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

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.

 

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

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