Corporate Investigative Services Celebrates 30 Years
Company Recognizes Partner Jim Szell for Outstanding Achievements
North Olmsted, OH – When former FBI staff members Jim Szell and Bill Taylor worked for the Bureau in the 1970s, the small but growing computer network of networks that would later become the modern internet was just being invented.
In those days, examining the history of an individual or business was a grass-roots, boots-to-the-ground process that involved weeks if not months of manual research and field interviews. Criminal cases were solved by fictional detectives like Jim Rockford using street-gathered intelligence alone.
After leaving the FBI to work together for another investigative firm, Taylor and Szell formed Corporate Investigative Services (CIS) in August of 1987 to help organizations mitigate their risk.
Since then, everything and nothing has changed.
As cases have moved from the physical dimension to the cyber dimension, the explosion of instant information requires greater discernment and objectivity to determine what’s important and real.
“Whatever the situation, meticulous human interpretation of the evidence has never been more critical,” said Taylor. “With mountains of searchable information at our fingertips, bringing it to life by asking the right questions in the right way is everything. This is where Jim excels like no one I’ve seen.”
Companies across the country typically contact CIS for support on high risk-reward dealings that involve substantial financial resources and potential liability.
A lending institution may call for a thorough background assessment of an organization before it extends a loan.
A financial firm may engage CIS on behalf of its client for a due diligence evaluation of a prospective merger, acquisition or business partnership.
A legal practice may seek Szell and Taylor to conduct an investigation for a corporate lawsuit. Or a company may request in-person representation to diffuse and secure a high-risk termination proceeding.
Taylor admires Szell as an expert interrogator whose sensitivity and compassion allow him to connect with everyone. “Known by all and loved by all,” Szell has a deep understanding of behavioral psychology.
“Jim immediately establishes trust and does so in a kind, empathetic and nonjudgmental way,” said Taylor. “He’s honest and frank, and has a gift for encouraging the facts from his subjects. Often they find relief in expressing the truth to him.”
Szell holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Baldwin Wallace University and is trained in the Reid Technique of Investigative Interviewing and Advanced Interrogation.
Equal partners in CIS, Taylor is president and Szell is vice president, a decision made by a coin-toss, jokes Taylor, who focuses on business administration while Szell specializes in customer relations and operations.
Like most startups, CIS’ beginnings were humble. For the first five years, the duo ran the North Olmsted-based company by themselves. During the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, their business scaled to 22 employees to handle the influx of predatory lending investigations.
Today, Corporate Investigative Services employs 14, including three former FBI agents and five former police officers. The company serves customers across the U.S., and for those that operate internationally, CIS has also done business in China, Thailand, South America, the U.K. and Canada. The firm is part of a vast, worldwide network of professional investigators and former law enforcement officials.
As the digital economy continues to expand, so does the need for accurate reporting. Beyond public record searches, CIS has licensed access to private databases, and its investigators are highly trained to pursue evidence from alternative sources. The key, says Taylor, is narrating on the findings without judging the data.
Information overload also means that companies must go to greater lengths to verify who’s who and what’s what. With the rise of data breaches, fake news, citizen journalists and sensationalism, CIS expects increased demand for its unique brand of risk management and liability insurance.
“If you’re prepared, you never have to get ready,” said Taylor. “We have roadmaps for everything and run the business in a regimented, militaristic way. This poises us for expansion.”
Since opening its doors three decades ago, Corporate Investigative Services has successfully withstood multiple recessions and market shifts. With 40 years of experience apiece, the company’s owners are just as impassioned about the future.
“Whatever it holds, I couldn’t ask for a better business partner or friend than Jim,” said Taylor.