Complex teachings

With the weather now greatly improved, I was reminded this week of the seemingly long summers of my youth, during the last weeks of term.

I remember looking longingly out of the window at the time, a blue sky and vibrant green grass, whilst all the while I was inside sweating over quadratic equations, complex numbers, or something similar.

However, this got me thinking about teaching and how we value it.

At the time some of the skills we learn don’t seem to ever likely be useful, let alone practical… then later in life, we find they actually are. (yes even algebra and complex numbers)!

These days of the internet we can learn so much in a self-directed manner, often for free and it really is amazing.

However, I was struck on how there is still really enormous value in teaching and in having good teachers.

The value in a teacher isn’t just telling you the facts, but (and even more so these days) the fact that they know more than you.

They can see beyond what you know, to things you don’t yet understand, and the reason why things are important. A guiding hand on what to learn, why, and how to learn it. They can create belief in yourself and an ability to stretch yourself further to be better than you thought possible.

The same is true for your peer group, friends, and colleagues at work too.

Knowing more, setting higher expectations can actually create more belief. Leveraging each other we can do more and help each other to achieve more and be better and smarter in what we do… it really can be additive, rather than competitive… something than can get easily lost, but we need to remember these days… just look at what happened in the last week

Dear CEO letter

The FCA released its ‘Dear CEO’ letter, basically laying down the law for financial services firms, in they are going to be expected to “pick up the slack” and look after their customers in financial difficulty through this cost of living crisis.

Certainly, lots of financial services firms have been doing this already. However, I also read this as a coded “shot across the bow” for those that may think twice, to say “the good times are over and you are expected to step up”.

This together with “you are have all read the new consumer duty (due April 2023) and have had plenty of time to implement changes… it is going to arrive and you better be ready, we will enforce it”…

… time to double-check we are ready for sure.

Fuel price cap increases

Last night, I sat bolt upright in my chair last night seeing Martin Lewis’s tweet informing me of the latest status of the energy price cap in the UK.

Bearing in mind my fuel bill already seems to have gone up by 30-40% in the last year… we are apparently due a further 50% increase in October.

Just got latest @CornwallInsight price cap predictions. Wholesale prices spiked heavily last week, so they’re up a lot Today’s price cap: At typical use = £1,971/yr Prediction Oct – Dec: UP 51% (£2,980/yr typical use) Prediction Jan – Mar: UP 1% (£3,000/yr typical use)

Now, £3,000 a year on an average income of £31,000 is getting close to 10% of income on fuel. With increasing food costs (£4,500) and interest rates there is not going to be much left over for many folks.

Likely impacts over the summer and increasing into the autumn, we are now looking at… yikes

  • Less disposable income – undoubtedly
  • Economic slow down or recession in UK – highly likely
  • Reduced levels of borrowing – likely
  • Slow down or collapse in the housing market – probably (slow down already started in some areas)
  • Increasing arrears levels in collections for financial services – I think so

It is really starting to feel like the back end of the year is going to be even more chaotic… again worth getting ready now while we still can.

A new consumer credit act and BNPL changes

Finally, new affordability checks for Buy-Now-Pay-Later transactions, together with bringing these firms under the regulation of the FCA were finally been reported this week.

Obviously, most of us think this is a good thing… it has been long discussed and expected for a while.

Under plans set out by the government today it confirmed that lenders will be required to carry out affordability checks, ensuring loans are affordable for consumers, and will amend financial promotion rules to ensure Buy-Now Pay-Later advertisements are fair, clear, and not misleading. Lenders offering the product will need to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and borrowers will also be able to take a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

However, what was also reported was the reform of the consumer credit act.

This piece of legislation governs the vast majority of consumer lending in the UK… any change could be a big deal and something to watch very closely. It is due to finish consultation at the end of the year.

… unfortunately, with everything going on it seems we may not be able to stare out the window as much this year either too.

Have a good rest of the week everyone…

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Platinum arrangements

Last weekend was of course the Platinum Jubilee in the UK. For those of you not here, there were lots of festivities, sausage rolls, and cake, but amongst this wave of activity, there was also something else rather nice going on. People meeting people.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a very transactional world, even more so with remote working, rushing about trying to meet one deadline or another.

This last weekend, being 4 days, this seemed to somewhat stop again. It was nice to spend some time on a local level, chatting, having a laugh and spending time with friends and neighbours.

As we embark on this weekend, it is something to remember maybe?

And, with all that is going on the news, other items seem to be getting lost. The cost of living crisis and proposed energy rebate was announced did not really seem to be talked about much, as of yet at least.

To remind you, most of us, who are electricity customers (>6months), are going to get a £400 credit applied directly to our accounts in October.

You may think this is a nice little windfall, although it of course will only offset what will likely be another steep hike in the energy price cap in October (for which my energy supplier seems to have already taken preemptive action – doubling direct debit payments, despite it being summer, not needing the lights on, let alone the tumble dryer (what is wrong with the washing line)).

But, more specifically, how will credit work for customers already in arrears, many of whom may also be in financial difficulty?

Now there is an additional £650 payment to support the most vulnerable, with extra winter fuel allowances also being considered, but you may already have a balance outstanding or be on a payment plan – what will happen?

If the credit is merely applied to the account, the balance will simply be applied to the oldest outstanding balance first. The balance will be paid off faster, practically resulting in customers being just less in arrears (with a probably boost for reduced write-offs at a business level too).

Now, this is not to say this is not positive. The money still needs to be paid back at some point and it is financial support.

However, in terms of short-term help for a short-term cost of living crisis, it will hardly touch the sides in terms of immediate help. To do so will require the recast and adjustment of reduced payment plans.

Is this something that will need to put in place to help and will it be? Maybe it is already under discussion, to pass this along to the customer, however expect more to come on this as we start to near the back end of year.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Sundae desserts – some critical thinking

I had an interesting discussion this week on the role of criticism.

Most of us accept that some criticism is part of life. After all a bit of constructive criticism, and making a few mistakes, allows us to be better next time.

It lets us know we need to improve, where to focus, and is most likely the fastest way to get there too.

All very logical and rational. The right thing to say, right?

But, let’s be honest for a minute… do any of us really like being criticised? Do any of us really like giving criticism, especially if it hurts people? Most of us find it much harder than we admit… we are after all social animals, and not fitting in hurts.

There is a fly in my soup

There is of course some validity to this hesitation to complain… upsetting the chef in a restaurant, for example, may not be the best idea right before they are about to provide you your meal?

But logically… why would they get ever upset if the constructive criticism helps them get better?

Of course having poured your heart into making a meal, completing a project, and overcoming significant obstacles to get there, any criticism can always be hard to take… what do they know, they may not even know how to cook!

What is your threshold?

And, if you are doing the criticising… is there, or should there be, a threshold to a complaint… when do I send the food back and make a scene vs not. When should I just grumble under my breath never to eat there again!

In the case of shockingly poor service, interestingly it is the complaint actually lets them know something is wrong, affording an opportunity to recover. In the case of the mediocre service, the silent grumble, business just melts away never to return… in the end who is better off?

A moaning manifesto

So this week I am proposing a manifesto for moaning or at least some rules for healthy complaining.

  1. Everyone has the right to complain, just like everyone has the right to an opinion
  2. Complaining should be easy, make it quick and easy to give and receive feedback
  3. Don’t blame the team, individuals, or company for getting it wrong. It is about focusing to improve, looking forward not back
  4. Be specific and objective in any feedback. Support and suggest ideas to help
  5. Act on feedback, it is after all an opportunity to recover and engage customers
  6. Just because you complain, it doesn’t make you right. You are not wrong, but may not fully understand the complexities or frequency of the event
  7. Remain humble, constructive and rest assured your opinion is valued

Easy to say, hard to do? Maybe… but off to give it a whirl.

Have a good week everyone

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment