A Racing Certainty?

Here is another example of how to be parted from your money without getting anything back in return, except perhaps a certain kind of education.  It is not based on personal experience but is based on a certain understanding of statistics.  It contains a warning against certain old-fashioned scams that have never quite gone away.

If we went to the races together and I told you I was going to back six winners in six races, you might be sceptical.  If after each race I showed you the stub of my betting slip and then came back from one of the bookies’ stands with a my winnings, you would probably revise your opinion.  If by the end of the day I had indeed done that six times, I suspect you would look upon me as a man who knew something about racing.  You might consider paying yo join my betting syndicate or to receive my daily tips.

If I wrote to you advising you to buy, or alternatively to sell, certain specific shares on the Stock Exchange, you might or might not take me seriously, but you would probably check the share prices to see if I was correct.  If I was, perhaps you would be more interested the next time.  If I was right six times in a row, you might consider paying to join my investment syndicate or to receive my share-tipping service.

You could obviously think of other variations on this.

What you would not know is that I had backed every horse in every race that day, but showed you only the winning slips.  Similarly, you would not know that I had advised equal numbers of people to buy as to sell every share I tipped.  I would, of course, not bother contacting the losers a second time.  If I contacted enough people in the first place I would be bound to find a few who got successful tips every time.

I would make enough out of those few subscriptions to my betting or share-tipping services to make a profit.  The fact that you would all end up out of pocket would not be my problem.

If you think a thing is too good to be true, it probably is!  Save your money, and your embarrassment.

At Halloween should you be afraid? What should you do?

Why be afraid of things like ghosts and vampires that don’t exict when there are plenty of things around all the time that can really hurt you or your business.

We know that fraud is increasing although many other crimes are reducing.  Cyber fraud is increasing faster than any other kind.

Should you be afraid?

Why not do something about it?

  • Review your risk controls.  Are your financial systems god enough?  How about an audit?
  • What about your IT security?  Data protection?  Have you yet looked at Cyber Essentials?  Are your systems compliant?

Want to know more?  Give me a ring or send me an e-mail.  Or go to www.cyberesentials4u.co.uk

Don’t be scared – be safe!

Another Aspect Of The Jeremy Corbyn Risk.

I have already noted that the Conservatives talk a lot about the ways in which Jeremy Corbyn is a risk to our national and economic security.  I have also looked at the risks the Labour Party is taking in electing him as Leader.  I am now going to consider certain risks facing Mr. Corbyn.  You may find some similarity to risks you face.

There has recently been some argument as to whether certain of Mr. Corbyn’s statements are indications of compromise, or at least a willingness to compromise.  He has always said that certain things need to be debated by the whole Party and he does not want to impose his views dictatorially.  However, in politics, as in business, perceptions can be more important than the underlying reality.

Politics has often been described as “the art of the possible”, which means it is pointless demanding the impossible.  It is therefore all about compromise.  It means giving up something you want in order to get something else that you want even more.  If Jeremy Corbyn recognises that he might be able to achieve something.  If not, he will probably become a heroic failure, of which we British seem to be particularly fond.  Guy Fawkes Day is approaching!

On the other hand, one of Mr. Corbyn’s strengths is said to be his faithfulness to his principles.  He is not a slave to opinion polls or focus groups.  He says what he thinks.

If he shows signs of compromising on certain (or do I mean “uncertain”?) issues, he is likely to disappoint and ultimately alienate, a lot of the people who voted for him and many others who have joined the Labour Party since his election.

A great leader is often someone who knows when to compromise and when to stand firm.  Above all, he or she is someone who is perceived as a person of principle but who manages to give and take enough to get things done.  Margaret Thatcher comes to mind.  Sadly.  So too does Barak Obama.  Happily.

So what has any of this got to do with you or your business or with me and Risk Management?

I often have to decide whether to water down certain recommendations in order to be acceptable to a client or to get my other recommendations accepted.  I can appreciate that the client often has to make similar compromises in order to make progress in the business.  On the other hand, there is no point in merely telling people what they want to hear.

 How do you manage?  Beware of the risks Mr. Corbyn faces.  They could catch you out too!

Is it time to scrap Harvest Festivals?

As I have mentioned before, the Church of England in the North West has chosen the Harvest Festival as one of its “Back to Church Sundays” when services will be made especially visitor-friendly and when it will be a good time to go if you have not been for a long time.  Of course, I think it is a good idea and I hope it helps a lot of people.  However, I am not a great fan of Harvest Festivals, despite the fact that they can be very enjoyable and I know a lot of effort goes into them.

Why am I less than thrilled?

The Harvest Festival is an important fixture on the calendar for a lot of people, although it is not exactly fixed.  It has been around a long time.  The concept and the symbolism are both simple and are both good.  It is an occasion when samples of the year’s harvest are brought into church and given away to the poor as a recognition of our gratitude to God for the harvest, as well as for everything else that we have, and a recognition of our responsibilities towards each other, especially those worse off than ourselves.  The concept is certainly in line with everything Christians, and a lot of others, believe.  The old hymn sums it up very well:

We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand.

What then can be wrong with it?

What is wrong is more in the perception than in the reality.  Everything about Harvest speaks of our rural past.  That is what many people like about it.  It reminds us of our rural roots.  It conjures up images of happy peasants working in sunny field manually gathering sheaves of wheat or some other crop.  It is questionable whether that image was ever real, but nowadays it is certainly long gone.  Not only do very few of us work in agriculture, but agriculture itself has changed dramatically since the Olden Days.  Agribusiness is big business, is highly technical, is far from labour-intensive, is highly regulated and entails a remarkable amount of IT.  Even in the countryside, more people work in leisure, conservation and mineral extraction than in agriculture.

So what?

Does any of that negate the truth that we all depend on God for our material as much as for our spiritual well-being?  Of course not.  God is the God of Science and Industry, even of Finance, just as much as he is the God of Agriculture.  Is our duty to help each other, especially the poor, any the less?  In our modern global economy, where not only are we increasingly interdependent but where we can be instantly updated on crises around the planet, the poor are more visible than ever.

Why then would anyone doubt the value of having a Harvest Festival?

It is because Harvest gives the impression of a Church and  God that belongs in the countryside and in the past.  It may be that some of us find that the sort of Church and the sort of God we are comfortable with, but it is wrong.  If God exists at all, he exists for all people for all time.  He is as relevant for a website designer or a careworker as for a farmer.  He is as much the God of the inner city or the City as of the rolling hills.

I know that many clergy and others work hard to make the points I have just made in their Harvest Festival sermons and other elements of their services.  I applaud them.  However, their words are likely to have less of a lasting impact than the overall impression created by the sight of fresh fruit and vegetables and the very word “Harvest”.

There is another issue.

My other objection is that it is an annual event, like harvesting itself, for that obvious reason.  However, it is too easy to remember God and our neighbour only once a year.  The reality of God’s goodness and the needs of the poor should be with us all the year round.


What do I recommend?

Perhaps it is time to scrap Harvest Festivals and hold special events scattered like seed throughout the year to think about the relevance of God and our social responsibility in relation to various aspects of modern life: science, technology, health, education, leisure, service industries, sport, and whatever is most relevant in your area.





Ten Things You Might Not Know About Slavery.

During his visit to Jamaica, David Cameron was asked to give an apology on behalf of the British for their part in the slave trade.   If you have a view on that naturally emotive subject, you might find some or all of these facts helpful in deepeneing your understanding.  I found they made a difference to mine.  None of these or any other facts in any way justify or mitigate the evil of slavery, past or present.

  1. Slavery was not introduced to Africa by Europeans. It existed there before the first explorers and traders went ther.
  2. The first Europeans to participate in the slave trade were the Portugese in the Fifteenth Century.
  3. The British sent white British prisoners to work as slaves on the plantations in the Caribbean. They were the losers after the Battle of Worcester in the Civil War, The Batle of Sedgemoor in Monmouth’s Rebellion against James II and Jacobites in the 1715 Rebellion.
  4. Slavery was held to be illegal in Britain because it violated the principles of Magna Carta etc. but was somehow considered acceptable in British Overseas Possessions.
  5. White British and other Europeans were taken as slaves by pirates from Noth Africa during the late Middle Ages until the Eighteenth Century.
  6. The British abolished slavery in 1833. Other European nations did so at various dates during the Nineteenth Century.  Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries postponed its abolition until the Twentieth Century.  In Saudi Arabia’s case it was 1974.
  7. Compensation was paid to British slave owners as the Government, and most other people, felt it could not deprive people of their “property” without doing so.
  8. In the British Empire the Government had to use force to suppress slavery, as the abolition was not popular with native slave-traders in many places.
  9. In Jamaica there are some black and mixed-race people who are descanded from free people. There was a brief period when the island had been abandoned by the Spanish before the British arrived.  Many slaves went into hiding and de facto became free.  Their children were therefore never slaves.
  10. Slavery still exists in many places. In Britain it is the domain of people traffickers.  In the Middle East it is thought to go on illegally in many countries but is openly practiced in areas controlled by ISIS.   The victims are usually members of minorities.


Personally,  I wish the campaigners would concentrate on freeing current slaves rather than keeping old wounds alive, given the complexity of the story and the difficulty in apportioning blame or credit.


Ghosts on the Payroll!

I remember a woman who worked in the payroll section of a company.  She paid herself a lot more than she was supposed to and then paid her husband and other members of her family a lot of money even though they did not work there.  It was eventually discovered by the year-end audit.

  • Always design your systems of work so that no one person can add people or increase pay-rates without anyone else approving.
  • Do not rely on a once-a-year audit. People should never be sure auditors will not appear unexpectedly.
  • Routine cost statements should be produced. Someone should notice unplanned increases.
  • A list of payees should be produced every payday and someone should notice any “new” employees.

More Risks Associated With Jeremy Corbyn.

I wrote recently about the risks the Conservatives and much of the press claim Jeremy Corbyn presents to the country, a theme that has been brought up again at the Conservative Party Conference.  I have also written about the risks  the Labour Party has chosen to take in electing Jeremy as its leader.  Let us now consider some other risks connected with his leadership.

Firstly there are the risks connected with his being perceived as “Left Wing”.

This expression conjures up negative images with most voters, especially those who are not committed to any party, regardless of the fact that many of Jeremy’s supporters seem to revel in it.  It is one of those expressions bandied about by the press, and some politicians, without much thought or definition.

  • Having studied economics, I regard most of Jermy’s ideas on that subject as “Middle-of-the Road”, as they are essentially Keynesian rather than Marxist. It was the basis of economic policy from the late 1930’s to 1979 when Margaret Thatcher broke with the then consensus.  The modern  Conservative Party’s view of economics is mainly Thatcherite or monetarist and goes back to the days of classical pre-keynesian days.  They could be, but rarely are, described as “Right Wing”.
  • Of course, whether you agree with him or not, Jeremy’s views on other topics, such as defence, the monarchy and transport tend to be loosely labelled as “Left Wing”, although you could find many people who agree with some or all of these policies in all political parties.
  • It is also worth noting that such concepts vary with time. “Votes for Women” was once a left-wing idea.  So was allowing other countries to govern themselves.
  • My point is that labels can be misleading but also damaging. The perception is not
  • always the reality.


Secondly there are the risks resulting from the timing of the next general election.

  • You could say that, given the next election is over four years away, our perceptions of Mr. Corbyn will evolve, and that whatever he has said or done in the distant past, or even in the recent past, will be irrelevant by 2020. It is often said that a week is a long time in politics.
  • Yet there is a risk that impressions formed now will be hard to shake off. The details might become irrelevant, but the “Brand Corbyn” might become fixed in people’s minds.  Has he really got four years in which to establish the image he wants?

Finally there are the risks associated with his approach to leadership.

  • There have been inconsistencies between statements Jeremy has made and those made by other members of his team. He has indicated there will be a free vote in Parliament on certain subjects.  He welcomes dissent and debate in the Party as a way to go forward.  He rejects authoritarianism.  Some welcome this, whilst others see it as a sign of weakness and indecisiveness.
  • The press are as always wanting to have their cake and eat it. They exploit any differences expressed by members of the team, whilst raising the spectre of deselection and purges of dissenting members.  Is authoritarianism to be welcomed back?
  • However, good leaders have a way of taking people with them without threats but also without seeming weak. They consult but give a clear lead.  Perhaps Mr. Corbyn can learn.  He has four years.  Or has he?


So what about you?

How do these risks relate to you or your business?

  • Do you pay enough attention to the Reputational Risk? Do you need to get some independent advice on your Brand Image?
  • Is time on your side? Is there something you are delaying dealing with because you think circumstances will be more favourable later?  Is there a risk of the opposite?  Will you miss the opportunity to address the problem before it gets worse?
  • What is your leadership style? Are you authoritarian?  Are you indecisive?  Do you believe in consensus?  Do you consult colleagues?  Or anyone?  How do you deal with dissent?  What risks does your style create?

Could you learn something from Jeremy Corbyn?  Even if it is only How Not To Do It?


Car Sales Scam.

This is another example of a basically simple but effective fraud I have come across.  It raises the issue of the reputational as well as the financial risk, especially with various forms of partnering and collaborative working.

A garage owner rented out his forecourt to a stranger who wanted it for second-hand car sales.  He paid a a month in advance in cash.  There was a “Grand Opening Sale” with massive discounts.  Cash only.  All the cars were quickly sold.

Soon people came back with complaints about the cars.  They were all faulty and not worth even the discounted prices.  The dealer was nowhere to be found.

The garage owner found himself on the receiving end of a lot of claims and accusations, of which he was innocent.  He managed to defend himself successfully but incurred legal costs and his reputation suffered a lot.

Here are some of the lessons to be learnt:

  • Beware of anything that seems too good to be true. It probably is!
  • Beware of anyone who insists on cash only.
  • Always check the credentials and identity of potential business associates, even if you think the association is very “arms-length”.

How do you deal with the Jeremy Corbyn Risk?

If you want to be a celebrity, Risk Management is not a good career choice.  How many risk consultants have you heard of  – apart from JHM?

So I have been surprised to see words like Risk, Threat, and Security on the front pages of the tabloids and on the lips of newsreaders.

This is because the press and the Tories have made these ideas the focal points of their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn both during the Labour Leadership campaign and after Jeremy’s election.

He is allegedly:

  • a risk to our national security
  • a risk to our economic recovery
  • a risk to our public utilities
  • a risk to our railways

I may or may not comment on each of these risks in my future blogs, but first I want to look at another risk associated with Mr. Corbyn’s election.  The risk that the Labour Party took. 

It is well known that Jeremy Corbyn has never previously held office in Government, in Shadow Government, or in the Labour Party itself.  It follows, that, regardless of your views about his policies, you can hardly have a view about his leadership or management abilities.   That in itself raises the obvious concern that he has apparently no experience of leadership or management to bring to his new job.

On the other hand, his lack of involvement in government or in the leadership of his party is a factor in his favour for many.   Why?

Because he is not associated with any bad, or unpopular, decisions or actions of the past.

  • He is not seen as part of the Old Guard.
  • He has no taint of corruption around him.
  • He starts with a fairly clean sheet.

So the Labour Party has taken a risk in choosing the unknown against the known.  The all-too-well-known according to some.

That was a choice and a brave one.  Perhaps a new start was needed.  A new broom sweeps clean.  Or there again, it could be the catastrophe that some predict.

And what of you?  What is your recruitment policy?  Do you always insist on “relevant” experience?  Do you assume the best senior manager is someone who was a good middle manager and before that a good junior manager?  Do you follow the practice known in Hollywood as “type-casting”?

What of your personal life?  Do you always stick to your comfort zone or do you look for new challenges?

Taking a risk is not always wrong.  It is foolish to take one unknowingly, or without giving any thought to the issues involved.  Doing it with your eyes open, however, is sometimes the right way forward.