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.

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”

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

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

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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