Sunday, September 22, 2019

Highest paid Google executive says sponsorship was the key to her success

I've always admired powerful and accomplished women. So I was excited to go along to see Dame Minoche Shafik, Director of the LSE (who herself was the highest-paid University head in the UK until she voluntarily decided to forgo some of her salary last year), talk to Google's CFO, Ruth Porat, about the future of the school at LSE 2030. Ruth Porat is the highest-paid executive at Google, making $47 Million (£38 Million) a year.

Ruth and her husband, Anthony Paduano (who runs a law firm), met as students at LSE. They were at the LSE to discuss a new endowment scholarship fund they had established for women students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Dame Minoche said at the start of the talk that her ambition for the LSE is to be the leading social science institution with the most significant global impact. It is already ranked 2nd in the world, just behind Harvard University.

Ruth began her discussion by talking about the importance of AI. She said that they were using it at Google to reduce their energy costs by 30%. AI is also at the heart of its algorithmic search engine.

Ruth said that AI is a simple concept and not hard to understand if you break it down right. But that on the face of it, the terminology makes it sound highly complex. The key to understanding AI, as with most topics, is education. 

Ruth added that the future of AI impacts every industry. It takes a combination of Social scientists and engineers to build AI systems. Later in her discussion, Ruth talked about the importance of education. She said that much of business life is jargon, but you need to be educated to cut through that.  

Ruth went on to talk about her father, who instilled the importance of education in her. Her father attained a PhD in physics and then became a Stanford professor, where Ruth also studied (Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, LSE).

Ruth talked about how to change the company culture. She said that this always starts at the top. She gave some great examples of how she changed Morgan Stanley and Google's culture to make it more ethical and supportive of diversity. Any tech company that wants to progress today, needs to be cognizant of these forces.

She asked the room how many women had experienced men talking over them in business meetings. Everyone laughed in acknowledgement.

Ruth then said that when this happens, she always points it out, since, as she put it, 'if you don’t want my voice now, then do you even want me here in the room?'.

The most important part of Ruth's talk for me was how she transformed her career through her relationship with great sponsors. Initially, she said that she had worked at Morgan Stanley for an egotistical boss who had taken credit for all of her work.

Ruth realised that despite her best efforts, she would get nowhere with this individual at this company. So Ruth began to search around for someone who wanted to take a risk on developing her.

She did say that often employees think that this person will just appear as if by magic. However, Ruth said that She had to 'earn the right' to have a great sponsor who could provide her with judgment, insight and help open doors for her.

Ruth explained how one sponsor persuaded her to take a job on the financial trading floor, a notoriously male-dominated environment. It served her in her career, though. Later a sponsor helped her secure a role in Financial Institutions Risk at Morgan Stanley in 2006, which really catapulted her forward to her eventual role as CFO at Google.

One sponsor said to her: ‘I will be your senior air cover. I think you’ll soar, but I will have your back if you run into difficulties.’ Ruth said this is what she now says to those in business that she sponsors. 

Dinner with a fellow LSE alum at The Delaunay after the talk.

Monday, September 09, 2019

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?

The most successful start-up I ever worked for was founded by a guy who was brought up in a village in the Indian Himalayas.

Jay founded the Cyber Security Software company Zscaler, that I worked in Marketing for. He founded it in 2008 and it is now valued at $19 Billion on the NASDAQ.

His house didn’t even have running water. His family was clearly not wealthy. Read about Zscaler, founded by Jay Chaudhry, here.

Jay Chaudry, the CEO of Zscaler, grew up 'dirt' poor, in a village in the Indian Himalayas.

The second most successful startup I worked for was also founded by Indian immigrants to the USA, too. You can read about Visual IQ here.

Most startup founders I’ve worked for, have genius of varying degrees, and an aspect of their personality that psychologists would define as ‘Hypomania’.

Harvard medical school defines Hypomania as 'a mood state or energy level that is elevated above normal, but not so extreme as to cause impairment'. The incidence of hypomanic personality is much higher than the average in immigrants and entrepreneurs (and those living in the USA).

I had a lot of fun working for another founder in the US, again called Jay, who had been a child prodigy. He completed a triple major degree at Carnegie Mellon in Computer Sciences, Russian and Mathematics at 16 years old. 

He went on to become the USA's youngest MBA at eighteen and youngest management consultant, at Bain & co, again at just 18 years old. 

Jay once told me that Carnegie Mellon had told him that at sixteen years of age, he was too young to pursue an MBA at their University. 

He then managed to get an offer for a scholarship and stipend to take a PhD in Finance at Wharton. He threatened Carnegie Mellon that he would pursue his studies at Wharton if he was not accepted into their MBA program. 

That's how he got Carnegie Mellon's MBA program at such a ridiculously young age. I have no doubt whatsoever that Jay Kemp-Smith demonstrated a hypomanic personality.

I became Jay's Vice President of Sales and Marketing and right-hand man at LMTech. It was fun. And it was torture. I made a lot of money. But it nearly killed me! Jay was 'always-on'.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.” 

But the truth is that founding a company is typically not a purely rational act. A Founder has to have outsized confidence and vision in themselves to put his or her plan into place. This is not the act of a normal person.

These are the characteristics I've seen in most of the entrepreneurs I've worked for. You might want to call it genetics, personality or something else entirely. 
  1. He (or She) is flooded with ideas.
  2. He is driven, restless, and unable to keep still.
  3. He channels his energy into the achievement of wildly grand ambitions.
  4. He often works on little sleep.
  5. He feels brilliant, unique, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world.
  6. He becomes easily irritated by minor obstacles.
  7. He is a risk-taker.
Does this sound like an entrepreneur or founder that you know? 

Go to my website.

Please check out a great blog I discovered called Feedspot, founded by Anuj Agarwal. It's my favourite tech/business blog right now. 

I'm excited to say that Feedspot has chosen my blog to be on their list of top 200 tech blogs. I'm honoured and humbled - thank you! Here's their list

Thursday, September 05, 2019

What's the most important leadership skill?

What skills does a leader need? The top leadership skill listed on LinkedIn is persuasiveness, closely aligned with Charisma. See John F Kennedy, below, possibly the twentieth century's most charismatic and glamorous leaders, whose vision led to the first man on the moon fifty years ago.

             Below: 50 years since the first moonshot - Inspired by the leadership of President John F Kennedy

Without persuasiveness, how will you get people to follow you? 

The second is Formidability. My friend John Hynes, a formidable leader, built a $25 billion city in South Korea and redeveloped Boston's seaport for $4 Billion. You can find out more about his formidability if you click on his image.

Below: John Hynes, CEO of Boston Global Investors

One leadership skill that will be absolutely paramount in the next ten years will be adaptability. It won't be the strongest or the toughest that will survive and thrive in a world that's changing faster and more unpredictably than ever.

It will be the most flexible leader, most able to change rapidly when needed, sometimes overturning his entire strategy overnight when the circumstances dictate it.

                                  Is Leadership born or made?

Trait theory suggests that it is born. Leaders tend to be extraverted, conscientious, and smart, all of which have a genetic component. Intelligence is between 50-80% inherited, for example.

But there's a counter-argument that 50% of the population believed that you can develop leadership and that it's a learned skill. After all, Leadership is more about EQ than IQ, and Emotional Intelligence can be learned.

The 34th President of United States, Dwight.D.Eisenhower once said, "The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."

But when he said this, was he telling the truth?

Just kidding - Honesty and integrity are two important ingredients that make a good leader. How can you expect your followers to be honest when you lack these qualities yourself? Leaders succeed when they stick to their values and core beliefs, and without ethics, this will not be possible.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Why Culture eats strategy for breakfast

That's a famous phrase first uttered by Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motors and then popularised by the management guru Peter Drucker. 

This statement must connect with people since I've heard it many times and not just in Organisational behaviour classes in my MBA program.

Culture is crucial for several reasons. Your organisation needs an appealing culture to attract talent to it. The most successful teams are the most diverse. 

Video below: A Guide to the Theory & Practice of Creating Diverse, Inclusive, High-Performing Teams.

- and did you know that 'diverse' also means 'cognitively diverse'?

 - Yes, according to extensive research, the most successful teams have the widest range of thinking styles to develop the most innovative and effective solutions!

Your company must do the utmost to make its Culture appealing since it wants the best skills to further the business.

Just in the UK, we have skill shortages in Web Design, Software Programming, Digital Marketing, Engineering, and all analytics roles but particularly those in data science.

- on Linkedin 'Data Scientist' has gone from zero searches to the top search in the last ten years. 

In the UK, this 'skills gap' is costing our Economy £6.3 Billion per year. Companies are forced to look at anything that will give them the edge over their competitors when hiring. 

There is an even more pronounced skills gap in the USA. I have seen figures for this 'gap' varying from one Trillion to three Trillion US Dollars over the next ten years.

Google and Facebook are well known for their beautiful offices and perks. Salary is another way to attract talent. 

However, culture is perhaps the most important. The top employees want to work in an environment that fits them best. And it shouldn't be a 'cookie-cutter approach'.

These days Human Resources experts talk about 'Culture add' not 'Culture Fit'. Let's face it, 'Culture Fit' makes some of us think of that comedy 'Office Space'!


Over fifty per cent of employees say that they would not take a job at a company that did not share their values. 

With Millennials, this percentage is even higher, Seventy per cent or more. Millennials make up one-third of the workforce, and soon they will be in the majority. 

So, culture is the future. And it's surprisingly easy and cost-effective to improve your culture. How?

- Simply by listening to your employees!

The most burning Culture issue right is how organisations will manage 'the new normal' after the Pandemic. 

- What do you think will happen? 
  • Will it go back to 'business as usual'? 
  • Or will we find a middle way - a combination of working from home with some days in the office?

One day companies will see Culture as they do Brand today; Essential rather than desired. 

I predict that company Culture will soon be measured on its balance sheet just as a Brand started to be fifteen or twenty years ago. 

Go to my website.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Arup Breakfast events - Six rules of Event Management

Working smarter not harder

They told me they'd tried it before and it'd been a flop. But I was confident my first event for Arup's new email management software tool would be a success.

You don't have to have a ton of money, but you have to always aim to work smart. So many companies make the fatal error of starting marketing too late. Then it's a mad rush to get everything done in time.

Check out my free startup marketing service consultation.

Running an event without the correct 'runway' of time to carry out marketing for it is stressful, arduous work. People often don't think very well in that situation.

Unless you are one of the 2% of the population who can genuinely multi-task, typically you will lose 15 IQ points when they try to accomplish this; not a 'smart' way to run an event!

Event team photo, me in the red tie

I held our first event in Arup's headquarters in London on March 14th. 28 Hands have its second breakfast event on Wednesday 8th May. 

I aimed for 16 at the first event and made 22. I already have 50 attendees registered for the second event when it's still one month away. 

Thursday 14 March was a big day for Mail Manager. Not only did we have our first breakfast event. However, we were also running the Viewpoint Mail Manager webinar: Viewpoint for Projects and mail manager integration.

That month, myself and my other marketing manager, Joanne Waddell, took our email campaign numbers from the average of 2000 a month to 123,000! Joanne is one of the best marketers I've worked with so we had fun building that success together!

I also managed to generate some low-cost PPC, and Social Media leads on top of that.

Senior Client Manager, Mario Christophides, started the morning with hard, but fair, statements:

Other industries are quicker to adapt than construction

UK productivity issue which we address by working longer hours

We can achieve better productiveness by collaborating better. 

Lucy Prior then provided an overview of how Mail Manager helps Arup capture 80% of their project correspondence. 

She explained that Arup developed Mail Manager in response to email becoming a significant problem for their business, particularly commercially sensitive information being locked in inboxes.

Project Managers and Engineers were not sharing data across their teams and in frustration, Arup developed Mail Manager for their own employees.

Lucy Prior,  Mail Manager's Top Salesperson, presenting a live software demo at the event.

Paul Hill is an Information Manager within Arup's program project management office.

Paul leads Information Management on large projects using a variety of software including Common Data Environments such as ProjectWise which Mail Manager integrates.

              Paul Hill, Information Manager at Arup, with Lucy Prior, Mail Manager's Senior Salesperson.


Paul said that at Arup, thanks to Mail Manager, email is no longer a problem – it’s a problem that we have solved.

He demonstrated by showing us the 'Social network' of projects he was working on, and how one project, in particular, he’d been working on since 2011.

Paul showed us that hundreds of people had sent over 35,000 emails during this project. Using the Mail Manager search, he’s able to access anything across the project in a matter of seconds. 

Six rules for setting up, running and following up on your first event:

Planning, Planning, Planning


 I set up an email automation campaign for one month or more before the event. My automation will include a series of 'if/not' decision trees; If my prospect opens and clicks on the first ever email I send them one which is more personalised and has more detail in it.

If not, I send them an email that will try to capture their interest with a catchy subject line and a variety of topics.  If my prospect hits on the event landing page but does not sign up, I will send them a reminder email a few days later, again, perhaps with some video of a previous keynote and so on.

I create a top Landing page to maximise the number of attendees. 


Create 'buzz' around the event. Fortunately, I have a lot of friends in Branding who know a lot about this. One used to work for HSBC, another ran EMEA Brand Management for Hyatt Hotels,  and yet another friend of mine was Chief Creative Officer at Coca Cola. It helps to talk with 'ideas' people to come up with events and marketing that will 'hit them between the eyes'.                                                                                                                                                                                      


You can use social media to understand your audience better.  Posting titbits on linked or Twitter will get you many reactions. Monitor these religiously to get a feel for what your prospects want to see and hear, not only at the event but before and after it. I also use surveys at the event and online tools like Survey Monkey. However, keep these short and sweet. No one wants to spend twenty minutes filling out hundreds of questions. Limit it to five, with the option for them to leave comments. 


My last event, one of our prospects asked if we had sent an outlook calendar invite to him for the date. I had not done that. But I checked into our new CRM system and saw that I could send invites en mass. I will certainly be doing this for the next event. Your prospects and customers know what they want better than you. Don't ever forget that.


I'm a startup to mid-size kind of guy. I tend to do well in those nimble, fast-growing companies. But we all like to hear about the big names, whether it's celebrities, billionaires, supermodels or large organisations. Some names I've had at events I've run, have been anyone from Verizon Wireless to Black rock, from Mckinsey to TJ Maxx.


 I always want to show my prospects that I care. I want great food, inspiring talks, fantastic giveaways and attractive hosts. I may be getting a bit old to be 'young and beautiful', but I dress up and wear a suit and tie to look my very best.

My attendees have taken valuable time out of their busy schedules to see us. I want to do the absolute best to make that an outstanding and hopefully memorable and useful, experience for them.

To continue your Marketing journey to understand how to generate leads, and bring them through the marketing flywheel to close, click on the start button for my website.

Breakfast event link


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Marketing Strategy with the Head of Branding at Hyatt Hotels

Henny Frazer, Ex-Head of Brands, Hyatt Hotels.

One of my pleasures is meeting up with an old friend after a long absence. It was great to meet Henny after all these years. Henny has been living in Zurich, Switzerland for the last five years and I have been living in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, for ten.

Below: The Ivy, King's Road, during Chelsea Flower Show

We met up at The Ivy Chelsea Garden, on the King's Road, which was appropriate for several reasons;

First, it used to be a Dive bar called Henry J Beans that we hung out at when we were young. The restaurant and we have 'grown-up' over the years...We also both grew up in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Secondly, it's a unique restaurant and Henny is an expert on them. Hospitality is her business; Specifically, luxury travel and hotels.

Henny Frazer, Ex-head of branding of Hyatt Hotels, 2nd from left

My experience of branding comes mainly from working with agencies and corporate communications teams. My sector is fast-growing tech companies. Henny has worked with well-established luxury brands.

From a marketing perspective, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum. But I'm fascinated by branding. And who could deny Henny's undeniable talent for branding and strategy?

We both had travelled around India with a friend for several months when we were younger, and we talked about that first. Henny was in the south, in Goa. I was up in the North at Manali. We had both gone to the famous 'full moon' parties (In Goa in the winter and Manali in the summer).

The internet is a double-edged sword; in some ways, it's helped to strengthen and give new dimensions to certain marque brands. In other ways, it has commoditised a host of products. 

Price comparison sites have hammered the hotel business, in the same way, it's eaten into margins in the airline industry. A race to the bottom has ensued. The hotel business has also been threatened by disruptive technologies like Air BnB.

Henny talked about this and her work to try to distinguish brands so that they captured strong positive emotions and loyalty, which is falling amongst customers generally.

Andaz Hotel, Delhi

I was eager to find out more and asked Henny for examples. Henny told me a great story about her marketing initiative for the Andaz Delhi. Many hotels are having the same conversation; We are glamorous, we cater for your every need, we are beautiful and so on...

Connecting with the young and fashionable in Delhi

Henny had a different idea to really connect the hotel with the history and culture of Delhi, including the new young hip culture growing in the city. The main message for the Andaz brand is:

‘Arrive a Visitor, Depart a Local’

Henny and her team produced a book to go with the campaign, called 401 reasons to fall in love with Delhi.

Why 401 Reasons? It’s simple - Andaz Delhi has 401 guestrooms. Every room has its own reason, which is defined in the book.

Besides, as you enter each guestroom or suite, you will also find a unique piece of art, illustrating each reason.

The book covers a range of subjects from art and architecture to local delicacies, nature and shops. They produced the album with reasons like:

Reason 161 - Lassi                     
'Lassi is the much-loved yoghurt drink enjoyed all over  India. The sweet-tart drink is consumed in vast quantities in Delhi and may be served in fine hand-etched silver and brass cups, or terracotta tumblers and even plastic cups.'

Then the book would be left open at this page, for guests staying in room 161. Here's a link to the booklet.

She changed the conversation and managed to develop a deeper, more significant bond with Hyatt customers in the process.

We covered such a wide range of subjects at lunch. But I think my favourites were: 

Grand Hyatt which has a powerful ‘Living Grand’ message and the Hyatt Centric brand which offers a springboard to discover a city. I enviously had seen footage of Henny at a Flow Rida concert at Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile.  

Or the Hotel Du Louvre in which she, with the hotel team, worked on the rebranding of this hotel as it is has become part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt. This hotel is all about slowing down and really becoming inspired by Paris.

They worked with a great illustrator and have produced a cute cartoon announcing the re-opening of the hotel.

Henny & me Beaufort House, King's Road, in Chelsea

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Business lessons from Boston's biggest real-estate Mogul

One of the high-points of the ten years I lived in the US, was going to John Hynes the third's 50th birthday. It was in Chatham, a beautiful New England beach resort, in the summer. So it was a lovely sunny 28 degrees.

John is an institution in Boston. His father was a famous newscaster and his grandfather, John B Hynes, was a notable mayor of Boston. There are lots of buildings named after him, such as the Hynes Convention Centre, pictured above.

I have listened to John talk many times about business. We were pretty close for a while. John and his beautiful wife, Tracey, even came to our wedding - their presence honoured me since at the time I was still a student in the middle of my MBA degree.

The City that Jack built - New Songdo City, South Korea 

One building project he pioneered and completed as CEO of the Gale Corporation was the construction of New Songdo City, billed as ''the Hong Kong of the 21st century," for a cost of $25 Billion.

I was entirely in awe of the fact that here's this family man, with two children, who made this brutal 15 hour trip to South Korea once a month for several years.

The second big project he worked on was the $3.5 Billion Seaport redevelopment in Boston. He talked about how a $200 Million investment, paid off exceptionally well in the end.

However, he was always honest about the fears that a developer goes through. He also talked about the importance of developing relationships, for example with Morgan Stanley, to secure his last big loan for the Seaport development.

Having important business relationships is something I have found crucial. In addition to my 1900 LinkedIn contacts, I have many close friends in diverse fields of business.

- From finance to technology, from Business to the Law

- Who I go to for advice, help and sometimes for work. You never know how someone you talk to today may one day come in useful in your business, and you in theirs.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Marketing - Learning to skate before you play Ice Hockey

 My University, Northeastern, below, wins 'the Beanpot.'  

2018, 'The Beanpot' is a favorite tradition in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where I lived for ten years and went to college. It's an Ice Hockey Tournament between Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University (my college) and Harvard.

Jack, my ten-year-old son, is learning to play Ice Hockey. Of course, first He's had to learn how to skate. No point teaching him how to use his hockey stick to hit a puck into the goal, when he can barely stay on his feet on the ice.

So every week we go down to the Ice rink in Bayswater, London, and he gets to skate for two or three hours. Last week, we bought him some Ice Hockey skates and had them sharpened.

- Initially, he was actually a lot more unsteady on his feet, as he adjusted to the new Ice Skates.

I see this effect when we initially bring digital transformation to Marketing or start to use more sophisticated CRM.

However, within a few hours, Jack was actually skating faster. I timed him, and he was about a quarter more quickly around the rink with the new skates.

8am on a Sunday morning he starts his Ice Hockey classes - Two hours each week. That'll be the big test. Can he stay on his feet when he's trying to score a goal and he has competitors snapping at him on all sides?

My son, Jack, at his first Hockey class

Our coach, wearing the Boston College shirt, is from Boston, where Jack was born.

A lot of companies can't skate at all, but they want to be Wayne Gretzky (a famous Ice Hockey player, who won a lot of championships) within, let's say, six months.

- and often, when they're not skating like a superstar after six months, they change their trainer

As a Marketing leader, you could tell your leadership team that We will achieve some notable victories, but 'first, we need to learn to skate around the rink without falling on our behinds'.

Of course, that doesn't sound very good. Some Marketers skate around the issue and say 'Sure, we can do that. But we do need to do x, y, z first' and just hope that this expectation will go away.

But the truth is that digital marketing is hard. It takes a lot of time, testing, experimentation. Yes, it takes money too! It's also not something that works with constant micromanaging.

It doesn't work overnight.

You see gradual, incremental improvement over time, with a lot of work.

You will also see better and faster improvements when the entire company is entirely behind the marketing efforts. 

-but frequently that does not happen.

I know it's a pain in the ass to hear this - 

- The adage is not 'Seize the day.'
- It's 'Rome wasn't built in a day.'

Marketing automation and analytics are the same. So why do a lot of startup CEO's expect this sudden, dramatic change in one month?

Impatience? Frustration? Lack of thought? These are all possibilities for their desperation. But I believe their problems stem mainly from not understanding how Digital Marketing works.

The standard rules of business often simply don't apply to startups.  Just like the world of Ice Hockey, the world of startups is crazy and chaotic. Sometimes fights break out in the middle of the action. Sometimes the action just carries on regardless. It's actually amazing how similar the two worlds are!

Marketers in the start-up industry need to start being more honest and say 'sure we can achieve some fantastic results. But it'll take a lot of time, commitment, effort and yes, some money too. 

In addition to the many challenges that startups face, Marketing leaders face additional ones. The industry is in one of it's toughest phases right now

- 80% of CEOs are unhappy with their Marketing heads. That percentage is even higher in startups. 

Even in incredibly successful startups I've worked at, like $18 Billion market-cap Nasdaq listed Zscaler, we went through three CMO's in just two years! Two other startups I worked at, change their entire marketing team roughly every six months.

'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat' (Winston Churchill) is a robust but effective message.

- But it's also a sobering message to hear. I have a lot of empathy with you as a Startup founder and CEO. I really want to tell you what want to hear. But I think it's better for both of us in the long run, to be honest with you.

- Then we can achieve some incredible results, working together!

For further reading on this topic, why not check out this excellent article 'The Trouble with CMO's' in Harvard Business Review.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The 'Five Eyes' Secret Service Conference in Australia


The primary purpose of this conference was to agree on a public statement outlining the Five Eyes' policy on encryption. It's been in and out of the news ever since Edward Snowden released thousands of documents outlining the NSA's monitoring of the public's communications across all networks. 

The Five Eyes, often abbreviated as FVEY, is an anglophone intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UK USA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in Secret Service intelligence. 

The origins of the FVEY can be traced back to the post–World War II period. At this time, the Atlantic Charter was issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for a post-war world. During the Cold War, the ECHELON surveillance system was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor the communications of the former Soviet Union. Though now it is used to monitor billions of private communications worldwide. 

This is the system that Edward Snowden exposed in 2013 and why he now lives in Russia (he is wanted by the US Justice Department). Cybersecurity is one of the main concerns of all these secret service agencies. They are working on numerous issues related to national security, including cyber threats, internet security, cyber attacks, malware protection, encrypting and decrypting data and creating secure government firewalls. 

Three areas they talked about that were covered extensively at Infosec this year, was Ransomware attacks on Internet of things (IoT) devices, AI-powered chatbots manipulating information and Cyberwarfare damaging global trade. 

The conference went well. All the other countries in the Secret Service 'Group of five' - Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, were exquisitely entertained at the best Hyatt Hotel in Canberra. But sadly, the miserly English had to languish in an unknown Hotel a long way from the event (someone quipped 'in the outback'). 

We were undoubtedly the other four nation's poor cousin this month. I understand we are all living in the age of austerity, but some might say this is excessive. We're the country that invented James Bond for goodness sake........... We have always led the world in Secret Service operations.
One of the British contingents made a very inappropriate joke about Snowden to the Head of Legal Affairs of the CIA. I suppose some of us in Europe are not really aware of how poorly Edward Snowden is viewed in US Secret Service and military circles. So why would you make such a joke at a packed assembly with a leading US Secret Service delivering a vital talk? I suppose a number of us brits are not convinced that he was a traitor. Some believe that the information he released was in the public interest.

The top topic was Cyber Security, which is fast becoming the obsession of all Secret Service organisations. Companies like Apple and Whatsapp still protect their data against Western agencies. However, in Russia, China, and other dictatorships, all data (on Google, Whatsapp, Facebook, Apple, etc..) is easily accessible by their governments. So much for Silicon's Valleys 'values'. I guess they only work when there's no real threat to their profits. 

Another topic on the agenda was the proposed inquiry into abuses committed by British undercover officers, going back to the early 1970s. These officers were dealing with some of the most dangerous criminal gangs in the UK and were consequently promised complete anonymity for their lifetime. 

The British Government is now going back on that promise. Like many businesses, these gangs, that the agents were operating in, go on in perpetuity and they have long memories. These undercover officers were in extreme danger then, and many of them are still in danger now and will be for the rest of their lives. This inquiry will almost certainly uncover nothing useful, after forty years or more, yet will potentially unleash several hornets nests. Is it worth it?

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul, Turkey in November 2018. I coincidentally also went to a friends wedding in Istanbul, Turkey, during this time. If the Saudis had asked around, they would have realised that all embassies are bugged, so they are not the best location for a murder.


Secret service monitoring of communications is undoubtedly a subject that provokes a lot of debate.

Without a doubt, a large proportion of effective computer hacking campaigns are state-sponsored, for example:
  • North Korea creating the Wannacry virus that did immense damage to the NHS in the UK.
  • Russia hacking into the US Presidential elections and potentially changing its result.
  • The Chinese government's hackers breaking into private business websites, and stealing intellectual property to help boost its many state-run enterprises.
For more information go to my website.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The Financial Crash of 2008 & why it could happen again

Professor Adam Tooze was talking to a packed audience at the LSE; I was lucky I booked early. He started off with a powerful statement summarising the problem.

Each time a crisis is solved, it returns with a vengeance. If you look at crashes starting with 
 Long-Term Capital Management in '98, the .com crash of 2000, the financial account frauds of 2001 

or the mortgage-backed securities driven financial meltdown of 2008, they are all increasing in amplitude. 

The big problem is that the Fed, the government, Central Banks, and so on have to move heaven and earth each time to fix the problem.

Then within a few years, we're all acting like nothing awful happened. You have the problem of Moral hazard endemic in this industry. It's like a drug addict who keeps going back for more - and keeps getting more from the government.

2008 - 'Too big to fail' - 2018 now they're even bigger

Everyone remembers the phrase 'too big to fail,' right? Well ironically, a result of the government fixing the last crisis is that there are even fewer banks and that they are even bigger than before.

But in 2008 something REALLY BAD happened and we were fortunate to get out of it. It cost a fortune - $13,000,000,000,000 (thirteen trillion dollars) of our (taxpayers) money and we're still suffering the consequences.

- Brexit
- The Election of Donald Trump as US President
- The debt crisis in Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland and much of Eastern Europe
- The rise of 'Popularism' and the far right in Europe 
- Slowing or stopping of productivity growth (the UK in particular)

They are all arguably, consequences of the 2008 Financial Crash.

Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke's quote that 2008 was 'worse than the Great Depression' and but for the US Government's intervention, it would have been....

Banks on the brink of Bankruptcy in 2008

On the surface, it looks like it's all ok right now.......

The US Federal Reserve spending

But check this chart below, out - Our Economies had to go into a war-time footing, in 2008, last seen during World War 2. And we are not back to normal now.

The Housing Market

What about this, the housing market. See that big loopy curve at the end of the chart that looks entirely different from the rest? That's right now. 

This chart shows us exactly when the government deficit took off - when they needed to spend a fortune to prop up the failing banks and financial institutions.

Government debt and the UK's 'austerity' policy

Check out when government debt starts to take off, in this chart below: 2008, just when the Crash in the Financial Sector happened.

What would you think if restaurant review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp were being paid by the restaurants?

Well, that's precisely what happened at all the rating agencies during the crash. And it's still happening today. The rating agencies are paid by the companies they rate. 

During a Congressional hearing into the 2008 financial crash, an email was discovered from a rating expert.

He had written: 'Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.' 

I had personal experience of something similar, when living in Boston, USA. I used to meet up regularly with a senior director at a large financial firm, who was running the Mortgage-backed Securities Sales desk there. 

He used to laugh at his analyst projections.....

Companies like Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs were shorting (Betting against) Mortgage-backed securities while another part of the company was selling them. 

I also knew the CEO of one of the companies that started the collapsewho was at the helm when this financial meltdown happened. He was distraught for a time. 

However, He walked away with no jail time and $30 Million in severance. Taxpayers had to bail out his company for $189 Billion.

The biggest bailout in History - will the next one be bigger?

It became evident during the lecture how little could be done during the crash without the USA. The Federal Reserve guaranteed loans not only for US Banks but for banks across the globe. 

It's irrelevant what those in the European Union say, because but for the US's action, we would have all been sunk. As Professor Tooze put it 'The European Central Bank became the 13th Federal reserve district.'

In fact, the EU is still doing very little. Spain, which is the size of Texas, has youth unemployment at 50%, right now. How is that satisfactory? Greece is still reeling. 

Youth Unemployment in Europe 

Professor Tooze told us that we are on a path of ever-greater fluctuation in Economic Downturns

In 2015-2016, we narrowly dodged a recession spreading from Russia, Brazil, South Africa, the collapse of commodity prices (notably, Oil) and the Chinese Yuan.

Where will the next crash start? - China? or the Banks again?

Professor Adam Tooze was particularly gripping when he revealed the comparative chart of the vulnerability of the banks to a future similar shock (such as a pandemic?). 

He pointed to Deutsche Bank as by far the most exposed, just adding, to much laughter, that no one could be surprised because Deutsche Bank was universally regarded as a “basket case”. 

No 2 did cause some consternation in the room and some gasps - HSBC. 

Five of the biggest eight banks are now Chinese. Growth in China has been slowing precipitously.