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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Would you dare ‘wing it’ for a Financial Services job interview?!

I recently completed a 10km run to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. By the end I was pretty exhausted but did actually feel I could have done more! I had done quite a lot of preparation for this run which I do think helped a great deal, I didn’t just want to turn up on the day and just ‘wing it’!! Preparation is key as they say!

I believe this is the same for job interviews, especially within the Financial Services contract and permanent market.  For me preparation is imperative.  I have often wondered about the success of candidates who just ‘wing it’ against the success of those that do actually prepare?  If I had turned up at my race unprepared I would definitely not have made it to the finish line!

My take on the current Financial Services market is that many interviews tend to have a competency based element and some candidates have been unfamiliar with this style. If you practice, this really does make perfect (or as close to it as possible). Gone are the days when your CV does all the talking, your prospective employer wants to know how you present yourself and how you convey your experience.

From my experience, those candidates that I know have prepared for interviews have always fared well in the process and have received positive feedback. I often offer my Financial Services candidates support and guidance in how to prepare for an interview, it is merely just a case of reminding them about the basics:

1. Fully understanding the role specification – if there is anything you don’t understand then do your best to find out what you can.

2. Understanding the format of the interview – is it competency based or more discussion based? Are there any tests involved?

3. Finding out what you can about your interviewers – it’s always worth a peek on the internet.

4. Finding out about the organisation and team specifically – do you know anyone else that has worked there?

5. Finding the location of the interview – it’s never good to be late if you haven’t decided on mode of transport and found the exact location beforehand.

6. Preparing your own questions to ask your interviewers – you need to leave the interview feeling you know as much as you need to about the role in order to make an informed decision.

7. Doing a mock interview with someone – you may feel silly but it will get you in to the swing of actually discussing your background and conveying your answers succinctly.

What do you think are the key drivers for a successful interview? What have you done specifically to make sure you are best positioned to perform well on the day? And who of you reading this can say they have turned up at an interview unprepared and have still been successful?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Natalie Fennell is the Financial Services Account Manager at BrightPool.

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Please join the BrightPool linkedin group!

The BrightPool linkedin group is two and a half years old and currently stands at over 500 members.

It contains the latest thought  leadership from Financial Services professionals such as yourself, news stories, sector specific subgroups, polls, jobs and blogs from each BrightPool consultant.

Having all these different streams of information in one place has meant the group is active, interesting, growing quickly and requiring your membership if we do not have so already.

We’d also encourage you to invite your relevant connections to join as well. You can do so by clicking ’share group’ in the top right hand corner of the screen once your membership has been approved.

Please join the BrightPool linkedin group by clicking here.

If you have any further social media or website enquiries please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Thomas Bridge is the Marketing Manager for BrightPool.

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How far is a Financial Services contractor willing to go?!

I recently conducted a Poll to try and ascertain how far people are willing to travel to work. This was because on that day I met with a contractor who said that even one day’s travel every other week  to an office that was 80 miles away was too much. The other nine days of those two weeks would have been at an office only a few miles from their home. Perhaps I am naïve to this level of inflexibility as I assume (probably wrongly) that contractors are willing to travel (even one day every two weeks). After all, contactors do generally get paid a higher rate than their counterpart permanant employees and in return I thought contractors offered flexibility to earn this rate.

The poll indicated that a majority of people (40%) would stay near to the location of the role. Therefore they may have a long journey at the start and end of the week but there is minimal travel in between.  32% said they would travel up to 50 miles to work which seems a reasonable distance to travel as part of a daily routine.  I was completely surprised that not one person voted for working from home with some travel. Is this not the ideal? Or do we like being in the office and interacting with our fellow counterparts in person?

There are other factors that come in to play here too – length of journey can be split in time versus distance. In Yorkshire it may take an hour to travel 50 miles but in central London it may take an hour to travel just two!

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you feel that travel within a role is the norm or would you only look for options that provide you with 100% of your time closer to home? I completely understand that everyone is different and has different priorities – whether they are contractors or permanent employees -  but I am keen to hear your opinion.

How far are you willing to go?

Natalie Fennell is the Financial Services Account Manager at BrightPool.

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Who moved my cheese?!

I met with a Client this month following a hugely successful programme launching a new digital banking proposition. This proposition has had the most compliments of any new service launched in this bank, and equally as impressive – the fewest number of complaints. This interested me for a few different reasons as I wondered how they’d achieved this feat. The Client’s answer; the key to everything is customer communication – something which according to my contact is not managed as well as it should be. He believes that all projects should start with the customer and work backwards, which to me was refreshing.

It’s worth thinking about a bit further… Think back for example – have you ever logged onto your internet banking account to make a payment and hey presto, the entire interface looks completely different? Then three days later you receive a letter telling you about the ‘exciting changes’ taking place (future tense)? I know I certainly have and it’s frustrating as you feel like you have to learn how to use the system all over again. Well on this programme, the main goal was to maximise customer satisfaction so the IT was led from the customer side of change all the way through. This involved asking customers what they wanted, and then updating them throughout the design, testing and implementation phases right the way up to launch. The communication with customer was as important, if not more important that the product/service itself. The result? Happy customers! It all seems a bit obvious but judging by my last experience, the first I had heard about the changes to my online banking services was after it had happened.

I asked the Client what the inspiration was for the way he led this programme and his answer was ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’ (a book by Dr Spencer Johnson). This is generally applied to managing people within an organisation but he mentioned that its application was equally as appropriate externally for customers. The conclusion of the book is that if you manage change effectively and get people ‘ready for change’ they will embrace it. Put simply the book says:

* Change happens, be ready for it (tell customers what you intend to do)
* Get ready for the change (prepare customers for the likely timelines and new features as early as possible)
* Monitor change (tell customers about where you are in development and get them counting down to go-live)
* Adapt to change quickly (don’t parallel run – just do it and this will mean that customers will embrace it quickly)
* And the end result will be that Customers will enjoy the change!

Change is never easy but absolutely essential to keep ahead of the game… Have you come across any interesting/unusual approaches such as this in your programmes? I’d love to hear your experiences!

James O’Loughlin is the Managing Consultant, Retail Banking for BrightPool.

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To be (insured) or not be (insured)?

I am getting married this year!! And in case you are one of the few rare people that did not know this, let me tell you it is fast approaching. You will all be glad to hear that the preparations are coming along very nicely and things seem to be going according to plan. However, after chatting to a friend who recently got married herself, I was thrown an unexpected curveball which was not identified in my project plan. Wedding insurance! I did not even know such a thing exists. Typically wedding insurance covers all aspects of the wedding and policies cover vendors letting you down, wedding dresses, rings and gifts going missing and even the cancellation or postponement of the wedding. After a quick survey with my friends who are already married, I must admit I did not know whether to purchase this insurance or not. Surely my careful selection of vendors – and husband – and precision planning means nothing can go wrong on the day and therefore this is just another unnecessary cost?

So I found it interesting to read an article from consumer champion Which? who have recently identified a list of insurance products that deliver poor outcomes and could potentially waste our money. The list included an abundance of products from extended warranties, Payment Protection Insurance, over 50s plans and water pipe insurance. I was particularly surprised that selected in the list was mobile phone insurance. Handsets have developed significantly over the last five years and are now extremely valuable pieces of technology that can cost up to £500. I personally would not dream of going without mobile phone insurance. However the report suggests that the cost of mobile phone insurance is very expensive, costing up to £180 a year and that consumers would be best placed putting their mobile phones on your home insurance as it provides the same cover.

Having spoken to a few people about the insurance products that they’ve purchased people can go from one extreme to another, some being insured for any and every eventuality that may occur and others that do not even have home insurance. What do you think are the essential insurances that you could not go without? Are financial firms dreaming up too many new ways to sell insurance products that no one wants or needs? Should we as consumers be more savvy and investigate whether some of these insurance products can be covered in existing policies?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.

Personally speaking, I feel that insurance is essential when it comes to protecting your health and expensive purchases. So, yes I have now bought wedding insurance. Let’s hope I do not have to make a claim.

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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How do we get this relationship back on track?

A little while ago I read an interesting article, which highlighted the problem of lack of trust between general insurers and their customers.  He suggested regulatory and legislative changes and slow speed of settlement may have contributed to customers’ loss of confidence in insurers.

The increasing frequency of injury claims (motor insurance injury claims have increased by 70% in the last six years, despite a 23% drop in casualties caused by road accidents) and the increasing  incidence of insurance fraud (a 10% increase in 2010-2011 according to the ABI) are most likely contribute to insurers’ loss of trust in customers.  Indeed, a recent study by Axa concluded that insurance is seen as a ‘soft target’ for people struggling for extra cash during times of austerity.

The article notes that improving this relationship is critical to assuring long term profitability.  But how to do that? Cuddly meerkats all round?

A paper by PWC published in January suggests that power lies with customers, who will increasingly expect simplicity and transparency.  PWC expect that insurers will react with innovative products that specifically match their customers’ needs.  Further investment in mobile and interactive technology will deliver speed of service and mobility .  Will this go some way to improving the relationship?  How will customers react, and will their reaction instil confidence in insurers?

I’d be interested to hear what you think!

Hattie Poole is the Insurance Consultant at BrightPool.

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Would you consider an assignment in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland?

I’m assuming the answer is probably yes, what with quick and cheap flights at the start and end of the week being similar to any commute that involves the M25, M6 or M1.

Up until now, the selection criteria for BrightPool candidates – determining which assignments you choose to receive by email – has contained just UK regions and one titled ‘International’.

This would pose a problem for any assignment we wish to advertise in the Republic of Ireland for example. It’s international, but certainly not the same as commuting to somewhere say in mainland Europe.

To correct this anomoly, we’ve added a ‘Northern Ireland’ tickbox to the UK selection criteria and a ‘Republic of Ireland’ tickbox to the International criteria. So people who are willing to work on the Emerald Isle – but not East Istanbul – are now  catered for!

As BrightPool grows we aim to add more regions to the ‘International’ locations section and we’ll make you aware each time we do.

If you’d like to be informed of contract assignments in either Northern or the Republic of Ireland, please log in to you candidate account and edit your location preferences by clicking here:

Thomas Bridge is the Marketing Manager for BrightPool.