That Friday feeling… on Thursday

Why is it that short weeks always feel longer than longer ones? It never ceases to amaze me, and that was exactly what happened this last week, being the second bank holiday in May (in the UK).

I am not sure if it is the need to cram five days of work into four, or just because it is all too easy to slip into a mini holiday the weekend before, but that Monday feeling—of course, now a Tuesday feeling— is just that little bit more brutal as you struggle to get going again after the weekend.

Last week, all of this meant that by Thursday, it felt like Friday, and there was still a day to go!

Being Busy

Psychology this is interesting and it made me think about the dynamics between busy and non-busy periods.

I am not sure about you, but I actually find non-busy periods quite disconcerting. If they come straight after periods of intense work, even more so.

I felt this most strongly back at school when I started exams. You would revise like mad, doing all the research and examples, focused to ensure you could do your best in the exam (it never felt like it was enough mind you).

The exams would arrive… then done… they were over, euphoria—you made it.

However, like everything, this euphoria fades. Then one morning, you wake up and realise that with all the things that have taken over your life for the last six months no longer needing to be done, you are left somewhat in limbo. I used to kind of sit there wondering what to do next and what was the next thing to be done. I, at least, used to find this very disconcerting.

And, this is not limited to studying either; it is the same dynamics with big work projects, key deliverables, goals, or even job interviews too.

Being Not Busy

Lots of effort, delivery of the best output possible… then a period of what feels like ‘tumbleweed’.

Mention this to anyone, at best you will get an ‘enjoy the time’, but more likely ‘here are some things I need you to do’ and not much sympathy.

In today’s world being busy is seen as a good thing, we all like to say we are busy, it is ‘a good problem to have’! Not being busy can be anxiety-inducing.

These days it is all too easy to fill your time and be more busy; let’s face it, we can always find more to do. Filling the day is also very comforting. It stops that disconcerting feeling in its tracks with a quick ‘at least I am busy’ refrain.

Yet as hard as it is to admit, and even harder to do, these non-busy periods can be important.

Doing something different

They are a time when you naturally, are able to reflect, pick yourself up, wonder, and decide what to do next. After all the real question we should be asking is, ‘are the tasks I am doing adding the most value or building to more value long term’ for my objectives? If not, am I doing the right thing?

If we just keep doing what we always do, we never do anything different, and being just busy can make it hard to break out of this pattern.

So despite a ‘busy’ week last week, maybe next week it is time for a little self-reflection… to pick ourselves up, reprioritise, and refocus before it all starts again.

Have a good week everyone.

[And good luck to all with exams at the moment!]

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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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