Three years of writing for Disclaimer

We have contributed columns to the innovative opinion-only website Disclaimer for the past three years. The website, which is free to read and contains articles by experts contributing pro bono, focuses on economics, politics and the arts as well as wider issues relating to London. It is non-partisan but tends to favour liberal views on these topics.

Our latest column looks at the planned exit from their prestigious London headquarters by companies such as BT and Rolls-Royce and asks whether these moves are the “canary in thecoal mine” about the deleterious impact that high property prices arehaving on the capital’s economy. YoYouan read that article here.

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Adding colour with case studies for MCA awards

We contributed two casewstudies articles for The Times supplement to mark the MCA awards given the leading management consultants over the previous year. The awards were for projects that had given critical support to NHS hospitals, rebooted legacy blue-chip businesses and inspired public confidence in local police forces.

We told the story of two of those successes. PwC won the Digital Technology Award for the work it did helping Direct Line for Business attract customers from the small firms with 10 employees or fewer – plumbers, electricians and hairdressers who are are said to be the new nation of shopkeeprs. PwC partner Steven Gough told how he and his team worked with small firms to find out how to tailor a product to meet the specific challenges of this very complex market.

IBM won the Consumer Engagement award for helping Barclays reduce the attrition rate at the virtual branches that were being set up to replace a traditional call centres and which could dolve consumers’ problems from end to end. Ron Collins, IBM’s service line leader for data and analytics, used a study of 2,000 bank staff to see how long they stayed in a post, the reasons they left and what motivated them to stay.

The core finding was that long-stayers liked a structured lifestyle, were organised, had command of detail and were comfortable with regulations. As a result, Barclays changed
its recruitment procedures, and attrition rates came down.
The supplement is here (PDF).

Articles on MENA jobless rate, Islamic finance, and Estonia

Phil researched and wrote three articles for the latest edition of EMEA Finance magazine looking at issues in the Middle East and eastern Europe.

In a long feature based on a major conference held in Morocco and follow-up interviews, Phil looked at the challenges posed to the North African region from high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth, and what countries and agencies can do to tackle that. It found optimism that bodies such as the EBRD and IMF believe the region can reap the benefits of economic reform. The article is here.

Focusing on the Gulf Cooperation Council region, Phil looked how Islamic banks in the GCC have been enjoying ratings upgrades, reducing real estate exposures, and upping their lending to individuals and firms. In an interview with EMEA Finance, Nitish Bhojnagarwala, Vice President and Senior Analyst at Moody’s, said although Islamic banks’ financial fundamentals were weaker, they had improved and are converging towards the conventional banks. The article is here.

In a profile piece, Phil looked at how Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Republic of Estonia, has become the unlikely activist for a new digital age. She was in London in April on a European tour to be a missionary for her small country’s achievement at becoming the world’s first digital state, giving citizens a digital identity enabling them to complete pretty much every municipal or state service online in minutes, as well as offering e-residency that lets anyone start a business from abroad. The article is here.

 

 

Focus on MiFID II and fund managers

The EU’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) will radically change the way that its securities and derivatives markets are regulated. While the impact of the 148-page document will affect every nook and cranny of financial markets, one of the most significant impacts will be on investment managers.

Phil Thornton looked at the challenges that fund managers and their advisers faced in two article for the magazine and website of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment.

The first looked at one of the most important issues – the need for sell-side companies to separate charges for execution from charges for access to research. Phil spoke with a number of fund managers and advisers to get an idea of how prepared they would be for MiFID II. The good news was that it showed that more than 60% have already set, or begun to set, their research budgets, and are making decisions on which payment methods to use. The article is here.

The second identified the sizkey themes that financial participants need to bear in mind: governance; advice; trading and execution; fees and inducements; corporate governance; and trsnaparency. The article is here.

City case studies for Grosvenor report on ageing

Grosvenor, the property company, has produced an incisive report into the impact demographic shift towards older populations will have a profound on society and the social fabric of cities. The report, Silver Cities, looks at how cities will need to adapt and develop a number of short and longer-term strategies to ensure they respond adequately to both the challenges and opportunities that an ageing population present.

We assisted with the writing of coure case studies in cities around the world that showed how different cultutres and policy practices might influence how the relevant authorities could mitifate and adpt to those changes. The four cities were: London; Vancouver; Hong Kong; and Madrid. The case studies and full report are here

Focus on World Bank and Bahrain for EMEA Finance

Phil Thornton contributed two articles to the latest edition of the EMEA Finance magazine out in February 2018. The first was based on a talk with Kristina Georgieva, the new chief exucirve of the World Bank. At the heart of her agenda is achieving the multilateral’s goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. Georgieva, who was EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, sees her mission as turning this instrument into an “incentive for people to do the right thing”. “If a country has a lend-management policy for forestry to be protected, not to be chopped down, then the insurance premium ought to have a discount. As a donor, as a finance community, we are funding this discount.” The other angle is to focus on middle income countries — where 50 per cent of poor people still live — and especially in higher-risk economies where the task is to make sure that jobs are created. The article is here.

The second article was an analysis of the success that Bahrain has had in attracting foreign investment to the small island kingdom. We looked at how Bahrain’s economic development board has set out a strategy to attract foreign direct investment and SMEs that will both create jobs and help the Kingdom exploit modern technologies.EDB managing director Simon Galpin set out why Bahrain was investing in a whole raft of projects valued at over £32bn, is equivalent to oits annual GDP. These include the expansion of the airport, the US$5bn upgrading of all the major oil refineries in Bahrain, the enlargement of the Alba aluminium smelter to make it the largest in the world, and a second direct connection to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia for both road and rail to connect to Saudi Arabia and complement the existing King Fahd Causeway. The second factor is what Galpin calls “soft infrastructure” — reforms of business regulations that allows 100% foreign ownership and a revision of insolvency laws aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by modernising and streamlining the bankruptcy procedures.“ The third trend, which is connected to the regulatory overhaul, is the decision by the Central Bank of Bahrain to introduce the first “regulatory sandbox”. The article is here.

Bahrain defends economic reputation

In a series of interviews carried out by us for EMEAfinance magazine, leading Bahraini policymakers issued a defiant response to the downgrades of its sovereign debt by a leading credit ratings agency and the decision by the International Monetary Fund to forecast a slowdown in economic growth. A senior director at the central bank accused the rating agencies of “exaggerations” and of basing their assessment on news reports, while the country’s Economic Development Board said the government had struck the correct balance between reducing the deficit and supporting growth. The article can be found here.

The interviews were held as part of a fact finding trip for EMEAfinance during the 2017 World Islamic Banking Conference in December 2017. A fuller report will follow shortly.