Saturday, December 10

Trustees and education

We are advertising for more trustees at Home Start Hillingdon. Here’s one which went into the Women in Technology Group.

3 - Enthusiastic volunteer trustees required for Home-Start, the UK’s leading family support charity
Home-Start is the UK’s leading family support charity - they support families struggling to cope with young children who with serious problems such as mental illness, alcoholism etc. Home-Start train volunteers (who are themselves parents) who then work with social services, health, police, etc. to recover the family and avoid the children being put into care (each child in care costs up to £50,000) and Home-Start have managed to intervene in about 100 families per year over the last 12 years or so in Hillingdon. They have had a few trustee retirements recently and they would like to increase the number of trustees who have experience in fund raising. This is a high governance charity (since they work with children) and would appeal to people who want to gain board level experience of running a firm. They also have three MPs as their trustees and work closely with the local council. It would also ideally suit people who are within commuting distance of Hillingdon (north west London) as they hold their monthly meetings there and fund raising takes place in and around Hillingdon. In particular Home-Start Hillingdon would like to seriously increase the amount of technology they use - such as having revenue generating efforts through a web shop, having a better website, providing financial education to their families via mobile or e-learning, providing e-coaching, assisting the volunteers with knowledge sharing on the website, better Facebook/social media interaction etc. So somebody who has an interest in applying technology to assist and help fundraise would be ideal. Trustees can expect to spend around 12 hours a month on this rewarding role which enables much needed support for vulnerable families. For more information please contact Bhaskar Dasgupta, an existing Home-Start Hillingdon Trustee, on 07545 236 207 or Tanya Link, Office Manager at Home-Start Hillingdon, on 01895 252804 or

In other aspects relating to HSH, I had a nice meeting with LSE SIFE team and HSH Senior Coordinator and we agreed to push for more financial education training to our great volunteers and the families. We will do the first pilot run in Q1 2012 and then see how we can improve the offering. If it works out, it would be brilliant. The LSE SIFE team has been doing great, they have hooked up with Microsoft, did a great job in reviewing the current offerings for financial education out there and have got a full fledged team working on this. Good stuff chaps.

The background to this is important. The families which we help, are usually one step away from calamity and total disintegration. While the volunteers help in recovering these families, if we can give them some help with improving their financial condition, that would be brilliant. The kids wont have problems, well, not too many, but will be able to get the little bit extra. So I am very chuffed about this..

Good idea, ask for a referendum before raising taxes

First the story.

The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has announced that any local authority planning to increase council tax by 3.5% or more will be required to hold a referendum asking local people to endorse the move.

Pickles described the move as a radical extension of direct democracy, but it is also likely to deter many councils from risking the judgment of their council-tax-payers.

Now will this also be applied for other taxes such as income, petrol, VAT etc. etc. ? no? i didn't think so, you hypocritical morons, stop spending my money!

Friday, December 9

why being multi lingual helps in business?

Dear Son
Here is an interesting article on what banks are asking for in their new recruits into the private banking world. You should be considering what would be good for you. You are numerate and you are very personable. What you are missing out on is the multi-lingual aspect.
Being multilingual helps, son, it helps you have a broader appreciation of the world, know about other cultures, be able to understand others. More importantly, it helps you make more money and be more successful in business. So if you are considering improving yourself, have a think about trying to improve on your language skills. If nothing else, try to get your Hindi up to speed, its not difficult, we can all speak Hindi at home. You should also consider other languages such as Mandarin or Spanish. It will really help you to a considerable degree. I am not saying that you need to be an expert, you need to have conversational skills and at the most, be able to read a newspaper, that's enough for the requirements of business.
Have a think, Mamma has some basic Hindi books at home, perhaps we all can start on it? Do you think that will help?
Search for talent: Only the trilingual, numerate and personable need apply
By Elaine Moore
What skills make the perfect wealth manager?
Charm, certainly. Contacts, maybe. But as the private banking industry seeks to attract a new generation of clients across a wider map than ever before, a new set of talents is in demand.
Multilingual, personable graduates equally at ease discussing complex structured products and safe haven assets are needed by private banks to fill offices in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.
But finding the right recruits is not easy.
HSBC has increased the number of places on its graduate scheme in the last year, but requirements are tough.
Prospective hires must be proficient in at least three languages, have a strong academic background and a genuine enthusiasm for the financial world, says Charles Hoffman, managing director at HSBC Private Bank.
Those who make the grade are offered a four- to eight-week graduate programme, followed by three six-month rotations, during which they are seated with experienced private bankers who specialise in client relationship management, support functions or product development. At the end of the process the new recruits should be ready to take on their own clients.
Carol Costa joined the HSBC scheme from her home country of Brazil and is embedded in the London office on her first rotation.
She says the worldwide movement and opportunity to spend time with senior management is an amazing way to start a career, although the reality of training has differed from her expectations of instant glamour and client meetings.
The first month of technical instruction underlined the fact that a career in private banking requires knowledge of services and products, not just client relationship building.
And finding the people with the right mix of talents who can fulfil these roles can be hard. In search of fresh pools of talent many private banks have been increasingly turning to lateral hires.
Coutts, one of the UK’s oldest private banks, has launched a pilot programme aimed at employees in different areas of the financial industry as well as its own staff who understand the high net worth market and can be trained in its own platform and products to become private bankers.
The bank has been explicit about its hopes to drive up revenue in its overseas business by more than half in the next few years.
Along with much of the industry, it is hoping to expand its remit from conventional private banking to investment management, and has raised its minimum requirement for investable assets that clients must hold from £500,000 to £1m.
Seeking out those with a non-private banking background who may have the right relationship skills, or have experience in a particular area outside the world of wealth management, has been a success, says Elsa Critchley, head of HR at Coutts.
This is particularly the case in those markets where there is a wide shortage of quality private bankers, such as Asia.
In countries that lack a large pool of candidates from which to pick, other banks have been setting up schools to train graduates in the art of wealth management.
Credit Suisse runs its own corporate university with a business school in Singapore and Hong Kong. Citigroup has also run a wealth management associates programme at Citi Private Bank Asia Pacific since 2006 to funnel a pool of potential employees through its doors.
But the effort involved pays off, according to Paul Patterson, global head of trust at RBC Wealth Management, and goes beyond the individual’s contribution to the bank.
“Our experience is that our graduate trainees relate to, and become important advocates of, our corporate culture, which we see as a key differentiator in the market,” he says.
But smaller wealth managers without the resources to set up their own schools or schemes have had to take a more informal approach.
Société Générale Private Banking Hambros says it uses a variety of methods to find and develop wealth managers.
“Being a relatively small bank we do not have a formal structured graduate trainee scheme,” says Phil Mcilwraith, group commercial director. “Our approach is more informal, recruiting both experienced wealth managers and other individuals with the potential to succeed.”
This process allows managers to work with SGPB Hambros teams in different locations or in different parts of the organisation.
The scheme may be less formal, but the time the bank spends educating new recruits on its own product range is substantial, and reducing attrition is essential for schemes like this one to earn its keep.
The answer, according to some, is to ensure that graduates forge connections across the bank that will last beyond the specific time of the training scheme. In other words: mentors.
HSBC, for example, appoints mentors who are responsible for graduates throughout their rotations and can provide guidance, support and encouragement during and after the programme.
This year Coutts began a slightly different mentoring model. Its reverse mentoring scheme requires young members of the private bank, typically graduate trainees, to be allocated senior executives and tasked with educating them in the mysterious world of social networking, virals and trolls in a process that lasts between six months to a year.
The purpose is to help senior bank staff gain a better grip of the ways that young clients might communicate and interact – typically through technology – and to encourage new employees to make connections with established bankers.
Coutts says it plans to roll out the scheme across all of its offices.

Thursday, December 8

Avoid these three money mistakes

Dear Son
quite an interesting article, on investing mistakes that the chap made. Pretty straightforward but worth following.
MoneyWatch) Financial planner and New York Times blogger Carl Richards created a stir when he wrote How A Financial Pro Lost His House earlier this month. It was a gut wrenching true story of how he got caught up in the real estate bubble in Las Vegas and eventually lost his home via a short sale after the meltdown. It created quite the controversy in the financial planning community as planners debated whether he did a service to the public or hurt the reputation of the financial planning industry. I come down on the side that he did the right and courageous thing, since his willingness to share his experience gives us all the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I've written about some of my blunders before and have to tell you that this pro had no trouble coming up with my biggest three money mistakes. So I'll match my friend Carl and raise him by two blunders.

Gold was going to make me rich

I bought gold in the last gold bubble back in 1979 with the college graduation money I received from my parents. I've written about this blunder before, noting I was sure I was going to be rich. Fast forward 32 years and I haven't even kept up with inflation. Had I put that graduation money in the stock market, it would be worth ten times the amount the gold is worth today.
My only excuse was that, back in 1979, behavioral finance hadn't yet been invented and I didn't realize I was merely following the herd. In hindsight, I came to consider this my best investment ever. Certainly not because it was all that lucrative, but rather because it taught a freshly minted college graduate who was ready to take on the world that he wasn't as smart as he thought. Further, it was the defining event that made me into the indexer I am today.

I bought way too much house

Though Carl may have lost his house, I bought too much house. My wife and I left Aspen, Colorado in 2000 and moved to Colorado Springs. While the two are only 100 miles apart geographically, housing prices could not have been more different. Houses were less than a tenth of the price of glitzy Aspen and utilities were dirt cheap at the time.
I made the classic mistake of buying an enormous 6,000 square foot house with 20 foot ceilings for a family of three. I'd love to blame it on my wife, but the truth is that I was the one who fell in love with the house and drove the decision to buy it. Today, we are spending a fortune on utilities and maintenance for a house we would be lucky to fetch what we paid for it 11 years ago. The short-term pleasure I felt from owning the big house with the great view has long since passed. Anyone know where I could get a good price on replacing a rotting deck?
The lesson I learned is that even real estate is a risky investment and the cost of maintaining it takes away from the pleasure of having a lot of space with a great view. I underestimated the value of simplicity and now, with our son less than five years from heading off to college, wish we had chosen to buy a small tract home with maintenance provided by a homeowner's association.

I bought stuff rather than experiences

Ever since I was a kid I remember that if I spent money on something like a movie or a concert, it would soon be over and I'd have nothing to show for it except a memory. On the other hand, if I bought tangible stuff, I'd have it forever and be able to always enjoy it. It turns out that my logic was all wrong.
Life is about being happy and satisfied and all of the research shows that experiences have a far bigger impact on happiness than stuff. For a long time, I focused on the price tag and tended to skimp while on vacations or when attending a ball game or theater. I mean, it's the same game or play regardless of where you're sitting, right?
Today, I'm loosening up and starting to splurge a bit with some seats near the 50 yard line and having the family swim with the dolphins in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The latter is a memory all three of us will cherish for a long time and discuss fondly.
This last mistake is something that will take me a long time to improve on. I'm pre-progammed to accumulate money, which happens to make it difficult for me to actually spend it. Money is stored energy and I'm having a hard time using some of that energy I've worked so hard to accumulate. Yet I know I can't be buried with it.
Embrace your mistakes
If you think being a financial professional means you don't make money mistakes, think again. I applaud Carl Richards for being so upfront about how he lost his house and I have a long list of destructive money behaviors that often get the better of me.
It's easy to celebrate what we do right and even easier to blame others when something goes wrong. It's a lot harder to embrace mistakes, talk about them openly, and make changes going forward.
Warren Buffett is the world's most successful living investor and he seems to have no issues discussing his biggest blunders. Perhaps he is such a great investor because he owned up to and learned from his mistakes. If your financial pro has trouble coming up with his money mistakes, you may want to be be a bit concerned.

You do need to have a house always. A place to stay. Of course, you will always have a place to stay with us, son, but that's not really something that you might want to think as your permanent place of residence as you will have your wife and kids and and and. But you shouldn't speculate that much on houses, don't buy too big a house as then you have to maintain it and and and. Also remember, its for you to live in, not to show off to others. The day the others pay your bills, you can show off to them, but till then, tell them to bog off. Remember that Warren Buffet lives in a tiny house despite him being able to buy millions of them…

Gold is another interesting investment son, one should have some gold in hand in terms of the ultimate security, but to speculate on it? hmmm, not sure…And well, buying experiences is much better than stuff.

Wednesday, December 7

A Shi’i laments

I grew up in a Shia town, my wife is from a Shia town and I studied near another Shia town. So have some connections there. And now I am reading Persian. The Shia Sunni split is a deep deep one and instead of improving like the Protestant / Catholic one, its getting deeper and more dangerous. And yes, its primarily due to the Sunni intelligentsia on TV, the various madrassahs and more crucially, the common Sunni who generally seems to have this visceral hatred towards his brothers. You keep on hearing about Shia shrines and Sufi shrines being blown up and being vituperated against. (dont get me wrong, the Shia are no less in their discrimination, think about how they treat the Bahai, plus they do have a strong streak of victimisation and moaning but that’s not an excuse). I know, i know broad generalisation but what the heck.

One of my interests is Islamic Law (mainly in the Islamic Finance area) so I follow this chap. He is a very smart fellow, very erudite and writes powerfully but when I read this, I was taken aback. This was some powerful stuff. I quote:

It could be that I’m just too tired and jet lagged.  Or it could be the sheer exhaustion of having to deal, yet again, with the same exclusionary and alienating anti-Shiism that seems to flow almost naturally from the lips of all too many of my Arab brethren. Or it could be that I have to listen to all of it during our holiest times, when you’d think there would be an extra effort made at mutual respect and tolerance, rather than the reverse. But whatever it is, I’ve had it.  As an “other” in the Arab world (a Shi’i Arab) married to a different other (a Kurdish Iraqi) in that same world, I feel alienated and abandoned, and I have decided to give my frustrations voice.  There remains to us no place for the “others”, with or without an Arab spring. ….

You just have to assume for these purposes that Israel is horrible because it is a Jewish state that discriminates against Arabs, which is different than an Arab state that regards vast numbers of its own citizens as Persians and Persians as unfit for equal citizenship in their societies.  Make sense?  Of course not, so let’s move on.) …..

I suppose it is too much to expect much help from religious leaders when the general trends among educated and poorly educated, native and abroad alike, are so depressingly similarly bigoted.  But in any case it isn’t there.  Yusuf Qaradawi is more than happy to fan the flames of sectarian hatred for more television time, perfectly happy to abandon Bahrain’s Shi’a and talk seriously of democracy in Syria or Egypt.  He lies unchallenged, Yusuf says what the masses want to hear, and it’s pretty clear they want to hear this.  I used to regard his pronouncements with some detached bemusement, one day it’s okay to kill American soldiers in Iraq, the next it’s okay to be a Muslim American soldier in Afghanistan.  What day of the week is it?  I can tell you if it’s okay to kill Jewish children according to the Great Shaykh. It was a mistake to be so accommodating to Yusuf the shameless demagogue, his complete lack of scruples even as to human life deserved more criticism than I delivered.  A prostitute exercises more discrimination than Yusuf Qaradawi, with due apologies to the prostitutes for comparing them to such a detestable man…..

and then the closure was just straight.

But today is the day of Ashura, our sacred holy day, the day of the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, and after all that has occurred, and in great physical and psychic exhaustion, I wish to give license to my heart and not my head, for just this day, just this once, so you know how we,the others in the Arab midst, feel.  Here’s what I think today, or feel rather, straight from the heart.

Tyranny or democracy, it’s always the same in the Arab world.  You won’t accept us, you won’t even make an effort to see the world through our eyes.  You demand loyalty and offer no tolerance. You ask for support, and abandon us or are silent when our children our killed.  When you come to accept the others, and all the others, Jew and Christian, Shi’i and Druze, black and Berber, when you hear an insult as against a Shi’i on his holy day you take it as an insult to you, when you see a church bombed, you take it as a mosque bombed, when some modicum of mutual respect, honor and tolerance reaches or even just perceptibly registers somehow in civil discourse, penetrates even one tenth of a millimeter, give us all a call, we’d love to join in. Until then, go fuck yourselves.

Your faithful Persian,

I guess he wont be sending Christmas Cards to the Sunni Arabs then Smile. Happy Ashura…

Tuesday, December 6

Role of parents in your children’s education

Interesting op-ed here. I quote: #

“Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background. Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”

Schleicher explained to me that “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring. It is something every parent can do, no matter what their education level or social background.”

For instance, the PISA study revealed that “students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘every day or almost every day’ or ‘once or twice a week’ during the first year of primary school have markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘never or almost never’ or only ‘once or twice a month.’ On average, the score difference is 25 points, the equivalent of well over half a school year.”

Yes, students from more well-to-do households are more likely to have more involved parents. “However,” the PISA team found, “even when comparing students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, those students whose parents regularly read books to them when they were in the first year of primary school score 14 points higher, on average, than students whose parents did not.”

The kind of parental involvement matters, as well. “For example,” the PISA study noted, “on average, the score point difference in reading that is associated with parental involvement is largest when parents read a book with their child, when they talk about things they have done during the day, and when they tell stories to their children.” The score point difference is smallest when parental involvement takes the form of simply playing with their children.

So when you complain about me worrying about you, see what I mean?

Monday, December 5

You still need the 1% inspiration Son


here is an interesting article. Couple of things for you to note. Yes, innate intellectual ability helps in creating a patent, write a book, do a doctorate, etc. etc. But that isnt something that you can actually pick son. So dont worry about it that much. That said, there is much to be said about reading very widely. In this day and age, and going forward son, the ability to mix and match ideas from a variety of fields will be quite important, so read up on what others said and did. Remember what Bismarck, a very smart German fellow said, I have to be stupid to only learn from my own mistakes, I want to learn from other people’s mistakes. Reading helps you to understand other people’s inspiration and ideas.

Finally. practise practise and practise son. Remember the 7P theory. Proper Planning and Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Just because you have the native smarts doesnt mean you dont need to practise, you need both. See this article? 10,000 hours average practise by the time they are 20 means they are best players. Decide what you want to be the best at, have the native smarts and then devote hours of practise every day on that. If you want to be great at business or mathematics or economics, then put in the hours son, put in the hours.



Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters


HOW do people acquire high levels of skill in science, business, music, the arts and sports? This has long been a topic of intense debate in psychology.

Research in recent decades has shown that a big part of the answer is simply practice — and a lot of it. In a pioneering study, the Florida State University psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues asked violin students at a music academy to estimate the amount of time they had devoted to practice since they started playing. By age 20, the students whom the faculty nominated as the “best” players had accumulated an average of over 10,000 hours, compared with just under 8,000 hours for the “good” players and not even 5,000 hours for the least skilled.

Those findings have been enthusiastically championed, perhaps because of their meritocratic appeal: what seems to separate the great from the merely good is hard work, not intellectual ability. Summing up Mr. Ericsson’s research in his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell observes that practice isn’t “the thing you do once you’re good” but “the thing you do that makes you good.” He adds that intellectual ability — the trait that an I.Q. score reflects — turns out not to be that important. “Once someone has reached an I.Q. of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional I.Q. points doesn’t seem to translate into any measureable real-world advantage.”

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, restates this idea in his book “The Social Animal,” while Geoff Colvin, in his book “Talent Is Overrated,” adds that “I.Q. is a decent predictor of performance on an unfamiliar task, but once a person has been at a job for a few years, I.Q. predicts little or nothing about performance.”

But this isn’t quite the story that science tells. Research has shown that intellectual ability matters for success in many fields — and not just up to a point.

Exhibit A is a landmark study of intellectually precocious youths directed by the Vanderbilt University researchers David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow. They and their colleagues tracked the educational and occupational accomplishments of more than 2,000 people who as part of a youth talent search scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT by the age of 13. (Scores on the SAT correlate so highly with I.Q. that the psychologist Howard Gardner described it as a “thinly disguised” intelligence test.) The remarkable finding of their study is that, compared with the participants who were “only” in the 99.1 percentile for intellectual ability at age 12, those who were in the 99.9 percentile — the profoundly gifted — were between three and five times more likely to go on to earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work. A high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage.

In our own recent research, we have discovered that “working memory capacity,” a core component of intellectual ability, predicts success in a wide variety of complex activities. In one study, we assessed the practice habits of pianists and then gauged their working memory capacity, which is measured by having a person try to remember information (like a list of random digits) while performing another task. We then had the pianists sight read pieces of music without preparation.

Not surprisingly, there was a strong positive correlation between practice habits and sight-reading performance. In fact, the total amount of practice the pianists had accumulated in their piano careers accounted for nearly half of the performance differences across participants. But working memory capacity made a statistically significant contribution as well (about 7 percent, a medium-size effect). In other words, if you took two pianists with the same amount of practice, but different levels of working memory capacity, it’s likely that the one higher in working memory capacity would have performed considerably better on the sight-reading task.

It would be nice if intellectual ability and the capacities that underlie it were important for success only up to a point. In fact, it would be nice if they weren’t important at all, because research shows that those factors are highly stable across an individual’s life span. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

None of this is to deny the power of practice. Nor is it to say that it’s impossible for a person with an average I.Q. to, say, earn a Ph.D. in physics. It’s just unlikely, relatively speaking. Sometimes the story that science tells us isn’t the story we want to hear.

David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz are associate professors of psychology at Michigan State University and Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, respectively.

Sunday, December 4

You call this a budget, you muppets?

So lets see, you have agreed to an increase of 2.02% in the budget of the European Union where pretty much most of the countries will be seeing growth of less than 2% in 2012. So basically that’s government spending more than what they will generate. Nice one.

Then you cannot prove that your spending is good and proper with your auditors unable to sign off on your accounts for 14 years.

Then you have a shortfall of $200 which you cannot account for and need more money. What the hell is this?


And then to add insult to injury, the bureaucrats want to strike. Why?

Some 40,000 officials are embroiled in a dispute over plans to increase their working week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours, raise their retirement age from 58, and award a pay rise of 1.8 cent.

I would be lucky if I have a bloody 40 hour week, get to retire at 58 and have a frikking pay rise of 1.8%. Useless gits. Fire them all, appoint the hordes of unemployed. Ok ok, I know this isnt going to work, but stiff. Sheesh. And the threat is that if they go on strike, the machinery of the EU is going to grind to a halt. Oh! really? how will we know? They spend their time worrying about if water can stop dehydration or not. Or actually, perhaps they should stop their work looking at the sheer mess they have made of the Euro.