Anyone Trust A Banker?

House of cards

Working in the banking sector, it’s easy to become myopic and think that everyone distrusts you, so I thought I take a look at some surveys of trust in different professions. It turns out bankers are not the least trusted profession! That honour goes to politicians in the UK and lobbyists in the US. The five least trusted professions in the UK (US in brackets) are: Continue reading “Anyone Trust A Banker?”

What Warren Buffet Taught Me (2 Mins)

Warren_Buffett_KU_Visit

Warren Buffet’s best investment years were before Berkshire Hathaway when he ran a partnership that delivered 24% annual returns after fees. The letters he sent to the partnership chronicled this period and provided a deep insight into how Buffet invested. For the first time, these letters have been accessed and turned into a book – “Warren Buffet’s Ground Rules” by Jeremy Miller. Buffet recommended the book in his most recent letter to shareholders.

I would thoroughly recommend reading the book, especially the excerpts of the letters Continue reading “What Warren Buffet Taught Me (2 Mins)”

How Intelligence Agencies Really Work (3 min read)

CIA

Whenever there are politically motivated mass murders (like the Brussels attacks) or an impending war, there are calls for more funding for intelligence services. Yet, there is a limit to what they can achieve in their current configurations. The image of slick omniscient intelligence agencies in movies and echoed by conspiracy theorists is likely way off the mark.

Indeed, the failure of US intelligence bodies on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction allowed a rare insight Continue reading “How Intelligence Agencies Really Work (3 min read)”

Does Work Have Any Morality? (2 min)

Jane_Jacobs

(An excerpt from upcoming book)

Jane Jacobs (1916-1996) was an expert on urban planning and the economics of cities. She was an activist who helped protect Greenwich Village in New York from being overhauled by an expressway running through Little Italy and SoHo and was arrested in the process. Through her work, she became an expert on the intersection between regulation and business and developed a framework to think about the moral dimensions of each. These were outlined in her excellent book “Systems of Survival”

She argued that there were some universal values such as cooperation, courage, patience and competence. But after these, two types of “moral syndromes” Continue reading “Does Work Have Any Morality? (2 min)”

What Google Learnt About Good Management (1min read)

Work Rules

Silicon Valley engineers are notoriously difficult to manage. Google even went so far as to get rid of all management positions at one point, but soon realised the ensuing chaos was worse than having management. Still not happy with the old system, they embarked on numerous experiments to determine what makes a good manager. They tracked managers performance across projects, and found that the best had the following 8 characteristics:

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
  6. Helps with career development
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team

Continue reading “What Google Learnt About Good Management (1min read)”

How To Interview (1min read)

Frost Nixon

Most interviewers rely on their gut instinct and first impression to determine who they like in an interview. The rest of the interview then simply confirms that prior instinct. However, there is no evidence that this works at all. Indeed, the seminal paper on which interview techniques work best show that the following DO NOT work: Continue reading “How To Interview (1min read)”

11 Commandments For Predicting the Future (2min read)

Superforecasting

The talking heads on TV give such a convincing story about what the future holds that its hard not to believe them. But pinning them down to a time-frame and discrete future event is often next to impossible, so you can never determine whether they were right or wrong. When such talking heads are pinned down, their track-record turns out to be very poor,  according to Philip Tetlock in his latest book “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction“. This makes sense as they are picked more for their entertainment value, than their track-records.

The real super-forecasters are people like Doug Lorch (ex-IBM, retired, lives in Santa Barbara), Mary Simpson  (independent financial consultant, formerly regulatory affairs at utility Southern California Edison) and Devyn Duffy (welfare case worker, Pittsburgh). Continue reading “11 Commandments For Predicting the Future (2min read)”

4 Things I Learnt About Women Recently (2min read)

Woman-power_emblem

I attended the annual Power Shift conference at Oxford’s Said business school earlier this week. It’s led by the excellent Professor Linda Scott and focuses on women and the world economy. While there was so much great content, here are the 4 things that stood out for me:

 1)  There’s an app to tell you how women-friendly a business is! Amy-Willard Cross has come up with an awesome app called the “Buy Up Index“(available on iPhone and Android). You type in a company and it grades the company across four categories: employees, ads, leadership and other. I typed in “Nike” and found that they score an “A” overall. They got “A”s for all categories except ads, where they got a “B” (let down by their Hurley brand, which mainly shows male surfers). Check it out. Continue reading “4 Things I Learnt About Women Recently (2min read)”

Running Your Own Business Is Easier Than You Think

Start it Up

That’s the sub-title of Luke Johnson’s breezy book “Start It Up“. He’s the man behind Pizza Express, Strada, Giraffe and Patisserie Valerie. He was also Chairman of Channel Four and a one-time columnist for the FT.

For all us salaried corporate types, it’s always nice to imagine a life free from the shackles of office politics and feelings of insignificance. Here are his main points on how to achieve it: Continue reading “Running Your Own Business Is Easier Than You Think”

4 Challenges Women Face That Men Don’t

Women work

I’ve just started writing a book on finance! It has a chapter on women in banking and below is some source material. It’s from perhaps the most comprehensive book on the general topic of women and work: “What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know” by Joan Williams. The four patterns: Continue reading “4 Challenges Women Face That Men Don’t”