Reasons to build your own flexible workforce

I was talking with a programme change lead recently and what shocked me is the amount of time wasted when they need new freelancers to join their team.

Incredibly this person used to run a consultancy so was very familiar with the concept of having to manage resources.

Reasons to build a flexible workforce

  1. Keeps a good relationship with suppliers
  2. Makes costs more predictable
  3. Reduces costs by selecting in a ‘knee-jerk’ fashion
  4. Removes reliance on recruiters who do not know your business
  5. Speeds up your onboarding time
  6. Retains control of your business

Reach out to learn about how 6prog can help to build your business through a flexible workforce that YOU manage.

Choosing a recruiter in 6prog

I hate contract recruiters.

This is the type of comment spoken between professional freelancers often. They don’t mean it anymore than people who bad mouth car drivers or cyclists … it’s just an industry problem.

So, does this matter? Well we decided it did matter. Some contract recruiters are truly awful and almost wilfully bad. You don’t have to work with them. Others are great and have a good network which you will use time and time again.

Please invite the good ones to 6prog. [tia]

Actually, are you a contract recruiter?

When developing our plan for 6prog, foremost in our mind was one question.

How can we make working easier?

One way to start answering this, was to evaluate what the service actually is that a contract agency offers, and we saw that the main substance of their work was administrative. Really? How is that useful to their clients?

Surely the focus of a recruiter would be meeting people and matching them to clients and vice versa, to ensure managers were getting strong candidates from their recruiters – not being encumbered by administration.

The 6prog platform is engineered to remove any need for duplication. It is a golden source of data because it is shared, securely, between those parties where access is given.

The platform makes it possible for recruiters to leave their desks behind and spend time talking to people; after all, people are what makes businesses, not admin.

https://www.6prog.com/home/recruiter

This has generated an additional area of interest for us. If being a recruiter no longer entails chasing paperwork and tracking candidates, perhaps ‘anyone’ can do it?

It has been suggested to me that the key attribute of a good contract recruiter is their contact book; that being the case then I shall be going ‘to industry’ when I need to hire. I will be asking the people doing the work who they know that will be good.

Indeed I can use 6prog.com as my operations and back office while I get on with the interesting and exciting bit of business; meeting people.

https://www.6prog.com/account/register

6prog partners with Crunch to give users access to Accountancy Support

Crunch is the official ‘go to’ partner for 6prog members who need advice on tax, expenses, savings and more…

From the 6prog FAQs you can find free information and access a free consultation.

“It is part of our roadmap to offer a full solution to freelancers and for them to be able to access independent advice easily [and] from a company as qualified as Crunch is it very pleasing for me. Clients using the 6prog platform can be assured that freelancers have the support needed so they can focus on the task in hand.”

Andy Barnes – 6prog CEO
Crunch is an online accounting service that supports freelancers, contractors and practically anyone who’s self-employed. They understand that the self-employed life isn’t your standard nine-to-five, and tailor their services to make your life as easy as possible.

Whether you’re a sole trader, a limited company or a freelancer, their simple online software, expert advice and accessible support makes managing your finances easier than ever.
Crunch is an online accounting service that supports freelancers, contractors and practically anyone who’s self-employed. They understand that the self-employed life isn’t your standard nine-to-five, and tailor their services to make your life as easy as possible.

Whether you’re a sole trader, a limited company or a freelancer, their simple online software, expert advice and accessible support makes managing your finances easier than ever.
6prog was started by friends from Brighton, UK and Los Angeles, USA. We had all experienced recruiting, being recruited and working as a recruitment partner and felt that these tasks would benefit from a single solution.

Become a member and help us on our shared journey to revolutionise how projects, recruiting and on boarding get better.

Finding talent is expensive

Does it have to be?

talent searching?

It is expensive and time consuming putting together a good team of freelancers, right?

So what do most companies typically do when the programme finishes? They ‘hand back’ ownership of that freelancer to the agency who provided them. This is not deliberate, it is not wilfully ignorant, it is contractually imperative.

What if this weren’t the case? What if, YOU, the client, could ‘hold’ the talent. If YOU had a platform to contact, communicate and nurture the team of people who want to work with you on YOUR programmes.

Usually these articles then go on to explain why paying more means you can have a better level of service – surprise – the charges at 6prog are lower than what you are currently paying for contract recruitment.

Take a poll of the freelancers in your office today and ask what facilities they would want. I’ll wager none say ‘an agency’ but many will opt for a straightforward platform.

Lee Lam joins 6prog | Coaching and People Advisor

Lee is a personal and corporate coach. Formerly Chief of Staff at Barclays, Lee qualified as a coach with the Coaching Academy in 2004, is ITIL qualified and has the CIPD Level 5 Diploma in HRM.

Having worked with Andy on several projects in the past I was very interested in the 6prog initiative, notwithstanding the advantage it would give to organisations in hiring and managing non-permanent staff.

I’m looking forward to working with the team especially on topics such as people, delivery and quality.

It’s great to have Lee on the team. Her support and coaching will be invaluable to us as we scale.

Interview Lee Lam and Andy Barnes March 25 2019
make your valuable network valuable

About

After completing a dual honours course with degrees in Law and American Studies at Keele University, Lee took a take a gap year before undertaking my further legal practice studies.  Having been put on a project team for a groundbreaking Technology transformation project, she caught the tech bug and therefore embarked on the graduate programme for the Royal Bank of Scotland.  It was indeed one of the last years that they selected non-Technology graduates to join the Technology programme, and this ability to prove herself in brand new situations became an obvious theme in her later career choices. 

After supporting critical Bank systems and infrastructure from the data centre in Edinburgh, she returned to London to join the Trade Floor Support team, having to once again pick up new skills along the way.  After wanting to learn more new systems, she moved across to Fidelity International to join first the trade floor team and then specialising in market data support, supporting the move into Fidelity’s new London headquarters.  She realised that she wanted to have more of a strategic impact and decided to join Barclays Capital where she was quickly identified as a team leader and ultimately became Service Delivery Manager.  Lee swiftly moved towards the COO and business management space, and joined the IT COO Office.

Later at UBS Lee joined the Group CTO COO team, where she was responsible for overseeing the budgets of several disparate but coordinating departments.  The experience of managing complex and large budgets finally lead her back to Barclays, where she became COO for the Emerging Markets Technology team.  Her ability to think strategically across business areas as well as an ability to design complex process and systems to facilitate financial and resource management optimisation meant she was responsible for overseeing the redesign and centralisation of the business management function across all of the Investment Banking IT areas, as well as redesigning the sourcing strategy for high volume consultancy agreements. 

Her final role with Barclays was at group level, as Chief of Staff to the Head of Application Services, where she oversaw the governance for her department’s transformation programs, and set the Lean implementation strategy to be deployed across the organisation.  Her key involvement was in successfully rolling out the Dynamic Working strategy for Barclays group, coordinating the training of 400 line managers to support them in managing remote and flexible teams.

Since 2016, Lee has run her own disruptive consultancy, focusing on changing people management strategies and team dynamics, alongside supporting companies going through significant change.  This includes her Ditch the CV program, helping businesses to recruit more successfully.  Her approach to work is to facilitate the conversations necessary to identify the real challenge facing your business and work with you to provide a fix for it that lasts. 

6prog Partners | Open Orbit Technology

SaaS platform for improving process improvement

Six Sigma SaaS platform, Open Orbit, re-engineers the way Process Improvement (PI) is delivered, taking the enterprise to PI 2.0. It dramatically increases the effectiveness and efficiency of investments in process improvement.

Open Orbit turns up the knob on all the dimensions of a transformation project by applying Lean Six Sigma to project definition, process modelling, measurement, root cause analysis, solution hypothesis and benefits tracking. It provides an active Diagnostic Workbench that reduces the effort and time required to get results, a live and context-sensitive Open Knowledge Base of insights and best practices, and a connected Community Forum to drive sustained benefits and engagement. It is the thinking place of choice that practitioner can turn to, so it naturally becomes the system of record for improvement projects.

It enables Agile and Anytime governance at a project as well as process levels, accessible organisational memory and standardisation of approach – without having to mandate usage from the top. Instead of depending on adoption driven from the top, it entices the Lean Six Sigma practitioner directly by making their job easier and time more effective.

More information? Login to 6prog and click Partners under the menu [top right]

Birendra Agarwal joins 6prog as Strategic Advisor

Birendra Agarwal

6prog is pleased to announce Birendra Agarwal joining as Strategic Advisor. Birendra is an entrepreneurial banking and financial services CIO with work experience in the US, UK and India. His expertise spans Capital Markets (Foreign Exchange, Fixed Income and Equities), Transaction Banking and Wealth Management with a particular focus on Digital and FinTech.

I’m delighted to be working with 6prog.

This platform addresses a key need in the contract recruitment space, a much needed innovation!
Having known Andy for some fifteen years, and when he showed me the 6prog platform, I did not hesitate when he asked me to join.

Interview with Birendra Agarwal and Andy Barnes [18 March 2019]
www.6prog.com

About

Until recently Birendra was CIO Commercial Banking at Lloyds where he successfully transformed IT for the Markets and Global Transaction Banking divisions. He has returned to the consulting practice he setup prior to joining Lloyds. Envision provides business development services to FinTech firms and strategic technology advisory services on diverse topics including digital transformation and resource strategy. This belies an extensive career in Investment, Commercial and Retail Banking IT.

In 2012, Birendra returned to the UK following three years in India as Managing Director and CIO at Nomura. This was a position he was well experienced for having played a key role in setting up the near shore centre in Belfast as part of Citi’s Global Resource Strategy. Birendra had a long and fruitful association with what ultimately became Citi.

Starting with Salomon Brothers in New York in 1994, he went on to head Market Data Services and was then appointed to run Retail Wealth Management E-Commerce Technology. Birendra was further promoted to set the strategy for Citi’s award winning digital FX platforms in his capacity as Global Head of FX E-Commerce Technology from 2001-2004.

In April 2004 Birendra made the move to UK as CIO of Global FX Technology, soon followed, in 2006, with promotion to MD and CIO of Global Rates & Currencies. In 2007, he was appointed CIO, Global Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities before joining Nomura in 2008.

Birendra is passionate about Fintech and is a Mentor at Level39. He was Co-Chair of REACH (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) network at Lloyds. He is a keen Cricket fan and was on the Audit Committee for the International Cricket Council from 2008-2012.

Who likes hidden charges?

We don’t believe in hidden charges, cash-back schemes or multi-layered charging policies. We don’t believe in subscriptions, tie-ins or upfront fees.  We believe in transparency. 

6prog members pay a low service fee of 3% per transaction.

Furthermore, if you invite someone new to join 6prog, any transactions you have with them will be free. Forever.

6prog interviews | Richard Kettle

Richard has been a contractor for the past 15 years. His clients have included UBS, Credit Suisse and Barclays. 6prog wanted to learn more about his experiences and to share them.

“Hi Richard,  what have you been up to recently?”

I most recently have been working on TBTF projects, where systematically important financial institutions were deemed to pose a serious risk to the economy in the event of collapse. Because of this, regulators insisted these banks “ring fenced” certain aspects of their operations and I was tasked with helping to create and build these new entities to meet this regulatory request. We also created a business solutions entity to ensure the non-regulated business was funded and managed in the event of a collapse of a trading entity. 

This then led on to Brexit planning as this would also require the creation of a new entity within the EU. These projects were typically 18 months each in duration. 

“How much of the bank does this type of project affect?”

I covered group risk control in London and Zurich, which included, Credit/Market/Operational risk and compliance. My role was to build and implement the standardised set of project tools to be used. This included the runbook, budget planning, on boarding of external staff, RAID log, SharePoint site, governance decks, Steerco meeting material and scrum sessions amongst other tasks. I also had to help with the creation of TOM documentation, BRD, BRSIT, ARS as well as policy documentation and service level agreement documentation.

“What was a key take-away in this project?”

I learned during my time on the trading desk working in the middle office on a previous role the importance of having a plan and process and how important documenting and being able to prove something or to be audited is to a project or team. The basic concept I keep in mind when working on a project is that to deliver on time and on budget we need to have a clear step by step guide from where we are to where we need to be. We know things are likely to move and change and we are agile enough to factor that into our planning, but we need a tangible set of activities or milestones to deliver and a plan of how we do that. These milestones have to be clear, understandable (by non-business people such as audit) simple enough to be measured/tracked and then when closed have the closing document to prove it. But the most important thing to remember is that it’s people that will deliver these projects and if you can’t find a way to get from each member of the team their contribution then we all suffer, so strong people skills/relationship building is my first starting point. 

“How do you deal with challenges?”

I have found that in every project you will face issues and that’s why we have a RAID log! But the biggest obstacle is when people do not set realistic targets/milestones or re-evaluate them during the project. Hiding behind an amber rag status and hoping for something that isn’t likely to happen causes problems that just do not need to be there. If you plan well using clear statements that are measurable and where you need to, you update your approach, keep on top of your dependencies and where others depend on you, and are led correctly by a strong PM or PMO function things should go to plan…. Also, at the start, think of the known unknowns, the unknown unknowns and document them. They might come up again later and you need to demonstrate they were part of your thinking!!!!

“What is your biggest achievement?”

I am proud to say that all of my projects have come in on time and on or under budget. This is down to correctly tracking the spend, spending where it’s needed, having the right people in the right roles and having clear leadership and targets/milestones. If you have a plan, are agile enough and honest enough to change as you require and the people are the right people then you stand a great chance of delivering, on time, on budget every time!

www.6prog.com

Why modern platforms can service businesses better than ‘heritage’ one customer type businesses.

Why modern platforms can service businesses better than ‘heritage’ one customer type businesses.

Technology has infiltrated our lives in a huge way since 2000. I say ‘infiltrated’ as if it has somehow carried this out without our knowledge, perhaps ‘invited’ would be a better word.

Whilst tech often seems made to frustrate, it is, undoubtedly better when it works.

I have been working in recent months to bring the MVP for 6prog to market. We have done it but it has not been with out hiccups and I’m certain there are more to come.

When setting out on the journey of starting my own business one friend said to me (whilst looking into a crystal ball) “whatever you do, don’t start a technology business” 

Sage advice but how many traditional businesses are there that can work with the absence of tech? 

6prog stops a number of traditional issues with contract recruitment such as 

free sign up

1/ QUEING 

Client or candidate, your agency will only work as fast as it can depending on what fees you negotiated and where you are in the list [how valuable you are to them.

2/ MARGINS 

Get rid of them. Let’s work to service fees that are consistent and transparent

3/ TIME or TIMEZONES 

Recruiters are asked to work before and after work and ‘call me back at lunch’ … why? this simply pushes up the cost of recruitment. Let’s work sensibly and use technology to communicate in time slots we have available.

4/ NETWORKS

Whether you have a shortlist of approved suppliers or an in-house agency you have immediately limited your pool of resources. Use platforms to capture the whole market. Sorry – another ‘tech beats humans’ point!

5/ CONSENT 

Utilising a members only platform means that all members are consenting to maintaining contact with you. 

6/ DIVERSITY

Platforms that are open to all to join and use have been shown to be preferred to tight verticals or industry specific sites. Open your options to many industries, open your hiring criteria to many talents from sectors and enrich your teams.

6prog : make your valuable network VALUABLE.

Seven percent

How much is 7% worth to you? 

What is the most expensive part of running your business? 

People?    Yes – they are a lovely and very necessary part of making a business.

We often use temporary resources to manage peaks in demand and the cost is typically their day rate plus ten percent.

6prog : make your valuable network VALUABLE.

6prog thinks that is too much. 

Through automation, platform technology and efficiency driven recruitment, the price for delivery of your temporary resources is 3% on 6prog.com.

Continue reading “Seven percent”

Job Boards

Job boards. Either lots of jobs or lots of candidates.  What do people think who use them?

I recently attended an industry get-together which had stand after stand of job board companies. Some were actually job board aggregators. I’ve also noticed the larger networking sites drafting in adverts posted elsewhere.

Who is this helping? 

  • the client?
  • the candidate?
  • the job poster? 

I’m not sure. 

This is why 6prog is network focused. We won’t put the candidates through the perpetual cycle of applications and we won’t make clients read profiles repeatedly sent from different job boards. 

This is how we see it:

Review profiles of people > connect to them and invite them to your project > work.

 

6prog members

A Financial Services Transformation specialist with over 20 years experience within Markets, Banking and IT, across JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and HSBC. Always specialising in change & transformation, roles have included IB COO & CAO functions, M&A Change, Head of HR IT, IT programme management, Middle Office, Finance & Operations Change, and Data Governance.

Effective at managing local and global programmes from inception to live, he has a unique capability to work with both small and large businesses and help them realise the power of block chain. Additionally, he acts as a non-exec director of a number of startup companies (incl. Tectra, WorkGaps, +), as well as managing Crypto portfolios and coin mining.

For more profiles like this see 6prog.com and contact hello@6prog.com if you are interested in talking to the above consultant. Click the logo below to register.

6prog members

I have a fundamental vision about supporting people and organisations through change. I am dedicated to encouraging businesses – from start ups to bluechip – to develop and flourish, and ensure the best possible end results.

My substantial expertise in financial services, transport, retail, supply chain, manufacturing, and outsourcing makes a highly influential leader, with an ability to work in matrix environments globally, across multi-cultural and multi-functional teams, engaging stakeholders at all levels.

I am an experienced programme director, running large cross functional teams, coordinating phased moves of people, systems and machinery. By employing synergised processes, I am able to quickly deliver – often exceeding targets – reduced footprints and centralisation, whilst increasing functional capacity and enhancing customer service; resulting in significant savings and benefits. Strong emotional intelligence to be able to rally and deploy extensive operational improvement teams where necessary and to garner the support and focus of the key people around the change – be they client teams or colleagues and associates.

For more profiles like this see 6prog.com and contact hello@6prog.com if you are interested in talking to the above consultant. Click the logo below to register.

6prog members

My experience is across strategic initiatives and transformation, technological, regulatory, organisational and cultural change.

Having most recently supported a major global bank to prepare its teams and clients for some of the biggest regulatory shake ups in recent times, I have the proven knowledge and expertise to work with businesses and stakeholders of all levels, to plan and execute projects and programmes effectively; from taking ideas and building business cases, through to realising the expected benefits and vision, along with advising on suitable governance structures and efficient ways of operating.

For more profiles like this see 6prog.com and contact hello@6prog.com if you are interested in talking to the above consultant. Click the logo below to register.

This company just fixed the most annoying thing about contract recruitment… (hidden margins)

This is not a freelancer ‘sob story’ and neither is this blog about the challenges of procurement leads pushing contract agencies for lower margins.

It’s a story about the human interaction between a project manager and a freelancer.

make your valuable network valuable

Hidden agency margins hurt the freelancer and the manager because neither is able to ascertain what level of work is required or should be expected based on the set fee.

An example:
A project manager hires a developer for 12 months at a cost of £700 per day who is in fact paid £560 by the agency.
For the PM this is a stretch. It is slightly above the ideal budget and now it is a necessity the developer works fast to bring in the work early and come under project budget.
For the developer this is a job taken because of timing and ‘if a better paid job comes along’ it will be hard for the freelancer to reject it.
4 weeks into the project the PM has a one-to-one with the developer to discuss the pace of the work. In theory neither are contractually permitted to disclose the rate. (This only helps the agency and is a policy that is often disregarded).
The PM mentions the stresses they are under on budget control. Casually the freelancer mentions they are also concerned as the agent said budget was a pressure so a low daily rate was applied.
Both sides feel uneasy. Neither side is at fault.

Another example:
A project manager asks an agency to find a developer for a 12 month contract. They do. High fives all round.
The agency supplies an excellent selection of profiles and following some interviews one developer is selected who joins the project a few weeks later.
Unfortunately the management is changed, and the business direction is under question so the project is halted immediately. Two weeks payment is made to the agency and most of this is passed to the freelancer.
All that work for 2 weeks of margin. Is this good trade?

A final example:
A project manager and a freelancer catch up having worked together a few years ago.
As luck would have it, one is in need of a freelancer and the other has just finished a contract.
Procurement policy dictates an agency should be used to manage the papertrail, help on timesheets and invoicing and keep the relationship IR35 friendly.
A call is put in to a known agency … what margin can you charge if I give you a candidate?
(Frankly I’d prefer you offered us the work at our normal margins but) “how about 10%?”
Both sides have done the other a favour yet neither have received one!

As shown by the above it is good news that 6prog designed a platform with managers, freelancers and recruiters’ best interests in mind. An ultra low services charge for paperless paperwork that streamlines the process, a fixed fee for recruitment services (or networking introductions) AND no hidden margins.

What is an ATS? [plus interactive demo is live]

What is an ATS?

An ATS is an ‘Applicant Tracking System’. Typically this is used by the agency and the client to keep abreast of all the available people for a particular job.

We found that there is a key person who misses out on being involved in the ATS though – the actual candidate!

 

If you are a candidate (we have all been one once!) you will have called, emailed, sms’d your agent or client to see at what stage on the tracker you are. Have you been submitted to the client? What was their feedback? When did / will / should the next stage be reached?

Furthermore, the recent GDPR regulations require that people who hold your data better understand what data they are holding, how long for and whether they should be holding it for any duration.

Perhaps it is better if the owner of that information administers it themselves?  6prog.com designed its workflow to enable the candidate to sign in and impact the ‘ATS’.

You can communicate with the client and/or the agent. You can administer your own data, therefore you know exactly who has your information and at what time.

Rather than being the data in an ATS… you are a participant and data controller yourself. Whilst I do not anticipate #candidatesarehumanstoo is a hashtag that will take off it does neatly summarise how we feel about our duty to 6progmembers.

Transparency is here – for a live and interactive demo contact hello@6prog.com

Why 6prog is a private network.

Why 6prog is a private network.

  • For clients: Frequently, clients receive ‘adapted’ CVs for particular freelance roles. By moving away from applications and into a profile based reference system, 6prog takes away this issue. For more details see Lee Lam from DITCH.
  • For recruiters and networkers: A one sided database of names is so ‘pre-GDPR’. Therefore, 6prog’s people page updates itself when your contacts change their data such as recent project, new skills or availability. Connect to people who you want to trade with, not just to extend your friends list.  
  • For freelancers: We know you are looking for work but do you want everyone approaching you all of the time? Even when you are in a project? I know. I can hear the screams of “…but I haven’t even done ‘x’ skill so why do they keep emailing me?” 6prog has preferences for available and unavailable.
  • The Marketplace: The marketplace doesn’t show my full profile. Correct. It enables those reading it to assess it on its merits, not by your gender or race. We firmly believe this will enhance diversity.

Continue reading “Why 6prog is a private network.”

Why 6prog is industry agnostic.  

“Industry knowledge is invaluable however transferable skills are too.” 

6prog enables you to filter between different types of connections whether you are looking for work or looking for workers.

It is likely that you will initially look for people you know and you may have already invited your immediate contact group. Great news that your People are looking strong and you have enough talent in the pipeline for your foreseeable needs.

Continue reading “Why 6prog is industry agnostic.  “

Going freelance in 6 steps

6prog Freelancer : Benefits

1/ Decide what you are selling. List out your key skills and accomplishments. Clients will typically want to know about pieces of work that you have started, managed and completed.

2/ Invest in some good kit. If you are a designer you will need the correct hardware. Whatever type of freelancing you do, you will need to communicate; well and often. Make sure your phone, email and social media accounts work. Set your 6prog alerts to ‘on’.

3/ Decide where you are keen to work – internationally or in your home town? What are the laws that dictate how much tax you need to pay and what are the costs of living in that place?

4/ Who is in your network who will help you? Other freelancers, recruiters who know you, and networking sites can keep your business private and also give you recognition and new clients that you are in control of.

5/ Blogs: keep learning. If you have made it to point five you are already doing this!

6/ Select some business tools to help you stay organised. Blog coming soon on some of our favourites.

Continue reading “Going freelance in 6 steps”

six ways to communicate and work smarter with your team

When you have worked with someone for a while it becomes easier to communicate as we can make assumptions about the nature of requests or intention behind statements they make. 

However, in projects we are often thrown together with a new team of people and the need to become a cohesive delivery machine quickly is of paramount importance. 

1/ Set expectations of the high level end game that the team is aiming to achieve. In 6prog projects this is easy as all of the freelancers hired can see the same outline and key deliverables.

2/ Regular meetings. We have a scrum every 48 hours. It’s so valuable to see if what was planned is actually achievable – and understood -before too much effort is undertaken. It means we can be more agile and change deliverables without major impact on timescales. Try out Teamretro to help your team retrospectives flow with ease.

3/ Commit verbal changes to writing. Within projects chat, simple status and notes can be made to confirm agreed steps within an engagement.

4/ Use the same language. Call a widget a widget and stick to it. 

5/ Limit the number of locations where written conversations take place. I have found myself checking through multiple channels in slack, teams, WhatsApp, messages and then finally finding the relevant data was shared in another location to be the most troublesome ‘benefit’ of modern communications. There are so many practical comms channels, just choose a few and clarify for what purpose each is going to be used. 6prog will be using a Slack api for our projects soon! 

6/ Utilise low cost collaborative project tools such as one Figura Associates demo’d to me recently. Figura have a free trial here

Continue reading “six ways to communicate and work smarter with your team”

How did 6prog start?

6prog was started by friends from Brighton, UK and Los Angeles, USA.

We had all experienced recruiting, being recruited and working as a recruitment partner and felt that these tasks would benefit from a single solution.

So we designed a workflow that allows members to deliver their function most effectively.

 

  • Recruiters can be anyone with a book of contacts (it’s more valuable to a PM if you can recruit from people via experience or word of mouth).
  • Project Managers and Freelancers can talk to one another. It’s fine – it really is!
  • Network Recruiters are paid a fixed fee agreed per opportunity.

Importantly we were keen that variable and hidden margins should not exist (too many reasons to list!) and therefore the software is funded by the low transaction fee.

Importantly, our ethos is membership driven. All members are charged in the same way at the same fee.

Continue reading “How did 6prog start?”

Great infrastructure is the great enabler. Stuff worth knowing from The Bankers’ Plumber

Infrastructure. What does that mean? It feels like something that is intangible. I am lucky enough to live in Switzerland, where infrastructure is actually something really tangible, whose value you experience every day. Public transport works, the schools work and kids have various routes to getting a very good education, we have fibre and broadband and so on. The processes supporting the community work. A lot to be grateful for.

I am a process guy, so as well as appreciating how well organised Switzerland is, I have a deep interest in the infrastructure in the industry I work in; Financial Services. I have highlighted some views on matters infrastructure in an earlier post. In my mind, good infrastructure has three ingredients: coordination, co-operation and consensus.

Those three items serve as a good base to highlight some select infrastructure projects that I think are worth knowing about.

Coordination

Left to its own devices, the free market and its guiding capitalist principals will not necessarily make all the right things happen. The free market needs a solid framework to operate in. For a longer read and some very thoughtful commentary on the role of government vs. the free market, I recommend Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism .

Central coordination, or at least initiative, is often the vital impetus to help the market develop new services. Here in Switzerland, the federal government is hard at work, hand-in-hand with the private sector to create an electronic identity (E-ID) that is valid nationally and internationally, for more click here.

In Singapore, the government is making its data repository available to the private sector. Local bank OCBC is working to use this service to massively streamline the whole account opening process.

Now imagine how powerful the combination of both those capabilities will one day be; if I wanted to open a bank account for myself or my company in London, I could simply use my E-ID to authorise the Swiss data repository to share my details with the bank in London. Simples.

Co-operation

Up in Northern Europe, the Nordic banks are working together to have a shared KYC utility. Personally, I think that excellence in matters KYC will give a financial institution a competitive advantage. That said, I can see a place for a utility that collects data centrally and makes it available to its sponsors on demand. The banks involved though must not delude themselves into thinking that the utility is the global panacea for all ills. How they store, validate & manage data in their own systems is and will remain a major challenge.

Consensus

Italy is not normally associated with fantastic administration. In spite of that legacy, or perhaps to spite it, the Italian Bankers’ Association is coordinating the local banking community in an effort to use the Blockchain for inter-bank reconciliation.

I don’t have any details, but this is worth keeping an eye on, because it seems to offer a potential alternative to the current combination of SWIFT & reconciliation systems most banks use for reconciliations. That combo has done pretty well on end-of-day reconciliations.  Now, there is a need to move to an intraday discipline. The DLT / Blockchain approach has great promise; it could make it easier for me to compare my ledger with the ledger at a another institution. Continue reading “Great infrastructure is the great enabler. Stuff worth knowing from The Bankers’ Plumber”

The CV is Dead – part 8. So if we don’t use CVs, what then? By Lee Lam

 

If we agree that the CV is no longer a suitable method of selecting people for roles, that it endorses a lack of diversity within our organisations and that it has no ties in with talent management once in the organisation, what is the alternative?  It is a fundamental shift in culture and thinking away from a process-driven recruitment process to a more holistic approach.  This approach will not fit in neatly to the machine – it’s not a bolt-on that allows you carry on as before but with recruitment 2.0 – and it is a change that will impact not just recruitment but performance and talent management, project management, how people get managed by their line manager – everything.

But, it will encourage personal accountability, higher levels of employee engagement, improved loyalty and commitment to the organisation(as part of the enhanced psychological contract between employer and employee) and will help organisations identify the people who they need to take their organisation into the next decade and beyond – not based on what they have done before but what they can envision for the future and the energy and vitality they are prepared to use to make it happen.  Maybe that’s where the mountain climbing will come in useful.

 

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 7. It doesn’t help with Career Progression either. By Lee Lam

 

Senior leaders identify those for promotion not based on the activities they do, but the attitude and tenacity with which they do their job. And by job, I am talking about not just the day to day to do list, but their approach to building networks, making connections, building relationships with key stakeholders – all of those aspects that senior leaders will look at for those who they feel are ready to make a jump up.  I’ve never heard of someone being put forward for a promotion within their organisation and the manager basing their decision on their CV (HR will always require the manager to bring in a CV because it is part of the process – but realistically, the decision is made on the assessment from the manager and any other interviewers – the CV is just part of the paper trail).  The paper / online CV is a stale representation of what you can achieve as soon as you get into the workplace which is why they get out of date so quickly, and why they are so painful to update as and when you need to.

So if we don’t promote or grow our employees based on a constant assessment of their CV aptitudes, why do we hire on the basis of them?  I would argue it is because we still see the ‘machine’ of an organisation and because of that we can’t imagine what business could look like without it – we are looking for the faster horses.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 6 Experience is more than a list of achievements – by Lee Lam

 

 

So am I saying that your experience doesn’t count for anything – far, far from it.  We all hate creating CVs because we know that it is the worst way of trying to convey who we are and what we can do – its why CV writing businesses are always so busy – we assume they have the secret formula for making you sound more interesting.   Your experience is far more than a list of activities – what about the times you stayed late in the office to help get a project over the line?  When a massive outage destroyed a database, and you and others gave up your weekend to re-key in all of it?  The countless conversations you have had with colleagues talking through problems in their work and helping them to make the call or have that difficult conversation?  This is the true experience of work – how we work with others and how we – as a team – succeed.

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 5 Gender and Diversity Gaps – by Lee Lam

 

Currently all initiatives created to increase a more diverse representation of society within organisations, are trying to fit within this broken system of hiring via CV.  As with young people trying to get their first role, many groups are excluded not because of their diversity but because of the ‘rule’ that says you have to have done the job to do the job again.  The only way for these groups to get better opportunities is for someone to disregard the CV and lack of experience and ‘take a chance’ on them – I’m not entirely sure that having someone tell you they are taking a risk taking you on would be very motivational, unless you hope to prove all of the nay-sayers wrong.

We need to get away from having targets to hit for increasing representation, and focus instead on what qualities we need from people – regardless of past experience – that could help them take the organisation to the next level.

Even if we were able to say that overnight, we have eradicated the gender gap, that we have solved the diversity issue – we would still have the same problem of how do you get experience for a job you haven’t done before?  That is the real issue – and it affects everyone in equal measure. If you are looking for true equity in the treatment of employees – look to how we assess people based on their CVs.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 4. New Employees – by Lee Lam

A study by Ernst & Young in 2016 (pre-referendum) states the following (Mark Gregory):

“Youth unemployment rates have fallen from the peaks we saw during the recession, when 40% of the UK’s 16-17 year olds were facing unemployment. However, a stubbornly high number of young people remain excluded from the labour market,which could be further exacerbated by a period of weaker economic growth in these uncertain times ahead. History has shown us that young people are more exposed to economic volatility and industry restructuring than the population as a whole.”

“The skills agenda is fast becoming one of the biggest priorities for UK business, with Brexit also likely to impose some restrictions to the free movement of labour in the future. It has never been more important to ensure the UK has the right mix of skills and talent, both nationally and locally, and young people are core to this.”

The reliance on the CV to tell us what we need to know about someone is impacting our ability to get new people into work – you can’t get a job for a role that you haven’t done before (and no amount of mountain climbing and abseiling can get over that).  We tell young people to strive for academic excellence, get a broad range of experience with travelling or sports – then assess their ability to do a job based on work that they have never done before and the experience that they do have is dismissed or seen as irrelevant.

Our young people have grown up in a world of growing technology, and are far more comfortable with the concept of a changing world than we ever were.  We do them a great disservice to give them a set of aspirations that then we immediately dismiss as they try to enter the world of employment.  It is impacting our ability to grow our economy, and our ability to help our younger generations identify and enhance their potential. The system of CVs is not set up to find the next big Thing – just the old Thing repackaged again and again.

Taking business into the future is not going to happen by doing what we did before, but by approaching business in new and truly innovative ways.  And while we are concerned with making what we have already work better or faster (Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”), it is the up and coming generations who are freed from the shackles of ‘status quo’ to think of new and disruptive ways of achieving greater growth and profitability.  It is no coincidence that all of the major disruptors in industry – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Virgin in its infancy – are all concepts of younger people, who – precisely because they haven’t been involved with it before – can think more freely and more optimistically about what can be achieved.  We talk about wanting to find the future leaders, the future talent, the future game hangers, yet the recruitment process based on CVs does not help us achieve any of that.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 3. Skills Gap – by Lee Lam

 

In 2011, the UKCES (UK Commission For Employment and Skills) found that 38% of ‘hard to fill’ vacancies were due to lack of candidates with the required skills, and year on year this problem has been growing (by 2015 it was reported to be 69% of the ‘hard to fill’ vacancies).  And last year it was stated by the LGA (Local Government Association) that Brexit could exacerbate this issue by as much as £90bn in our economy.  It is a known problem – part of the LGA’s frustration is that there are too many different initiatives to help people learn the skills that are needed that it is now “confusing, fragmented, untargeted and ineffective”.

I suggest we are looking at the problem in the wrong way.  Instead of focussing on the skills that you can add to a CV (that will then get ignored by employers who are looking for experienceas well as skills), put the focus on teaching people howto learn new skills, howto adapt their learning to keep up with changes in the world and in business.  It is guaranteednow that any knowledge-based skills that you have are out of date almost immediately, given the rate of change we go through as the world becomes more and more online.   When I was a trade floor support engineer, I had to be able to support hundreds of different software applications, both in-house (written by the organisation) and third party software such as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint.  If I had to list every piece of software I have ever supported and all of the different versions I’ve supported, the CV would just be a long list of applications – and if you look at the CVs of a lot of support engineers, that is what they all do.  But, the reason I was good at my job was my most under-represented skill on my CV – that of troubleshooting.  I knew roughly how all applications worked, because the defaults of many applications are essentially the same (there is a menu, there is a settings option, you can make changes via an edit function etc.) so my real skill was in deciphering what I could from what I was given.  Then as a hiring manager into those teams, I didn’t want someone who knew the last three versions of Microsoft Outlook – I wanted someone who I could put in front of a customer and who could fix their problem right there and then, without thinking that because it was a different version, they didn’t know it.

These holistic skills – troubleshooting, customer service, rapport building, analysis – are incredibly difficult to put on a CV in a way that truly reflects how proficient you are at them.  The nearest thing we have is the “Key Achievements” section that lists out all of what we achieved using those skills – but the emphasis remains on what you didrather than howyou did it.  Ask many recruitment agents and they will say that, based on the job descriptions given out by organisations, their ‘keyword search’ is based on skills not aptitudes.

The skills gap is not going to be filled by focussing on how we have done the jobs in the past, we need to focus on how we help people do the jobs of the future, and that is not going to come from looking at a CV to tell you the best person to hire.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 2. Why Do We Use CVs? – by Lee Lam

The CV was born as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, the point in history where manual jobs were taken over by huge machines with even bigger engines to run them.  The production line mentality of the factory translated over into all manual and non-manual work, with the concept of having a machine that ran with a particular set of cogs (roles) that were shaped in a particular way.  If a cog broke (or resigned), you simply tried to locate another one that looked and performed exactly the same – maybe if you were feeling ‘innovative’ you would select someone who had slightly ‘more’ experience, or even better, had been that cog at one of your competitors, and they could tell you how they had run their machine.

Now engineering and technology has moved on – we now have tiny machines running huge production lines, and robots taking over the roles that many humans once did.  Yet our concept of how to hire for the humans we dostill need hasn’t updated along with it.  We still look for the cog that fits.  We use the CV as our way of assessing whether they can do the same job they did for someone else, but do it for us in the way our particular machine works.

This has left us with a few issues which we will cover in subsequent blog posts.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

The CV is Dead – part 1 by Lee Lam

As I applied for my university degree, I had a problem.  Although my academic work was at the required level for the subjects that I wanted to study, I was struggling with my ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section.  I had spent so much of my time studying to make sure I got the grades that I didn’t have time to do anything other than lounge around in front of the TV, sometimes read a book or maybe go out to the cinema.  And I’ve read enough CVs of other people to know that this sums up a lot of our shared experiences: ‘Reading and going to the cinema’ appear on nearly all CVs that I have read!  I say nearly all because there is that otherset of CVs, those who somehow also managed to do really exciting and adventurous hobbies – water-skiing, mountain climbing, ultra marathons, trekking the Inca Trail, swimming with dolphins.  AND they managed to get the grades.  How was I ever going to compete with that?!

The need to make your details on application forms and CVs stand out has never diminished, throughout my post-University career and beyond.  We tell school leavers and graduates that these show a depth of character, it reflects a broader representation of their personality – I tell them (along with many other recruiters and agents) that nobody even reads them.  For many of us this is a relief, as we don’t have to come up with exciting ways that we don’tspend our time; but think about anyone who took up those activities, who were encouraged to take up those activities, because “it would look good on your CV”.  I’m not saying its everyone, some do actually like skiing, mountain climbing or lacrosse, but I suspect there is a large proportion of people who have interests on their CV that they really hope the interviewer doesn’t spot and ask questions about.  In fact I know this – and I know many interviewers who deliberately look for the ‘awkward pause’ question – usually lurking in this section – that makes the interviewee squirm.

This section forms such a small part of your CV, why am I referencing it in an article called ‘The CV is Dead”?  Well, I happen to believe that the ONLY part of a CV that is useful for anyone is the part where you talk about what you do outside of work – the rest of the information looksimportant until you actually pick under the skin of it and you realise that it has no relevance, no importance and no indicator of how well you will perform in a role.

 

www.ditch-the-cv.com

0203 865 2877

When should I invite contacts into 6prog?

6prog is a first of its kind community to enable managers, freelancers and recruiters to work together.

The best time to include your counterparts in the platform is ‘now’. 

I say this for a few reasons. 

  1. you never know if there is a new project kicking off
  2. it reminds you who is available 
  3. you can plan your needs for the year ahead
  4. it confirms access to enough resources before you get budget approval
  5. you reduce your reliance on ‘spot’ hires because a relevant CV lands on your desk and you have no one else
  6. you give your contacts time to login and sign up 
  7. you don’t know what opportunities your contacts have
  8. it’s private; only you and your contact will know
  9. you are giving them permission to reach you anytime (no agent required)

What are your reasons for wanting to reject high agency margins and to gain communication control?

Start today, 6prog.com

the best freelancers I have met

 

 

 

I often talk with freelance suppliers who every 6-18 months run, a proverbial gauntlet, chasing jobs on job boards and reaching out to clients, agencies old and new with the aim of securing their next engagement.

I’m interested to know what works for them and they are equally curious to know if a refreshed CV or a different [lower?] price will make the difference.

Actually in my experience nether of these makes the key difference. What does help is personality. Smile, laugh and ask how people are: build a relationship. Freelancers who work purely on the basis of a transactional relationship will win work, of course they will. But their engagements will also be purely transactional too.

Let’s face it, we all want to enjoy our working hours and it’s much easier to build trust in working relationships when time is put into building the relationship.

If you have read as far as this paragraph five, you probably already do it. Good on ‘ya.

 

http://www.6prog.com

3 ways Central Bank Digital Money will help banks. Stuff worth knowing from The Bankers’ Plumber

“Help for banks”. That hardly sounds like a noble cause worthy of anybody’s support. But bear with me for this two minute read and I’ll explain.

If I have any of this wrong, please let me know your views. In any case, please share widely. For the plumbers of the banking world this is important stuff; individually we can help FS shops be efficient and effective, but only to the extent the market mechanisms are any good.

The wholesale banking markets are condemned to do one thing that other industries are not; settlement, the exchange of assets and money. Today Ford & General Motors may be interested in what the other is doing, but they are not forced to constantly interact. Well at least not until we have autonomous self-driving cars sharing a common road.

Banks however are forced into multiple interactions every day; if I want to pay a UK supplier for a service to my Swiss consultancy, Credit Suisse, the firm’s local banker needs help from a UK clearer. As soon as the banks trade with one other, for example in the foreign exchange markets, they need to settle their trades. Of course, banks have done plenty to deserve the public’s disdain, distrust and lack of sympathy. That said, these interactions need to function both efficiently and effectively in order for the banking system to work.

Right now, e-money, digital currency, Central Bank Digital Money (CBDM) or Currency (CBDC) together with DLT, Distributed Ledger Technology, are being heavily touted as a global panacea for many, if not all, ills.

Money is a very fundamental thing, so understandably as a hype around Crypto and ICOs has developed, it has made the Central Bankers nervous and made them sit up and take notice. Central Banks have the mandate to ensure that monetary systems function properly; understandably and rightly, they are wary of new things.

Recently, the Central Bankers have tried to draw the lines to show where they see a role for new technology and where they don’t. See my recent post: “BIS warns central banks on digital currency issuance”. That has been followed up with a formal paper from the CPMI, the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures.

For things settlement, this committee really matters. Think of it as the Central Bank Plumbing Policy & Rule Making Club. Under the auspices of the BIS, the Bank for International Settlements, the world’s Central Bankers come together to set policy. That policy is then enacted as laws, guidance, ordinance in each country. Not every country does the same thing, but it would be quite fair to say that actual national rules are mean reverting. These folk are gatekeepers and key-masters of the rules of national banking plumbing.

So, here is my summary of what this latest white paper is suggesting:

  1. CBDC in retail or consumer markets would create more problems that it would solve
  2. There might be a place for CBDC in wholesale markets, albeit there are inevitable concerns about Operational Risk and Cyber Security. The authors also expressed some concern as to whether the new technology might really be so much more efficient
  3. CBDC may offer a way for institutional investors to access Central Bank money in a helpful way

Both what is said and what is not need some interpretation. I agree that for retail payments at a national level, any significant upside from CBDC, and with it DLT, is not obvious. I would also agree that any efficiency gains may be modest.

The third point, together with what is not said about regulatory costs are IMO where the juice is in matters CBDC / CBDM. Insitutional business is not always good for banks and increasingly, many aspects of so called transaction banking are as welcome at banks as the proverbial pork-chop at a Bar Mitzvah.

Going back to the plumbing and settlement, imagine that at the end of business this last Friday, Credit Suisse had a balance of $500mm in its USD account at BNY Mellon, its US Nostro. If it did, it was a function of operations rather than intent. But, all the regulatory rules still come to pass; the LRD (BIS Basel III Leverage Ratio Denominator) is the key driver here and it will require that 500mm to be backed by the same amount of HQLA, High Quality Liquid Assets and capital of 5%. For CS too there are consequences; that operational balance ends up as “Cash at Banks” in the balance sheet and impacts its Risk Weighted Assets.

If CS could hold that balance in something that was treated like Central Bank money and risk, then BNY Mellon would be as happy as Credit Suisse.

Another side effect of the role the banks play in settlement is liquidity. Since the 2008 events around the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the regulators have focussed on matters liquidity. LCR the Liquidity Coverage Ratio is one outcome of this focus. LCR looks at cash flows in the next 30 days and requires HQLA to cover them. Cash flow is outflows less inflows by currency by counterpart, with the latter discounted by 25%.

Broadly, a decent metric. Well at least until you get into the plumbing of matters settlement. Imagine on day 1 Bank A does a forward value trade selling GBP 100 to Bank B vs. USD 150, for value Day 30. Later the same day, as markets move, Bank A buys GBP 100 from B for USD 151. There is a USD 1 profit.

When the LCR machinery kicks into gear, Bank A will have outflow of GBP 100 less 75% of 100 inflow from B, and will need 25 in HQLA in GBP and then in USD, it will need 150 less 75% of 151. And B too will need HQLA. And it does not stop there. LCR is two pronged. First, so called Pillar 1, is the calculated value as per the rules. Then comes the add-on of Pillar 2; this is a subjective amount determined by the regulator based on how well the bank in question is perceived to be in control of its business.

How banks manage things intraday is a big part of this Pillar 2. For more insight see this recent well presented article from Pete McIntyre: “The Regulators restart the intraday liquidity race – 12 talking points“. Intraday is all related to settlement, the must do bit of plumbing the banks have to do. Exact numbers aren’t published, but I’d put good money on the number for intra-day alone being between USD 20B and 30B for each Tier 1 bank / GSIB. Every 1B is about USD 10 million per annum in costs. Intraday is certainly the lion’s share of this subjective Pillar 2 add-on.

Lessons to be Learned

The folks from the CPMI have made some correct observations regarding the potential for CBDC to be helpful in wholesale banking.

Given financial services companies have to deal with plumbing of the settlement processes, it is appropriate for the Central Banks to offer help to ensure the plumbing is as effective & efficient as possible.

The upside for the FS institutions from CDBC is not so much about operational efficiency per se; saving a few heads, be they on-shore, near-shore or off-shore, will not noticeably move the meter. But, right now, people cost is the default lever for banks to all on in order to increase profitability. That has its limits. In fact, the more they cut heads, the worse their process control, the larger the potential Pillar 2 add-on can be.

CDBC with some help from DLT offers the possibility to reduce the really significant regulatory costs associated with the settlement end of our industry. On that front, the banks do deserve some help from our regulators and Central Banks.

In summary, CDBC might help in three ways:

  1. Operational Efficiency: a little
  2. Liquidity: potentially a lot
  3. Regulatory Capital and Assets: potentially a whole hell of a lot

Now what the banks would do with the increased profitability and lower capital needs that such plumbing changes might bring is entirely another matter. How much should flow to the 1% in dividends, share buy-backs, carried interest and exec compensation schemes is best left to those in other professions. I am but a humble plumber.

About the Author: The Bankers’ Plumber. I help banks and FinTechs master their processing; optimising control, capacity and cost.

If it exists and is not working, I analyse it, design optimised processes and guide the work to get to optimal. If there is a new product or business, I work to identify the target operating model and design the business architecture to deliver those optimal processes and the customer experience.

I am an expert-generalist in FS matters. I understand the full front-to-back and end-to-end impact of what we do in banks. That allows me to build the best processes for my clients; ones that deliver on the three key dimensions of Operations: control, capacity and cost.

Previous Posts 

Are available on the 3C Advisory website, click here.

Publications

The Bankers’ Plumber’s Handbook

Control in banks. How to do operations properly.

For some in the FS world, it is too late. For most, understanding how to make things work properly is a good investment of their time.

My book tries to make it easy for you and includes a collection of real life, true stories from 30 years of adventures in banking around the world. True tales of Goldman Sachs and collecting money from the mob, losing $2m of the partners’ money and still keeping my job and keeping an eye on traders with evil intentions.

So you might like the tool kit, you might like the stories or you might only like the glossary, which one of my friends kindly said was worth the price of the book on its own. Or, you might like all of it.

Go ahead, get your copy!

Hard Copy via Create Space: Click here

Kindle version and hard copy via Amazon: Click here

How to make Central Bank Digital Money? Stuff worth knowing from The Bankers’ Plumber

This post is a continuation of the thoughts from the last two posts. My own conclusion to date was that powering the possibilities of digital assets and benefiting from things DLT needs CBDM. I am indebted to the very thoughtful Kevin Rutter of R3 and to Rhom Ram at the USC Project for engaging in very lively conversations on this topic.

We can readily understand that any form of “alternate currency” which undermines Central Banks’ control over monetary stability is going to be very problematic. In Financial Services, we actually have experience of doing “transformation without inflation”.

For years, we have been switching between Ordinary Shares and ADRs or GDRs; so long in fact, that a certain Xavier Rolet, the recently departed CEO of the LSE, was a cash equities trader at Goldman Sachs. Back then, the young Frenchman was keeping me busy by “arb’ing” Swiss shares vs. their ADR equivalents. For each share, there was a an agent, a bank, that would take the Nestle shares in Switzerland and create ADRs for settlement in the US.

Crucially, the fact there were ADRs did not change the number of ordinary Nestle shares in circulation; no inflation. The process was privately owned and operated. No role for a Central Bank or regulator.

The process worked, though there was the occasional hiccup. This happened when you asked to convert ADRs to Ordinaries and found that the agent, Deutsche, Citi, JP and the like, took the ADRs from you but was late with the delivery of the Ordinaries. Basically, they had poor controls over their “box”, in other words their holdings in the Swiss CSD where the ordinary shares were held. That was annoying and created problems; if instead of Nestle shares we were talking about Swiss Francs and their digital equivalent, this would be unacceptable.

Switzerland also has an example of a transformation that involves the Central Bank. The SNB is activity involved in the Intraday Repo market; offering cash vs. collateral at 0% interest, as long as the money is returned the same day.  There are penal rates if you miss the return delivery; rightly so, as that extra cash increases money supply.

Another useful lesson from the financial market infrastructure in Switzerland is the way that different rails in the value chain interact. Financial assets are traded on the Swiss Exchange. Trades are sent to the CSD, the Central Securities Depository, for settlement. They are “locked in”; agreed, non-cancellable and if the seller has securities and the buyer has funds, will settle on value date.

I love this “locked in” feature; the mere ability to have cancel / corrections has occupied and IMHO wasted thousands of hours of time of many, many thousands of FS professionals working out how to accommodate this evil feature. To misquote the great Bob Marley: “No cancel, no cry”.

On value date, the CSD checks to see if the seller has securities, temporarily blocks them and then reach out via an API to the payments system to see if the buyer has funds. That “request for cash” is rated more important than other general payments activity. When there are funds, cash and securities move simultaneously, so called DVP, delivery vs. payment. If not settled, the securities side is released, another trade chosen and the failed trade is re-tried later.

Lessons to be Learned

Crucial lessons here are the locked in feature and the way that there is one pool of cash, in the payments system. If we want to create CBDM, how might this be done?

Banks might get together and form a consortium to build a platform. This is Route 1 of the FS industry when it comes to sorting out infrastructure; helping yourself. The Utility Settlement Coin project, USC, is an example of this. For this structure to work, I think the banks involved would have to find a mechanism where as agents they are not faced with punitive requirements for holding the fiat cash against which they issue digital currency. All sorts of thorny issues there around Basel III, LCR, NSFR and Liquidity Buffers.

Potentially, if those several banks create a special purpose bank vehicle where each bank is a minority shareholder, then some of those problems might go away.

I would also consider whether the transformation process from fiat to digital is one that is needed all the time or only intraday. First thought here is that the digital world is going to demand long opening hours, which will make it challenging to close a currency. Challenging, not impossible. Requires careful thought.

As we work as an industry to come up with a solution, we must not forget the U in USC. U for Utility and Universal. The digital cash we create must be in one central pot and not lead to unconnected silos.

A second last thought for this post is that CBDM as an enabler for things DLT will not be the global panacea for all ills. If CBDM can drive widespread use of DLT, then there is the very distinct possibility of FS business realising big savings in processing costs. But, DLT and CBDM alone will not help reduce the costs of liquidity; LCR, NSFR and the intraday liquidity buffers. Those costs are far greater than the operational ones.

The last thought is the role of the regulators and Central Banks. My experience of their MO is that they like to sit on the sidelines and observe, then perhaps impose their regulatory requirements. I think the digital world has so much promise, that a more pro-active stance is needed. Hope dies last.

About the Author: The Bankers’ Plumber. I help banks and FinTechs master their processing; optimising control, capacity and cost.

If it exists and is not working, I analyse it, design optimised processes and guide the work to get to optimal. If there is a new product or business, I work to identify the target operating model and design the business architecture to deliver those optimal processes and the customer experience.

I am an expert-generalist in FS matters. I understand the full front-to-back and end-to-end impact of what we do in banks. That allows me to build the best processes for my clients; ones that deliver on the three key dimensions of Operations: control, capacity and cost.

Previous Posts 

Are available on the 3C Advisory website, click here.

Publications

The Bankers’ Plumber’s Handbook

Control in banks. How to do operations properly.

For some in the FS world, it is too late. For most, understanding how to make things work properly is a good investment of their time.

My book tries to make it easy for you and includes a collection of real life, true stories from 30 years of adventures in banking around the world. True tales of Goldman Sachs and collecting money from the mob, losing $2m of the partners’ money and still keeping my job and keeping an eye on traders with evil intentions.

So you might like the tool kit, you might like the stories or you might only like the glossary, which one of my friends kindly said was worth the price of the book on its own.  Or, you might like all of it.

Go ahead, get your copy!

Hard Copy via Create Space: Click here

Kindle version and hard copy via Amazon: Click here

5 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Consulting

Originally published > www.inc.com/brenda-della-casa

5 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Consulting

Take note: If you’re afraid to offer a contract, you shouldn’t be in business.

 

There are few things more fulfilling for new business owners than signing that first client and having the chance to do what they love under the structure of their own business and brand. Freelancing is an exciting venture, and in today’s market, it’s big business. A 2016 study by Upwork showed that there are 55 million freelancers in the U.S., making up 35 percent of the American work force.

If you’re thinking of joining the consulting club, let me be the first to congratulate you. You’re in for one of the most rewarding experiences of your professional life, but only if you do the work to ensure that you protect yourself. Ignore this important step and you’ll set yourself up for a lot of unnecessary stress and possible burnout.

Here are five tried and tested ways to avoid some of the more common mistakes made by new consultants.

1. Mistake: Not setting the right tone.

Because most freelancers are usually so excited to have their first one or two clients, it’s not uncommon for them to fall into the trap of doing a little extra (read: free) work here and there. They will eagerly respond to messages and emails immediately and take calls when they really should have been scheduled. They think they’re being generous and accommodating (and they are), but the clients see this as setting a tone for the rest of the contract. This tends to backfire as clients become accustomed to having responses in real time, all of the time. Before you know it, confusion ensues. The consultant is overwhelmed and both parties are frustrated and resentful.

Protect yourself: Put your guidelines in writing — and stick by them.

Have a very clear discussion laying out your professional boundaries and ask your client to do the same. Come to an understanding about working hours and response times and agree on how you will schedule calls, meetings, and Skype sessions. Once you are in agreement, put all of this information into your contract (see below) and have both parties sign it. If you are going on vacation or going to be unavailable on certain days, let your clients know as far ahead of time as possible. Ask them to do the same.

2. Mistake: Being afraid to put a contract in place.

I recently asked 15 consultants if they offered their clients contracts and was surprised to find that only three had one in place. The most common reason for not offering up a formal agreement? Consultants were worried that doing so would cost them a gig. The best way to move past this costly concern is to understand that quality contracts are put into place to protect both parties, not for one to strong-arm the other. This is done by making responsibilities and timelines clear, securing payments and fees, and putting a formal agreement in place if the relationship does not work out.

Protect yourself: Make it legal.

For most professionals, a contract is a basic step in the process of doing good business. Put bluntly, anyone who is unwilling to put his signature where his mouth is isn’t someone you want to be in business with. In fact, several business owners I spoke with claimed they would steer clear of a consultant who didn’t offer one, out of fear that that consultant would be unprofessional or untrustworthy. Paying a few hundred dollars to have a lawyer look over your verbiage (to ensure that you have covered everything properly and are fully protected) is a worthwhile investment.

3. Mistake: Not holding clients accountable.

Whether it is allowing clients to hand in deliverables late, jumping through hoops to complete tasks by unreasonable deadlines, or working with an unpaid invoice, many freelancers help create a culture of chaos by not drawing a line in the sand when clients behave badly.

Protect yourself: Create consequences.

Though revisions and delays are inevitable on most large-scale projects, there needs to be a clear understanding as to who is doing what and when it is due. I personally like to use a task-management system to manage to-do lists and follow-up with a weekly email outlining what is being worked on and what is outstanding. It is also important to remember that accountability goes beyond checking items off a list. If a client schedules a call and goes MIA, doesn’t pay an invoice on time, or crosses a line, you need to have a system in place to deal with it. Charging the client for a percentage or the full amount of time you set aside for the call is not inappropriate and stopping all work until an invoice is paid is acceptable. Just be clear to have these guidelines laid out in the contract beforehand. Once they are in place, it is up to you to abide by them.

4. Mistake: Allowing them to treat you like their employee.

One of the biggest struggles freelancers face is forgetting that they are in a professional partnership with their clients. You are doing work for them, not working for them. The distinction is an important one.

Protect yourself: Remember that boundaries are a good thing.

As a consultant, you are not privy to the benefits of a full-time employee, nor are you involved in the day-to-day running of the business. You have been contracted to do a specific job because of your talent, not to get caught up in office politics or drama or to feel anxiety about the mood or shifting decisions of your client every day. Additionally, when on-site, you are not there to “jump in and be a team player” on tasks that are not outlined in your contract.

5. Mistake: Getting too friendly with clients.

We all want to work in a friendly environment, but getting too familiar with a client will inevitably blur the line between the personal and professional relationships. This can make objective decision-making and clear communication difficult in the long-run.

Protect yourself: Keep a professional distance.

No one is saying not to open up a little bit or that you need to turn down every cocktail invitation, but it is important to know what to share and when to leave. This is where that age-old advice still rings true: Do not open up about or do anything you’d be embarrassed to have in print. Simple.

PUBLISHED ON: MAY 8, 2017

 

 

ICOs, Cryptos & CCOs. The differences. Stuff worth knowing from The Bankers’ Plumber

Two out of three ain’t bad. You have probably heard of the expression crypto currency; Bitcoin is the poster child, and Ether its sibling. ICOs are likely just as familiar; Initial Coin Offerings, which are a a variation on IPOs. What about CCOs? Never heard of them? The extra C is for Collateral; collateralised coin offering. I am advising a client on a really interesting CCO offering, so now seems a good time to offer a view on what might be the new, new thing in the digital space.

ICO

An ICO is a means of raising capital. Rather than a traditional prospectus or offering memorandum, it is based on a White Paper, which outlines what the company will do with the proceeds.

This activity is very similar in nature to what happens in the traditional securities & banking world, with the result that regulators are beginning to flex their muscles and draw some lines to weed out bad actors. The SEC has just closed down PlexCorp for fraud; the company was promising monthly returns north of 1’000%.

As far as I can tell, most ICOs are simply asking for money saying they will do A, B or something completely different, without much in the way of a concrete business plan. The rise of the internet and the instantaneous nature of global communication means that it is very easy to spread a message about any ICO and as a result it is more likely you can find somebody, somewhere to give you money. If you invest, you need to be able to lose your money. As the saying goes: not for widows or orphans.

Crypto

A crypto currency is largely a digital figment of the imagination; an imaginary value is placed on them. My view is that they are the same as art; they may be scarce and they are simply worth what somebody is wiling to pay. In truth, they have the same backing as any government issued currency; none. They both rely on trust. So far at least, officials believe that people have more trust in government than in private companies. At least this was the view offered by a Fed Governor recently on why a crypto currency would not undermine the US dollar. In Venezuela right now, you would be mad to suggest the same rules apply. You gotta have faith; in the former there is some, in the latter there is none.

A digital dollar

The same article cited the Head of the NY Fed as saying the Fed is looking at Crypto currency. This would be really welcome. In my opinion, the Fed and its fellow Central Banks are too slow on the uptake here.

For the CCO project, we will need to collect both fiat and crypto payments from buyers of the CCO. Crypto is easy and we can make it very close to a PvP, Payment vs. Payment process. Very close rather than exactly, because we need to do an FX trade to move from crypto to fiat to buy the underlying asset. Fiat is actually hard and involves some good old fashioned settlement risk for our clients; we have to collect up their subscriptions before we issue the coins. It would be a lot easier if we could accept digital Euro and Swiss Francs.

Actually, there is a digital version of the Euro and the USD; Tether. It is a private offering and claims to be 100% backed by deposits in fiat currency. This is really very much the same as somebody in Kenya giving money to their local mobile phone operator to load an M-Pesa balance on their phone. But, and it is a big but, these Tether coins will not be fungible with any other offerings doing the same thing. Imagine if you could not move the dollars in your account at Citibank to your account at JP Morgan. Add to this, you are moving your trust from banks to a start-up enterprise that is not a bank and does not have all the checks & balances that a bank has. Novel, perhaps even necessary in short-term as a step on a longer journey, but not an answer for the long term and not fit for purpose for the institutional market.

CCO, the Collateralised Coin Offering

This is like an Asset Backed Security. Understanding that you are making a sound investment means knowing a couple of things about the underlying asset; is that asset both liquid and non-volatile? Bitcoin is none of these, and even some of the major ABS products of the past turned out to have a lot more price volatility than anybody envisaged. MBS, Mortgage Backed Securities, offered comfort in in that there was an underlying asset if the payments were not made; as we now know, not all of those mortgages were equally sound.

The second factor is about the transparency of the underlying assets. This is where a certain Bernie Madoff hoodwinked all and sundry. The assets were not there. Now Tether, cited above, may be technically brilliant and it says it has the assets, but it is fatally flawed in a worst case scenario. The only place Tether can keep its $800+ million in assets is at one or more commercial banks. That is a lot of credit risk. Cash assets have very limited protection in a bankruptcy; the 100k or so that might be backed by one or other government depositor insurance schemes will not help much.

Lessons to be Learned

The ideal source of power for transactions in a digital global economy would be CBDM; central bank digital money, with the government acting as transfer agent, providing a 1:1 instant on-demand exchange facility and then locking up the fiat currency at the central bank.

Singapore is getting there with its project UBIN. The banks are trying to fill this void; UBS is leading a consortium developing a Universal Settlement Coin.

Those individual efforts are a necessary stage of the journey; regulators and central banks may well observe from the touchlines and then support the infrastructure with carefully worded regulatory guidance. This has happened in FX, with the BCBS stating in BCBS 241 on FX Settlement Risk that PvP, Payment vs. Payment, is the preferred settlement option. There is only one PvP utility available; CLS.

CCOs have the potential to establish themselves in the same generally positive way that the traditional ABS products did. To do that, they ideally need to be linked to an asset that does not have a volatile price and where the underlying assets are transparent and not subject to further issuer risk.

The CCO I am working on promises to do both those things. Super exciting. More in due course.

About the Author: The Bankers’ Plumber. I help banks and FinTechs master their processing; optimising control, capacity and cost.

If it exists and is not working, I analyse it, design optimised processes and guide the work to get to optimal. If there is a new product or business, I work to identify the target operating model and design the business architecture to deliver those optimal processes and the customer experience.

I am an expert-generalist in FS matters. I understand the full front-to-back and end-to-end impact of what we do in banks. That allows me to build the best processes for my clients; ones that deliver on the three key dimensions of Operations: control, capacity and cost.

 

Originally published on the 3C Advisory website.

http://3cadvisory.com/icos-cryptos-ccos-the-differences-stuff-worth-knowing-from-the-bankers-plumber/

 

The difference between a contractor and a freelancer.

You have probably seen the terms ‘contractor’ and ‘freelancer’. If you’re self employed you’ll likely fall into one of these two categories.

A contractor is a person who provides services to a person or organisation (a client) for a specified and finite period of time. A contractor usually meets the following characteristics:

  • Works on one contract at a time for one client
  • Does not operate under standard employment, but rather a contract that defines their arrangement with their client for a defined period of time
  • Are not on their client’s payroll
  • Is set up as a sole trader, a limited company contractor or an umbrella company contractor
  • Commonly found in the IT, engineering, public sector, health, education, social work, finance and consulting industries

A contractor’s contract will stipulate their working arrangements, which will determine whether they are genuinely self-employed or temporarily employed under the guise of self-employment. This is referred to as being outside or inside ‘IR35 legislation’.

A freelancer also provides services to a client for a finite period of time. However, this period of time is not always specified. Here are the characteristics of a typical freelancer:

  • Might be working on several freelance projects at once for different clients
  • May not necessarily operate under a contract the same way as a contractor
  • More often works from home or from their own office than the client’s office, because as they are less likely to have stipulated working hours. They are more likely to have to dedicate a certain amount of hours per day or week, but not at specific times
  • Similarly to contractors, freelancers aren’t on their client’s payroll
  • Will also be set up as either a sole trader, as a limited company director or will be getting paid via an umbrella company
  • Commonly found in creative industries such as digital marketing, graphic design, media, publishing, and architecture

Contractors and freelancers aren’t subject to the same employment rights as permanent employees. The term ‘freelancer’ is simply a way to describe the nature of your work; it is not a legal term – therefore a freelancer will still fall under the term of ‘self-employed person’. As such, freelancers will also have to consider their working circumstances to determine if they work inside or outside IR35.

How they get paid

Because freelancers are free to set their own rates per-project and based on how much experience they have, it is more financially beneficial to contract through a limited company as they can open themselves up to more opportunities with clients whilst maximising their take-home pay.

That’s not to say that contractors can’t chase the rates they desire, but more often than not the rates for a contract are already pre-set by the client or the agency. If the contractor is not satisfied with the rate, they can try to negotiate for higher pay.

If your assignment is deemed to be inside IR35, you have some options:

  • Continue working through your limited company – you could continue to contract in the public sector through your limited company, and accept the lower take home pay you will receive. You will also no longer be able to claim certain expenses.
  • Negotiate a higher rate – adjusting your rate to make up for the loss in take home pay is an option, although an adjustment that your client will agree to might not make up for the loss.
  • Switch to umbrella – switching to a compliant umbrella company means you won’t have to pay any Corporation Tax or dividend tax on top of paying income tax and employees NI, and you will receive employee benefits unavailable to you when contracting through a limited company. Find out more about switching to umbrella.
  • Leave the public sector – as many contractors have chosen, you also have the option to leave the public sector for the private sector, where these rules to do not apply to the same extent.

Source: https://www.churchill-knight.co.uk

Trust Exercise – ‘Falling Back’ on Your Network – Alex Williams

As a consultant, there is no substitute for being ‘in the room’ when discussions about change are taking place. Getting your message across and building trust with your client that you or your team has the ability to deliver a working solution to an apparently unworkable deadline is a lot easier while the requirements are being aired with urgency. 
 
If you are not, you could use a colleague who is onsite, a consultant/recruiter with access or utilise your own network to get to someone who is in the room. If you are, according to the well-worn phrase, a maximum of 6 times removed from everyone on Earth then you are effectively in the same Northern line train carriage as everyone in the City. 
 
To extend the metaphor, this does not mean that networking in financial services is any more comfortable a proposition than striking up a conversation on the Tube. How does a motley bunch of your family, friends, family friends, ex-colleagues and names-from-business-cards help you gain access to The Project Sponsor?
 
Who knows you well? Who trusts you? Who do they know? All of these are either known, searchable or guess-able. The key to finding out which of a network’s connections are actually the working neurons of mutually beneficial exchange is to know, of your allies: who trusts them? 
 
There are no shortcuts here – clarity of communication and honesty of purpose are the only ways to stand out from the spam. So pick your target, plan your route to them and bring people into your confidence by asking, about their connections: how well do you know them? 
Author ALEX WILLIAMS

PBOC “sorry, what?”

PBOC was one of the earliest words spoken to me by my manager at a global bank.

“Sorry, what?” was my response, which was clearly what the manager wanted me to say.

“Plan. Build. Operate. Control”, came the reply.

Well I was sure it was working out well for them but wondered why not just say that in the first place. Jargon is used by people who want to pretend they know more than you. When in fact, all they have managed to achieve is a sense of disconnect or worse, rivalry.

A few years later I was headhunted out to a rival and on my last day I walked past that manager and quipped ‘ILT’ for my own amusement.

Relationship Management

Being a ‘middleman’ is possibly one of the toughest acts to pull off. You are everyone’s friend yet often you are only paid by one side which obviously affects your decision making. However, to let this happen is a short term view. A network recruiter can maintain a healthy network of contacts over a career if done right. I’ve me a few successful ones and they have several tips. Luckily all are straightforward and anyone can follow them.

  1. be honest … lies (even small ones) come back to haunt you and besides it is hard to remember them all! Your relationships with budget owners and the freelancers will be enhanced by respect for the truth.
  2. be thankful … your honesty will propagate and others will respect you for it. You can also choose your relationships using honesty as a baseline for doing business.
  3. be responsive … this tip is also known as setting expectations. If you can respond then do. If you cannot then tell the contact when you can. It’s probably my no1 tip actually.
  4. do your research … asking questions on topics which you could have researched in advance is annoying and unnecessary.
  5. be interested … ask about your counterparts needs and challenges. Finding the balance between 4 and 5 is the difference between good and great… (aim for great!).
  6. be adaptable … when things change (and they will) those able to change with it achieve.

Written by Andy Barnes, Founder www.6prog.com

SaveSave

Writing a winning profile for Network Recruiters

Twenty years ago our reputation was enough to stand out in a networking world based on word-of-mouth. Today, whilst this still matters, we all have a digital profile accessible by anyone who cares to use Google. [Safe to assume everyone you meet WILL google you]

6Prog profiles are used for Project Managers to choose a Network-Recruiter. In this case your audience is a time-poor customer in need of expert advice. You won’t get two chances!

What should you put in your profile?

  1. history of success
  2. markets you know about
  3. where you have deep subject matter knowledge
  4. how many people you have real contact and hold relationships
  5. what service you can offer (NLP interviewing?)
  6. who you are (do you have integrity?) Will your old clients act as referees?

Choosing a recruiter

Traditionally when we are starting a new programme and in need of resources we can turn to the internal recruitment desk or the open market.

  • Internal recruitment desks have a tough challenge. They have to maintain quality of service whilst meeting a price level. As such they tend to be staffed by generalist recruiters. Can a team of ten support your whole organisation? Can they get you a shortlist of profiles quickly? I doubt it. Their networks are perhaps significant but spread thinly across multiple departments and therefore multiple disciplines.
  • The open market is also a challenge. Procurement teams are unlikely to permit a new supplier on site at short notice and margins will be high.

6prog bridges the benefits of these models. It has access to 1000s of recruiters and a different one can be chosen for each freelancer you need to hire. Choosing a specialist is quick and simple and therefore the candidates you will be presented with will be of high quality. It’s inexpensive too so any procurement team will be glad to use its services to onboard your next team of freelancers.

Written by Andy Barnes, Founder www.6prog.com