The posting place for news and opinions of BrightPool, a specialist recruitment consultancy.
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U(S) could be debt free within two years!

Everyone is gearing up for the implementation of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act… and for very good reason.

FATCA requires banks to report the financial holdings of any US National with funds in excess of $50,000 held by the Bank or Fund (essentially so that the US government can find out about any US Citizen who is avoiding tax by not declaring their overseas assets).

The financial penalty for not complying with this Act would be the US Government retaining 30% of the Financial Assets in America of the Bank or Fund in question.  This is in addition to the law already in place whereby US citizens are currently obliged to report any holding of $10,000 or more outside of the US (though, clearly many US citizens are failing to comply with this).

Whilst every Institution should know the nationality of their account holders through KYC, this will still be a huge administrative and reporting headache for all concerned.

Despite the regulatory and reporting nightmare that Institutions are going to have to contend with through FATCA, I do understand (and in a way, sympathise with) the rationale behind the Act…..  it has been reported that if all of the tax due on all US citizens’ income was paid (without the use of avoidance schemes), the US would be debt free within 2 years… So it is argued that there is a sizeable, unreported amount of money held in offshore funds.

But will the rest of the financial world fall in line with the requirements of FATCA? Or will this push US citizens to hold their money in countries (outside of the regular financial markets) with no financial ties to the US?

Jon Goodman is the Risk, Regulatory & Compliance Consultant for BrightPool.

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Payments at the touch of a button. Literally!

I read recently that if you are attending this year’s Wireless Festival in London you will be able to pay for food, drinks and merchandise with just a swipe of your wristband! Amazing!  This is thanks to the same technology that powers contactless debit cards and mobile phones.

Barclaycard are sponsoring the event and they will be issuing the PayBand, which can be loaded with money from your bank account at various points around the festival and it is hoped that this will be quicker and more secure than festival goers withdrawing cash from an ATM and carrying it with them.

The wristbands can be loaded with up to £250 and each payment will be limited to £20 per transaction. No PIN is required meaning making a payment will be quicker than the chip and PIN system.

Whilst this sounds very advanced and cutting edge and will undoubtedly be super-fast and efficient it did make me ask the question regarding the security of such a device? Personally speaking I am quite traditional and security conscious when it comes to my banking, it took me a long time to trust chip and pin! I’m not sure I would be happy to pay for my drinks by swiping my wristband.

Is having the technology to use our mobile phones and other devices to make payments or transfer money, without using a pin code, compromising our security? Would you feel comfortable paying for something in this way? Have you already used Barclays ‘Ping it’ for example?

I’m really interested to get your feedback on this.

Helen Storey is the Managing Consultant for BrightPool.

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I have recently seen an increase in the number of telephone calls and text messages I receive from agents trying to convince me that I have been mis-sold payment protection insurance and am due a big fat compensation cheque. Bizarre really when you consider I have never taken out any such policy. In fact, I class myself as rather fortunate that I have never had to make any complaints regarding the financial institutes I have selected to bank and purchase policies with.

The Financial Ombudsman Service recently reported that it had received over 1.2 million enquiries and complaints about financial products and services in 2011/2012. Of these initial enquiries more than one in five went on to become formal complaints, resulting in a record 264,375 new cases. This is a 28% jump in the number of cases that have been disputed in the past year. Disputes regarding the sale of PPI dominated the list with a total of 157,716 (60%). Meanwhile the number of insurance-related complaints (excluding PPI) jumped by 31%, driven mainly by grievances with motor insurance (up 26%), building insurance (up 31%) and contents insurance (up 23%).

The FSA have responded to this by introducing new rules in order to drive up standards within the industry. These include companies need to appoint a ‘head of complaints’ who shall be responsible for complaints handling and also the abolition of the ‘two-stage’ complaint handling rule to ensure that firms resolve complaints fairly and do not dismiss them the first time.

All of this is good news for the consumer and great to hear some of the issues being addressed. However, I think it is still vitally important to understand why so many complaints have been raised in the first place. The financial institutes all need to generate healthy profits to ensure that they are financially robust and provide returns for their shareholders, but is this at the expense of their customers? Is this another example of our ‘compensation culture’? Should tougher questions be asked regarding some of the more profitable policies? How do companies balance growth and profit with treating customers fairly?

As always, it would be great to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Mellissa Cox is the Senior Consultant for Financial Services at BrightPool.

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Banking reforms: less of an impact but more of a cost?

I mentioned in a previous blog that the number of new regulations affecting banks was rising at an unprecedented level (an average of 60 new pieces of regulation per day).

However, according to PwC’s Banking Banana Skins 2012 report (in association with the CSFI – where they polled 700 bankers, regulators and interested parties across 58 countries on their top 10 issues), concern about regulation has dropped from 3rd to 6th place. So despite the increase in the number of new regulations, it appears that banks are more comfortable working in a more heavily regulated environment.

However, the severity of the new regulations is having an impact on the value of the banks, with RBS CEO Stephen Hester stating in a speech on Wednesday evening: “The UK regulatory reforms on their own have probably cost £10-20 billion from our future market value” (or to be more precise, they’ve cost RBS’ shareholders… or the UK government – as it holds c. 80% of the shares).

The new regulations are pushing the UK banks towards improving their capital and liquidity and ring-fencing their retail banking operations. So although the banks are getting better at dealing with the regulations, the negative effect on their market value and the increased costs for the new teams of regulatory compliance staff appear to be taking their toll.

I would love to hear back from you regarding your views on the new regulatory landscape and its effect on UK Banks.

Jon Goodman is the Risk, Regulatory & Compliance Consultant for BrightPool.

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Trusted partner or necessary evil?

Having worked in recruitment for 10 years I have received lots of feedback along the way from candidates and clients in relation to their experiences with recruiters.

This feedback has been both positive and negative and almost always relates to the quality of service and the experience they had with both the person and ultimately the brand they work for.

Some may judge a recruiter on whether or not they secure a role for them. Others may judge a recruiter on their personality – do they get on well with them? I recently met with a candidate who secured a role through a recruitment consultant and vowed she would never use them again as a candidate or client; despite securing a role for her she had not enjoyed the experience and didn’t like how they made her feel.

Equally I have worked with clients who have worked with me as a candidate and even though I may not have secured a role for them they have still chosen to partner with me as they feel I offered them a good service – they know I treat candidates and clients equally.

I feel that BrightPool offers a quality service based on building solid relationships and partnering with clients and candidates through good times and bad. My view is that we provide a very important service supporting people to find work during very tough economic times.

Candidates come to us ultimately to find them a role, however in addition they receive advice and updates in relation to the market, support with compiling an effective CV, sector knowledge and expertise, the facility to widen their network and also the opportunity to highlight their own personal brand within the market place.  Clients use us to identify key talent within their sector quickly and effectively, they also use us to provide market insight – keeping them updated regarding any potential challenges along the way.

These ‘value add’ parts of our service are vital to ensure that candidates and clients have a positive experience when engaging with our business:

What makes a good recruiter to you?
How do they become a trusted partner?
Do you meet with a consultant and hope to build a long term relationship?
Or would you choose to apply for multiple roles with a variety of consultants regardless of who they work for?

I would really like to get your feedback on this, I know for a fact if you are reading this blog you will have an opinion so please share it with me!

Helen Storey is the Managing Consultant for BrightPool.

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FSA action: too much, too late, or just right?

After a few years of widespread public criticism of the FSA (over a number of topics…), it appears that the organisation has now found ways to gain headlines for different reasons.

These past few months have seen a number of significant fines being handed out. The FSA has just fined Coutts £12.5 million (with a 30% discount for early settlement – so only a mere £8.75m) for its failures in the screening of Politically Exposed Persons and stated that it was actively looking into the actions of other banks for similar compliance failings.

This – coupled with HSBC’s £10.5m fine in December and another Coutts fine in November 2011 of £6.3m – has led analysts to predict that there’s more to come.

Some of these cases have taken a few years to get to this stage (the November Coutts fine was for action prior to the credit crisis) and I agree that they need to firmly, and publicly, reprimand those who breach the regulations – as a deterrent to others.

But has the FSA managed to uncover the secret of the ‘Goldilocks effect’ in terms of the levels of fines?

Is it too much, too late, or just right??

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jon Goodman is the Risk, Regulatory & Compliance Consultant for BrightPool.

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We’re all going on a summer holiday!

It is officially 45 working days until I go on holiday to Spain – not that I’m counting!! And crikey do I feel like I deserve it. Most people’s daily working lives can be made up of increasingly long hours, demanding schedules, excessive workload and extensive travel. Therefore statutory annual leave is essential to ensure we are able to get that much needed respite from the pressures of work.

From an outsiders point of view, working as a contractor can put you in a privileged position. You will be earning a higher income than some of your permanent colleagues, removed from the internal politics and are able to balance your work diary to get a better work/life balance. However, with unemployment levels reaching a peak and gaps between assignments becoming longer, gone are the days where contractors can work during the winter and take the summer off – if indeed they ever existed! For many, it is critical to secure their next role with little or no gaps in between.

Contractors still have the same amount of pressure as permanent employees and need to deliver on current assignments. So if you are a professional contractor, when do you decide to take annual leave? What are the factors that will affect your decision to take time off?

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Mellissa Cox is the Senior Consultant for Financial Services at BrightPool.

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The latest recruit in recruitment!

My first months at BrightPool have been challenging and enjoyable in equal measure.

Having been taken on to work with Jay, Jon and James in the Financial Services team, my role is largely candidate-focused. I research market information and source high quality candidates to make the recruitment process faster and simpler.

My favourite part of each day is when I pick up the phone to a candidate to learn more about them – and find myself talking to someone whom it feels like I’ve known for a considerably longer time!

In order for the system to work I know that I have to ask the right questions; the process can be quite thorough and more often than not I find that people really open up about themselves and are equally interested in the BrightPool service offering. Once the details are done, I like to get a more human understanding of a candidate – about their day or weekend, or how they had considered calling their new daughter Hattie as happened the other day! This gives the day the little high points that make it both satisfying and motivating.

I have a lot of respect for the people I talk to and always get back to people as soon as is humanly possible -  this stems from my having gained an understanding of their careers, achievements and aspirations.  This understanding also improves the quality of the service we provide by allowing us to make excellent matches between candidates and roles.

It’s a good feeling coming off the phone having explained BrightPool to a candidate previously unfamiliar with us, and feeling that I’ve spread our name a bit further and started the foundations of a relationship with them.  I’m proud of the company and the team I represent, and I enjoy spreading the word!

Hattie Poole is the Financial Services Researcher at BrightPool.