Strong, Streamlined Compliance
For over 60 years, oil and gas customers in Western Canada have trusted NorthRiver Midstream Inc. to provide reliable access to pipelines and gas processing facilities. After experiencing a number of mergers and acquisitions, NorthRiver’s administrative workflow was disrupted in 2019, when the company’s external counsel took on responsibility for housing the minute books.
In order to onboard new entities and complete Know Your Customer (KYC) requests, NorthRiver frequently requires access to minute books and documentation. Having to go through a third party slowed down the process, which occasionally delayed contracts and annual returns.
It also increased costs, since NorthRiver had to pay billable hours for every task performed by its external counsel. NorthRiver needed to bring its minute books back in-house — but it needed a modern document management system in order to ensure it maintained strong compliance and risk management processes.
After watching a demo of Athennian, the team at NorthRiver knew the product would suit its needs.
Now, NorthRiver enjoys more streamlined processes and NorthRiver’s clients benefit from a frictionless contract experience. “It's so simple,” says Michelle Lowther, Assistant Corporate Secretary at NorthRiver. “Athennian makes me look like a superstar.”
Encountering Information Roadblocks
On the surface, the success of NorthRiver Midstream seems to depend on the proven reliability of the company’s pipelines and gas processing facilities. Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes clear that NorthRiver’s growth also relies on streamlined administrative and legal processes.
In recent years, the midsize company has navigated a number of mergers and acquisitions, most recently in 2019, when NorthRiver was acquired by Brookfield Infrastructure. Post-acquisition, NorthRiver’s external counsel began housing the company’s minute books — and this change impacted NorthRiver’s workflow.
Michelle began to experience frustrating delays in accessing documentation. “Anytime we needed to check a resolution, we had to contact our paralegal or relationship manager,” says Michelle.
Banks and other stakeholders often require KYC checks before they can enter into an agreement with a midstream company. “The external counsel is busy, though, so sometimes requests took five minutes, and sometimes they took 24 hours,” says Michelle.
“There was an incident that delayed our signing of an agreement by a day. If the signing had been material and urgent and we missed the opportunity because we couldn’t access information in a timely manner, that would have been an issue.”
Having to rely on an external counsel also gave the company less control over processes and deadlines overall. “Annual return deadlines usually have a little bit of a leeway, and some had been missed,” says Michelle. “It happens. But before, they’d always been filed pretty close to when the statements were issued.”
This arrangement increased NorthRiver’s costs as well, since the company had to start paying billable hours for documentation requests.
Ultimately, NorthRiver decided to bring the minute books back in-house — but first, it needed a document management system that would ensure streamlined processes as well as accuracy.
NorthRiver went to market, looking for a document management system with a modern interface and drag-and-drop capabilities. “I wanted advanced technology,” says Michelle. “With some programs it was hard to figure out how to find, input, and send out information. Sometimes I couldn’t even find the print button.”
In comparison, Michelle says, Athennian was “really great.” It had everything she needed to streamline her workday while ensuring accuracy in her work. The Virtual Minute Book (VMB) feature promised to solve her most immediate challenge by allowing her to bring NorthRiver’s documentation back in-house, eliminating delays and external costs.
Athennian’s DocuSign integration also appealed to Michelle, since it could ease the effort involved in getting a signature from her signing officer. The process that was in place at the time required her to print the document, put it in a physical folder, deliver it to the signing officer’s desk, and follow up. This was particularly challenging in a hybrid office environment, but DocuSign would allow her to do it all remotely.
Michelle saw opportunities to lighten her workload by using Athennian’s Document Generation to create summary sheets and to update director, shareholder, ISC, and transparency registries.
Fast Access to Trustworthy Data
In 2023, NorthRiver increased its entity count by over 40% from the previous year. That surge in growth not only represents an increase in business activity — it also represents a significant amount of administrative work for Michelle.
With Athennian in place, however, the work has been manageable, and NorthRiver no longer pays a third party for tasks like document scanning and emails.
“It’s easy to create a new entity in Athennian and then link it to your organizational charts,” says Michelle.
“It’s very slick and streamlined. We still have entities registered in British Columbia, so while I maintain everything here, I still need to send copies of documents to the registered office there for filing in their copy of our minute books. Now I can just pull whatever I need, send it off, and they're happy.”
Athennian also works well within NorthRiver’s hybrid office. “Since all my resolutions and organizational charts are available at the click of a button in Athennian, I can provide fast and accurate information to Corporate, Commercial, Regulatory and Treasury when they need them,” says Michelle.
With all documentation in-house, the time of unexpected delays is over — with KYCs completed promptly and annual reports filed early. “I’m able to collect signatures quickly so I can file our annual returns well before their due dates, ensuring our companies are all up to date in the various jurisdictions they’re registered in.”
Athennian has even made it easier for Michelle to go on vacation. In urgent situations, NorthRiver’s Legal department can now access information in Athennian and send it to Corporate, Commercial, and Treasury and Risk, keeping projects on track, even when Michelle is away.
“It’s so user-friendly for people who aren't used to this kind of technology,” she says. “I also like knowing the information that I have in Athennian is correct and up to date. I feel confident about having that information sent out.”
Next, Michelle plans to give the Treasury and Risk group read-only access to certain documents. “This would be helpful for when I'm not here and the lawyers aren’t able to come in,” says Michelle.
“I’d like them to be able to just hop on in and look at the information that they need. If they need to print something they can, instead of always being dependent on Legal and me.”
“The old way of using pen and paper or an Excel sheet to manage your entities isn’t very efficient and there’s potential for a lot more errors,” says Michelle. “Adding a database system to your tech stack will help. No matter which one you pick, it'll help you streamline. However, I recommend picking Athennian because it's super easy.”