Banking regulations impacting businesses

Published in Raconteur’s Corporate Treasury supplement in The Times 

Since the 2008 recession, regulation of the financial services sector, backed up with big fines, has introduced caution, slowed up lending and had a knock-on effect throughout the economy. Sally Percy reports

Falling foul of regulators can be expensive as a string of banks have learnt to their cost. Research from policy resource centre Good Jobs First in June found that banks and other financial services firms globally had forked out more than $160 billion in fines since 2010. And that was before Deutsche Bank was told to pay $14 billion for misselling mortgage securities in the United States.

Companies are far less likely than banks to be hit with a fine the length of a telephone number. Nevertheless, treasurers still need to navigate the world of financial regulation carefully if they are to spare their employer bad press, strategic risks and unexpected penalties.

“Regulation is omnipresent,” says Richard Abigail, group treasurer of engineering consultancy Arup. “Much of the regulatory pressure on us comes through the banking sector. Regulations on the banks transfer on to corporates. We have to do more and more to be regulatory compliant.”

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Boardroom basics

 Published in The Treasurer

No one wants to make a hash of briefing the company’s directors. Sally Percy asks experienced treasurers how they get it right 

A treasurer’s place is in the boardroom. Not all of the time, of course, but some of the time at least.

That is one of the principal findings of The Contemporary Treasurer 2016, the ACT’s latest research into the evolving influence of treasury on corporate financial strategy and business growth.

Nearly 200 treasurers across the UK, continental Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and North America were interviewed for the study, which found that treasurers globally are contributing far more strategic advice to their organisations than they did five years ago.

It is not just business strategy that treasurers report on, however. Their board reports tend to encompass a broad range of subjects, from capital and liquidity management and risk management through to corporate governance, treasury operations and controls, and pensions management.

So just what does presenting treasury matters to the board entail? And is it really the horrifying prospect that it might seem?

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Back to basics

Published in Project 

Project management is just a matter of finding out what works and doing it over and over again. Or is it? Sally Percy investigates 

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” This observation by the late US motivational speaker Zig Ziglar applies as much to project management as it does to art, music, sport, writing and many other activities.

The theory is that, if you repeat the same task or sequence of tasks over and over again, eventually you will excel at them. “Look at professional athletes,” says Adrian Dooley, lead author of the Praxis Framework, a free, online project management resource, and a book (£49.95) published by APM. “In their training, they practise the basics over and over again. They make these basics instinctive. In a game situation, they then improvise around those basic skills.

“If they didn’t spend so much time doing the ‘boring stuff’ and getting it right, they would never have a platform from which to launch their creativity.”

For example, footballer David Beckham revealed in 2013 that his mastery of the free kick was the result of “tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands” of practice free kicks in the local park when he was growing up. If only it were that simple…

In the world of project management, repetition does not relate to the process of landing a ball in a goal from a distance of 30 yards (although some project managers might argue that, actually, metaphorically it does). Instead, it relates to the process of getting the basics right – repeatedly.

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How to write a feature pitch that will grab editors – every time

With digital and content marketing now becoming the bywords for business promotion in the financial services industry, it can be easy to overlook more traditional methods of spreading the word.

Yet earning coverage in a publication that is read by your client base can help to raise awareness of your business among your clients and promote you as a leader in your field. So how can you ensure that your feature pitch is going to be snapped up by the ‘must-read’ publication in your area of financial services?

Know the publication

It may sound obvious, but you have more chance of getting a commission if you know the publication inside out. For a start, you want to ensure that the article is of interest to the readers. Secondly, you want to know that you have got the timing spot on.

For example, there is no point in pitching an article on the challenges or benefits that fintech is going to bring to your area of financial services if an almost identical feature appeared in the previous edition.

On the other hand, if you have read an article on the challenges that fintech is going to bring to your sector, perhaps you could pitch a feature arguing how you think a new technology could make financial firms such as yours thrive?

Have a unique angle

Even the hottest topics can reach saturation point in the press. But editors are always eager for a new viewpoint.

There is an argument that the UK tech industry could suffer greatly due to the lack of domestic IT programming expertise. So, could you survey the tech firms you advise to see how a curb on immigration would impact them, putting a fresh slant on the Brexit/migrant debate?

Make the pitch as engaging as the article

Once you have your unique angle, you need to summarise it as succinctly as possible while leaving the editor hungry for more. Editors get bombarded with emails.

According to the Harvard Business Review, journalists at,, and receive more than 38,000 emails a year – three times that of the average worker. Almost two-thirds (26,000) of those emails are sent from people trying to get press coverage.

So the first step is to make your subject line stand out. Don’t make the subject of your email ‘Feature pitch’; instead it should be ‘Feature pitch: How Brexit could put 80% of our tech clients out of business.’

Once you have intrigued the editor enough to convince them to open the email, you should give a brief summary of what the feature will entail. The summary should include some top-line stats and an engaging quote.

You want to make the pitch short enough for the editor to be able to read quickly while leaving them wanting to know more. A pitch that is around 100 words in length, or three to four sentences, is ideal.

 Know who you are pitching to

It doesn’t matter how unique your angle is, and how engaging your email subject line, if you have pitched to the wrong person. A single publication may have a senior editor, managing editor, features editor, digital editor and commissioning editor. So you need to know which one to contact.

If you have sent your email to the wrong editor, you shouldn’t rely on the fact that it will get forwarded on to the right one. At the very least, you should find out exactly who has responsibility for commissioning features and articles before sending a pitch.

A better approach is to find out who that editor is and try to build a relationship with them. That may be a coffee meeting to discuss what sort of features would be of interest or even engaging with them on social media.

If an editor knows who you are, this will decrease the chances of your feature pitches sinking to the bottom of their sea of emails.

Don’t be afraid to chase

Once you have sent your pitch, don’t write it off if you haven’t heard anything back. Even if you have taken all the above steps, there are a number of reasons why the editor may not have got back to you. They may be going to press with the current issue of the publication, for example, or they may like your idea but not have space for it at the present time.

A quick follow-up call will determine whether the editor didn’t see your email, has already filled that month’s magazine or wasn’t interested in the pitch.

If it is the latter, then you can thank them for their time and then pitch to a rival publication.

Vacancies left unfilled as skills shortage bites

Published in The Telegraph 

Construction and financial services among sectors worst hit as employers struggle to find suitable candidates for around 25pc of vacancies

In 2015, nearly a quarter of all job openings were left vacant because employers could not find people with the necessary skills or knowledge to fill them. This is a 130pc rise since 2011, according to the newly released 2015 Employer Skills Survey (ESS) from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The UK’s modest economic recovery between 2011 and 2015 can partly explain the increase in skills shortages; businesses have ramped up their hiring to meet customer demand. It does not tell the whole story, however. “Education has not always been aligned with demand in the marketplace,” says Douglas McCormick, a UKCES commissioner.

“We have real shortages of skilled labour in construction and also in professional services. That’s because in prior years there hasn’t been enough investment in the people coming through.”

As the survey highlights, skills shortages in the construction sector are a real concern, since the sector contributes nearly £90bn to the UK economy, employs more than a million people and undertakes strategically important housing and infrastructure projects. Worryingly, employers struggled to fill one in three construction vacancies in 2015.

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Who holds the key to closing the skills gap?

 Published by EY 

Five actions to accelerate gender parity 

Can it be possible that women lost 30 years of progress toward equal economic and political participation with men in just 12 months?

Unfortunately, according to the World Economic Forum, that is precisely what happened in 2015.

In 2014, the WEF predicted that it would be 80 years before gender parity could be achieved, according to the economic, educational, health-based and political indicators at the time. Just a year later, in 2015, that forecast changed to 117 years.

So how can we achieve gender parity when “business as usual” is failing to close the gap both within individual organizations and across nations? At EY, we decided to drive change at the local level by bringing together committed leaders from corporates, entrepreneurship and government.

In 2015, EY established the Women³. The Power of Three, a forum for female and male leaders from corporate, entrepreneurial and government organizations across major markets in EMEIA. After examining a number of different challenges to women in professional roles, the forum focused the last 12 months on how we could better leverage the skills of women throughout the three stages of their career (entrants, express and experienced) to close the global skills gap and support economic growth.

Through 10 regional roundtables with over 150 leaders, plus surveys of more than 1,000 organizations, Women³. The Power of Three developed a set of recommended actions calling on governments, corporates and entrepreneurs to work collectively to address five recommended actions for better harnessing female talent.

Out of these, the group prioritized five specific actions that we believe will hasten change.

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