Tag Archives: Economics

The problem with INTEGRATION

[PART I]

 

Our view on the fundamental problem with integration is that the word does not contain the 4Cs of essential successful outcomes:

  • Communication
  • Change Management effort
  • Control and Coordination
backdrop-blue-technology-gear
 
Effective COMMUNICATION strategies and plans
 
We know the word good or effective communication is banded around quite frequently, however, this brief analysis of the process will hopefully highlight the challenge we see in effectively communication the change effort required in order to lead to a successful Integration project.
  1. Communication is multi-dimensional
  2. Communication is multi-channel
  3. Communication is a two way (one to one) or one to many process
  4. Communication requires time, an action plan and monitoring and control
  5. Communication requires a feedback loop mechanism to measure outcomes
The list above is by no means exhaustive, however, in the next article in this series, we will focus on each element of the communication process in turn.
Change Management effort
 
In the animal kingdom, if you stand still for too long, the chances are that some predator or other will catch and consume you. In organisational life the same principles apply.  Those who accept the Status Quo for too long will become endangered and their organisations will suffer.  So, with change so endemic in organisational life, why are we still so bad at managing overall Change Management effort and process?
Even when we put Change Management front and centre in the INTEGRATION process; why does it still depend on a coin toss as to the likelihood of a successful outcome?
We believe that part of the answer lies in a fundamental misalignment and misunderstanding of ‘COMPETING PRIORITIES‘.
priorities
And this comes back to the communication processes and strategies deploy in the first place.
If we do not communicate what and why the urgencies exist and what the critical drivers for and against change are; do we believe we have any hope of a positive outcome?
People in organisations are generally very busy.  They consume, process, create, oversee, manage, do, etc., etc. a lot of information and tasks, constantly shifting priorities in an ocean of decision making and information flows.
If any Change effort and Change Management specialist does not understand and compensate for this factor, is it any wonder that INTEGRATION and Change Management efforts are less than optimal?
Control and Coordination
 
Like any process, control of the process itself and coordination and monitoring of the effort (resources deployed) is an essential part of driving the INTEGRATION agenda forward.
Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is a useful guide in this area of control and coordination.  The two words, however, do not mean the same outcome will be achieved in the end.
2000px-PDCA_Cycle.svg
A clear distinction needs to be made between Efficiency and Effectiveness when controlling and coordinating INTEGRATION projects.
We have all heard the ‘busy fools’ analogy and if not, we have to guard against efficiently doing the wrong thing.  Sometimes decision-making is carried out in an environment where information is lacking and if the ‘gut feel’ is not followed in favour of imperfect information, then sub-optimal decisions can be perpetuated by continuing to justify the original decision point.
We are reminded here of a phrase in a stanza from Felix Dennis’ poem, ‘How to Get Rich':
 “Never be late 
to quit or cut bait
 
CutBait-home-page-2014
In our next article on the topic of INTEGRATION management, we will continue the conversation regarding COMMUNICATION and continue to delve down deeper into analysis and commentary on the 4Cs of the Integration effort, namely

Communication

Change Management effort

Control and Coordination 

 ….to be continued in part II
(c)theMarketSoul 2015

Expectations: Mis-sold

We are picking up on a theme we have been experiencing and confirmed by this HBR article  published in 2012:

Job and Career seeker’s unfulfilled EXPECTATIONS

 

The word expectation has several meanings, amongst them words like hope, belief, prospect and even probability.  It is interesting that if you were to consider these four other words it is almost a continuum, stretching from the vague hope frontier and uncertainty right through to probability which is calculus driven and at least more certain statistically then mere hope…

However, the real focus of our analysis today is the mis-sold or rather mis-aligned expectations gap.

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Factors driving the Expectation Gap in our opinion include:

We will begin to unpick each one of these factors or drivers (reasons why) in a multi-part series of articles to see how, why and if we can help ‘plug the Expectations Gap’.

Today we will begin to briefly cover the top item on our list:

Economic principle of creative destruction - joseph schumpeter

Disruptive Technologies versus Organisational Structure and Strategies

Agile and Adaptive seem to be the new buzzwords in the corporate planning landscape and lexicon.  But how do we change entrenched processes and ways of working to align to an agile and adaptive mindset?

Let us turn to certain inhibitors first.  Processes like preferred supplier lists, supply chain or other framework procurement agreements, Service Level Agreements and other longer-term contractual arrangement all help create the illusion of certainty and stability; yet are they?  Sometimes this flies in the face of agile and adaptive planning and operational processes.

Maybe the gap exists between a process reality and a mindset aspiration.  Flexible organisational structures, including resource pools like labour still have a long way to “move” in order to create the conditions in which agile planning and aligned to adaptive process realities.

How are our own personal aspirations and understanding of the current market aligned to the Shamrock Organisation mindset?

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theMarketSoul ©2015

Moral Hazard PLUS – Part 2

Part 2 – Revelations
 Moral Hazard symbol utilized by theMarketSoul
In part 1 of this article we focused on the economic cycles and the underlying drivers for future Moral Hazard risks.
In today’s edition we will dwell a little on the revelations 2014 brought about in a series of disclosures and financial regulatory deals concluded.  As Tony Robinson put is so eloquently in a recent Twitter feed:  “In 2014 £1.4bn in financial penalties were paid by UK financial institutions. whenever has a legitimate industry acted so lawlessly?

 

Image used to convey the idea of currency conv...
Image credit: Wikipedia

 

What we notice is that only the financial institutions (and consequently their customers) bore the fines, no individual has yet been brought to justice and account for the near fatal financial collapse he 2008/9 Financial Crunch brought about.  Yes, individual traders who acted recklessly and outside of the bounds of their remits within financial organisations have been brought to account, however, the scale and ferocity of the collusion by Forex traders, the Libor scandal, PPI mis-selling, etc., etc., has yet to yield individuals sanctioned and barred for ever acting as officers and employees of these large financial institutions.  Do the regulators and law enforcers and criminal justice system believe that the market will be protected by not taking appropriate action?  The longer we leave punishment and sanctions off the agenda, the more urgent the growing threat for Moral Hazard PLUS will be.
Therefore, we have now had and will no doubt continue to have revelations drip fed to the consumer masses, but more importantly will we take the necessary steps to mitigate individual Moral Hazard risk, as a lot has already been done to tighten and improve regulation at the institutional level?
This is the biggest and most burning question we believe drives Moral Hazard PLUS today and not the near term future.
In the concluding part of this article we will wrap things up by concentrating on large scale corruption and unpunished collusion that fester and provide fertile soil for Moral Hazard PLUS to continue to grow and exist.
© theMarketSoul 2015

Thoughts on 2014 – Moral Hazard PLUS – Part 1

Reflections on 2014

As a behaviourally focused economics publication we have been very quiet and inactive during 2014. A year of reflection and introspection, however, we are ready to resume service, with vigour. And what better way to start than with a reflective piece and thoughts on the biggest risk we believe are developing under the surface without warning. Our concluding theme of 2014 is that of moral hazard.

As Margaret Thatcher once said: “There is no society”; we state today that there is ‘No Moral Hazard'; in fact there is only Moral Hazard PLUS.

We believe that there is a strong correlation between QE (Quantitative Easing) and economic moral hazard developing a new strain, mutating like an unseen virus.

QE might have saved the financial system of the developed world, but it it only provided a shot in the arm and acted as a stimulus for sustaining moral hazard.

Economics follow a flow and cyclical pattern, as discussed in our article entitled ‘Information Age Irony‘. These patterns and flows weave themselves into the fabric of our lives and affect individual economies in different ways.

It is important to understand where and how economic cycles develop and flow and how much influence they have on our general economic activities on a day to day basis, but we should not become overly obsessed by them, as they can be short-circuited from time to time by policy and policy-maker’s actions, wherever individually or collectively.

In part 2 of this article we will focus on the revelations of QE and the underlying threat of moral hazard returning on a grander and more catastrophic scale, if it goes unchecked and misunderstood.

© theMarketSoul 2014

If only we could…

…[take] the human being out of the market entirely, then we should have a proper, effective and efficient market…?
So might go the refrain of Neo-liberal economics, or at least a slightly different take on the Neo-liberal ideal of ‘every interaction should be a market transaction‘.

inspiration

That Neo-liberal economic refrain is part of the inspiration behind the creation of the ‘Soul of the Market’ or rather theMarketSoul and this site.
With this last post of 2013, we thought a bit of reflection and a reminder of our inspiration and founding philosophy might be in order.
In order for a market to be effective, there has to be a few ripples in the ebbs and flows of the transactions and interactions making up the market processes.  Therefore, we have to be able to tolerate human frailties and flaws, or else the market becomes too mechanistic and dare we say it preordained.  This can naturally not be an effective outcome for any market.  Human failings and market failure are two sides of the same coin.  However, we should work together in order to limit the inevitable damage and negative consequences of both human and market failure.  This does not necessarily translate into more regulation, might we add at this juncture.
Let us never forget this and celebrate process frailty, failure, learn to develop and embrace tolerance, persistence and perseverance; basic elements of human nature
We should never forget our inspiration, put it to aspiration and strive to achieve our own unique and specific dreams.
Human Nature / Logo
Human Nature / Logo (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)
Go, Inspire, Aspire and Achieve…
theMarketSoul ©2013
Our final word of 2013 is:

CONSOLIDATION

Technical Default Options – US Government Shutdown Analysis (Part2)

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The real challenge and issue:

The US Debt default that is looming ever larger with each passing day that the US Congress, Senate and White House seem to treat as a brinkmanship fatigue challenge will have a specific default structure or process attached to it, that the rest of the world needs to get to grips with very quickly.

Breakdown of political party representation in...
Breakdown of political party representation in the United States Senate during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican Light Blue: Independent (caucused with Democrats) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the consequences:

Because, if Americans are willing to engage in quasi-negotiations with each other on this acrimonious level; then world beware, they will treat you with even more disdain and petulance than they have been treating each other.

And yet, no Creditor Nation of the USA seem in the least bit prepared for the hard bargaining the USA Treasury officials will engage in when the technical default moves into a more serious phase.

This is commercial war on a scale we have not experienced for quite some time.

And the most disparaging part of this process or potential risk is that no commentator has yet stood up and called time on this challenge or at the very least attempted to pull the veil from the threat and fall-out the rest of the world will experience.

The western front of the United States Capitol...
The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What next?

Of course 17 October 2013 is a technical default breach days only; because as most business people who experienced bankruptcy will attest to is the fact that you can continue to trade (on the goodwill of your creditors) beyond the point of being solvent, so long as those creditors continue to good-naturedly extend some further credit or payment terms to you.

theMarketSoul ©2013

 

US Treasury Yield Curve – The Shutdown Analysis (Part 1)

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we very briefly focus on the dynamics we have observed in the US Treasury Yield Curve between two critical dates:

1. The Yield Curve at 30 September 2013 – The day before the US government shutdown officially began

2. Friday 11 October 2013, exactly 11 days into the White House, Congress and Senate stand-off

YC shutdown AnalysisWhat can clearly be observed from the Yield Curve for Treasury Bills (T-Bills) dated 30 days is that the spread between 30 September 2013 (at 0.10%) to the rate at 11 October 2013 (0.26%) has significantly increased and that the Yield Curve has become inverted.  Normally the sign of a recession or other financial calamity to come.

Our question:

Will Thursday 17 October 2013 be D-Day (for Disaster or Domino-day) when the whole lot starts tumbling down again?

Immediacy – Analysing the Behavioural Dimensions

The problem of getting too distracted by constantly fire-fighting in business settings

Français : Logo de Connecting Emotional Intell...

We might have heard it referred to as phrases such as “blinkered vision, short-term thinking”, possibly even “tunnel vision” or something similar; however the challenges of Immediacy is (1) the hidden cost and (2) damage it does to our organisations and culture within those organisations.

This is a behavioural consequence of a much more deep rooted problem.  It could possibly be insecurity or ‘over’ control, mistrust or some other behavioural issue.

However, we would like to make a bold statement that the problem is one of an over commented emotional connection to what we do. Too much passion and care in other words. This is not a bad thing in itself, but it must be tempered and balanced by its opposite twin, namely logic and deliberation.

Too often we let the Emotional Intelligence (EI) side of our personalities or just pure emotions (if we lack in the finesses of EI) rule the roost and we park logic and Business Intelligence (BI) at our peril.

What to do, in order to balance the equation:

When faced with the typical flight or flight scenario of a mini crisis at work or during a project;, stop or pause for a little while in order to achieve two very important objectives:

  1. Calm down the emotional roller coaster.
  2. Take stock in order to appraise and assess what would be the most logical course of action to take next.
English: Book Cover
English: Book Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an experiment in BI versus EI today and over the course of this week, just think and apply these two simple steps and monitor and evaluate the outcomes and consequences.

You might be pleasantly surprised…

Feedback most welcome.

theMarketSoul © 2013 

The Value of the Synthesist (as opposed to the Analyst)

theMarketSoul ©1999 - 2015:

A walk back in time. #Thoughts from 2010. The #Value of #Synthesis versus #Analysis. #Tyranny and #Innovation

Originally posted on theMarketSoul ©1999 - 2015:

We had some very rewarding conversations recently with business partners and peers regarding the Value of Synthesis versus Analysis.

Synthesis we believe to be a ‘higher level’ skill and experience set than traditional analysis.  Synthesis requires a natural ‘incubation period’.  Very few people are natural ‘synthesists’.  You grow and mature into a ‘natural Synthisist’.

Analysts can be taught.  In fact a very lucrative business education industrial complex has been built on the back of ‘creating a production line of analysts’.  We call them Business Schools churning out master’s level analysts with the three-letter MBA title behind their names.

Don’t get us wrong on this one.  We are not criticising MBAs or the Business Schools that produce them.  Far from it; because we believe that part of the ‘evolutionary process’ of ‘incubating a mature synthesist’ is having a deep and fundamental understanding of analysis and the factors that contribute to making…

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The Kuznets swing and the market for labour and skills

You must have seen the headlines recently? British wages falling sharply in real terms versus our EU brethren…

We wrote about a particular economic phenomenon referred to in this post about economic cycles and particularly the Kuznets swing; which we find the most interesting and thought provoking cycle. The reason for this is that it is a generational cycle, only lasting or more accurately stated lasting anywhere between 15 – 25 years.

Image representing oDesk as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So where are we on this cycle and what does it mean for me, should be the two most obvious questions to answer?

Lets address both separately below.

Firstly we believe we are now around seven years into a downward phase of the Kuznets cycle, therefore to some analysts it would mean that we are either almost half way or to others around a third of the way through this cycle.

Secondly, and more importantly, the impact it has on market participants like all of us:

We believe that the downward phase of a Kuznets swing is the ‘exuberance‘ correcting phase; when markets and other factors of productions contributing to mostly normal market clearing activity ‘got slightly out of kilter’. The Kuznets swing is always there to bring these factors of production into alignment. It is a consolidation phase of the cycle and interestingly for this particular phase, it coincides with disruptive technological advances around Cloud Computing, dis-aggregation of intermediaries, especially in labour markets with labour or skills exchanges appearing everywhere.  Examples include, Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour, etc..

English: Cloud Computing
English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, and this is the most import action point for our readers to understand and appreciate, this consolidation and technological advance has a severe impact of wages levels and the distribution of where actual ‘work’ is being performed.

Hence headlines like the one we spotted this morning regarding real wages in Britain declining relative to other (very unproductive EU cousins) are not helpful without the pundit exploring and engaging n deeper analysis of the underlying drivers for the pressure.

The Income and Substitution effects of a wage ...
The Income and Substitution effects of a wage increase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our recommendation:

Understand that the world of work is changing much faster than we had ever become used to in previous generations. As active able and willing participants in this market for labour and skills we have clear choices: Up-skill, be competitive appreciate and plan for volatility in the labour supply market, by ensuring flexibility in location, skills and prices. It is especially painful to suffer real wage declines, but remember this is the market’s subtle way of signalling a problem or challenge in that particular market and a way of adjusting in order to restore the natural balance and clearing prices.

We believe every interfering politician and educating commentator should always bear this in mind.

theMarketSoul ©2013

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Pony ponderings…

Have you ever overheard a small debate between children related to #economics? Some at theMarketSoul (c)1999 -2013 find themselves in Spain this weekend, relaxing with family and the following conversation between young siblings are worth repeating.
In some bizarre way, it relates to labour economics and the minimum wage:
Pony
Pony (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_IN_SEPTEMBER)
We had just observed a single horse drawn carriage in the streets of Marbella, when the conversation kicked off.
C1 “What is the minimum wages?”
C2 “I don’t know, why should I?”
A1 “It currently is around €7.00 / hour or something very close”
C1 “Ok, so if one apple costs say €1, then the pony should get 7 apples an hour for working, right?”
C2 “Why?” [by the way C1 is 13 years old and C2 is 11 years old”
C1 “Because that is the minimum wage”
C2 “That doesn’t make any sense!”
C1 “What do you mean it does not make any sense, it is simple mathematics?”
C2 “Why should the pony get 7 apples per hour? What if it only wants 3 apples and something else?”
C1 “Because that is the minimum wage!”
C2 “Yes, but the pony might not want so many apples. The pony might want to choose for itself how many apples it wants”
C1 “Now you don’t make any sense to me at all!  The pony should get exactly what the minimum wage is, or more”
C2 “But the pony might not want or need all those apples. It might need fewer apples, but want more oats or something else. The pony should choose and not someone else…”
And thus we had a little insight into an economic debate between the ‘social cohesion’ leaning child and the ‘libertarian’ leaning child. No fisticuffs or bad mouthing, but different opinions and different attitudes to life. It will be interesting to listen into another conversation along these lines.
With a binding minimum wage of w the marginal ...
With a binding minimum wage of w the marginal cost to the firm becomes the horizontal black MC ‘ line, and the firm maximises profits at A with a higher employment L . However in this example the minimum wage is higher than the competitive one, leading to involuntary unemployment equal to the segment AB. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We agree with C2’s questions on where the choice for the minimum wage really lies. The wage level should be determined by the provider of the labour, whether individually or collectively bargained, but there should be no interference from government in this process.
Take note Europe, this is just one factor contributing to your long drawn out decline. Markets, not quasi-markets and constant political interference and distortions in the markets; should determine clearing prices or wages.
But this seems to be a lesson a child can learn, but not grown up political leaders…
theMarketSoul ©2013

An orderly leap into Chaos?

It is a timing thing

When the Euro zone Debt driven financial crises – yes, it has been dragging on for a little while now; lurching from one convulsion to the next tremor – is headline news across most traditional newspapers in Britain, it is worth pausing briefly to consider the overall ‘management efforts’ of the European leadership and senior bureaucratic establishment and the potential outcomes.

€2 commemorative coin Euro Zone 2007 50th Anni...
€2 commemorative coin Euro Zone 2007 50th Anniversary of the Signature of the Treaty of Rome Français : Pièce commémorative de 2 euros de la Zone Euro en 2007 pour le 50e anniversaire de la signature du Traité de Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The interesting point to observe today is the development of the crises from one of ‘consolidated rhetoric’ to save the Euro zone and Euro project, to a slow and it now seems inevitable conclusion that certain ‘none performing’ members will have to leave the Euro monetary union. This ‘orderly exit’ is now overdue because the political will, fiscal consolidation and Euro zone wide risk sharing necessary to ensure continued membership, on an equal footing, has been and is being rejected by the electorate as incumbent political leaders and governments stumble and fall as each political reflection point at the ballot box looms.

What is not being openly discussed?

What is currently not part of the popular discourse is the fact that the risk has moved on from a political, credit and market risk to one of a social or socio-economic dimension.  Because ‘austerity proper‘ has not yet begun to bite and embed itself firmly in the economies of most European countries, as part of the process of climbing the stairway on the upward leg of addressing the mountain of sovereign debt built up over the last few years, nobody has really, except for Greece (and a blip in August 2011 in Britain), had to deal with large-scale and continued civil unrest.  Yet, this is exactly the scenario we need to prepare for as a few conversations we have been having with analysts and pundits has openly started raising this spectre as another risk factor to add to the volatile cocktail we are already expected to swallow.

The next step?

Graphic "When Greece falls" presente...
Graphic “When Greece falls” presented by Dutch government on 21 June 2011, speaking of European sovereign debt crisis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is a full-scale exit by the weaker Euro zone nation states on the cards and the possibility of a wholesale devaluation of the Euro? Well, that depends on where the financial and fiscal power and discipline lies and we believe that most observers of the European Debt Crisis known the instinctive answer to that question…

A final thought is to start preparing yourself for debates and contingency planning around a disorderly exist by weaker Euro zone members.  And have large-scale civil unrest as part of the scenarios you need to consider…

theMarketSoul ©2012

The Roman denarius was debased over time.
The Roman denarius was debased over time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some Questions for Europe

After the conclusion to what some pundits called a ‘tumultuous week’ for Europe (week ending 11 May 2012), we still find ourselves asking some important questions.

Europe Simulator
Europe Simulator (Photo credit: wigu)

We all know that the question is not around what growth, where growth or why growth.  The fundamental question in Europe now is:

How Growth?

For way too long Europe and its leadership had taken its eye off the growth ball.  They had taken their eye off that ball focussing instead on creating the conditions for a ‘stable’ internal market, forgetting that it was all actually centred on competitiveness and growth creation!

Too much needless bureaucratically driven regulation, not creating the sustainable conditions for growth, but rather the spiral into debt driven oblivion…and therefore leading to the volatility and the instability we currently experience!

So the choice now comes down to how do we drive growth, in the face of an electorate that favours public sector driven growth, rather than private sector led growth.

It must make common (or at the very least common enough) sense for private sector growth incentives being created, rather than debt fuelled public sector or even Keynesian focused supply side stimulus. But no, the discourse in Europe has not been around stimulating demand by creating the conditions for competitive led export fuelled growth!  Instead, the in-fighting and constant politicking around balanced budgets and debt to GDP ratio targets and endless pacts to patch the patient with half-baked policy sticky plasters has contributed to exactly the opposite outcome the leadership tried to create in Europe, namely a stable platform for internal market competitiveness.  They forgot about the world changing outside the ‘Chinese wall’ of an expanded 27 member union.

And now the electorate has firmly rejected the austerity programmes, in both Greece and France, because they have not been educated in the dangers of public sector excesses.  Nobody in Europe (except for maybe Sweden) realised that giving the “Engine of Growth”, namely enterprise and entrepreneurs an incentive to create businesses and employment opportunities, is actually tax reductions and not increases, combined with tempering public sector growth and reducing labour market inflexibility.  Most European countries have youth unemployment; the hungry, tech-savvy and street smart under 25’s, running in double digits, of anywhere between 15 – 50%, depending on which country or statistics you want to believe…

We beg you Europe

For the sake of yourselves and the rest of the world, we beg you Europe (and off course we mean the leaders of Europe) to think about the following key growth criteria, as part of any ‘Growth Pact’ you might negotiate in the coming months:

  1. Reduce the size of your bloated public sectors
  2. Introduce private property ownership incentives and pension reforms
  3. Lower your punitive tax rates
  4. Reform your burdensome and needless regulation, opting for streamlined market driven regulatory stabilisers
  5. Introduce labour market reforms and encourage flexibility and mobility
  6. Encourage and actually treat your citizens like the responsible ‘conduits of growth’ and employment creators they are and can be
  7. Encourage personal and community based accountability
  8. Be tough on crime, but fair on punishment and reform

And above all believe, think, do, act and (if you must) enact economic GROWTH!

theMarketSoul ©2012

The Return of Risk?

Department of Treasury Seal
Department of Treasury Seal (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)

We take a brief look at two interesting Treasury Yield curves today.

The first Yield Curve takes a snapshot view of the yield curves at the end of Q1 2011 and Q1 2012.
What is very noticeable is the fact that the overall yields for the end of Q1 2012 is significantly lower than a year ago. Taking a look at the at the 5 year T-Note yields as an example, the spread between the end of March 2011 (5Yr T-Notes at 2.24% ) and the end of March 2012 (5Yr T-Notes at 1.04%) was 1.20% down. The question is what factors drove down the ‘risk-free’ rate on US Treasuries?

However, turning our attention to the second graph below, indicates a slightly different perspective; and hence the title of this post. Has and is risk returning to the capital and stock markets to levels we previously experienced?

Not quite, is the short answer, because the spread between 31 December 2011 (0.83%) versus the 1.04% rate at the end of March 2012, only indicates an uptick of 21 basis points in the yield rate. The significance is not the percentage spread, but rather the direction of movement and we will continue our analysis at the end of Q2 2012 to establish whether the direction in Q1 2012 will be maintained into Q2 and beyond.

The final question to ponder is this:

Are we finally seeing the corner turned, or are there still significant risks in the global economy and sovereign debt markets to cause a few further after shocks in the months to come?

theMarketSoul ©2012

Panic in the Cars of Britain?

With apologies to The Smiths; the original version of the song Panic’s lyrics reads something like this:

“Panic on the streets of London / Panic on the streets of Birmingham / I wonder to myself / Could life ever be sane again?”

Panic (The Smiths song)
Panic (The Smiths song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or is this the beginning of what we will call ‘Austerity Anarchy’?

As a case study in behavioural economics goes, the last week in March 2012, in the UK must go down as a classic…

United Kingdom
United Kingdom (Photo credit: stumayhew)

What sparked the ‘run on petrol and filling stations’ is not the aim of our analysis, but rather the deeper underlying cultural psychosis affecting Austerity Britain.  However, the austerity is not driven by the current revenue expenditure austerity, but rather the culture of Investment Austerity over many decades that has created a supply chain time bomb in the UK.

There is generally a severe lack of investment in any form of storage capacity.  Not as a risk management concept, but rather as a pure short sighted cost management issue.

Yes, land capacity is limited on a small (in places patchily overcrowded; especially down in the South East of England) island and the cost of owning a vast storage network must seem prohibitive; yet having so little risk management or rather ‘buffer’ and shock absorption capacity available must be the vast hidden opportunity cost ‘time bomb’ waiting to derail a sustained or sustainable short run upturn in the economy?

Hidden or in the economists parlance ‘Opportunity Cost’ is generally not an item on any policy maker’s agenda, yet in it lies the ‘unintended consequences’ element that so seldom gets factored into the equation.  Yet opportunity cost highlights the risk element we have to factor in.  And in this sense we use the word RISK in its proper intended format, namely a quantifiable probabilistic evaluation of the downside of a transaction.  Yes, threats are more closely aligned to ‘unintended consequences’ and are the issues we can only subjectively be aware of, but cannot quantify with any degree of accuracy.

Risk Management road sign
Risk Management road sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hence, ‘Austerity Anarchy’ is what we believe an angst and siege mentally is, when decision-making (or rather calculus driven decision-making) gets ‘suspended’ and the irrationality of “mankind’s mind” and the mainstream misinformation distribution takes over, creating PANIC in Little Britain and the commentators at theMarketSoul ©1999 – 2012 ask themselves:

I wonder to myself;  could life ever be sane again?” – with thanks to The Smiths

 

theMarketSoul ©2012

Trust, Risk and stifled Innovation

In the light of the recent Citigroup’s settlement of mis-sold Hedge Fund investments, we issue this brief opinion piece on the interactions of Risk, Trust and Innovation:

Citigroup

We don’t think it is so much about TRUST or trusting institutions anymore but has always been about Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware).

No investor can or should trust institutions without conducting their own due diligence and risk profile / risk appetite assessment first.  In the past investors could possibly rely on professional ‘trusted’ advisors to help then navigate the due diligence part, at least in theory.  Risk and risk appetite assessment was the more tricky part and not even the professionals had sophisticated enough tools to help their clients through this quagmire landscape.

In some recent papers, researchers argue that ...
In some recent papers, researchers argue that the return from an investment mainly results from exposure to systematic risk factors. Jaeger, L., Wagner, C., “Factor Modelling and Benchmarking of Hedge Funds: Can passive investments in hedge fund strategies deliver?”, Journal of Alternative Investments (Winter 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We believe this is the unintended consequence of over regulation or an over regulated environment.  Relational trust has been eroded in favour of ‘legislative trust’ and therefore the impersonal ‘hand of public scrutiny’ is supposed to protect the innocents.

Trust
Trust (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

We need to ensure the pendulum swings back to a happy balance between relationship and legislative trust, unburden ourselves from the over regulated and expensive compliance environment we have allowed to engulf and overwhelm us, not adding any value, but stifling innovation instead.

theMarketSoul ©2012

 

Source Article: http://www.garp.org/risk-news-and-resources/risk-headlines/story.aspx?newsid=44034

A Disconnected World – The Information Age Irony

As economic beings we are extremely ‘short-sighted’ by nature. We don’t fully appreciate the differences and interactions between the short-, medium- and long-term.

English: Watt's steam engine at the lobby of t...
Image via Wikipedia

It was Burns & Mitchell (1946) who tried to measure the economic cycles. Today there are four broad classifications of business cycles as follows:

  • Kitchin cycle (3 – 5 years) – The rate at which businesses build up their inventories
  • Juglar cycle (7 – 11 years) – Related to Investment flows into Capital such as factories and other capital means of production
  • Kuznets cycle (15 – 25 years) – Period between booms in corporate or governmental spending on large scale Infrastructure projects, such as rail, roads, etc.
  • Kondratiev wave / cycle (45 – 60 years) – The ‘super-cycle’ referring to the phases of capitalism.  Crises such as the Great Depression and the current Financial & Sovereign Debt driven contraction.

But the Information Age has undermined these cycles? Or only undermined our understanding of these cycles?  That is the key distinction we need to draw.

Are there any longer-term term cycles, which are beginning to contract with advances in Technology.

The Dark Ages (lets say from the collapse of the Roman Empire) until the enlightenment lasted around 1,000 years.  The Enlightenment (approximately 1650s) through to the First Industrial Revolution (from mid 1700’s to mid 1800s) lasted around 200 years.  The Second Industrial Revolution (driven by electricity from around mid 1800s) lasted another 100 years.

Another view of the bridge
Image via Wikipedia

The Third Industrial Revolution, or rather the Digital Revolution is the COMPUTER or DIGITAL AGE.

However, interesting this brief synopsis of economic history is, the actual relevant issue is recognising the length of the TRANSITION period between these ‘Leapfrog’ Technological advances.

We are not very good (yet) at recognising, never mind managing these tectonic shifts in the economic landscape.

Is this were we found ourselves today?

English: Plot of growth of exponential economi...
Image via Wikipedia

theMarketSoul ©2012 

The BIG Sovereign Debt Structure cliff – Part 1

In yesterday’s article, “Where will all the new money come from?” we concluded the brief analysis with the Sovereign Debt Maturity profiles (otherwise known as the Debt Structure) of both the USA and Italy, noting how similar the two profiles looked at first glance.

English: Update history of the rates of the Eu...
Image via Wikipedia

Digging a bit deeper today, we would like to compare those charts to cliff edges. We trust that the sentiment of the article is that we perceive Central Banks across the globe fretting about the ‘New Money’ we were referring to.  With general economic confidence waning and the outlook for a sustainable long-term solution to sovereign over (indulgence) spending fading, the landscape is looking very bleak at moment.

New money will have to be printed (Quantitative Easing or QE) if investors in the capital markets cannot be found to bear the burden of purchasing new Bond and Treasury issues.

English: Various Euro bills.
Image via Wikipedia

Some headlines over the few weeks alluded to Bond auctions in Portugal, Italy and Spain being well supported (see related article at the bottom of this post), but these were not major refunding and roll-over exercises.  Greece is continuing to be a welcome distraction for politicians and Central Bankers in both taking investor’s eye off the bigger problems coming along the line in Q2 2012 and in winning time to hopefully come up with a credible longer-term plan to reduce debt levels and then return to growth.

Auction Calendars

Let’s take a look at some of the crucial Sovereign Debt auctions coming up in the next few months:

The link below provides a time table schedule issued by the US Treasury for T-Bills, T-Notes, T-Bonds and TIPS, for at least the next six months.

US T-Bill Auctions schedule

Seal of the United States Bureau of the Public...

To get the equivalent Eurozone calendar is not so easy. (Partly because each individual country issues Bonds, as there is no Central Eurozone issuer of Bonds, but at least a central purchaser, namely the ECB – European Central Bank)

English: Development of government debt in the...
Image via Wikipedia

We are currently investigating sources of information for Eurozone Sovereign Debt Bond auctions and will return to this theme in very near future.

theMarketSoul ©2012

Where will all the new money come from?

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s brief analysis of US Treasury Yield curves and the Debt profiles of both the USA and Italy highlights the enduring question in the title of this post.

The first graphic highlights one important issue.  We chose 2 August 2011 versus 17 February 2012 as key dates to compare the US Treasury Yield curve.  If we cast our minds back to 2 August 2012 two key facts emerge:

  1. This was the D-Day of the US Debt Ceiling vote
  2. The US still had a Triple A credit rating

Image

The key take-away from the Yield Curve comparison is that even with a ratings downgrade, the US is actually able to borrow new capital at a lower rate of interest 6 months on.

However, to pour a bit of realism into the analysis, we highlight two interesting Debt profile graphics below.

Image

The first one is the USA Treasury Maturity curve (admittedly 6 months out of date), highlighting when the current debt will need to be redeemed or rolled over.  The second is the Italian Bond Maturity curve.  You will notice just how similar the USA and Italy Debt Maturity profiles are.

 Image

From this comparison, the critical question currently for us is:

Where will all the new money come from to roll over the debt maturing during the next 3 – 12 months?  QE is one option, but investors still need to be convinced that their capital is safe and relatively risk-free.  It is the Risk-free equation (or investor risk appetites) that needs to be explored in more detail.

theMarketSoul ©2012

A new Commercial Reality under Austerity

How to compete fairly and openly.  [Part of our ‘The Trouble with Innovation series 1,2,3,4,5 – Part 6]

Doing business anywhere, anytime is never easy!

That is a stark commercial reality, that most business people will accept as a given.  But how? now? does is work in a climate of AUSTERITY???

(Apologies for the blatant confusion and poetic licence taken in the previous sentence).

Public and private sectors mostly have an uneasy symbiotic relationship with each other.  If the public sector cannot deliver a solution, they have to procure it from a private provider and a private provider (generally, but not always) rub their hands with glee, as it is relatively speaking ‘easy money’ provided you meet and exceed certain framework thresholds.

All nice and cosy, when we are in a growth cycle of the economy; yet ever so tricky when those Framework Procurement Agreements come up for tender during the down slope side of the cycle…

Business Cycle
Image via Wikipedia

It is odd how the ‘staccato’ relationship between private and public sectors work at different periods during the business cycle.  And this is exactly where the public sector, with an astute “commercial hat” on, can take advantage of it’s perceived negotiating strength during the down cycle agreement drafting / tendering process.

Yet, do they take advantage of this? 

Our view is that any Public Sector Procurement Framework Agreement with private sector providers will always be a FLOOR, thereby setting the minimum expectations and requirements, without ever really driving proper continuous INNOVATION and COMPETITIVE DYNAMICS to ensure players with ‘skin in the game’ continue to understand and manage their businesses with the proper risk attitude (never mind risk appetite).  Rather than act as a (“floor price”) barrier to entry, they should act as ceiling, or rather more ‘bluish sky’ REACH or STRETCH agreements, setting the rules of the game, but not acting as the default pricing mechanism , meaning that the private sector provider must continue to be innovative, rather than wait and ‘cream-off’ the best bits whilst seeing out the agreement time period until the next time anyone bothers to ‘tamper with the height’ of the limbo bar…

Our summary take away from this article:

The Public Sector Procurement Framework Agreement therefore should act as an incentive to compete and have fair access, but never as the default pricing mechanism.

Community and Public Sector Union Pledge Signi...
Community and Public Sector Union Pledge Signing 20th August 2010 (Photo credit: Senator Kate Lundy)

theMarketSoul ©2012