7 May 2012

That was week ending 4th May 2012

Mervyn swervin’

In his BBC lecture last week Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England inferred that he had seen the banking crisis coming but had been unable to convince the government to take action.  “In hindsight … we should have shouted from the rooftops … we should have tried harder”.
I have seen Mervyn King speak and he comes across as logical and capable with considerable brain power throbbing away under that urbane and calm exterior. However when you reflect on what he says not all of it hangs together quite as neatly as it first sounds.
In particular, given that the BoE is to have a central role in regulation of the financial sector in future, he continues to duck the issue of an inquiry into the part played by the BoE itself in the financial crisis. Mervyn King has neatly side stepped any suggestions of this mainly on the grounds that the bank had no direct role in regulating the financial sector at the time.
For us this is just another indication that we have not really got to the core of what went wrong to cause the global financial crisis and subsequent recession.  Various proposed changes such as BoE becoming the key regulator and separation of retail from investment banking sound as though they might work. However they seem rather more “knee jerk” than based on thorough analysis and assessment of cause and effect. In particular we don’t think the “people factor” has been examined thoroughly.

The flaw in the machine

There is a widely held but flawed belief that organisations can be operated like machines. Operate them according to the manual, pull the right levers and they will produce the results you expect. However there is one highly unreliable and unpredictable component in these machines – people. People have emotions so they do not always behave or respond as you expect.
Two of the most powerful of human emotions are fear and greed and it has long been acknowledged that these are powerful drivers of financial markets. They don’t just influence the bankers, investors and so on; they also influence politicians and governments. Politicians were more than happy to let the credit dance go on because they believed voters would give them the credit for choosing the music.
We believe a more thorough study of the behaviours, both within BoE and elsewhere is needed before a really robust solution for preventing or at least containing future financial crises can be devised.

Shareholders – even more revolting

After a third of Barclay’s shareholders refused to support the company’s remuneration report, 59% of Aviva shareholders voted against theirs, in spite of last minute concessions over directors’ pay. At Immarsat 61% of shareholders refused to back its report. Now Sly Bailey, CE of Trinity Mirror Group will step down at the end of the year. Ms Bailey has received around £14m in the nine years she has been in the job whilst Trinity’s share price dropped over 90% in the same period.
It is beginning to look as though shareholders big and small are starting to demand better performance from their directors. Perhaps now is the time for Vince Cable to nip smartly through the gap that is opening up and touch down with some legislation for binding shareholder votes on directors’ pay. Or even better if companies get ahead of the game and do this themselves.

Effective government.

The coalition government managed to go a whole week without tripping over its own feet. However that’s mostly politics. We are more concerned about government’s inability to deliver effectively for UK citizens. Here are just a few examples.
HMRC sent out thousands of letters fining taxpayers for not submitting tax returns who did not need to submit tax returns. It was also reported that HMRC's response time to phone calls has increased to an average of 4 mins compared 1.5 min in 2010. In our experience anyone who gets through to HMRC in 4 minutes is on such a winning streak they should make serious investments in lottery tickets. The odds of winning are better than getting through to HMRC in 4 mins. As for the person who got through in 1.5 mins in 2010, well we'd like to meet them!
UK Border Force seems to think that the only way to prevent illegal or unwelcome visitors to the UK is to make life miserable for all travellers. We were told last week of a hospital paying £200 for a computer cable that you can buy almost anywhere for £29 and being charged £800 for moving 2 computers.  There are now 33 different schemes for helping unemployed teenagers. Soon there will be enough schemes to employ all the unemployed teenagers to help each other, job done!
It seems that just “doing something”, rather than delivering effective outcomes is seen as the primary purpose for their existence by too many government departments and agencies. Ministers talk about “efficiency” (and “efficiency savings” whatever those are). We would like to hear them using and understanding “effective”.

Got no satisfaction

Yet another study from CIPD, showing that whilst 80% of managers thought their staff were satisfied or very satisfied with them as a manager only 58% of their staff returned the compliment. CIPD, as you would expect puts this down to inadequate management training.
The word “satisfied” caught our attention. Our message to managers is never be satisfied with “satisfied”, “OK”, “not bad” and so on. Seek out dissatisfied; find out what could be better and what would be really, really good if it could be made to happen. This is the way to find those golden nuggets of opportunities to improve that will pay off for you, your staff and your business.

Any sympathy for ...?

Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook who will sell part of his shareholding when the company goes public and collect $1bn in the process. However it is reported he will have to pay most of this in tax. So he may be an internet genius but don't ask him for tax advice.

So that was some of the week before this week. We hope you found some of the above thought provoking and useful for you and your business. We trust you had a good weekend and hope you have a great week this week.

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