Chief Trust Officers Balance Organizational Growth with Consumer Trust

Data Collection is Driving the need for Enhanced Privacy & Trust

Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cryptocurrency, AI image generators, and other emerging technologies are driving today’s digital age. With these advancements, companies are moving at an ever-increasing pace, collecting more personal data than ever. The onslaught of personal data collection raises several questions every company should consider:

  • Was the data used for its original and intended purpose(s)?
  • Is this data being sold or shared with third parties?
  • Have appropriate access controls and security measures been implemented to protect the data?
  • Is there a policy in place of when to dispose of the data, or is there a retention policy?
  • Can users gain access to their data or make updates?

The digital age is driving a greater need for trust and transparency, two critical factors to an organization’s success. Consumers and stakeholders are more concerned about the safety and security of their personal information than ever before. To address these concerns, companies are now appointing Chief Trust Officers (CTrOs) to build consumer trust and transparency.

A Chief Trust Officer is a senior executive responsible for ensuring that an organization’s data and systems are protected, used ethically, and compliant with initiatives like ESG (Environmental, Social, & Governance). The CTrO is responsible for ensuring that the brand builds confidence around the use of personal and consumer data. They must be involved in implementing policies and procedures to protect sensitive data, ensuring compliance with industry regulations and standards, and developing strategies to mitigate cyberthreats.

The Importance of Trust between the Business and the Consumer

In the past, organizations relied heavily on paper records, physical files, and the occasional digital footprint. But innovative technology has caused the volume of personal information and the way it is gathered to change. During the 1970s and 80s, customer loyalty programs were limited and required a physical card or token to redeem exclusive offers. In the 1990s, the introduction of email pushed promotional offers — and the personal data associated with them — into the digital space. And in the last 20 years, that evolution has expanded into offers via text message, purchases through mobile phone, and individual company apps for consumer engagement.

All this amounts to personal data existing everywhere, and consumers want control over it. They are demanding to know how organizations are using their information, how it is stored and handled, and the steps being taken to ensure its protection. The trend makes it clear: Companies that do not offer the comforts of trust and transparency are falling behind. To meet that need, Chief Trust Officers are becoming an important piece of the personal data puzzle.

The Chief Trust Officer Augments the Executive Suite

The Chief Trust Officer is a new executive role, whereas the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) is more established and has been used around the world in every industry, regardless of an organization’s size. While there is a clear distinction between the two, they must work together and alongside other leaders to protect personal information. The CPO helps protect consumer data from disclosure to unauthorized parties, and the CTrO helps ensure consumers actually trust the organization when it says that personal information is being protected. 

The responsibilities of the CTrO vary depending on the organization’s size, industry, and goals. However, there are several key functions that most CTrOs are expected to drive.

  • Data ethics: The CTrO is responsible for developing acceptable use guidelines to confirm that the organization uses data for its intended purposes. This includes a data ethics policy, data sharing guidelines, and data transfer impact considerations. The individual typically collaborates with the Chief Data Officer (CDO), and the CPO to build a reputable data ethics program. In some organizations, collaboration extends to compliance, technology, security, legal, human resources, finance, marketing, sales, and risk management in the form of a data strategy committee. 
  • Risk management and compliance: The CTrO must ensure that the organization complies with all relevant industry regulations and standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), EU (European Union) Digital Strategy Act, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Privacy Act, and DSS) among many others. This involves staying up to date with changes in regulations and standards and implementing necessary changes to ensure compliance. Additionally, the CTrO must understand data and business risks from a consumer’s perspective. They must help other executives to understand the risks associated with data transfers, data sharing, data sales, and complying with data use policies. Additionally, they must interact with the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) often to ensure they are working with reputable third parties that maintain elevated levels of data protection, and that internal certifications are maintained and communicated appropriately to the community. 
  • Brand reputation: An important distinction between the Chief Trust Officer and the Chief Privacy Officer is that the CTrO advocates for the customer, whereas the CPO helps to protect the organization. Transparency, collaboration, and communication skills are key factors when evaluating the right person for the job.

A key benefit of this role is that an organization can have one point of accountability to drive trustworthy and ethical behaviors. This individual should provide a strategic view, report directly to the board of directors, and develop a comprehensive trust strategy.

BDO’s trust framework helps organizations define trust and the CTrO role. Below is a snapshot of the framework that can be used to begin to develop your program. 

Consumer Experience


Consumer and employee personal information is a top priority. 

Omnichannel are trusted, reliable, and available.

Privacy notices, terms and conditions, and licensing agreements are easy to understand and available on the website. 



The company uses data for its sole intended purpose.

Tracking technologies and cookie practices are communicated clearly.

Opt-in consent is made available to all consumers, regardless of their jurisdiction. 



Fees are explained and communicated to the consumer (e.g., there are no hidden fees). 

Changes to user data practices are communicated in a timely manner to consumers. 

The organization responds to consumer questions in a timely manner. 

The organization maintains a database of regulatory inquiries and communicates with regulators promptly. 



Data privacy and security are top priorities for the organization.

Employee security and privacy training is conducted annually at the time of onboarding, and upon changes to the organization. 

Systems, services, and processes undergo necessary impact and risk assessments (i.e., PIA, DPIA, DTIA) prior to development. 

Third parties are held to the same security standards as the organization, and third parties are audited. 

Key traits that an organization should consider when hiring a CTrO include an individual that demonstrates or has experience with the items listed below. 

  • History in working in a discipline that is responsible for consumer trust
  • Impeccable verbal and written communication skills
  • Executive level presence and polished presentation skills for large audiences
  • An understanding of third-party risk management and remediation processes 
  • Knowledge of privacy, compliance, legal, technology, and security to collaborate with other businesses
  • Executive experience, including having served on a board as a member or advisor
  • Experience promoting consumer interests for an organization and building corporate responsibility
  • Demonstrating that the brand is reliable and maintains the best interest of the consumer

The role of a Chief Trust Officer is becoming increasingly important as organizations face growing market threats. By appointing a CTrO, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to trust and build stronger relationships with their customers, stakeholders, employees, and partners. By appointing a CTrO, organizations can ensure that trust is integrated into all aspects of their operations.

Read More about how BDO helps companies to build a culture of protecting consumer trust.