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Chained to the system – why building another pillar of wealth is key to having the freedom of choice

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By Marcus de Maria, Founder of Investment Mastery.

 

For many of us, our lives are already mapped out from the get-go. Go to school, college, then potentially university, get a job and mortgage, whilst spending the rest of our lives paying it off to enable us to have a comfortable retirement.

This is the pathway we have been led to believe we should follow, and many do blindly follow, chained to their desks to pay their mortgage or bills, spending their disposable income to get a better car, bigger house, or enjoy a couple of weeks in the sun.

But for me, I wasn’t happy with this pathway. I didn’t want to be forever paying off a mortgage and saving for a few precious weeks of holiday each year. I wanted more.

Marcus de Maria

So, I took the plunge and started investing  – but fell hard and lost a lot of money. Why? The reason was I didn’t educate myself first. I didn’t have a strategy and I didn’t seek advice from others who had done it before me. Why do people go to university for 3-4 years, study to become a doctor or dentist for 5-7 years or an accountant for 4 years? Because training and education are essential, and the same can be said for the stock markets.

Once I had learned this (the hard way), I worked hard to educate myself and started building my own new pillars of wealth.

Investing isn’t a get-quick-rich scheme. For most, it is not an alternative to working or a reason to quit a lucrative career. It is quite simply another pillar of wealth that gives you the freedom to live a life of more choice. Investments will ripen over the years, and we advise starting as early as possible to ensure you have maximum funds for later in life, when children, ageing parents and retirement can all affect finances.

The other thing to remember when investing is the level of risk. We say you should never invest any more than you can afford to lose and to keep perspective, as markets are likely to go down as well as up. Investing alongside working in a secure job role is the best option, as you can then funnel small chunks of money into your portfolio each month.

 

Here are some tips to build a new pillar of wealth:

Where to invest – are you interested in stocks, precious metals, commodities or Cryptocurrencies? If stocks, which Stock are you entering and why? If Crypto, do you know enough in such an unregulated or volatile asset class? Is it on a technical basis where you like the chart pattern or a fundamental basis where you think the company has long-term growth potential?

 

What price to get in at – I prefer buying low, so I set an order in advance and allow the price of the Stock or Crypto to fall to my entry point. Sometimes I will wait weeks, even months, for this to happen. But I wait because those are the rules.

 

When to exit with a profit – I know in advance when I am exiting the trade or when to exit with a small loss. So, in order to ensure I am doing the right thing when the Stock is falling, I enter with an automatic order below my entry point, called a ‘Stop Loss’ or ‘Limit Sell Order’ in some cases, to minimise my losses.

 

How much to invest – this is part and parcel of keeping risk low. I ensure that by the time the stock price falls to my predetermined stop loss, I will only be risking 1% of my portfolio. So, if I have £10,000 to invest, I would only risk 1% or £100 on any one trade. It’s a mathematical equation EVERYONE should know before they start trading. Unfortunately, very few people know this equation, and even fewer utilise it.

For anyone wanting to secure their financial future, increase their pension pot or simply live a life of more choice, building another pillar of wealth is key. Get educated, keep the risk low and be prepared to be in it for the long term –  you may be surprised at the results!

 

Banking

Poor software testing puts banks at high risk of IT failures

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 Sune Engsig, VP Product at Leapwork

 

IT failures have plagued the banking industry for several years. From the TSB computer systems meltdown in 2018 costing the bank £330m and causing 80,000 customers to switch to a competitor, to Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland suffering an IT glitch on payday this year with customers’ faster payments and transfers being delayed.

Despite MPs calling for regulators to act, condemning the number of IT failures in the financial services sector as ‘unacceptable,’ the industry continues to let them happen leaving more and more irate customers locked out of their accounts. But with bank branches disappearing fast, customers are now far more reliant on online and mobile banking, so ensuring technology systems function correctly is paramount.  When you consider the complex compliance and regulatory setup of banks and other financial institutions, and the fact that they are dealing with incredibly sensitive customer information, those that do experience outages can face irreversible consequences such as loss of customer loyalty, severe reputational damage and regulatory fines.

A critical step in mitigating IT failures is having effective testing capabilities in place to find and fix any errors before new software is rolled out to market or new IT migrations take place. This lowers the risk of software failures and outages occurring after launch. Yet, 70% of software testers in banking and financial services think it’s acceptable to release software that hasn’t been properly tested, so long as it’s patched later, according to research by Leapwork. Furthermore, only 40% think software failures are a big risk to their company. But when the impact of an IT failure is so severe, why do banks still take risks?

 

Software testing challenges

Despite the swathes of software businesses now rely upon, 85% of software testing is still done manually. When it comes to the banking sector, as these institutions continue to develop new digitised products and services with increasingly sophisticated and customised software, it is clear that manual testing can no longer be the default. It is time-consuming, cannot scale amidst a skills crisis, and leaves companies open to human error.

There is a huge amount of pressure on IT teams to develop and release new software or manage new IT migrations. A critical step on this journey is having effective testing capabilities in place, like test automation, to find and fix any errors and bugs before new software is rolled out to market. This lowers the risk of outages and failures occurring after launch, which can negatively impact a company’s reputation and bottom line.

However, while some organisations recognise the value of automation tools, many continue to rely too heavily on code-dependant tools which, while an improvement on manual testing, are incredibly complicated to use and thus require specific skills and experience to operate. This means they too are impossible to scale, as they often depend upon developer skills.

 

Skills shortage forcing banks to take risks

Ensuring you undertake proper software testing seems like a no-brainer, but 40% of software goes to market without sufficient testing. The reason why; one in five (21%) of banking and financial services testers say ‘lack of available skilled developers.’ As companies transition from manual to automated testing, which typically requires coding skills, the major global developer skills shortage is creating bottlenecks, increasing costs and delaying project delivery times as development teams try to upskill manual testers, hire new talent or lean on existing developers.

As a result of the skills shortage, only 30% of testers in banking and financial services say they’re using some element of automation (i.e., an automation tool or a combination of manual and automation). In fact, 40% of CEOs across all industries think the fact that their company still relies on manual testing is the main reason why software isn’t tested properly, with 58% of testers in banking and financial services saying ‘underinvestment in test automation’ is the reason sufficient testing does not occur.

 

Testing issues not on CEOs’ agenda until too late

Across all sectors, 69% of CEOs think it’s acceptable to release software that hasn’t been properly tested, so long as it’s patched later, but 68% of testers claim their teams spend five to 10 days per year patching software. While nearly all testers express concern that insufficiently tested software is going to market, the overwhelming majority (75%) of CEOs say they’re confident their software is tested regularly. These numbers show a huge disconnect between CEOs and testers indicating that testing issues are falling under the radar and not being escalated until it’s too late.

 

Moving toward an automated future

Banking and financial services have been thought of as slow-moving and lacking innovation in the past. That isn’t the case anymore, as we’ve seen the industry take great strides towards digitalisation in recent years. However, with that digital transformation and integration of software comes outages, the consequences of which mean millions of pounds lost.

UK banks are at high risk of IT failures due to insufficient software testing, and a reliance on manual testing. On the current trajectory, more and more banks will struggle with failures and outages which could cost them a significant amount in financial and reputational damage. To minimise risk, they need to transition from manual to automated testing and explore testing options that don’t require coding skills so it’s easier to hire in talent or upskill existing team members, whether that be testers or everyday business users. Only then can they increase productivity and time to market while decreasing risk and costs.

 

 

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Business

Financial Services Makes Gains In Employee Engagement

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By Phil Chambers, GM Workday Peakon Employee Voice 

 

A new report shows that the financial services industry improved in almost all elements of employee engagement last year. Can such momentum be sustained?

After more than two years of change, one thing is certain: keeping workers engaged has become more challenging – and more urgent. Record numbers of workers have left their jobs in the UK. And, as turnover has increased, employee engagement – people’s mental and emotional investment in their work and workplace – has been tested. In today’s climate, engagement isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative – especially as companies with engaged employees are known to reap benefits including higher productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

The financial services industry hasn’t been immune from the so-called Great Reshuffle. But, according to Workday’s latest State of Engagement Report, it did make measurable gains in employee engagement during 2021. Of the 17 industries analysed, financial services’ engagement ranking jumped from ninth to fifth place.

The report analysed nearly 9 million employee responses from almost 2.5 million employees throughout 2021. It compared the engagement scores given by employees working in different industries over the 12-month period, as well as scores for the 14 drivers of engagement – including autonomy, goal setting, meaningful work, reward, and recognition.

Organisations in the financial services industry have been considered less   quick to evolve than others. PwC recently characterised insurance companies, for instance, as “traditionally risk-averse and slow to change”. But, as the report shows, financial services clearly made some improvements. It is noteworthy given the enduring pandemic-related economic turbulence of 2021 – and the fact that during that time global engagement scores overall slightly declined.

 

Where The Financial Services Industry Improved in Employee Engagement

Remarkably, the financial services industry saw increased rankings and scores in all but one of the 14 engagement drivers that the State of Engagement report measures.

Of all 17 industries analysed, financial services took top place for goal setting by the end of 2021 (up from sixth at the start of the year) and landed among the top three sectors for strategy and recognition too. These strong results indicate the industry provided clear direction to its people at both individual and organisational levels, and appropriately recognised employees when they met their goals.

The improvement in the industry’s overall engagement, however, was driven largely by a sizable increase in its environment driver score in 2021, suggesting that a significant number of employees responded positively to having more freedom around where they worked during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for financial services firms to offer flexible options at all. But, in 2021, more than ever before, many firms’ employees were working remotely or enjoying a hybrid of both remote and in-office work – as and when offices started to re-open. This unprecedented choice in where, how, and when they worked was appreciated, as the report indicates, by many workers in the sector.

 

Where There’s Room For Improvement

As the report found, many employees feel the amount of work they have is increasingly unmanageable. Workload continues to be a pain point across all industries globally, with workload satisfaction scores dipping slightly in 2021. At the end of the year, financial services received its lowest engagement-driver score for workload and ranked 11th among the 17 industries analysed.

This indicates employees in the financial services industry found their workload less manageable as the year progressed, which is perhaps unsurprising when considering the pandemic’s ongoing toll in many parts of the world, and the fact that remote working can lead to ‘always-on’ work lives.

To help mitigate burnout risk and diminished engagement going forward, financial services leaders and managers will need to stay close to their employees in the months ahead to find out how they can best support them, whether that’s with additional resources, greater work flexibility, or updated benefits. By regularly staying abreast of people’s needs and taking the necessary action, organisations can spot potential problems before they lead to resignations.

 

What The Industry Should Avoid Going Forward

In recent months, we’ve seen some financial institutions try to take a “return to normal” approach, requesting their people go back to working onsite five days a week. But, as the report shows, this approach may not be the best one for everyone, particularly as the past two years have revealed that many employees appreciate and benefit from a greater degree of flexibility.

Of course, not all organisations will be able to provide hybrid or remote arrangements for all their people. But greater flexibility doesn’t necessarily have to mean working remotely. It could mean more flexible scheduling options, or a shift in working hours to enable a greater work-life balance.

Either way, to retain the engagement gains achieved in 2021, the financial services industry should resist the temptation to look back, and must instead take learnings from the past two years. Amid so much economic and societal change, and with employees continuing to shift jobs in record numbers, companies cannot simply go back to before, but need to continue moving forward, listening to the needs of their people, and leading with empathy.

Specifically, leaders and managers in financial services will need to stay closer than ever to employee feedback, going beyond listening and working fast to implement change accordingly.

For the industry to continue making positive gains in employee engagement, it will need to: consider how to retain a degree of flexibility – updating models to reflect evolving employee needs; continue to provide clear individual and organisational direction to those working remotely and on site; create and maintain more manageable workloads through prioritisation and automating repetitive tasks; and continue to reward and recognise employees for their hard work and achievements.

While great strides were made last year, it’s more important now than ever that leaders in the financial services industry determine and understand how employees are feeling so that organisations can explore and shape a future of work that works for everyone.

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