The Countdown has Begun. Are you ready for GDPR?

Emma Lovett
31 May 2017

(GDPR) General Data Protection Regulation will be enforced from May 2018.

If you manage Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for EU citizens, this regulation will impact your business.

The following infographic, brought to you by Xceed, explores what you need to know about GDPR, including:

  • How it is different from current regulations
  • What counts as PII
  • The implications of non-compliance
  • Who your data processors are T:020 7480 0030


One thought on “The Countdown has Begun. Are you ready for GDPR?”

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over
    again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

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05 June 2017

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31 May 2017

They’ve taken my idea! My business is ruined before it’s started!

By Viren Lall, Managing Director of In our teaching at different London universities, we are often asked ‘How do I get an original idea for my business? Every time I check, my latest idea has already been done!’. A fundamental principle of entrepreneurship is that everything starts with you – who you are, who you know and what you know. Think Apple were the first to think of the iPhone? Check out GO, a US firm from 1992! What Apple did was started with what they could do already – the iPod and iTunes. They added a phone to it. So the place to start is with you. Start with a skill that you have, and think of a business that you can build around it. Your idea is an opportunity unique to you A new business idea is closely tied to the skills and the passions of the entrepreneur. In workshops we have conducted for several years, we have never found two people with the same idea. In a thought experiment we conduct with the participants, we ask people to swap ideas and ask if they would like to pursue someone else’s idea. The answer is an overwhelming no. Why? The idea is only a true opportunity when an individual backs it. Is the opportunity uniquely mine? Do I have the skills around it? Can I build a team around the concept? Is the timing right? Do I have the skills, passions and connections to pursue it? You can see that it is highly unlikely that two individuals feel exactly the same way about an idea. The world is teeming with entrepreneurial ideas, most of which die because they are not validated, improved and executed. If an idea was that easy to copy, it wasn’t great in the first place In this talk by James Caan, he answers a question raised by a participant on whether she should share her idea with others. As a successful entrepreneur, Caan has always discussed his idea with others. He doesn’t ask if it was a good idea, as he knows that all you will get from people are responses to make you feel good. What he wants is to find flaws. What would make this idea fail? What must he do by way of experiments, conversations and validation activities to make the idea a really robust opportunity? It’s all in the execution and hitting milestones Entrepreneurial businesses that just have an idea are the highest risk, lowest value ventures. As you move through the journey of developing the concept, validating with your target customers, building a proof of concept, a minimum viable product, proof of market and revenue and proof of growth potential, you increase the value of the idea and the venture step by step. This diagram explains the journey. This is covered in detail in their Spring 2010 article on MIT Sloan review, the conclusion is “The typical start-up process, whether in nascent entrepreneurial ventures or in the innovation units of established businesses, is largely driven by poorly conceived business plans based on untested assumptions. This process is seriously flawed. Most new ventures, even those with venture capital or corporate backing, share one common characteristic: They fail. There is a better way to launch new ideas — without wasting years of time and loads of investors’ money. This better way is about discovering a business model that really works: a Plan B, like those of Google Inc. and Starbucks Corp., which grows out of the original idea, builds on it and once it’s in place, helps the business grow rapidly and prosper.” In summary, your idea is going to change. Many times. So don’t worry too much about the original idea – just get on with it. But shouldn’t I protect my idea?  In fact, unless your idea is a based on a unique invention, spending money and effort on patenting is counterproductive and just a distraction from getting started and building your market. It will rob you of valuable focus and resources that should be put towards building your company. The video above by James Caan covers this topic beautifully. Getting started is the key The point is, you start with you and you start somewhere. Because then you have something to talk to customers about. Customers then buy or don’t buy. You learn more about what they need or want, and you change what you do to win more customers and build a business. Whatever your business ends up looking like, one thing it won’t be is the same as when you started. There are hundreds if not thousands of great books on entrepreneurship, “Getting to Plan B…” by Mullins and Komisar is a great one to look at look at economic models and sustainability. Komisar’s book “The monk and riddle” is an interesting narrative on why a purpose is important behind building a better faster cheaper alternative and Mullins’ previous book “The new business road test” is a must read on what you need to do before writing a business plan. If you want to learn more about how to start a business, you will find evidence based, research backed, strategies that successful startups use here. Includes how to launch products, enter new markets and develop customers. If you want to know where to get help, you will find researched options on what support you may need at each stage of your business here. Use it to help you avoid the most critical mistakes that cause business failures.    

16 May 2017

The Technology Divide is Growing, Don’t Leave People Behind – By Magnus Jern

The Digital Divide (Source:ReadITQuik) The internet has been a great force in creating a more equal society. Today 3.5 billion people have access to the internet in some form. It has democratized information, communication and education, created millions of businesses and touched on and improved so many life’s. However, at the same time the digital divide is about to increase again. While speaking about the latest mobile trends I often get the question or comment that technology development must slow down at some point. “I cannot cope with more” people say. The reality is the opposite. Technology innovation and the impact on society and our life’s is accelerating. Over the next couple of years there will be more new technologies than ever to keep up with. Many people will choose not to or won’t have option. What happens when someone doesn’t upgrade their phone every 2–3 years? What if you don’t download the latest apps for public and private transportation, healthcare, education, the messaging apps that people communicate with and make payments through the mobile phone? The technology savvy and geeks are taking over. The most valuable and profitable companies in the world are tech companies. Amazon might become the worlds first trillion dollar company. The first trillion ire could become a reality within the next 20 years and it will be a tech entrepreneur for sure. Political parties and leaders have an advantage because they understand how to use and leverage technology. Artists, actors, authors, journalists and other creative roles are more successful if they know and use technology to their advantage. Restaurants, bars and hotels depend as much on IT skills and social media as they do on the quality of their property and service. Doctors and nurses that keep up with the latest development in their field provide better care to their patients. Economists and statisticians that know how to use data visualization have a huge advantage in story telling and winning their audience. Jobs go to engineers, preferably younger engineers as fresh skills are valued higher than experience by many organizations. The world is slowly becoming cashless, local retail stores are closing and replaced with eCommerce, bank branches and ATMs disappear. This is just the beginning. Because society is changing rapidly whether we like it not. Computers leveraging Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning will be able to beat humans at almost any single skill within the next 5–10 years. This means that the computer engineers and the people that control the technology will have even more power. Homes are becoming smarter but also more complex. Every device is becoming connected. Cars drive themselves. VR and AR may cause dizziness and headaches in the short term but will extend abilities in the long term. We have to get used to talking to machines, to controlling interfaces with our eyes and motion and eventually the machines will listen to our brainwaves. Even if only half of these technologies come true within the next 10 years it will impact most people. What happens if someone doesn’t want to be or cannot be part of this change? What happens to those who are disconnected? They will be left behind. As technology leaders we have a responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen. We need to make sure that technology is for everyone and that people don’t feel alienated by it. That it truly makes life better for everyone! How can we contribute? Here are a couple of ideas / suggestions on where to start: • Create better products and services that solve real problems and are easy to use • Spend a few hours every month teaching your parents / grandparents how to use new technology • Volunteer to teach and share your knowledge online through videos or education for adults at a local community centre for the unemployed or elderly • Donate your old (not too old) devices to people who need them instead of leaving in the drawer and eventually throwing away What do you think? Do you agree that there is a problem? If not then why and if yes share your thoughts about how we reduce the digital divide. DMI is starting a new initiative under the Moville umbrella to ensure that our customer engagements are inclusive of everyone. We will keep you updated about the progress. This article is dedicated to my parents who gave me a big advantage in life thanks to early access to computers and learning to program. My father who’s now retired stays busy giving teachers access to advanced data visualisation tools and my mother provided feedback to this article on her iPad. Together we can bridge the digital divide! About the author Magnus is a computer engineer and serial entrepreneur as a co-founder of 8 start-ups and 3 successful exits. He’s currently Chief Innovation Officer at DMI ( after the acquisition of Golden Gekko.  

09 May 2017

Retirement Planning – A Slow Start Can Be Costly

Planning for retirement is just one area in which, with the benefit of hindsight, many people wish they’d taken action earlier. How often in life do we look back and wish we had done things differently? According to a recent study, two in five pensioners regret retirement-planning mistakes which have left them struggling financially.1 Nearly one in five say that they didn’t save enough for retirement, and 15% regret not starting to save earlier in their working lives. Understandably, many of us still have misgivings about locking our money away for decades – especially if we have more immediate calls on our income. Nevertheless, if we’re serious about planning for the future, we need to put away surplus income today, since doing so funds our lifestyles tomorrow. With that in mind, how should we go about saving for life after work? Putting aside arguments over whether the current government – or a future one – will rein in pension tax privileges, there are some compelling reasons why a pension is still the most obvious answer. Pension contributions attract tax relief on the way in and they accumulate capital gains free of tax once inside. When you access your pension savings, the first 25% is normally tax-free. While you cannot draw benefits until your 55th birthday, this can also be an advantage as it restricts the temptation to tap into your retirement fund before then. Getting off the mark How much pension income you need in retirement will be determined by a number of factors, including your health, your living expenses and your desired lifestyle. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, the average worker in the UK earns £26,364 a year2, so a pension income of around £20,000 might seem like a reasonable target for most people. Assuming you qualify for the full single-tier State Pension of £8,094 a year3, you would need to find at least £12,000 a year from your other pensions to achieve an overall income of £20,000 per annum. Achieving this, however, can be very challenging for those on low incomes, or those with unpredictable earnings – but especially for those who delay saving. For example, someone in their mid-20s who starts saving into a defined contribution (money purchase) pension today would need to save around £250 a month to achieve an income of £12,000 by the time they reach State Pension age. Someone who delays until their mid-30s would need to put away £420 a month; and a 45-year-old who hasn’t started a pension would need to start saving around £850 a month.4 This analysis assumes that the fund would be used to purchase an annuity. Of course, under ‘pension freedoms’, people can draw down their defined contribution pension in a variety of ways; but an annuity remains a widely chosen method of providing a retirement income – and a useful yardstick against which to measure the required saving rates. Playing catch up “The sooner we start, the more choices we have later,” says Ian Price, divisional director at St. James’s Place. “The power of compound returns [gains on gains] means that 10 or 20 years can make a big difference.” “However, you should never think that it’s too late to start saving, or that you can’t catch up. There are significant opportunities to make up lost ground if you have the available means and allowances,” he adds. You can put as much as you want into your defined contribution pension each year, but you’ll normally only get tax relief on contributions up to £40,000. If your scheme operates what is called a ‘relief at source’ arrangement, your pension provider will add tax relief of 20% to your pension contributions, and then you can claim anything above the basic rate via your annual tax return. A £40,000 contribution could effectively cost a higher rate taxpayer just £24,000. Moreover, you can make use of allowances from the three previous tax years if these haven’t been utilised. This year is particularly important, especially for higher earners, as it is the final chance for pension savers to use the £50,000 allowance that was in place in 2013/14 – before it was reduced to £40,000. If it is not used before 6 April 2017, it will be lost forever. However, the fact remains that the best way to secure a comfortable retirement is to save as much as possible as early as possible in your working life, and take financial advice. The longer you delay saving, the harder it will be to build the kind of fund that will see you through retirement. Brought to you by Lynn Anderson of St. James's Place Wealth Management The value of an investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise.  You may get back less than the amount invested. The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are dependent on individual circumstances. 1 Prudential, 15 April 2016 2Office for National Statistics, 15 March 2017 3, 17 March 2017 4, accessed 20 March 2017; the example is based on a male who pays basic rate Income Tax, buying a single life, level annuity, and where pension contributions are invested in a default equity and bond lifestyle fund

03 May 2017


"If you disassemble a modern drone, VR headset, or IoT device, you'll find mostly smartphone components." -Chris Dixon of a16z Every business and organization, large and small, will be touched by IoT over the coming years whether it’s smart buildings, transportation, logistics, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, finance, energy utilization or something else. Some will be able to make it a major competitive advantage and others will just do what their competitors are doing. Typically, the need for one or multiple IoT specialized partners comes from one of these three needs: The organization has a problem that could possibly be solved using IoT technology The organization has a bunch of connected devices stemming out of different initiatives that need to be managed and/or data output that is not yet structured The organization is working on an IoT approach/strategy But with 300+ vendors claiming to have the right “IoT Platform” for your business, where do you begin? How do you pick the right IoT partners? Here’s a 3-step guide based on our experience: 1. Define the Problem Too many IoT projects start with a technology or solution being tested and implemented. Just like with any other IT projects, the greatest ROI comes from identifying and solving business problems. So, start by identifying problems that the business, customers or employees are experiencing and look at how these could be solved with technology. Use tools such as DMI Active (DMI’s methodology based on Design Thinking, Lean UX and Human-Centric Design) if you don’t already have a long list. Once you’ve identified problems, explore them to really make sure that you understand them before jumping to solution solving. Prioritise the solutions based on factors such as business impact, complexity and cost. Example: A pharma company that provides hardware to hospitals for patient treatment wants to better understand how the product is being used (utilization, location, results, etc.). This could give insights to product improvements, maintenance schedules, selling more equipment, training needs and more. A beverage company finds out through data that they are missing out on 10% of revenue from existing customers due to inventory running out before the weekly delivery. The delivery team says they need to increase the amount of trucks and drivers to solve the problem, which will increase cost substantially. Would it be possible to solve this problem with better utilization of existing trucks and drivers with the help of vehicle tracking and predictive analytics? 2. Test Concepts and Solutions With a clear problem definition, it’s time to start looking for solutions. Integrating IoT in a new product will take time. Typically, the roadmap for any hardware combining connectivity is at least 12-18 months and it’s difficult to do anything about this. The challenge is simply the combination of hardware design, software development, building and testing a prototype, and taking the product to mass market production takes time. And at the end of this cycle there’s another 6-12 months’ lead time to make major changes to the product. We believe that organizations should always attempt to test the concept/solution before embarking on big implementation and integration programs. And if it’s still necessary due to time pressure, then run the proof of concept in parallel as input to the core implementation program. Some of the 300 IoT platform providers, or one of the additional thousands of sensor and connected device suppliers, will be able to provide you with solutions that can easily be prototyped. Select one or a couple of them to evaluate. Run a proof of concept rather than pilot if possible. The pilot can be integrated into the implementation. As per previous articles on prototyping, make sure that end-user feedback is integrated every step of the way. Also, clearly define the success criteria for the proof of concept and final implementation with KPIs that can be used to track progress towards the core objectives every step along the way. Example: Let’s go back to the pharma company above. To connect the device itself and integrate sensors will take at least 2 years including development, certification, security auditing and more. The company wants to test if tracking the device usage will really be worth the effort. To start with, they identify 3 different solutions with sensors using sound, motion and electric circuit measurements and does a proof of concept with all 3 in parallel. The proof of concept is implemented and evaluated in less than 2 months and achieves the desired results. 3. Choose the Best Solution Fit for You Now the problem has been identified and a solution has been prototyped and proven to work. Now it’s time to answer the question in the title of this article. How to choose a partner that can help implement the solution. Pick a partner with relevant industry experience for the problem/solution (assuming there is one) to manage risk and minimize time to market. With hundreds of IoT companies in the market, most are specialized in specific verticals or use cases. Put together a list of the top 5-10 companies and select the ones to invite for a RFI or briefing. Make sure to keep the first implementation limited to the top 3-5 use cases really required and no more. For companies that lack in-house competencies in IoT UX design, integration, development, connected analytics and security, it might be a good idea to pick a partner to help with the end-to-end implementation. This will vastly increase the chance of achieving objectives within the desired timeline. Finally, launching the solution is only the start of the journey. Once implemented, use the data output, customer feedback and other results to optimize and improve. Example: A furniture manufacturer has identified an opportunity to improve time to market by end-to-end tracking of its products from manufacturing to stores. The concept has been proven with an early proof of concept. Now it’s time to choose a scalable solution. A list of the top 5 suppliers of IoT for logistics and supply chain applications is put together including Alien Technology, Cargo Sense, Xerafy, Arviem and maybe DHL as one of the top IoT-powered logistics companies. Cargo Sense is selected based on fit, cost and time to market. In Conclusion Always start with the problem, then test the possible solutions and finally work with best of breed partners to implement, evaluate and continue to optimize and improve. Magnus Jern, Chief Innovation Officer,

11 April 2017

Focus Your Planning – Tax Year End

With the run-up to the end of the tax year fast approaching, have you taken action to avoid missing out on the valuable tax-saving allowances and opportunities that would otherwise be lost?   Below is a ten point tax checklist on valuable relief and exemptions: Ensure you have made use of your ISA allowance of £15,240. Ensure your spouse or partner has maximised their ISA allowance to fully utilise the combined allowance of £30,480. Make contributions of up to £4,080 per child into a Junior ISA to help younger generations get a head start. Those wishing to maximise pension saving should ensure they have fully utilised their annual pension allowance.  Unused pension allowances can be carried forward, but only from the three previous tax years.  If your 2016/17 allowance is fully utilised, you should review whether you have any unused allowances from the 2013/14 tax year first. If you're thinking of making a large pension withdrawal, it could make sense to spread the withdrawal over two tax years to minimise your Income Tax liability. Take advantage of your annual Capital Gains Tax (CGT) exemption by taking gains of £11,100 in the tax year.  Those with larger liabilities might look to take gains over two years, and make use of tax-free inter-spouse transfers. High earners should take steps to bring their taxable income down by making pension contributions or charitable donations.  These can help individuals rate tax band, which starts at £150,000; to regain their Personal Allowance, which starts to be withdrawn from £100,000; and avoid losing Child Benefit, which is gradually removed if one parent in the household earns more than £50,000. Use your Inheritance Tax gifting exemption of £3,000 for this year, and carry forward last year's exemption if it hasn't been utilised. If you own your own business, consider taking a dividend income and a lower basic salary to reduce National Insurance contributions (NICs).  The first £5,000 of dividend income is tax-free. Divert your pre-tax profits into a personal pension to reduce your company's liability to Corporation Tax, Income Tax, including on dividends, and NICs. Contributions will need to be paid before your company’s financial year-end for the business to qualify for the deduction in that accounting period.  In many cases, the deadline will be 31st March, 2017. You have until April 5th to act, so don't lose out! Brought to you by Lynn Anderson Ltd, Founder Member & Principal Partner Practice of St. James's Place Wealth Management An investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the funds you select and the value can therefore go down and well as up.  You may get back less than you invested.  An investment in a Stocks & Shares ISA will not provide the same security of capital associated with a Cash ISA.  The favourable tax treatment of ISAs may be subject to changes in legislation in the future.  The level and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are dependant on individual circumstances.

10 March 2017

Executive Stress – A Modern Day Malady by Cathy Harris

“I’m not sleeping, I can’t think straight and I feel overwhelmed. And I’m worried that if my colleagues find out how I’m feeling, they’ll think I’m incompetent”… Sadly, I commonly hear these complaints in my specialist coach-counselling practice. Not untypically, a corporate manager will arrive feeling anxious or depressed, and sometimes these feelings are compounded by additional struggles to cope with panic attacks, addictions or events experienced as traumatic. The first reassurance I can offer is that they’re not alone. The Centre for Mental Health estimates that presenteeism (showing up for work, but not performing) due to mental health conditions results in a whopping bill to the UK economy of £15.1 billion per annum – throwing costs for absenteeism into relief at a (mere) £8.4 billion.  Recent research from the Health and Safety Executive also makes for grim reading in revealing that in the past year, stress accounted for a hefty 37% of all work-related ill health cases, with workload pressures, tight deadlines and lack of management support cited as key culprits. These statistics sound a clarion call for HR professionals tasked with addressing the epidemic through workplace wellbeing strategies. But whilst there’s an obvious case for broadcasting the fact that mental health at work matters, if we want the message to be received, our businesses need to tune into the facts about stress; what triggers it, how to spot it, and what to do about it. And most importantly, to learn that prevention is the best cure. Let’s start by busting a myth. Stress and anxiety - and the psychological distress that results - isn’t a sign of weakness and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It’s simply an ancient, biological response to feeling under threat – part of a system designed to keep us safe. A certain amount of pressure at work keeps us focused. So, feeling anxious about a presentation can motivate us to prepare; feeling worried about job security might prompt us to look for alternative roles, feeling angry about a staff member’s behaviour could be the spur for that much-needed conversation. But it’s when these feelings are unresolved and levels of emotional arousal remain high, that the accompanying stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, remain in our system for too long and prevent us from resting and digesting.  Chronic levels of stress are toxic, can compromise immunity and lead to burnout. Next, the million-dollar question; what are the triggers? In a nutshell, feeling consistently stressed rather than stretched by our work. To be stretched, we need to feel secure and in control, forge open and trusting relationships and experience a sense of achievement. This is a tall order though, when you consider that we’re wired for threat. Our biological survival mechanism (the brain’s ‘security guard’) evolved to help our ancestors to get the hell out of dodge when they faced being eaten alive. The system (which operates in a threat or reward-style binary code) worked a treat with dangerous predators and of course still does. Corporate life presents few mortal threats, but unfortunately, this ancient ‘fight or flight’ mechanism can easily trigger off a disproportionate stress response in relation to things like change initiatives, job insecurity and difficult relationships. And when worrying about a potential risk turns into endless rumination, relatively minor hassles can morph into imaginary predators. Our brain doesn’t distinguish between a real or perceived threat. To quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet; “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. An imagined fear can feel as real and frightening as a sabre-toothed tiger. And when our emotions are running high, our IQ literally drops. This explains why the ‘symptoms’ of being in ‘survival’ mode include feeling unable to focus and think clearly and why stressed executives are often seen to be ‘acting out’ in inflexible, defensive or aggressive ways. Stress levels are further exacerbated by the fact that many company systems, processes and practices in a post-digital world don’t align well with human being design. In particular, digitally-enhanced performance or talent management systems and rankings which require people to ‘evidence competencies’ in line with unwieldy frameworks are fundamentally anti-social. Focusing on self-protective evidence-gathering requires negative introspection – a perfect ingredient for stress! No wonder Dr. David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute likens the anticipation of a performance review to “the feeling you get down a dark alley when you hear footsteps behind you”. An additional by-product of the vast amount of unsolicited information that lands daily in our inboxes, is that we’re letting our fingers do too much of the talking. I regularly see minor issues (which could’ve been nipped in the bud early, in conversation) escalating through unproductive email exchanges where people resort to second-guessing others’ motives and intentions, lose empathy and end up lashing out. The self-protective habit of email ‘blind copying’ further ups the ante by compromising privacy and making us feel unsafe. And when we’re lured into the trap of too many ‘all staff’ emails there’s a temptation for senior managers to get buried in detail and then end up micromanaging and overcontrolling. Inevitably, this has a knock-on effect on employee engagement - we’re problem-solving creatures, and we don’t think creatively in a mental straightjacket! Most importantly though, we’re not designed to multi-task. There’s now a raft of evidence to suggest that in a world of information overload, unmanageable executive workloads are a prime stress trigger. Edward Hallowell, a US psychiatrist has coined the term ADT – or Attention Deficit Trait to describe the toll that information overload is taking on our mental health. The ultimate price of executive ‘overdrive’ and poor self-regulation can be seen in an increase in binge working, instant gratification, addiction, anxiety and depression at work. The HR profession has a critical role to play in redesigning organisational practices and encouraging habits which create a hospitable climate in which employees can thrive.  And that’s a hot topic. But for now, here are a few simple brain-savvy stress-busters to start practising: Learn to recognize your personal stress triggers and develop strategies to manage these. When you start to feel wound-up, take a break and concentrate on breathing deeply to calm down. Focus on making the outbreath longer than the inbreath, to stimulate relaxation. Build in downtime. We work best in 90 minute bursts with 10 minute breaks. Our energy dips for a purpose – to allow us to process learning, rest, and recharge. If we push through these dips using energy boosts from caffeine and sugar, we elevate stress hormones and reduce our brain power. Less is more. Switch off your phone and devices to allow you to focus on the important stuff. Don’t drain your ‘mental battery’ surfing your inbox. Practise the habit of tuning into information from your gut. When you notice anxious feelings and thoughts, reality-check your fears with a trusted colleague to gain a fresh perspective and support. Finally, diet, sleep and exercise are the best medicine for stress. Regular exercise, like introducing a short walk into your working day, releases ‘feel good’ endorphins. Cathy Harris, Director Keychange Coaching,  E: T: 07964 099 959

08 March 2017

Why Work in Recruitment?

What used to be viewed as a less than desirable career option is increasingly becoming the profession of choice, made attractive by its image as a fast-paced people business.  In this blog we take a look at why choosing a career in recruitment has become so appealing. Competitive Salary and Great Perks One of the main draws to the industry is that if you succeed in recruitment then your earning potential is vast.  With often uncapped commission schemes and impressive incentives such as all expenses paid holidays abroad, it is easy to see why more people are seeking out a career in recruitment.  One of our Consultants earned over £200k last year and you could do the same! Fast Progression The opportunity for promotion in this industry is second to none.  Performance is easily measurable - produce good results and you can expect to be climbing the career ladder well before you would in another role. Rewarding Recruitment changes lives.  Literally.  What could be more rewarding than that? Social Environment Recruiting is all about engaging with your candidates and clients, so if you enjoy speaking to people both over the telephone and face-to-face then recruitment is a good career choice for you.  It involves building lasting relationships with your contacts, understanding their needs and using your knowledge to help them. Competitive and Varied As a recruiter, filling each role is like entering into a competition with your competitors.  When you successfully fill these roles it is energising, exhilarating and exciting!  You’ll face a variety of assignments and challenges with every new position you work on, keeping the job interesting and continually challenging. Do you think you’ve got what it takes?  The JM Group are actively looking to recruit: Associate Recruitment Consultants – if you are a recent graduate who is driven, enjoys a challenge and would like to join one of the most established and well respected recruitment companies in the UK then we want to hear from you. Experience Consultants with a proven track record of developing business and delivering a range of quality recruitment solutions. Email your CV to us today or call us 020 7251 7300.

22 February 2017

Blockchain in Financial Markets, Part 2 – By Alex Powell

Last week we published part 1 of Alex Powell’s blog which looked at the application of blockchain technology within financial markets.  Alex is a senior financial services professional working in capital markets, exchanges, asset management and asset servicing sectors.  He has served as a Partner at Accenture and EY (Ernst & Young) and has line management experience as a former COO for HSBC Securities Services.  He is currently advising on an early stage FinTech start-up.  Part 2 of Alex’s insightful blog continues this week. In my other article on Blockchain in Financial Markets, I set out what I have been seeing and working on in the application of blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT) to payments and post-trade processing. Every firm in each industry sector is reviewing what changes blockchain might drive and how they can take advantage of the new technology.  Here is the rest of my synopsis of what is going on but importantly what I am actually seeing and hearing about.  Here I shall cover know your customer, reference data, asset management, custody, trade finance and insurance. Know your customer (KYC) KYC is a pretty obvious area where blockchain technology could be used to share customer information on a selective basis.  After payments and settlement (post-trade), KYC is probably the most directly obvious financial application. Since the credit crisis began, KYC has come to the fore to better tackle money laundering and fraud.  A number of financial services ‘utilities’ formed to process KYC information for the benefit of members of the utility.  The largest are Thomson Reuters, Depository Trust & Clearing Corp Clarient Global, a joint venture between Markit and Genpact, and SWIFT KYC Registry.  So far they appear to be using traditional technologies. There are a few players attempting to apply blockchain to KYC, mostly in the retail space.  Kyc-chain (a Hong Kong company), Innopay and PwC is assessing how a blockchain could be used for “know your customer” procedures.  The consulting firm Z/Yen is active here and also in DLT for insurance. Reference data The benefit of putting reference data such as market and client/counterparty data on a blockchain is that it eases the need to reconcile and disseminate the data. Credits Blockchain has been working on a proof of concept for a major stock exchange group and several banks and information providers are considering how data could be more easily shared and distributed. Asset management Blockchain could be totally transformative for the funds industry, both in how it operates and in reducing costs. Operational efficiency could be improved and incumbents and new entrants could make use of the technology to offer new services.  The big use cases for the asset management industry are probably in Transfer Agency, (which handles the subscription and redemption of funds), funds distribution and fund accounting which could offer shared ledgers of fund valuations. A group of fund managers including some of the largest; Schroders Aberdeen Asset Management, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Aviva Investors, Henderson Global Investors have come together to explore areas where blockchain could be deployed. My sense is that asset managers are quite a way behind the sell side on the blockchain adoption curve. Custody I suspect that all large custodians are exploring blockchain in some capacity.  The Bank of New York Mellon, for example, is active with Settlement Coin and has made prominent hires to look at blockchain technologies. Arguably custodian banks have the most to lose if (or when) securities settlement moves on to blockchain solutions.  This is because information on settlement can be transferred to all participants seamlessly and so could flatten the custodian to sub-custodian to CSD structure which exists today, robbing them of current business or further eroding their margins. Trade Finance For the past two years, trade finance has been touted as an area up for disruption by blockchain, combined with the internet of things (by attaching radio frequency identification devices to physical assets). Barclays and start-up company Wave claim to have become the first organisations to execute a global trade transaction using blockchain technology. A letter of credit transaction between Ornua (formerly the Irish Dairy Board) and Seychelles Trading Company is the first to have trade documentation handled on the new Wave platform, with funds sent via Swift. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) are using a blockchain prototype to streamline the paper-heavy world of global trade. The consortium used the Linux Foundation open source Hyperledger Project blockchain fabric, supported by IBM Research and IBM Global Business Services. Blockchain will certainly drive changes to trade finance operation and enhance traceability and transparency. Insurance The insurance industry is going through digital transformation in terms of processing and claims management. Take telematics installed in cars which enable insurers to better forecast the likelihood of car crashes and accident claims and reduce the cost of insurance for safer drivers. Blockchain is being considered for claims management as a means of storing customer contract information and sharing it amongst insurers, then using smart-contracts to manage the claims processing.  But for this to happen it requires wide scale industry adoption using a common claims processing platform.  There could be similar benefits for the automatic underwriting of policies too.   To wrap up….. In my view, the most valuable benefit of blockchain based solutions is the ability to easily share data amongst participants and eliminate the need for multiple reconciliations.  For any use-case, this requires participants to sign up to and use the solution.  Adoption is the real challenge just like setting up any multi-participant solution. The winners in years to come will be the ones who succeed in generating the ‘network effect’ for their solution and overcome regulatory and legal obstacles.   Alex can be contacted at or  

02 February 2017

Why Would You Be Led By Trump? – An analysis of Trump and Clinton’s leadership personas by Viren Lall of

A number of short articles have appeared on this subject and quite a few from the London Business School, some even predicting that Trump’s leadership style will get him into trouble in the future. We already know that there is only so much power vested in the President, as Obama discovered, and there are counterbalancing forces that will stand in his way[1]. Trump has been a great proponent of Robert Moses[2], the public figure who transformed the landscape of New York’s public spaces by building parks and buildings, held power for nearly 44 years and was known as the master power broker in New York. Robert Moses said ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’, and Trump has said ‘you can’t build skyscrapers without breaking a few heads’! Trump has quite a job to do in building his power base and coalitions if he is going to deliver on his rhetoric of “draining the swamp” as he describes Washington. As someone said the role of a social psychologist is to be descriptive of what has happened and not prescriptive about perceived difficulties of a leadership style. We are not saying that Trump is or will be a good leader or that we like him; this piece focuses solely on how Trump and Hillary came across as leaders to their electorates and the impact it may have had. A perspective on Leading Harvard University’s Howard Gardner[3], one of America’s most interesting psychologists, who applied a cognitive lens to leadership famously, said “Effective leaders create new stories that successfully wrestle with stories that already populated the minds of their followers”.[4] In this piece we look at three specific characteristics of the leadership personas of the two candidates, how they came across to their electorates, and how it may have influenced people on their choices. 1. Communicating change and buy-in: Three weeks before the election campaign we ran a course on the psychology of change for 25 CEOs. We started this session with a slide and footage of Hillary and Trumps focusing on how they came across on change. It was clear that Trump appealed to the emotional side of his audience and Hillary for the longest time in her campaign was happy to rattle off statistics. Her arguments were rational. They probably appealed to the intellectual elite. When we want to drive change, the rational argument is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. According to Chip and Dan Heath (popularised in their book Switch[5]), to make change easy for people to adopt, you have to get them in touch with your feelings and Trump was a master of creating that kind of impact. A bigger enemy, visualization of a wall… he got his audience in touch with his feelings. 2. Authenticity We interviewed a number of people, including some senior professors from UCL on their perceptions of the two candidates and how they came across. Trump, though despicable came across as authentic. He shared his flaws. He said he had beaten the system. People didn’t mind. People even admired that, wishing they could be as successful as him. When tapes revealed his locker room talk, a personality flaw, Trump did not spend much time and effort on correcting it or trying to tow a politically correct line. Truly inspirational leaders selectively reveal weaknesses and dare to be different. In their work on “Why should anyone be lead by you?” Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones[6] argue that leaders don't become great by aspiring to a list of universal character traits, and Trump trumped this one. Hillary neither revealed weaknesses - in-fact she spent enormous energy covering them up - nor did she dare to be different. People did not trust Hillary, she was too opaque. When accused of buying cheap steel from China, and bankrupting organisations to his own benefit, Trump was quick to admit he had done so because the system allowed it. The system was broken and because of how he had gotten around all the loopholes, he and not the establishment was best placed to fix it. It added to his credibility. People believed him. 3. Influencing through pre-suasion and not just persuasion Not only were Trump’s messages consistent, they were pre-suasive. In the latest work by Robert Cialdini[7] a solid influencer persuades by pre-suasion. At a talk given by Robert Cialdini earlier this month at @RSAevents, he summarised his new work by suggesting that people who can get their audience to focus on the precise of goal of their message and before delivering that message, create a mindset (through words, images, situations) that is consistent of that goal, significantly improve their power to persuade. A classic technique use by people strong at influencing is that through movements before their message they create a mindset of receptiveness for those they seek to influence. Clinton and Trump were equally good at using levers of influencing like social proof, and individual stories of personal condition. Where Trump triumphed was his emphasis on losses and putting people in a frame of mind that gave him a privileged reception of his message. People were losing their jobs to China, Mexico and others. By putting people in this frame of losses, a psychological chute of thinking, people only considered losses, losses that had occurred due to labour arbitrage or efficiency innovations that had taken away jobs through mechanisations. This positive test strategy failed to ask the reverse questions: people did not consider the opposite –had there been new opportunities? With a big common enemy (China, Mexico), stagnation of job creation, a man who had successfully beaten the system vowed to fix it and made it a compelling case of persuasion. According to Prospect Theory[8], the work that got Daniel Kahneman his Nobel prize, people in a loss frame of mind are likely to take riskier (all or nothing) decisions and that was one reason why the electorate was ready to take a gamble. Howard Gardner, mentioned earlier, did not distinguish between good and bad leaders from the perspective of social outcomes, he focussed on their effectiveness of their influencing. It just so happened that Trump was more effective as a leader - that he was able to create new stories that successfully wrestled and won over the existing ideas that populated the minds of his (new) followers”. Bottom line, he did a better job of getting his stories across. Not all victories are idiosyncratic Nationalism is up in India, in the UK, and now in countries like France, Holland and Austria. It's a trend Trump had picked up a long time ago. He shared these views early on in 2000[9], when he considered standing for president with the liberal reform party. Trump had been in touch with his electoral base for a while. People believed his Jacksonian politics - that the US should not take the lead in esoteric global problems just because US always has. And if you think that this is a bolt out of the blue, here is a man who has been consistent with his message on what he would do as a president from the 1980’s. Have a look at this video to see the consistency of Trump’s message: The long road to the white house from 1980 to 2015. He just managed to increase that significantly to include what is called the “Springsteen” democratic base that effectively elected him. In the end his leadership persona as a change inspiring, authentic, and persuasive leader trumped that of Hillary’s. Viren Lall, FRSA, Managing Director, ChangeSchool  ChangeSchool expertise and latest published work [1] Is President Trump a sign of our times, Randall Peterson [2] The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York; Robert Caro, Published by Bodley Head, 2015 [3] Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School, Adjunct professor of Neurology of at the Boston University School of Medicine. Author of fourteen books on leadership [4] From his seminal work Leading Minds[1]: An Anatomy of Leadership written in 1995 [5] Switch: How to change things when change is hard, Chip and Dan Heath, 2011, Published by Random House Business Books [6] Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader by Rob Goffee (Author), Gareth Jones (Author) [7] Robert Cialdini was most famous for his previous work [8]  (Kahneman and Tversky 1979). [9] And contrary to popular belief, Trump did not decide to stand for President, post the humiliation he received from President Obama at the 2011 correspondents dinner

30 January 2017

Forex Trends

Foreign Exchange in London is an essential element of international business.  Currency transactions have grown explosively over recent years.  London accounts for more than three times the daily volume of any other city in the world. Twenty popular bilateral currencies are traded daily, the US $ being top at 87% with the South African Rand bottom at 1%.  There are more 'exotic' contracts for the more adventurous dealers looking for greater reward, or loss! Hedge Funds have taken their share of criticism for driving speculation at the cost of frail economic values.  Some economists say that Hedge Funds are the only professional traders and that individual traders have more of a destabilizing role than the more informed players. Forex dealers now have access to "Autotrading" once only available to the whole-sale market.  Autotrading is now OTC (over the counter) to those who pay for it.  This has stimulated "retail investors" that now form an important segment of market turnover.  This type of trading has increased from 2% in 2003 to almost 65% of the market today. Speculation is the market, providing vast liquidity that no other market sector in the world can come near to, and it cannot be controlled.  As long as there is human input the markets will be volatile. The markets over the last 10 years have been in crisis across the world.  In 2007 we all rushed headlong into "safer" investments in order to escape falling values - Gold hit an all-time high, someone paid $176 million* for a "poor" Picasso, $5 million* has been paid for a chair and $35 million* for a red car.  "Insane splurge" according or some, or is it? Artificial intelligence is, we are told a few years away and then we can expect the markets to be calmer - no "human input", really?  Until robots can think and can program another robot, traders will have a future.  Artificial Intelligence could be a very short time away, after all cars drive themselves, don't they? Markets are super sensitive to all forms of news and comment from around the world, evidenced by UK Prime Minster Theresa May speaking about a "hard Brexit" whereby the UK could lose access to the EU?  Sterling roiled by this remark falling to its lowest point for more than 15 years.  The Prime Minister will, of course, negotiate the best trade deal we can get whilst remaining out of the regional bloc. Our position in the UK during these quintessential negotiations guarantees volatility in the markets for years to come, that means "opportunity" in a market where Trillions are traded every day.  It remains to be seen if we can become "super-stars" or just left out! Adversity is no stranger to London so, look forward to a super bright future. Ad Astra! *Source KFWR (Knight Frank Wealth Report 2016) Article written by Barry Mason, CEO of Invest F1 s.a. (  

17 January 2017

Blockchain Technology – By Alex Powell

Alex Powell is a senior financial services professional working in capital markets, exchanges, asset management and asset servicing sectors.  He has served as a Partner at Accenture and EY (Ernst & Young) and has line management experience as a former COO for HSBC Securities Services. He is currently advising on an early stage FinTech start-up.  Alex has written a guest blog on behalf of the JM Group which looks at the application of blockchain technology in financial markets.  Part 1 focuses on payments and post-trading processing. Blockchain in Financial Markets Over the past couple of years there has been considerable activity in financial services examining and applying blockchain technology, or sometimes described as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).  This activity does not yet live up to the media hype but nonetheless the industry has gone from thinking that blockchain is the same as Bitcoin to a general acceptance and understanding that this new technology will form an important part in the technology arms cabinet.  Furthermore, there is considerable investment in blockchain for real world applications in regulated markets. I am interested in the real world applications in financial services for blockchain and have been working with one of the more established blockchain technology companies for some time, deploying and considering use-cases in financial services. What is blockchain technology? But first to get everyone on the same page if you are not so familiar with what blockchain actually is.  Blockchain is a chain of transactions which is agreed by a wide group of participants and which is recorded in a replicated and distributed manner.  A blockchain’s integrity hinges on strong cryptography that validates and chains together blocks of transactions, making it unfeasibly difficult to tamper with any individual transaction record without being detected. Source: Financial Times Each firm in each industry sector is reviewing what could happen and here is my synopsis of what they are saying but importantly what I am actually seeing and hearing about.  Here I shall cover payments and post-trade processing, the first areas which have sparked interest and where huge cost savings will lie from deploying blockchain technologies. So where are the applications in financial services? Payments Many banks have looked at the wholesale payments space.  Some (e.g. Unicredit) are working with Ripple Labs who use a DLT at the core of their international payments offering. BNY Mellon, Deutsche Bank, Santander and UBS – the latter of which first disclosed its work on a so-called "settlement coin" last year – are hoping to launch a commercial-grade blockchain system by 2018, with blockchain start-up Clearmatics.  The settlement coin will be used as the cash payment leg of a securities settlement transaction. Santander introduced a pilot payment system amongst staff in July 2016. Central banks are also looking at using blockchain for central bank money. The Bank of England has openly discussed and explored issuing a digital currency using blockchain, while the People's Bank of China is reportedly investigating the idea and the Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, may also look at this. And let’s not forget the crypto-currencies.  Bitcoin is widely used as a means for payment, though I am not aware that it is used in the wholesale markets.  Bitcoin is so established that exchanges are compiling indices and listing futures contracts on Bitcoins e.g. CME CF Bitcoin Real Time Index (BRTI). Post-trade processing Securities settlement A blockchain provides a shared ledger which is well suited to the transfer of title of assets.  A good application of blockchain technology is to the settlement (exchange of ownership) of securities and derivatives following trading. There is a lot going on in the securities settlement space, most notably many proofs of concepts by banks, Central Securities Depositories and exchanges; a launch by the Nasdaq stock exchange (Nasdaq Private Market); an initiative with good funding SETL and Digital Asset Holdings who are working with the Australian Securities Exchange . The benefits of changing the existing securities settlement systems provided by the Central Securities Depository (CSD) and Target 2 Securities to a blockchain based environment would be enormous.  Benefits include near instantaneous settlement rather than T+2/3, the removal of the need for clearing and reduction in reconciliation costs.  However, the barriers to adoption are very high and it is not something a single institution can do on their own.  Therefore banks are looking at other smaller areas that can be produce a result internally or with a limited number of participants or clients. Derivatives processing This year, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) announced that it has selected IBM, Axoni and R3 to create a blockchain framework to improve the derivatives post-trade lifecycle.  It looks like it may eventually replace the DTCC’s current Trade Information Warehouse (TIW).  It is developed with input from Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, UBS, Wells Fargo, IHS Markit and Intercontinental Exchange. It will build on Axoni’s AxCore distributed ledger protocol which will be submitted to the Hyperledger consortium when the solution goes live, anticipated in early 2018. Clearmatics and OpenGamma demonstrated a proof-of-concept showing how two counterparts can collectively value in real-time a portfolio of FX swaps using blockchain technology adapted from the Ethereum codebase. Asset servicing Banks are looking for smaller areas where they could deploy blockchain technology on post-trade areas in support of settlement which is a much larger topic.  I have come across use cases such as proxy voting (which would have to bring together different market participants: custodians, issuing agents) and syndicated loans administration. Collateral management Current collateral models will be severely impacted by blockchain settlement – existing cash and collateral management models will no longer be required because trade and settlement could be practically instantaneous. The need for collateral could almost be eliminated.  But this is a huge step which requires real time gross settlement across all securities which would be a fundamental shift away from current operations. Securities issuance Depositories and transfer agents are looking into how issuance could be made directly onto a blockchain.  Stock transfer and Registrar Company Computershare and British start-up firm SETL have teamed up on a project to create an immutable record of securities ownership using blockchain technology in Australia. Corporate actions could be integrated into a securities ledger on a blockchain and then execution of the action could happen via a smartcontract which updates everyone's shareholding.  And as everyone is using the same shared ledger, custodians, investors and the company registrar do not have to update their own system. Part 2 of Alex’s blog continues next week. Alex can be contacted at or References: DTCC Embracing Disruption (post-trade focused) Euroclear and Oliver Wyman – Blockchain in Capital Markets (excellent input from Euroclear experts) Santander Innoventures – Fintech 2.0 ESMA Discussion Paper: The Distributed Ledger Technology Applied to Securities Markets

17 January 2017

The Internet of Things – Forget the hype this is the reality

The JM Group were invited to exhibit at the IP EXPO, Europe's leading IT event covering Cloud, Cyber Security, Networks and Infrastructure, Data Analytics, DevOps and Open Source. The event showcased senior level insights from across the industry discussing the latest technologies and techniques.  One of the speakers providing such insights was Jean Turgeon, VP and Chief Technologist of Avaya, who presented a keynote speech about the security concerns raised by the Internet of Things.  His insightful presentation is summarised below. Adding millions of new devices, hardware endpoints, and billions of lines of code, along with more infrastructure to cope with this load is, unsurprisingly, creating a vast set of security challenges across all areas of the IoT—a set of challenges the scale of which we haven’t seen before. Fortunately, the technology industry is working hard to address these issues, and from the network side there are many lessons we can apply from the Internet and BYOD-ready networks. Let’s face it: the days of a fixed network edge, defined by office and a few home workers using corporate laptops is long gone. And we’ve been living the last several years with the borderless network—or as I like to call it, the Everywhere Perimeter.  At Avaya, we’ve built on our fabric networking technology to create a solution that addresses this challenge, providing a layer that seamlessly manages segmentation, stealth and elasticity across the organization.  This approach makes securing the everywhere perimeter much more practical. If all this sounds like gobbledygook, I can assure you it isn’t. Here’s an example of how it works: if an IP phone is plugged in, the voice network is automatically and securely extended. If a video surveillance camera is plugged in, the surveillance network is extended. When devices and objects are unplugged, the network retracts, eliminating potential back door entry points to the network. What this means is that organisations can hide much of their networks while protecting those elements that remain visible. The end result: you can’t hack what you can’t see, so businesses can avoid many of the conventional hooks and tools that hackers seek to exploit, while at the same time engaging with their customers and employees in an agile and timely manner via the IoT. Jean Turgeon, Avaya                                                                               If you would like to discuss opportunities within the cyber security space please call 0207 251 7300 or email

10 January 2017

Tech Trends 2017

From augmented reality to 3D printing, we highlight some of the key tech trends that we think will make a lasting impression in 2017. Blockchain - currently popular within the financial services industry, this technology is rapidly expanding to other areas to verify the integrity of critical information. As the technology grows, more businesses will begin to create services that support it.  Blockchain may not hit the mainstream in 2017 but it will certainly start to create a stir as investors become more comfortable with the idea of this emerging technology. Augmented Reality will see a greater shift to the mainstream, further blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds. 2017 will be the year these technologies arrive in the workplace, enabling employees, improving collaboration and better engaging with customers and clients. Autonomous Vehicles will evolve and become far more mainstream next year, shifting from stand-alone models to collaborative, whereby intelligent ‘things’ communicate with one another. In the same way a pilot spends just 14 minutes, on average, flying a plane (the rest of the time is on auto pilot), the driver of an automated vehicle can expect the same when they get behind the wheel. 3D Printing although it has been available since the 80s, the technology has not been cost-effective or capable enough for most commercial manufacturing, however this is about to change. Lower priced printers are emerging, speeds are increasing and major patents are about to expire, meaning the 3D printer market will transform rapidly in 2017. IoT - the explosion of IoT will continue throughout 2017. This year will be when businesses really start to become hyper-connected as they begin to embed IoT technologies into the everyday running of their businesses.  Consequently, the role of an IoT architect will become the most valuable role for HR departments. Security issues will continue to grow due to increased IoT and AI adoption. Cyber Attacks will become major board-level concerns due to reputational damage impacting heavily on revenues.  Companies will realise that failing to protect customer information will be their biggest source of regulatory non-compliance and reputational risk.  There will be increased investment around cyber security with a particular focus on correcting technology weaknesses, careless cultures and poor procedures. The demand for Cloud Computing will increase significantly with 80% of all businesses expected to migrate to the cloud by 2020. Without a cloud strategy, organisations will not be able to compete in the marketplace.  The huge adoption of cloud will force providers to provide an easier, safer and cheaper option as the competition increases.

03 January 2017

Mobility Trends 2017

What will the big mobility trends be for 2017? How will they impact businesses and consumers? The latest report from DMI provides insights, research and recommendations on the trends that will make the most impact and drive differentiation. "Follow our recommendations and you will have a greater chance of success..."                                                                                 Magnus Jern, Creative & Innovation Officer, DMI  

19 December 2016

How to Make Better Decisions by Viren Lall of

The JM Group is working in close partnership with Viren Lall, MD of to produce a series of articles focusing on change and transformation.  Viren’s first insight looks at the decision making process of managers in change leadership programmes and how it is that you can make better decisions for yourself. "A while ago, we published a post on the different ways managers made decisions, and the decision making processes that worked better than others. It said that a change that is “pushed” downstream and driven in a climate that supports bias for action doesn’t last as long, get implemented as well, or produce as good outcomes as other more facilitative techniques. I have personally seen plenty of examples.  In one very large telecom company I saw a change programme go horribly wrong when cuts in the name of efficiency went so deep that the business unit ended up dropping almost all KPIs related to customer satisfaction. They lost contracts, revenue and future orders, and to get out of the death spiral they had to hire just as fast as they cut. The urgency to drive change overlooked validating the edict, evaluating options, and what could go wrong. Was the solution biased by the leaders’ own personal preferences? Yes. Were any techniques used to validate prescription? No. What I want to do over a series of articles is go a step deeper into decision making.  I want to take you into the heads of managers and executives.  I want to help you understand what it is they are basing their decisions on.  Why is it that some decisions go awry?  And how it is that you can make better decisions yourself. Thinking wider than process A decision initiates change.  One reason we are fascinated by decision-making is it is the most overlooked part of change leadership.  In the same way that you start a sales conversation before anyone knows there is a problem to solve, so you start a change programme before there is a change to programme. As Louise Lavelle, associate editor and book reviewer for BusinessWeek famously (and ironically) wrote, there is no management conundrum so big that it can’t be solved by a deft application of a 5 (or a 6 or an 8 step model). People resist change, not any change but definitely change that is ill thought through.  Leading strategic change is more than following an 8 step process. It’s a right combination of leadership goodwill, decision making skills that overcome common biases that lead to poor outcomes, change that makes sense overall, and change savvyness (the change process and mobilisation). In this blog, we focus on a couple of biases on that first step, the making of the decision, that are promoted by action orientedness, and the decision making skills to overcome them. Common Biases promoted by action orientedness What is well known in management literature is there are 2 main causes of poor decision-making: lack of motivation and cognitive biases. If a company has a bias for action, it is not lacking in motivation.  To take the telecoms example again, the problem here is not lack of “communication” or “sense of urgency” that are typical of a change process.  It is a poor decision that will lead to disastrous results no matter how well executed. It will be the cognitive biases that produces problems.  I am going to talk here about two – confirming evidence and excessive optimism. The confirming evidence trap is where you have a set idea in mind, so all you can find or want to find is evidence that you are right.  This is often at the cost of evaluating alternatives. The space shuttle challenger accident tragedy was a vivid case of this systematic error in NASA’s decision-making process. Despite evidence that suggested that O reigns would fail, NASA and its engineering teams only focussed on confirm evidence that everything would be OK. Not too dissimilar to choosing statistics that suit your hypothesis. The US congress is in a political decision making trap right now.  Mass shootings are seen as evidence of the need for more guns, not gun control (I wonder if the NRA will pick this blog up and weigh in?  That would be fun J ). The other common error is optimism and overconfidence in estimation, aiming for one possible future of the best possible outcome. “Lets put some ambition into this programme”  “Why can’t we have that new SAP system up and working by December?”  (real quote, uttered in the October, when target date until then had been the next August).  We know why it happens.  Business transformation programmes are littered with cases where estimates had to be revised downwards, usually several times, after the commitment was made. All leading to value destruction when costs and benefits are finally compared. Tackling these biases There are ways of not doing this.  Getting into good habits and processes on decision making that force you to check your own thinking can overcome these.  For example, you can consider multiple possible futures with 3 point estimates, conduct pre-mortems to derive them and for each future have more than one option. Another is the vanishing options test, which is a big shift in thinking.  It asks what if the prescribed solution suddenly was not an option, what would the alternatives be? So how do we overcome these biases systematically? Well first is education and realisation that these biases are more pervasive and predictable than we think. Secondly leadership, change and transformation teams can adopt practices and habits that help de-bias prescriptive answers to create more realistically achievable outcomes that good leadership and change savvy teams can follow through on for a better chance of success. There are many techniques to avoid traps that lead to poor decisions and, ultimately, poor implementation solutions that result in disastrous outcome. If you can make that habit, not only will you be rewarded for errors of commission (I am a glad we worked on more realistic estimate) but also not fired for errors of omission (sorry, looking back I did not consider this obvious option at all). Benefit of hindsight is cruel thing. Some of the leading thinkers and researchers, in the area of behavioral insights and decision-making biases, are John Beshears, Francesca Gino, Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein, Chip Heath, Dan Heath, John Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, Howard Raiffa, Emre Soyer, Robin M. Hogarth, Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, John W. Payne and of course Daniel Kahneman who kick started this field. At ChangeSchool, our better decisions for better outcomes programme, helps organisations avoid the traps and change failures that result from poor decisions. Make one habit and it sets the scene for more realistic and robustly evaluated change targets. Targets that make sense. Targets, teams buy into. Targets you are more likely to achieve." Related article: Bias for Action – a delusional business style that could hurt your company Viren Lall, FRSA is the MD of ChangeSchool and has taught executive education at London Business School and is a visiting faculty on MBA programmes. ChangeSchool is a London based executive education and advisory company that delivers custom programmes in digital and business strategy execution, innovation and change. It has offices in the UK, GCC and India. If you want to talk more about leadership and change, we’re at or just send me a message through LinkedIn.

21 November 2016

The IR35 Headache

Draft legislation will be announced at the end of this month to reform IR35 in the public sector.  Effective from April 2017, the new legislation will mean the responsibility to determine a public sector contractor’s IR35 status will shift from the contractor to the end-client, whether that be a recruiter, client or employment intermediary. Workers loss of liability to determine their own tax status could have a worrying effect on the public sector’s ability to attract highly skilled interim and contractor workers.  In a recent survey of public sector employers nearly half (43%) thought that fewer interim managers and contractors would want to work for them if the government enforces the proposed crackdown.  However HMRC say the change is necessary to counteract the £440 million lost in tax revenue in the last tax year. There is a real possibility that clients or recruiters will apply a risk-adverse approach, meaning they will declare many contractors to be working like employees where previously the very same people were deemed to be outside of IR35.  Remember that IR35 status is not a choice and is determined on the terms of individual contracts.  A thorough review of your contract will give you peace of mind as to your status and whether you are in or out.  It has always been important to determine your own status carefully and collect evidence which is of even more importance now that third parties maybe relying on it. No one looks set to gain if the IR35 proposals go ahead.  Interim and contract workers will, rightly, not want to be taxed as if an employee without receiving employment benefits, meaning public sector jobs will be snubbed. Come April 2017 public sector interim and contract workers will have to decide if working within this sector is right for them or if a switch over to the private sector is more favourable.  However those in the private sector should also pay attention to what is announced as no one is really safe. It seems everyone wants less red tape, more clarity on legislation, and initiatives that will genuinely benefit them.  Let’s see what Hammond has to say on the 23rd.

21 November 2016

Never Accept a Counter Offer!

You have decided to leave your company having accepted a new position elsewhere.   You hand in your notice to your boss who swiftly offers an attractive pay rise.  Do not be flattered into accepting this offer!  Statistics show that the majority of people who accept will leave again within a short space of time, meaning you have to start the whole recruitment process over again. Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit so stick by your reasons for wanting to go, you won’t regret it.  Here’s why: You will most likely leave anyway - 90% of people who accept counteroffers leave or are let go within a year. Your value has gone unrecognised – it is a costly irritation to find your replacement and far easier and cheaper to retain you. Previous issues won’t go away – the reasons you want to leave are still there. Nothing else is likely to change other than your pay. Question whether that will make you happy. Your commitment will be questioned – your lack of loyalty to the company is likely to result in a loss of trust and respect from your manager which could make for an uncomfortable work environment. Job security will diminish – now that you’ve shown your willingness to leave, you will be first on the list when times get tough and cutbacks begin. You have already accepted your new role – you will be acting in an unprofessional manner by breaking your commitment to your prospective employer. It’s a small network out there and you don’t want to burn bridges. So the message is clear - do not accept counter offers.  Accepting the wrong proposal could cost you money and career growth in the long run. If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, take charge of the situation and follow these few tips: Politely but firmly decline the offer and state that after careful consideration your resignation still stands. Stress that you have taken time to weigh up your options and have come to your conclusion based on what you feel is best for you and your career path. Make it clear that you are not seeking another counter offer. Thank your employer for giving you the opportunity to work with them. Leave on good terms. It will be observed and noted. To check if your offer is a fair one use the JM Group Salary Guide or speak with a JM Group consultant 020 7251 7300 / email

17 November 2016