Month: February 2014

 

Awesome interns – sponsored by UCL (UCL Advances)

If you were not already aware, University College London (UCL), through the UCL Advances and UCL Enterprise programmes, does fantastic things to help small businesses. They run the awesome Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Growth Accelerator Programme, a mentoring programme (UCL SMILE), amongst many other useful and free services.

I highly recommend the internship programme;  a bright young thing(s) to help you with your business over the summer. They get paid (by UCL) you get an added pair of hands to help you to grow your business – win-win!

UCL Summer Internships.

If you have friends/clients/yourselves who are London-based SMEs with a desk in an office for 8-12 weeks this summer (value is £2000-£3000), you can apply for a fully-paid full-time UCL student intern. Yes, fully paid by UCL so the host doesn’t need to pay anything. Unless they need help finding a specific student to be the intern. We are holding 4 “fairs” at the end of March (24, 25, 27, 31) where companies can buy a stand (super cheap) and you’ll meet hundreds of UCL students looking for summer opportunities and there you can interview or meet them afterwards to find the one that you want. Together, you’ll submit a proposal for funding by the end of April and if approved, you’re ready to roll! If the company already has connections within UCL or has a student in mind already to be an intern, the fairs are not a requirement. Click here to find out more!

Writing a business plan – workshop with students at the London School of Economics

This presentation formed the basis of a business plan workshop with students interested in entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics. January 2014.

Writing a business plan

Banks must prioritse technology now

Bank-incentives

I read a good article on Forbes Online yesterday by Chris Skinner, titled: Fixing “The Gothic House Of Horror” In Bank Back Offices.

To summarise, the article talks to the lack of investment by banks into back office IT infrastructure. Given the very public issues with payment networks of recent months (lloyds, RBS to name but a few) the article is timely and points to a concerning issue – although the big banks have (finally) realised that they need to invest in technology driven user experience, they are still lagging, critically so, in upgrading their core banking infrastructure, which may have devastating consequences to their customers and, ultimately, to their own competitiveness.

The article echoes some of the issues I addressed in a piece I wrote for Entrepreneur Country magazine several years ago when I was beginning my entrepreneurial journey within financial services. My concern is that the bigger issue of incentives within banking still need to be addressed before we see the major banks put the right emphasis on IT strategy as a core driver of overarching business strategy and competitive advantage.

The analogy of “spaghetti” used to describe the state of bank systems within Chris’s article is one I have myself used in presentations describing bank IT and is appropriate. The front office (revenue generators) in a bank rule – they are the decision makers and define business strategy and tactics. IT managers are expected to implement what the front office says – the faster they do it, the more praise they will receive and the more likely and faster they are to progress  in their own careers. Bolting on/fudging code to deliver new IT services yesterday becomes the norm as the IT leaders respond to the incentives put in front of them. Dare they suggest to do things properly? No, as it will lead to them being sidelined and suffering significant barriers to career progression until they conform.

The front office managers have no desire to suggest an overhaul of IT systems for the greater good of the firm. Although the cycle of promotion has lengthened since 2007 and managers are staying in their posts for longer, the average is still 3 to 4 years before a manager moves on. Do they want to be the ones seen to suggest and preside over massive capital investment in IT, in the 10’s of $millions (given the still prominent waterfall project methodology), without clear and tangible uptick in revenues? Unlikely, if they want to keep going on their trajectory of pay rises and increasing responsibility.

Pressure to conform and address the issues must come from the business leaders on the board. IT strategy must come to the fore and their team must be made to feel that they will be rewarded, not penalised, in their careers by making the right investments in technology. Changes in approach –  agile, lean, experimentation – to ensure failure is fast and cheap, should be gradually cascaded through a bank to ensure capital is spent wisely.

The simple fact is this; my kids, our kids, will not want a bank branch, will have higher expectations of the e-services they receive from banks, and will be more likely to penalise a bank for inferior services by changing their provider. We ourselves, as we progress in life and increasingly become the core target market for capital markets, commercial and retail banking, will have moved along the line of normalcy in terms of the technology we accept and use and will demand and expect more from our service providers. Banks will become less sticky; they cannot rely on an apathy to change going forward. There will undoubtedly be more competition for services; pushing for change now, acquiring new knowledge and experience in best practice for technology design, development and delivery, investing in building a true competitive advantage and core capability in technology will ensure the  longevity of a bank and its future competitiveness.