Archive | October 2012

Global Financial Crisis: Five years on and no end in sight


The global financial crisis, triggered in 2007 by the United States housing bubble bursting, has recently passed the five year mark with no end in sight. The crisis, described by many commentators as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, is unlikely to pass without causing more pain for ordinary middle class people and those in the lower economic strata.

The Start of the Crisis

The start of the crisis can be dated back to August 2007 when the French global banking group BNP Paribas terminated withdrawals from three hedge funds citing “a complete evaporation of liquidity”.

The bursting of the US housing bubble followed and caused the values of securities tied to the US to nosedive. In the modern “global village” it rapidly hit financial institutions worldwide.

The crisis exposed the unsustainable situation created by US government policies that encouraged home ownership with loans for sub-prime borrowers, the overvaluation of bundled sub-prime mortgages based on the assumption of a perpetual increase in the value of real estate, and questionable trading practices.

The situation was worsened by over-complicated mathematical formulas used by financial markets and the lack of adequate capital holdings by banks and insurance companies to cover their exposures.

The uncertainty about the solvency of banks and other financial institutions led to the tightening of credit, international trade declined and economies across the globe shrank.

Government & central bank Action

Governments and central banks responded with unprecedented fiscal stimulus, monetary policy expansion and the bail-out of banks and other financial institutions. The net effect of this was the shifting of debt burdens onto the shoulders of taxpayers worldwide, especially in the developed world.

Over time, the eye of the storm morphed into a sovereign debt crisis, particularly in Europe. Fears for sovereign debt defaults by several European countries, and eventually even by the US, remain real.

While central banks are flooding cash-strapped industrialised nations with money it helps governments to reduce their debt load. At the same time however it also erodes the value of people’s income and savings. Some commentators refer to this process as a massive upward redistribution of wealth. And, especially at the bottom of the economic pyramid ordinary people are also at the receiving end of austerity measures taken by governments aimed at softening their deficits.

What governments are effectively doing to lower their debt levels in real terms is what has been done since the time of Cleopatra in Egypt when she replaced gold coins with much cheaper copper coins: they are devaluing their currencies.

Inflation Dangers

In the process huge inflation dangers are waiting in the wings. A poll conducted in September by the German companies Faktenkontor and Toluna found that one in four Germans is already trying to protect his or her savings from the threat of inflation by investing in material assets.

Governments and central banks are constantly buying time by fighting the debt crisis with monetary injections of previously unheard of proportions and the side effect is a slow but dangerous devaluation of money.

While official inflation rates are still moderate (1.7% in the U’S and 2.6% in the euro zone) they are based on consumer price indexes and do not reflect what is happening with major asset purchases such as real estate. This “unofficial” category of inflation in asset values is already taking place in the financial markets and new price bubbles are being fed with cheap money from central banks, as well as by investors and savers fleeing into what they regard as safe material assets.

It is also a reality that in the present extremely low interest environment, even the lowest inflation eats away at people’s reserves and savings.

In the US the Federal Reserve prime rate has been at zero since the end of 2008, and has just been extended at this non rate by chairman Ben Bernanke.

In the meantime US government debt has exceeded the $16 trillion threshold with inflation about the only viable option to reduce it. The alternative of a massive saving through austerity measures and higher unemployment rates is politically most unattractive.

In the wake of the strong global integration of economies in the 1990s the competition for export markets has increased currency devaluation. One of the symptoms of this is the increasing talk of a currency war between the US and China and to a lesser extent Europe. It also creates a gap between the financial economy and the real economy.

Payday will come

For the investor and especially middle-class people attempting to provide for retirement and create wealth for future generations, the biggest challenge has become not return on investment but rather retention of value.

How and when the end of the present financial debt crisis will come about is almost impossible to predict. What is certain is that the settlement of the debt burden cannot be avoided for ever.

One way or another payday will come and it looks to be inevitable that a substantial part of that tab will be picked up by the middle class.

by Piet Coetzer

Communication Skills vrs Technology

Business leaders are typically great communicators and this is the number one quality they looked for in future leaders. They also recognise and value this precious skill in others.

A great communicator is someone who is comfortable talking to anyone, anywhere in the world. Someone who could make things happen across international borders and cultural barriers, someone who could walk into a room anywhere in the world and fix a problem, delight a customer, secure a partner, or close a deal.

Lack of communication skills or Inability to interact, articulate or persuade can have immediate and potentially consequences for any business. The combined effect over time can be an eventual loss of competitiveness and a negative effecton the bottom line. At the personal and career levels, smart and talented people lacking these skills will find the odds stacked against them. But when outstanding communication skills are married with brains and talent, the sky’s the limit for career oriented persons.

What this means is communication is the single most important business asset, absolutely essential to any company that hopes to grow and prosper.

But technology is rapidly dumbing us down. It’s quietly alienating us from one another and robbing us of our precious and unique gifts of face-to-face direct human interaction. Technology is robbing us of this precious skill of communication. Nowadays we email, we text, we tweet, we socialise online.

Many of us don’t read as much, nor socialize the way we used to, nor value speaking skills the way we once did.  All these are leading to the gradual loss of the art of conversation we once valued and cherished, and the steady erosion of our capacity to interact effectively at a very personal level. The more we rely on technology to do our talking for us, the more we can expect to see the costof that reliance in our business results and performance.

Excellence in business communications should be as routine as excellence in business performance. In successful corporations, communication is performance.

If you cannot communicate, then you cannot sell a product or service, command a room, run a meeting effectively, persuade investors, inspire employees, align team members, or compel key audiences. If you cannot communicate then it means that if you have a good idea, you might not be able to sell it. If you have a vision, no one will hear it. If you have a strategy, no one will follow it.

Unlike business people, politicians have long understood the value of leadership communications. In fact, word power is their entire stock and trade. Millions of people vote politicians who are able to  articulate their vision and  clearly define problems and solutions, simplify the complex, rationally debate any issue, This is not the kind of thing you can do with just text messages, e-mails, and tweets

Maybe business people should borrow from the experience of politicians. The question here is, can you walk into a room anywhere, anytime, and make things happen? Wonderful things unfold when people talk face-to-face in private offices, conference rooms, boardrooms, corridors, auditoriums.

It is time to capitalize on the huge added value that leadership communications brings to business proposition or transaction. We should not allow technology – the promise of this age, to rob us of this key skill.


The past

Years back, students graduated from schools with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.

40/50 years back, graduates left campuses knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities around the world and knowing nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.

They learnt a lot at campuses about new ideas in economics and politics and exposed to the big advances being made in science and technology.

But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity, reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.

The present

These were the days gone by. But how about the now – 21st century.

Thanks to advances in technology (TV, internet etc) students know or should know more about the world’s inequities than the classes who came before them and they should be taught to think – about how in this age of accelerating technology, they can take on inequities in the world and solved them.

Millions of children are dying every year in developing countries from diseases (Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, and yellow fever) that had long ago made harmless in developed countries. If every life has equal value then some lives should not be seen as worth saving and others not. All lives deserve the priority of the world.

The question

The question we have to ask ourselves is how come that the world is not able to save these children with all the resources at its disposal. The answer is simple albeit harsh. Market forces do not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So children die because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.

So the next question is how can we face this challenge? How can we as nations do the most good for the greatest number of people with the resources we have at our disposal?

Creative Capitalism

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.

If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.

Complexity – Barrier to Change

The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity. Complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares — and that makes it hard for their caring to matter. To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact.

If we can really see a problem, which is the first step, we come to the second step: cutting through the complexity to find a solution.

Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and making the smartest application of the technology.

Sharing to Inspire

The final step – after seeing the problem and finding an approach – is to measure the impact of our work and share our successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.

But if we want to inspire more people to participate; we have to convey the human impact of the work – so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected.

We can’t get people excited unless we can help them see and feel the impact.


Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us forever. They are new – they can help us make the most of our caring – and that’s why the future can be different from the past.

The defining and ongoing innovations of this age – biotechnology, the computer, the Internet – give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.

We can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them. We shouldn’t let complexity stop us.

We have technology that earlier generations never had. We have awareness of global inequity, which earlier generations did not have. And with that awareness, we also have an informed conscience that will torment us if we abandon these people whose lives we could change with very little effort.

We have more than they had; We must start sooner, and carry on longer.

Knowing what we know, how could we not?


BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT has published a new book titled Business Continuity Management Systems – Implementation and Certification to ISO 22301. It was authored by Hilary Estall, a respected authority on management systems standards.

The book is targeted at BCM professionals & teams in the following situations:

  •  Your organisation is seeking formal certification to ISO 22301.
  • Your organisation is seeking alignment to ISO 22301.
  • Your organisation is considering whether to become certified and wishes to understand what is involved before committing resource.
  • Your organisation is working towards, or has already achieved, certification to BS 25999-2 and wishes to understand what is involved in moving from one standard to another.
  • You wish to develop your own understanding of what is required to implement an effective BCMS.
  • You are looking for a practical support mechanism to guide you through the implementation stages of your BCMS.

The book is set out in four parts. Two focus on management systems themselves and the certification process, and the remaining two look at BCM and the requirements of ISO 22301.

If you just want to know more about ISO 22301, I suggest this is the first (and perhaps only) book you need to read. If you are going further and want to become an ISO 22301 certified company then it gives you the route, the dangers, the tips and the confidence to succeed.

…. Lyndon Bird FBCI Technical Development Director at the Business Continuity Institute (

Please if you want to know more about the book or browse the contents please log unto BCS site (

Attitude is Everything

Your success or failure is not about how you dress how you look or even how you’re educated. It’s all about your Attitude! It’s true, most of us would prefer being around a positive person. It’s as true in our personal lives as it is in our business life.

You have heard Mac Anderson say, “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” How true it is. If you have co-workers and friends around you that gossip or complain often, it can bring you down and adversely affect your mood and productivity. In turn, if you are surrounded by upbeat people with a positive attitude, you can’t help but feel better and be more productive.

Positive people stay so upbeat. They brighten rooms just by walking in. No matter what trials may be going on in their lives, they give you the same hospitality you expect to receive while visiting them.  Everybody wants to be around them.

It’s no fun spending time with a person as chilly as an igloo. No! We enjoy warm, cheerful, upbeat folks who believe in us and remind us that tomorrow is ripe with possibility. Most of us want to be positive people. It’s advantageous to possess a sunny outlook.

Doors open to optimists. They make friends, earn respect, and others enjoy and want to be like them. They grin instead of grouch when facing challenge.

Never forget … Attitudes are contagious.

 Always ask … Is mine worth catching?


Training to be a good communicator

People who teach golf, skiing, and tennis have known for years that nothing speeds the learning process like showing someone a tape of themselves trying to perform a test of skills. The subjects of these revealing videos study every move and every nuance with uncommon attentiveness, because they are, after all, watching themselves—and they don’t always like what they see.

The same is true for the role of the camera in helping people (1) see themselves as others see them, (2) spot distracting body movements or gestures, (3) practice for speaking assignments, (4) perfect key elements like pauses and eye contact, and (5) monitor their own progress and improvement as they advance through a training program to develop their own speaking styles.

Even if you have never had even a single minute of professional help or speaker training of any kind, regular use of a camcorder setup with a tripod and TV monitor in your own home or in your office will help make you a more effective talker. The reason is that most people are acutely sensitive to whatever shortcomings may show up on tape. Once you identify the offending elements, it is easy enough to practice until they go away. It is important, though, that you don’t see a swan as an ugly duckling and then proceed to kill the swan. So I suggest that if you undertake to practice with a camcorder, you also undertake to apply the principles you learn in a good presentation book. If you don’t have a camcorder, and can’t afford one, you can practice with a mirror to achieve the same objective.

You may also wish to identify with your favorite speakers in government, business, etc, etc… If you think it can help, borrow whatever attributes you see in them to perfect your own speaking game.

However, if you don’t trust yourself to get it right (because you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be looking for and if you are really serious, you can always hire/get someone to help you..

All of us, like it or not, will eventually see our reputations, careers, and even our social lives determined to some degree by how well we speak. Are we forgettable—or do people remember us and act on what we say? Are we boring—or do we spark interest and get people involved? Do we hide our intelligence and potential by the way we speak—or reveal ourselves in the best possible light?

Leaders lead with their words. If you are a leader or aspiring to be one then investing in communication skill training is an abundantly rewarding investment that makes good sense. For people will judge you —fairly or unfairly—on how you present yourself face-to-face in countless moments of human and business interaction.

Your own words will likely shape your lot in life and business.