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.

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.


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 >

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.