establish a trust officer equivalent. I really think that we all benefit from it. And we definitely encourage other businesses that specifically depend on technology for their processes and their daily operations, to prioritize this new business category and find a way to deliver it as a service.

Next week, Trust Factor will have insights from Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ chief digital trust officer, Mike Towers, on how the pharma industry is playing catch-up when it comes to digitization.

Eamon Barrett


Twitter’s limit
Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino defended the social media platform’s decision to limit user access depending on whether they’ve paid for verification. Under new rules Yaccarino says are designed to weed out bots, verified users can now view 6,000 posts per day while new, unverified users are limited to just 300. Frankly, aside from social media managers, 300 tweets a day seems more than enough for anyone. But users disagree.

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg is looking to take advantage of the turmoil at Twitter and has launched Meta’s latest imitation product, Threads—a Twitter-like service where users can post 500-character posts, plus links, pics, and videos up to 5 minutes long. Over 10 million users arrived on the site within its first seven hours, surpassing 30 million by Thursday morning, and Zuckerberg says he hopes it can be bigger than Twitter, all while staying “friendly.”

Meaningful work 
According to Deloitte’s latest survey of the Gen Z and Millennial workforce, young employees want their employers’ values to be aligned with their own, and they want to drive societal change through purposeful and meaningful work. And they’re serious. Some 40% of the surveyed demographic say they have rejected assignments due to ethical concerns, and a third have turned down employers with weak environmental, social, or diversity credentials.

Fines for flaring
New Mexico oil field and air quality regulators on Thursday announced an unprecedented $40.3 million state fine against a Texas-based oil and natural gas producer, accusing the company of flouting local pollution reporting and control requirements by burning off vast amounts of natural gas in southeastern New Mexico.


“People aren’t just numbers, they’re people, and that means that you need to be emotionally connected to what you’re doing.”

—Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says his company’s “near-death experience,” when the home rentals business lost 80% of its sales over eight weeks during the pandemic, gave him clarity on how to manage operations. Compromise, Chesky says, is not always the answer. Instead, he learned to focus every employee toward one goal and says staff were happier with the new clarity in direction.

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