Wednesday, July 01, 2020
Sunday, June 14, 2020
My Cyber Security portfolio is up 50% since March 2020! Yours could be too. You are invited!
Join my Cyber Investment Webinar
Saturday, July 18th at 4pm UK time/11am EST/8am PST
You will be able to ask me questions on the market live on the webinar:
I will answer just the same as I do when I'm consulting with companies like Bain & Co.
- Investment strategies
- Analysing the financial picture, balance sheet and accounting of the company
- The Big Picture - what's going on in the Economy right now at National, and Global level
- Currency - why the value of all major currencies may fall right now
- Other investment areas - Gold, Real Estate and traditional Blue Chip stocks - the pros & cons
- The small picture - The Cyber Security Market - how it fits
- If the economy crashes, why is Cyber an investment 'safe haven'
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Saturday, June 06, 2020
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
(that's me second from left).
The first big move I made for my career was in 2005 when I made a decision to take two years out, to study for a full-time MBA in the USA. I hoped to work in the USA for a few years afterwards and get some good experience there.
I got a scholarship as well as a part-time job in the Marketing Department at Northeastern University - Office of Corporate Programs. So that also helped financially.
Returning from Boston to move back to London, 10 years later (2015), was a far bigger and more complicated affair. I was now married, with a 6-year-old son, with disabilities (ADHD and Dyspraxia) and a 9-year-old daughter.
My wife, Catherine, had always wanted to live in the UK. She was running College recruiting at her company, Akamai, in 2015, when she was offered the chance to go to London, to run EMEA recruiting there, managing a team of twenty-five recruiters.
I found a great job too, setting up Lead generation in the UK and Europe, for a little-known Cybersecurity start-up called Zscaler. It has since had an IPO and is now valued at fourteen billion US dollars on The NASDAQ.
This brings me to my next point:
It required me completing a lot of complicated paperwork. Further down the road, when I finally got my US Permanent resident card ('Green Card'), it was even harder. There were so many hoops to jump through that I eventually had to hire an Immigration lawyer at considerable expense to expedite it.
Equally important, though not as hard; after two years of living in the country, I had to pass my US driving license - many years after passing my British driving test.
For example, during the last winter, I was in Boston, in 2015, over 14 feet (4 meters) of snow fell in the city. In the summer, you need air conditioning in your apartment. It gets up to 40 degrees centigrade.
3. Get help: Make sure you employ all the help you can. For this, we used a corporate relocation company to manage our move. Moreover, we used an army of staff, from childcare professionals to cleaners.
Corporate relocations have experienced a paradigm shift in the last fifty years. In the twentieth century, the husband usually worked, and the wife, who did not, would manage a lot of the move.
Today, more often than not, you are dealing with 2 parents, who both have to manage demanding jobs. Consequently, anything that will save you time is an absolute necessity.
5. The importance of having flexible work. There is no way We would have managed this move so effectively without remote working.
I had two weeks training in Austen, Texas, and I travelled back to Europe several times to run conferences there. One time, just after the move, I had to go from England to a Sales kick-off in Las Vegas.
During this time, I was partially renovating and selling our house. We were unhappy with our real estate agent, so we had to switch agents mid-way.
Throughout this, Zscaler allowed me to work remotely for the UK office, from Boston, USA, for almost four months. Zscaler's and Akamai's flexibility made a big difference to Catherine and me.
Friday, April 10, 2020
"The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know."
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The phrase "black swan" derives from a Latin expression from the 2nd-century Roman poet Juvenal's characterization of something being "rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno" ("a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan.").
When Juvenal wrote this, the black swan was presumed not to exist. The importance of the metaphor lies in its analogy to the fragility of any system of thought. You can undo a set of conclusions once you can disprove any of its fundamental postulates.
In 1697, Dutch explorers led by Willem de Vlamingh became the first Europeans to see black swans, in Western Australia. The term subsequently metamorphosed to connote the idea that a perceived impossibility might later be disproven.
A few days ago, I was reading the Estate agents Knight Frank's Economic prediction about Coronavirus's impact on the housing market. Knight Frank confidently predict that ‘House sales in the UK will collapse this year as the coronavirus pandemic puts the property market into a deep freeze. But prices will fall by only 3% and will rebound next year.’
My immediate thought was, how can they be this certain? Plus, isn't it a bit like going to a casino and asking the croupier whether playing roulette is a good idea’.
I am as wise as Socrates in only one way, and that is 'that I know that I know nothing'. However, at this juncture, I trust the Economist Nassim Taleb more than I do a bunch of estate agents. Just to get their new evaluation in perspective, this is what Knight Frank predicted in December 2019.
Then in 2007 in his classic book Nassim Nicholas Taleb talked about how the financial system was vulnerable to black swan events:
“Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race “looking out for its best interests,” as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.” (extract from the book).
Initially, when he wrote 'Black Swan', he was booed off stage by eminent economists and ostracized by the financial community.
Then in 2008, the entire global financial system collapsed and had to be bailed out to the tune of thirteen trillion US dollars.
Nassim Taleb argued recently in the New Yorker that this current pandemic is not actually a black swan since to use Donald Rumsfeld's terminology this was a 'known unknown' not an 'unknown unknown'. Nevertheless, it's still a risk factor that was hard to predict and certainly, no mainstream analysts were predicting this pandemic or factoring it into their Financial modelling, prior to December 2019.
Therefore, I would be sceptical of any financial analyst writing with confidence about the future. His salary is paid by those who benefit from them putting one view across to us.
*There is still a fundamental imbalance in the UK housing market, at least in the places where people want to live. The housing stock has always lagged behind growing demand, pushing up prices in the long term well beyond inflation.
Where the price level will settle, and when it might pick up, is anyone's guess. The real pain will be felt by those going into negative equity, not able through reduced income to pay down the mortgage, and unable to sell without triggering bankruptcy.
This would also apply to heavily geared buy-to-let landlords, facing falling rental income but with fixed debt repayments. Those who have taken on mortgages at large multiples of income or landlords who have relied on substantial capital gains to protect against insolvency will, or ought to be, very worried at the moment.*
*acknowledgement to my father, Sir Kenneth Parker, retired High Court Judge, who is currently working for various government organisations, for this observation.
Tuesday, February 04, 2020
Then Lord Layard talked about how society seemed to be getting less happy. This is confirmed by looking at life expectancy, which is now going down for the first time in recorded memory in the USA and to some extent in the UK. I believe that Coronavirus will accelerate this trend.
Professor Lord Layard mentioned that the best way to determine an old persons life expectancy is not their doctor's 'physical' exam, but simply asking the patient 'are you happy?'.
Lucas was the smartest pupil at my school - he got the second-highest mark in his year studying Politics. Philosophy. Economics at Oxford and then took a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Professor of Philosophy at Bogazici University, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Lucas brought along a close friend of his from Oxford University, Tara, who is a management consultant. I also invited Steve, who studied at Oxford, is a retired surgeon and professor of medicine. We had a wide-ranging discussion about happiness. Some of the topics we covered:
Steve said that he preferred this word eudaimonia —Aristotle's concept of flourishing—rather than happiness, which seemed to be more based on luck (Eutuxes) than living a good life.
They all agreed that the institutions' constant monitoring of performance was sucking the life out of any innovation. You can read more about this here - Moonshot thinking to unleash innovation.
Go to my website.
Sunday, February 02, 2020
One business issue that keeps resurfacing here in the UK is that of productivity. The big question is 'why has it flatlined here since 2008?' I noticed that, yet again, the Bank of England has predicted 0% productivity growth for this year in the UK.
I have much experience of living and working in other cultures. I am half Dutch and lived there for a time. I have also lived and worked in Colombia, Venezuela, India, Spain and most recently, in the USA from 2005-2015. Therefore, I would argue that I'm uniquely able to give a good explanation as to what's going on here.
Besides, I have worked as a contractor in the UK for the past two years. So I have quite a bit of experience job hunting in the UK. I have also bought and sold houses in both the US and the UK.
1. Business transactions take too long to carry out here in the UK. For example, when we bought and sold our house in Boston, it took less than a month. In the UK, it takes far longer.
2. Business people can't make decisions. When I was job hunting in the USA, generally it was a fast, efficient process. In the UK, often it is not.
I've noticed a troubling hiring trend here; Company A posts a job. Then many people are interviewed over many months and many stages, with the final result; Company A hires no one!
This happens regularly in the UK. Imagine the damage to UK productivity of just this one issue alone on a country-wide scale?
3. Training and education. A lot of British businesspeople can't write accurate, grammatical English. They can't do basic maths.
Lack of education has got to be a key reason for our poor productivity. We need better education - more executive coaching and business education, both online and traditional.
And the general level of primary education needs to improve here. Spelling, grammar, maths, you name it. Some knowledge of foreign affairs, news and even a foreign language might be good too.
4. Investment has got to come a close second. If you want to be a productivity ninja, you do need the tools. I worked at one company as a contractor where I was managing a six-figure marketing budget, but the company gave me a faulty computer that crashed the entire time.
Talk about an unproductive false Economy! All the evidence points to us not spending enough on equipment, from essential productivity apps to tools like DocuSign or Microsoft teams, to speed up business interactions.
5. We in the UK have a fatal weakness for conventional wisdom. I'm paraphrasing Dominic Cummings here. But undoubtedly one of the reasons his Brexit campaign was able to defeat the much better funded and institutionally backed remain campaign was because his team was creative and unorthodox and the other side was neither.
I do agree with him that we need to encourage more of these counter-intuitive thinkers in the UK. Part of that is evolving from the 'culture fit' idea of recruiting which can kill innovation to the 'culture add' concept. Lack of innovation is one of the main causes of poor productivity in the UK.
And just so you don't get too downbeat about it all, the UK economy is actually growing faster than the rest of the European countries as you can see here.
Go to my website.