Mavericks, they're everywhere


20 May 2013 | Gavin Hinks

MAVERICKS: I am currently nonplussed by the frequency with which I read in the press that description of people, organisations and even whole countries. UKIP leader Nigel Farage is a "maverick politician", his party, well, a "maverick party".

Britain is becoming a "maverick state" in Europe; Quentin Tarantino is a "maverick film director"; Dave Fishwick, star of TV series Bank of Dave, is "maverick" for claiming that High Street banks are "shit", and this morning I read that Lonrho, the once mighty British conglomerate that is about to go private, was run by the colourful and "maverick" businessman Tiny Rowland, notorious for his battle with Mohamed Al-Fayed over control of Harrods.

Mavericks are everywhere. Intriguingly though, the term is used in both a negative and positive sense, applied as it is to people the press seem to favour and dislike. Sometimes it seems to reflect misty-eyed adulation. But most often it appears to have a negative connotation and I wonder whether that is the right way to see mavericks - as threatening, unpredictable, slightly dangerously bonkers.

As ever it depends on your point of view but "maverick", as a category, has not escaped the attention of academics. In 2011 psychologists Elliroma Gardiner, of the London School of Economics, and Chris J Jackson of the University of New South Wales, decided to look at workplace mavericks to figure out if personality and an appetite for risk taking were indicative of maverick qualities.

The pair defined maverickism as "a behavioural tendency to engage in creative, dynamic, risk-taking, disruptive and bold goal-directed behaviours." They then tested a set of hypotheses in an experiment with 458 men and women which sought to categorise their personality types and correlate them with maverick traits such as a willingness to take risks and "lateral preference".

Now, lateral preference is interesting because this proposition, taken seriously by academics, essentially says that if someone has a preference for their left ear, they are more likely to be maverick. Why? Because the left ear is closely associated with the right hemisphere of the brain and that in turn is associated with "visionary" or creative elements of work. So what did the boffins find? Well, the results are detailed and complex so here's a summary.

The outcomes, they say, suggest a combination of creativity and little fear of negative consequences "are at least partial drivers" behind mavericks' appetite for undertaking "unconventional" actions.

Ear preference points to a "biological" predisposition for risky behaviour, and mavericks are more likely to be "antagonistic' rather than altruistic, poor team players, extroverts and possessing "low levels of agreeableness". In short mavericks like to take their chances, don't really care what happens to other people along the way, and will keep taking the same risk in the face of strong opposition. Moreover, if their venture really does fall on its face they brush themselves off with ease and move on to the next venture with very little self-doubt.

The interesting thing is that we all know how valuable mavericks can be. In business they push ahead with their vision in spite of staggering opposition, losing friends, making enemies, and frequently win out generating vast sums of money along the way. They are the ones who will come up with the disruptive, outlier idea that nobody believes and yet against the odds turns out to be a winner.

So simply dumping, or avoiding, mavericks because they give you and your organisation the willies is not necessarily good business policy. All organisations need people who are willing to challenge, take risks, go against the tide. Gardiner and Jackson believe their work, identifying the left ear preference, may just give organisations a tool for identifying mavericks in their midst.

I can't help feeling though that this isn't the biggest psychological challenge. The big issue is persuading managers to discard their fear and apprehension of the mavericks in their midst and learn how to harness their natural dispositions, rather than viewing them all as problematic individuals who need to be controlled (though it should be noted that not all difficult people are maverick creative geniuses).

I once took part in a graduate recruitment drive. At the end of the day, in a selection committee, I was asked who my favoured candidate was. I picked a young woman who was bold, combative and strikingly intelligent. She questioned my questions and we had a tough back-and-forth debate which I enjoyed enormously. The committee unanimously rejected her as too difficult to manage.

She probably was difficult, but she probably would have brought "maverick" qualities that would have been invaluable. It was their loss, but another recruiter's gain.

Gavin Hinks is a freelance journalist and writes the Profits and Loss blog at

Public sector branding: Ignore it at your peril


09 May 2013 | Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

BRANDING IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR means different things to different people. For some, it's simply a logo; for others it's an underpinning philosophy. Public sector brands are some of the most powerful and engaging in existence. The NHS, the BBC and the Metropolitan Police elicit tremendous goodwill from employees and the British public have a strong emotional attachment towards them.

Often however it seems few people outside of marketing and communications departments understand the true role of their brand. Few realise that effective public sector brands are about engaging with people, understanding their beliefs and behaviours and delivering a business model they can buy into, it's not just about logos and banners. Although, of course, the visual expression is an important communication tool to capture interest and loyalty. I have seen some 'lets paint reception and change the logo' transformations over the years and they don't fix the underlying problems. The general public is too shrewd to be tricked by a superficial re-brand.

The number of public sector brands has grown exponentially in recent years. Finding a point of difference and an effective means of communicating has become vital to standing out in the crowd. Take one example, prior to the incoming administration there were no less than 48 environmental brands at the Greater London Authority. There are a number of drivers behind this proliferation, including the growth of government and its extension into all aspects of society, devolution, more outsourcing and less command and control from the centre. In the words of the US police force is the primary message for public sector 'to protect and to serve?''

Public service is interlinked to commercial ideology more than ever. The trick is retaining the public sector philosophy while applying commercial principles to ensure an efficient and effective service to the country. Brand is more than a logo is it an underpinning philosophy. In effect we must:

- Recognise that the brand perception needs to be addressed through perceptual and hard delivery.
- Lead and create a vision of what the organisation strives to be, and lead by example, in good and in bad times.
- Ensure all stakeholders, especially staff, recognise that the brand is the core of their business.
-Encourage our employees to ‘live the brand' and creating the appropriate culture and environment' around them to enable them to do so. This means they eat, breathe and sleep the values that your brand conveys, but more importantly, truly believe them.
-Be consistent.....constantly changing the logo does not solve the problem.

Branding is a big part of our lives today. It informs choice and perception. We ignore it at our peril.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is finance director at Hadlow College

Narrowly missing triple dip cuts chances of new capital injection


25 Apr 2013 | Torrie Callander, Global Reach Partners

THE UK HAS avoided the dreaded triple-dip recession with a positive GDP release earlier today. Markets had expected growth of 0.1% in Q1 and were pleasantly surprised when 0.3% was confirmed, a figure that will give the Pound support in the coming months.

Sterling has had a difficult year, falling by around 9% in the first two or three months of 2013. The weakness of the currency was based largely on expectations for further quantitative easing from the BoE - the money printing process designed to stimulate liquidity. Today's data has decreased the likelihood of a new QE injection and sterling has been the major benefactor.

What does this mean for UK businesses?
This is positive news for the British importer, particularly those buying in US Dollars and Euros. The GBP/USD rate has been as low as 1.4850 this year and now sits above the 1.54 level. The outlook for the Pound over the next 12 months is much improved now and importers will find their costs fall.

Exporters however are seeing their goods become more expensive to overseas buyers, with scope for further moves against them. Many exporters are looking at long term hedging strategies to protect them from further pain. This is a wise move and one that more exporters should be considering.

Overall of course, this is good news for the UK economy. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel and British business can take solace from a good start to the year. Lets hope there is much more good news to come.

Torrie Callander is a corporate dealer at Global Reach Partners

Global Reach Partners is running a complimentary workshop in the City of London on14 May that will looking at the main currency challenges facing UK companies



Living by Thatcher's old adage

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan

17 Apr 2013 | Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Hadlow College

THE END OF THE WEEK and Friday night seems to be the evening of choice for civic receptions. The main topic of conversation last week was no surprise......The legacy of the Iron lady. It was pertinent given most of the guests were public servants in one form or another. Whatever your opinion of her politics, you can't argue that Margaret Thatcher had more courage in her convictions (aka balls) than most men who've been in her position since.

I had just turned 15 when Baroness Thatcher left Downing Street and the country was very different in 1990 to when she took office in 1979 but two of her guiding principles hold true even today; 'live within your means' and 'pay your bills on time'. The public sector more than ever is required to live by that adage. Public investment must generate an RoI for the economy and the question is always: "how many jobs will we create and is it sustainable?" Thatcher, whatever your personal political view, opened up the public sector to the world of efficiency and commerce .

Commerciality in the public sector is driven by strong leadership. There is now a greater number of female finance directors and CFO's than ever before. Baroness Thatcher not only broke the preconception that women could not succeed in positions of power, but shattered it into millions of pieces. She remains the only woman to make it to the top job, and she stayed there for eleven and a half years. It is shown that many companies with better gender equality often produce stronger financial results. Is there a lesson here?

This is my first blog and I look forward to contributing further to the public sector perspective on finance and how I believe it is inextricably linked into the future of our country. And in the words of the Iron Lady herself in her last address at the despatch box..."I'm enjoying this".

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is finance director at Hadlow College

Fuelling growth through incentivising investment


05 Apr 2013 | Tim Ward, QCA

MARKETS ARE BUILT ON CONFIDENCE. Once confidence starts to grow, positive momentum takes hold.

I talk a lot about the engines of growth - our small and mid-size quoted companies - needing fuel. It's seemed over the last few years that everyone agrees with this concept but government has done very little about it.

And then rather like London buses two initiatives arrive in short order. In the Autumn Statement the chancellor announced that AIM and ISDX shares (also known as growth market shares) will be included in ISAs following consultation. The consultation on how to implement this change came out in March just before the Budget.

This has been followed in the Budget by the announcement that the 0.5% stamp duty tax will be removed on the trading of shares on growth markets from April 2014. Together with the London Stock Exchange and other industry bodies, we have been campaigning for the removal of stamp duty on trades in AIM and ISDX shares. This measure will help to increase liquidity and investment in small and mid-size quoted companies - vital engines of growth for the UK economy.

Our quarterly QCA/BDO Small and Mid-Cap Sentiment Index in November 2012 showed that including AIM and ISDX shares in ISAs and removing stamp duty on trading in small and mid-size quoted company shares were two of the five most popular fiscal measures that would have the greatest positive impact on companies were it announced in the 2013 Budget.

It is important to note that the stamp duty change is not due to take effect until the next tax year - in April 2014. Between then and now, there will be a consultation from HM Treasury on the move. Our understanding is that the consultation will not be about whether to remove stamp duty on AIM and ISDX shares, but instead how to implement it. For example, there may need to be some changes to the CREST settlement system.

All of a sudden the fuel gauges have started to flicker. Both measures will take time to come up to speed, but they are nevertheless very welcome. They will create momentum in trading. With increasing trading volumes, we should start to see an overall improvement in the valuations of growing companies. This will enable these companies to approach their investors and raise finance with more confidence. With more finance we should see more jobs and the creation of long-term value for shareholders.

Confidence creates more confidence; it's contagious. So - in the nicest possible way - perhaps we should be a Contagion Nation as well as an Aspiration Nation.

Tim Ward is chief executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance

Qu'est-ce que c'est? What leadership language do you speak?

Talking Heads

22 Mar 2013 | Stuart Pickles,

SPEAKING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE is difficult, but many people achieve it. Those that do will say that it's just a matter of hunkering down and getting into the head and the world of someone from a different culture.

What's interesting is that even within our own culture and official language, there are in fact many different languages being spoken. This is not a joke about regional dialects, it is about the importance of different psychological types, and how they respond to different ways of using our own language.

According to Jung's psychological theory, a rational introvert will be more easily persuaded by language which gives a cool, calm, fact based assessment. A more intuitive extrovert will be turned off by this, but will be motivated by language which expresses an inspiring visual demonstration of possibilities. Some people are more motivated by language of opportunity, whilst others will be motivated more by words that talk about necessity. There are many similar variations of language based on how people prefer to communicate.

The surprising reality is that many people do not modify their language according to who they are speaking to. They just speak their language, the language which works for them, the way of speaking which they prefer. None of this is new, we all know people who talk in a way that always just seems to grate, and we know how limited their ability is to influence our way of thinking.

But how many of us have a conscious awareness of how we are coming across to people who we want to influence? How much do we adapt our choice of words and phrases to match what might match how they prefer to communicate? And how much more important is this when you are leading people, hoping and expecting people to follow you, working effectively in a team and influencing multiple stakeholder groups?

The solution is not as difficult as learning a foreign language, but it does take a purposeful and structured approach to understanding how people communicate. Many organisations now invest in psychological assessment tools to help leaders develop a greater awareness of their communication preferences and how to modify their language for different audiences, whilst remaining totally authentic.

With focused leadership coaching support, leaders can make a step change in their effectiveness to influence their key stakeholders, engage their teams and really fulfil their potential as leaders.

As a leader, what languages do you and your team speak? And what results are you getting?

Stuart Pickles is the former FD of Foster's EMEA. He now runs and is blogging regularly for Financial Director

Image credit: Shutterstock

Cyprus rejection sends EU back to the drawing board


21 Mar 2013 | Torrie Callander, Global Reach Partners

OVER THE WEEKEND the news broke that eurozone finance ministers had agreed a €10Bn (£92bn) bailout for Cyprus - but with conditions attached. Cyprus had to raise some money on its own.

Many ideas were bounced around and it was suggested that the best method of raising funds quickly was to impose an immediate tax on all deposits held. This was overwhelmingly rejected by the Cypriot parliament on Tuesday and failed to receive a single MP's backing. This sent ministers back to the drawing board in search of a plan B.

The impact of this situation is much more significant than it appears - notwithstanding the controversial one-off tax raid on local and expatriates bank savings accounts. The precedent is set. If any EU nation comes "cap in hand" for a bailout from the European Central Bank (ECB), they will met with strict terms and conditions.

What does this mean for the euro?

Italy and Spain are still in economic trouble. Their borrowing costs may have stabilized last year with the announcement of the European Stability Mechanism, but this stability is now under threat again. If the borrowing costs get too high, they will need help from the ECB. But will they get slapped with the same obligations as Cyprus? If so, it would be a much bigger issue compared to the Cypriot situation. This has spooked the market and the euro has fallen from its two year high against the pound. Investors are watching closely to see what deal is struck in Cyprus as an indicator for future euro stability.

Rising inflation, weak growth, upcoming German elections and an overvalued euro are all starting to weigh heavily on the eurozone economy once again. The charts show that the GBP/EUR rate has now bounced off a five year strong support level. Has the euro seen its highs? In the short term, I think so.

Torrie Callander is a corporate dealer at Global Reach Partners

Exporters queue up as QE is put off again


12 Mar 2013 | Torrie Callander, Global Reach Partners

SO THE Bank of England voted against further Quantitative Easing and Sir Mervyn King was out voted for the fourth time in his tenure as Governor. All the talk about negative interest rates proved to be nothing more than that, with rates being kept on hold yet again. This surprised those in the market many of whom expected a fresh round of money printing. The Pound was the immediate benefactor, rising by half a cent on the Dollar within minutes of the announcement.

What is next for Sterling?

The Pound has been one of the biggest losers in the currency markets so far this year driven lower by consistently negative data releases from the manufacturing and construction sectors, a credit rating downgrade and expectations for QE. This has been great news for UK exporters who have been significantly more competitive as the Pound has weakened.

For British importers however, it has been a different story. The sudden drop in the value of Sterling saw many caught off guard and unprotected. The speed of the fall was certainly unexpected and many Sterling sellers sat on their hands expecting retracement that never came.

Today's announcement should give some balance to the equation. One of the drivers of Sterling weakness was the expectation of further QE. Now that this has been put off for at least another month the market - and the Pound - can breathe. This may afford importers the chance to sell Sterling slightly higher up the range in the coming weeks and they would be wise to seize the opportunity.

However, in the next three to four months, the Pound will remain under pressure. Until we see sustained growth in the UK economy there will be little to support the currency. The threat of QE will continue to loom, especially with a new BoE governor taking over in June. The remaining ratings agencies will be scrutinising the AAA rating and investors will be reluctant to hold Sterling.

Exporters should make hay while the sun shines, while importers should be considering hedging measures that protect their budget exchange rates.

Torrie Callander, corporate dealer, at Global Reach Partners

Page 6 of 20