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Andrew Prozes, CEO of LexisNexis, spoke to Kellogg students April 23. He was the latest speaker in the Executive MBA Luncheon Speaker Series.

Andrew Prozes

Executive MBA Luncheon Speaker Series: LexisNexis CEO Andrew Prozes

Prozes tells students how the company became ‘the place to go to if you want to find out who a person is’

By Rachel Farrell

5/4/2010 - When two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, the FBI immediately stepped in — and so did LexisNexis.

“Within a few hours, we were able to identify 19 or 20 of the conspirators because we had information on their flight training,” said Andrew Prozes, CEO of LexisNexis, who spoke at Kellogg April 23 as part of the Executive MBA Luncheon Speaker Series. “The FBI came and spent a week with us.”

That’s because, in addition to offering legal information, LexisNexis is now in the business of risk. The global company maintains a database of identity-related records — such as tax records, driving records and insurance claims — and supplies it to law firms, corporations, governments and other entities around the world. With this data, for example, companies can check the background of job candidates and mortgage brokers can review applicants’ credit histories.

“In essence, what we are able to do, with the technology we have built, is tell anybody about anybody,” Prozes said. “We are, by far, the place to go to if you want to find out who a person is. The FBI, CIA and Secret Services don’t have this information. They come to us.”

The information, of course, is strictly regulated. “If you misuse the data you will get punished,” Prozes stressed. “I’m the CEO and I can’t go into this data. If I want to do a check on my nanny for my grandson, I have to get the nanny’s [permission].”

He added, “It’s amazing how many times I’ve done this and found out that the person has three DUIs or [was convicted of] credit card fraud.”

Outside of the risk business, LexisNexis maintains a database of millions of legal cases, which lawyers rely on heavily to determine precedence. “There’s not a lawyer in the world that doesn’t use our services,” Prozes said. “If you’re a lawyer, you have to know what the laws are; you have to know what the case decisions are. If you don’t have that information, you can’t do your job.”

LexisNexis hasn’t always offered this duality of services. More than a decade ago, its products were limited to legal research and lawyer directories.

That all changed in 2000, when Prozes was appointed CEO and transformed LexisNexis into a profitable provider of online legal, news and business, and risk information. The company grew from $1.7 billion in 2000 to more than $4 billion in 2009. Today, it serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs approximately 18,000 people.

Before joining LexisNexis, Prozes served as COO for Thomson West at the Thomson Corporation, one of the world's largest companies in the information services industry, and was general manager of MFS Limited, a public company in the financial services industry.

This upward career trajectory is the product of three things, Prozes said. “A tremendous amount of hard work, a lot of luck and a lot of networking,” he said. Networking has played the biggest role, he said, and it’s something he continues to put time and effort into.

“Being here at Kellogg is an example” of this, he said. “My thinking is that these things are good to do. You never know what’s behind the door.”