Purdahtory

So that is it, a General Election has been called in the UK.

Ahead of us we now have 6 weeks of campaign, wall-to-wall TV coverage, lots of promises and being told how things will be so much better if only we vote a certain way on July 4th.

Whatever your political views, we now know one thing that will not happen in the next few weeks… that is much progress on regulation or related matters. We have entered a state of purdah, the pre-election period, and a time of heightened sensitivity. During this time there is care to ensure official resources are not used or be seen to be used to influence the election.

Kick-off

Day-to-day activities will of course continue, but items such as the release of new studies, reports, and even regulatory engagement at meetings or conferences will be curtailed. Progress on this will slow to a stop.

Only last week we were chatting precisely about this possibility at the Consumer Duty Services event. It was flagged as a reason why the Insolvency Service may have to delay the release of their report into IVA misselling, something that Kevin Still commented he had seen the impact of before.

With hindsight, it was almost prophetic… although a good job it wasn’t a week later as some of the attendees would in all likelihood not have even been there.

Group Stage

During this period it is all too easy to get distracted, get caught in the drama, and wistfully think of the future, whilst waiting for the machinery of government to restart. For any other procrastinators out there, it is a wonderful reason to put things off… er hum creating time to watch the Euros… never.

But of course, in reality, the world does not stop and, as Chris Leslie from the Credit Services Association was super quick to point out yesterday, ‘it is unlikely that financial services policy and regulation will feature significantly during the contest’, although of course, the cost of living will.

Regulatory change happens slowly and much of the infrastructure, themes, and activity we have now, we will still have to do after the election… thinking Consumer Duty here… there is still lots to do.

Avoid Offside

So many times, it feels like we are on the back foot with regulatory change, waiting for announcements, often rushing to meet implementation deadlines, while all the time more new stuff is coming in. It is exhausting.

Yet this pre-election period, the government slowdown, could give us a short window to get in front of events. General it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive, and maybe this is our opportunity to focus on the now, a breather to get done what we need to get done.

Enjoy the final

That is of course, if we don’t get sucked into the impending drama on TV… (politics of football, take your pick)… good luck with that everyone.

Have a good rest of the week.

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Inflection Inflation

This week, I’ve been out and about again, discussing, solutions for customers in financial difficulty. It was all very interesting.

Yet outside of the event itself, what struck me was how the price of everything has leapt up, there has been a step increase.

I mean, inflation has increased prices, it seems to have been permanently in the news for the last year and I have certainly seen it in the weekly shop. But, despite my grumbling at the time (and lots of grumbling when my motor insurance renewal came through), it was something that I accepted and, to a large extent, absorbed.

However sometimes, when you do something familiar, but a little less frequent.. it is then when you understand the cumulative nature, impact, and shock of the change. This is exactly what happened when I bought a quick sandwich for lunch at the station.

A packed lunch, the one that I used to get for six pounds, is now closer to ten.. a 60% increase (especially if I add a couple of those chocolatey treats).

It is a sharp increase from what I remember, and sadly one that I know is never really going to reverse; it is a new normal.

Jump around

We often think of inflation as gradual, rising at a steady pace of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5% per year. What struck me is the reality of this is really quite different.

This did not feel gradual at all, prices jump around, and every so often they leap.

Businesses it seems, must have been absorbing some price increases for a long time. They have no doubt been finding efficiencies where they can, cutting corners (or product quality!) all to maintain margins.

Eventually, there is after all only so much compromise that can be made. It becomes too much and with the cost of living being in the headlines, there is a valid reason to pass costs on. The opportunity is taken.

With the floodgates of bad news open, it’s time to rip the band-aid off and all the price increases flow through… at once. (sorry too many analogies there!). Unfortunately for us poor consumers, this often is a steep increase in cost, sometimes way above annualised inflation rates.

This allows for margins to be normalized, and hopefully product quality to be restored (although we will see on the latter).

It seems, in good times competition is a good driver and can keep costs down. However in harder times like these, through the magic of game theory, these same market dynamics can become a driver to enable above-inflation increases across the board.

Think of the poor consumer

All of this of course also has consequences for us consumers and our reaction to this is often mixed.

Short term, we can cut back on expenses, consume less, or find cheaper products. However, to keep things the same, longer term, incomes need to increase.

In case anyone has not noticed getting a pay increase, for most people, doing the same work is at best lagged, at worst it just hasn’t happened. So many of us are then left trying to find new ways to cope. Cutting back is fine, but longer term a more fundamental shift in the demand for goods occurs instead.

Think back to some of the previous periods of high inflation, for example the 1970s, 80s, 90s, can we use this as a guide?

Back then the world seemed in the doldrums—nothing much to look forward to, stagnating and crumbling economies. Many products, those that seemed luxurious, lavish, and desirable at the time, simply eventually disappeared from the market (… monthly book club subscriptions, anyone, Leyland princess, or even the 3500?).

However little did we know at the time that our lives were also about to change for the better. The invention of the transistor, microchip, and later the computer all fundamentally changed our standard of living, bringing in extra income, jobs, and products (… hello Netflix, Telsa and certainly the sat nav).

So despite my grumbling over lunch, I was left wondering… Are we actually at a similar inflection point…. is this the start of a similar pattern… has another great shake-out begun?

Jump up

If true and this is the case, what we know is that looking back, trying to use what worked before or try to return to the ways things were is just not going to work… we cannot go back, and going forward things will be different.

Staying the same will be hard, however watching, listening to the next set of changes, and then adapting to those changes can really keep us ahead… (I should have been a PC game designer, back then… now I know!).

So if you can seize the opportunity, this could be the time to get in on the ground floor for something new. In the end, it could turn out to be something very positive.

So Stay flexible, onwards and upwards I suppose.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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Search is dead, long live search

It was a bank holiday this weekend, and, for what felt like the first time this year, a strange, warm orange ball appeared in the sky.

Travelling into town, this had clearly caught everyone with a sense of surprise. Everyone was wearing an interesting mix of clothes.

  • Some, clearly those who got up early, were bundled up, clad in coats, shoes, and winter wear… seemingly refused to believe it was warm
  • Others, those who surfaced later, had made the switch and were in summer mode, breaking out the T-shirts and shorts. I was the latter, with socks on, of course… extra middle-aged comedic value.

Now, having decided to avoid the crush at the supermarket for sausages (it’s a reflexive thing; a sunny day equals barbecue in the UK)… I opted to sit in the sun at a local café, soaking up some sun. It was just lovely. Of course, I was also on the phone…

Grokkle

Now, I know a lot has been written, much of it lament, about the demise of Twitter and the change to X. For someone who uses Twitter/X to look at news, I have also noticed a change in the last year or so. However, as it is still the best source for breaking stories I have stuck with it, on my free plan, until now.

However, with the continued premiumisation of features, and especially the loss of TweetDeck (now X-Pro) it has been hard. Reluctantly, this last month, I eventually relented and signed up for a paid subscription…. and I have been pleasantly surprised.

Harmony has now been with X-Pro and to my delight I also discovered that Grok, X’s AI, is now available in the UK (from this weekend).

And, Grok was interesting. Different from both ChatGPT and Claude, it has been built with access to the live Twitterverse (or X-verse, I suppose).

You can simply ask it for what you want to know, and it will come back with a summary, with references to sources (tweets). The difference is it all seems very real-time. I can see it changing my reading and searching habits too… especially for news. It is so targeted.

In fairness, this is something that MS Co-pilot also does well. It searches the web, giving referenced stories (with ChatGPT doing this via Bing too). These tools however still refer back to newspapers and searchable web content… The advantage (or disadvantage 🙂 ) with Grok is the immediacy of Grok doing this live on social media. I was impressed.

This will have implications for search too.

Searching Social

I don’t know about you, but once I have seen something on social media, I find it almost impossible to find it again.

That hack… fixing a charging cable, stats from around the world… the one I saw on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook… I thought was interesting, and then quickly move on.

My reactive/emotional brain is satisfied… but, my logical/slow thinking side (read thinking fast, thinking slow) about 5 minutes later says… “hang on a minute, that could be useful later, you need to bookmark it”!

So then I am stuck in a scroll loop trying to find it again.

Except of course the algorithm has now been updated, and finding it again is not easy. I have to resort to searching for fragments of what I remember… whilst all the time my feed is off down another rabbit hole. (1980’s dance moves anyone).

So maybe here Grok can help, maybe this is the future of search and maybe this is also the future of searching knowledgebase at work, for employees, and in apps for customers… Ie if we know roughly what we are looking for and can describe it, it does the searching for us.

Sounds good, and undoubtedly a step improvement over the boolean search we have today… I suspect we will see this in every customer service app in the very near future and not a fancy, ‘added feature’ but something that will be just expected.

A different approach

And like the search engine, once this starts to happen it will also change the way we write too. Remember ‘keywords’ and ‘tags/labels’.

I suspect we will start to add or include content to make it more easily interpretable by AI/LLM too. (I have already started taking notes differently, in a longer form).

This whole area is still moving fast, developments fast to market and close to the consumer. This week alone.

Meta released Meta.AI (not in the UK yet) and much like GROK, they have the benefit of access to social media data, think Facebook/WhatsApp and Instagram public content… The difference however is Meta owns 3 of the 4 top social platforms… the reach is huge, and this will be worth watching too

And then in the background, we have Google, who this week released NotebookLM. It again uses data (uploaded by you) to inform and enhance your note-taking. More developments from the search engine giant.

So whilst the demise of the search engine has often been mentioned… maybe it is not quite the case. Increasingly it seems to be less a question of search engine OR AI (LLM), but AI AND search engine both in combination…

…. we await OpenAI and ChatGPT-5 any time soon.

Have a good week everyone.

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