When you think about it, a modern bank is nothing more than its IT core system and confidence. There is no gold in its HQ any longer, or incredibly wealthy owners or partners; RBS’s shareholders are certainly much poorer than they were. So, if people were worried about not being able to get their money out of Northern Rock, which at least knew how much they were supposed to have, how worried should they be about RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank? And how, exactly, does the FSCS Guarantee Scheme work if the bank doesn’t know how much money you have? The irony is, of course, there was a run on Northern Rock when they knew what you had and gave it to you if you wanted to take it out. Not the case at RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank.
On the technology side, everybody is corrrect when they say that RBS should have been able to simply reverse the ill-advised ‘upgrade’ or switch to reserve systems. However, having worked in mission critical, mainframe and heterogeneous production environments, I can tell you now that you never want to get to that stage, as it is fraught with dangers, as is now being demonstrated. This is a monumental cock-up and it is down to not having proper technology leadership, sacking nearly all the people who understood how these systems work (in many cases the people who wrote and designed the scripts and programs) and adopting cheaper and more dangerous methods.
If banking truly was a competitive market, rather than an oligopoly, all of RBS’s competitors would be running advertisements right now, bragging about their superior systems and offering incentives for customers to switch. No sign of that at all.
It has taken Hester since Tuesday evening to say anything at all about this disgrace, by far the worst retail banking IT disaster in my lifetime. Even then, it appears to be a press release rather than a proper radio or TV interview. But he’ll run into the Radio 4 Today studio to defend his salary and bonus. Hester infamously said his own parents were embarrassed by his excessive pay – well now his parents can be excessively embarrassed by his infamous incompetence too.
Who, out of the senior management which signed this off, who thought ‘IT is not at the heart of what we do, let’s outsource/offshore it’, who decided ‘these guys in India know what they are doing’ is going to take responsibility for this fiasco? I am also perplexed about how the FSA thinks holding a banking licence is compatible with being unable to produce balances for a week.
If you’re a customer, these are the two questions you need answered next week:
1. Is NatWest/RBS going bring the design and maintenance of its IT infrastructure back to the UK and under its control?
2. Has Susan Allen, Director, Change and Business Services, responsible for ‘Transformation Programme across the Retail Division encompassing all channels and functions. Establish Lean capability. Ensure services provided by Business Services (IT, Ops, Property) support delivery of the objectives of the RBS UK Retail, Wealth and Ulster businesses’ resigned yet?
If the answer to either question is no, move your accounts to another bank next week. If you can, if the systems are working again before the next IT disaster. Frankly, businesses should just move their accounts in any case.
Iain Duncan-Smith is taking an awful lot of flak from bishops, the liberal media elite and hand-wringing Liberals, such as Paddy Ashdown, about his plans to cap benefits at the median take-home wage of working families – £26,000 per year. Why have we become trapped by this materialistic concept of child poverty, itself a remnant of the now discredited premiership of Anthony Blair? Child poverty is not knowing who your Dad is; having parents who don’t care where you are at night (riots, gangs, etc.); parents who don’t help with homework; parents who don’t feed you properly; parents who drink, gamble or do drugs with the money meant for your five a day; parents who fail to provide decent social or economic role models. Frankly, whether your family has more or less than £26,000 p.a. is much less important than these things. Right now, our social security system incentivises bad, lazy behaviours and punishes those who prioritize their children and work.
It is easy to talk bollocks from Hampstead and Primrose Hill but cantankerous really wonders how many MPs or journalists understand the realities of life – it is the same kind of mentality that liberalised gambling and licensing and believed that casinos were the way to regenerate poor areas. Any sane person, brought up in a working class neighbourhood, knows the damage inflicted on children by gambling and drinking parents. We also know the damage done by a welfare system that punishes the working class. Enough is enough. £26,000 p.a. is enough.
cantankerous worked with the pay consultancies in top FTSE companies. The greed and corruption of the FTSE executives and the corporate ‘reward’ consultancies was blatant and disgusting, and it is remarkable that nothing was done to stop it. As executives reduced the amount paid into pension schemes for ordinary staff by sometimes as much as a half, they simultaneously reduced the number of years to qualify for a full pension in their executive final salary pension schemes. There were/are major British companies which, in some years, have paid more into their ‘executive’ pension schemes for a chosen few than they have into their degraded defined contribution pension schemes for tens of thousands of employees. UK plc will have to pick up the bill for future pensioner poverty.
The truth is that institutional shareholders have shown themselves incapable and disinterested in this troughing. One solution is penal tax rates, which make the greed pointless. We had this in the 1970s and it was not UK plc’s finest hour, though we still might get to that point, though it would be better to use company taxation regulations than personal tax to change behaviour.
The ratios idea is not an option, as the executives know how to use Microsoft Excel: it will result in a mass of outsourcing, offshoring and sacking of the lowest paid, which will reduce the ratio without hitting pay.
The ‘employees in the boardroom’ idea won’t work either, as those employees will become corrupted and overpaid themselves and will go native (look at some of the corruption scandals in Germany with employee representatives on boards).
The big clue about what to do is the fact that by far the most vocal and effective critics of boardrooms have not been institutions but rather small shareholders (often pensioners reliant on dividends), who feel personally ripped off. So, a simple solution is to introduce the same kind of voting into companies which we use in our democracy: one member, one vote.
Give all shareholders, irrespective of the size of their shareholding, one vote each on the approval of executive remuneration. And then watch executive pay begin to come under control.
We also need to provide incentives for companies to be public and accountable rather than private and unaccountable. We can achieve this through the tax system, providing incentives for public companies. Otherwise watch yet more companies go private and offshore so that executives can continue to rip off inactive shareholders, which is what this is about.
cantankerous was stopped by a member of a charity mugging team today. The chugger wasn’t wearing any ID (breaching Charity Commission guidelines), claimed to work for Care International and denied earning any commission or bonuses above ‘only’ £7.50 per hour. After some investigation, he turned out to work for Real Fundraising (his boss had ID even if he didn’t). cantankerous decided to check out his claims – job adverts don’t lie. Here’s just one of the many job adverts from Real Fundaising at justjobs4students.co.uk. The most interesting bits are emboldened:
Salary: Guaranteed basic wage up to £249.06 and OTE of £900 a week
Fundraising Positions available NOW! (Full-Time Only)
Ever wanted to be one of those people who is brave enough to stand up and be counted? Who makes their living by making life better for people in need all around the world? Ever wanted to spend each day working with some of the UK’s coolest, friendliest and most inspirational people instead of breathing recycled office air and falling asleep in front of your computer?
Ever thought about being a fundraiser, but worried that someone might tell you to “get a REAL job”?
Well, here you are. Welcome to the REAL world.
REAL fundraising is a charity fundraising agency with operations all over the UK. From the Director to the girl that scans the mandates, every single person in the company has worked on the streets, inspiring complete strangers to pledge lifelong financial support via Direct Debit to some of the world’s biggest and most influential charities. Not many other fundraising agencies can offer free accommodation and free transport to allow you to ‘backpack’ all over the UK yet put that with over 50 years of fundraising experience, we really are the REAL deal.
So, who exactly are we looking for? Well, to be honest, that’s up to you. Obviously there are some basic requirements. We work Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm in teams of up to 6. You will be in a different town and city every single day and could be working anywhere in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland! We pay for holiday style accommodation and provide every team with a company car, you just live and work as a team! Once you have completed your first 5 weeks with us, you can take as many weeks off to return home as you need, we really are that flexible! We offer a £250 basic salary every week plus an extra £80 per week if you have a driving license plus performance related bonuses based on your targets.
You need to like people. You need to love life. You need bundles of energy, masses of positivity, and to share our passion for making the world a better place when you go back home. After all, you’ll be working on behalf of the British Red Cross, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Action for Children, RSPCA, Action for Blind People and many more! And that’s a pretty incredible thing.
But we’re also looking for people who are a bit unique. People who have a story to tell. Travellers with dreadlocks or sharp suits with sales backgrounds, people with nose rings or baseball caps. Anything goes, as long as you work hard and care about the job.
And, with fundraiser pay of up to £1000 per week (if you’re really good) and REAL management opportunities springing up all over the shop, we like to reward your hard work too.
Sounds like you? We’d love to hear from you! To apply please click on the Apply online. button below and send your CV to Hannah Sanders.
Nearly all the face-to-face fundraisers cantankerous has ever spoken claim they are only paid the minimum wage, or a little above, and deny they earn commission or bonuses based upon aggressive targets. Yet here is the stark proof: a sales-target related salary – OTE (on target earnings); on target wages of £900 per week – which can only be paid out of charity income. Next time one of the lying hypocrites approaches you in the street and claims to be on £7.50 per hour, remember that the job ads tell the truth and walk on by. Give your money to a local charity with low-running costs that desperately needs your donation rather than to a charity happy to pay sanctimonious liars working for misleadingly-named, profit-making companies up to £900 per week of generous individuals’ direct debits.
The NHS has just announced that an astonishing £11.8 billion has been wasted on the National Project for IT – otherwise known as the failed attempt to computerise medical records. In addition, it has suddenly been ‘realised’ by NHS Trusts all over the country that their fantastic PFI deals are actually crap and unaffordable. How can this happen? Well, until the culture within the NHS changes, nothing else will change. Here are seven issues and seven solutions:
‘That’s true but you can’t say that’ – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this said of PFI projects, NPfIT, underperforming or useless staff and stupid initiatives;
Recruitment from within – You can have an Oxbridge degree, a top school MBA, years of first-rate commercial experience and excellent references but you won’t get the job over some mentally retarded former nursing assistant who has worked in the bureacracy for 20 years;
Colleagues don’t hold colleagues to account. Staff tolerate colleagues who go off sick for six months minus one day, return and then go off sick again, and do this for years and years. In fact, and quite incredibly, national agreements guarantee the workshy their jobs if there are reorganisations whilst off sick. Job under threat? Go off sick!
No accountability. People don’t resign or get fired, even when hundreds of people die, nevermind waste billions of pounds. Look at Stafford. The head of the local NHS in the West Midlands shortly beforehand was former communist party member, David Nicholson, now rewarded with a knighthood and CEO of the NHS. The head of the body responsible for overseeing Stafford at the time was Cynthia Bower. She has now been made CEO of the CQC, the quango responsible for quality of care nationally. Both have neither commercial nor business experience;
Bureaucrats rule. Despite generally having far lower IQs and inferior qualifications, the bureaucrats see nursing and medical staff as ‘the problem’;
Endless reorganisation is allowing bureaucrats to justify their positions for ‘change management’ and ‘business’ whilst slashing doctors and nurses jobs, across specialities and the country. Services are being ‘redesigned’ by bureaucrats with no knowledge or experience. Most disgracefully, while clinical salaries are capped and budgets are cut, bureaucrats are giving themselves new job titles with the words ‘commercial’, ‘marketing’. ‘change’ or ‘business’ added and awarding themselves massive pay rises. I know of many who have seen their salaries increase by more than 30%;
The NHS is a political football, with constant top-down national initiatives and reorganisations which are both futile and expensive.
Allow staff to tell the truth without fear of reprimand or grievance;
Force trusts to open vacancies to all applicants on a modern competencies rather than experience basis. Oh, and ban the crazy practice of not reading references until after an appointment is made. Instead, insist that that references are read prior to interview and make it compulsory for the nursing, medical and management personnel who will be responsible for the person being recruited to be on the interview panel;
Dock the pay of teams for underperformance and sickness, so that peer pressure is brought to bear on the workshy. And give reorganisational priority to those working rather than off sick;
Fire those who fail, starting with David Nicholson and Cynthia Bower;
Insist that nurses and doctors are involved in all major decisions – empower consultants and matrons again, as well as GPs;
Insist that cuts are made to bureaucracy before services and cap all individual bureaucrat salaries so that they cannot be awarded inflation-busting salary increases under the cover of ‘promotion’ or ‘reorganisation’ whilst slashing services;
Devolve powers locally, with local fundraising too. Scrap the Department of Health with central government delivery of only what cannot be delivered locally. Local papers, councillors and MPs do a much better job of holding NHS Trusts to account than clipboard-hugging quangocrats. Local people raised the money to build most of the great hospitals and would do so again, given the chance.
Looks impressive, doesn’t it? Until you ring up because you’ve ordered some child car seats and you’ve seen that Tesco is having a sale where Tesco is much cheaper because Tesco is offering 25% off all baby and toddler equipment. Then Mothercare will tell you that they don’t price match promotions. What a waste of time. I just cancelled my order. See if you can spot the bit in their terms and conditions which allows them to exclude competitors’ promotions, because I can’t:
TERMS & CONDITIONS
If you find a product for sale in Mothercare cheaper anywhere else, we will match the lower price. This applies to ALL branded items for sale in any UK retailer – in stores, catalogues and online (excluding auction sites) for an identical product where the item is in stock, listed as new (excludes used products) and sold by the retailer.
Price match cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion, discount or voucher offer – either price match or promotion, discount or voucher offer will apply which ever the discount is greater. Contact us within 7 days of purchase and we will verify the price with a quick phone call – if you’ve already bought the item, we’ll refund the difference on production of your Mothercare receipt. Items sold as part of a multi-deal are matched to their individual price.
**The £10 gift voucher offer does not aply to ELC brand products sold on the mothercare website and is limited to one claim per product, per customer. It is a limited offer which can be withdrawn at any time. The Price Promise applies to all products except clothing and cannot be used in conjuction with any other offers or discounts. The £10 gift voucher offer applies to online purchases only.
cantankerous believes there are six key lessons to be learned from the rioting breaking out in the poorer Boroughs of London.
We are seeing social breakdown. It is criminal, but the police cannot control the situation, and our society cannot function in this atmosphere. We need to lock up offenders but we also need to understand why this has happened.
Society is fragile and those whose previous life experience is confined to Kensington, dreaming spires, Hampstead Garden Suburb or Chipping Norton, or even a cringe-worthy trip to the Notting Hill Carnival, need to learn quickly. It is alarming to see, but…
The police are pretty damn near useless against the mob. The elite needs to appreciate this.
The UK’s elite is complacent, as demonstrated by the simultaneous absence of nearly all the senior members of the Cabinet from the country. Members of Parliament from all parties come from a narrow and narrowing selection pool. Public school, PPE at Oxford and working for a political party or in PR, lobbying or journalism may be the perfect preparation for obtaining the candidacy for a safe parliamentary seat, but does it aid representation or give the life experience to represent constituents and govern effectively? cantankerous has his doubts. Look at the BBC, unwilling to leave its comfort zone and report from many parts of London. Is Croydon really only safe to visit from a helicopter? If it is, how did our representatives allow this to happen? Remember Harriet Harman wearing that flak-jacket in Peckham?
Cutting the DLA of the mentally ill is the politics of the madhouse.cantankerous was fascinated to see that at least one of those detained by the police during the riots was sectioned under the Mental Health Act: care in the community in action. One of cantankerous‘ best friends is a consultant psychiatrist and their perspective is fascinating. It is all too easy to think of DLA recipients as lazy and work-shy and undoubtedly many are. However, a significant proportion are unemployable, either through mental illness or personality disorders. Sure, they don’t turn up for their DLA assessments and those that do appear are easy to trick into failing the evaluation, but we need to tread very carefully.
Removing EMA is a huge issue. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen or nineteen year old teenagers from poorer backgrounds are very unhappy about losing Educational Maintenance allowance. It is a big issue with serious educational and financial implications which politicians and the media have missed or ignored. For the poor, it is as big an issue as university tuition fees are for the middle classes.
There is a fascinating article on the BBC today, which shows that the number of PhDs funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is being cut from 2,902 to 1,900. How is this going to increase the manufacturing base?
cantankerous is sure that there will won’t be a one-third reduction in the number of quangocrats at the EPSRC though. We need to scythe through the clipboard-hugging, self-serving bureaucracy. Again and again, whether it is in the military, the NHS or education, frontline services are being cut whilst non-jobs justify their inflated salaries and gold-plated pensions.
cantankerous is always interested in the background of lawyers in the news. Interesting, isn’t it, that Jon Chapman, the News International Director of Legal Affairs, to whom the correspondence in Robert Peston’s ‘smoking gun’News of the World police corruption scoop is addressed, worked as a senior in-house solicitor at Enron from 1996 until its bankruptcy in late 2001? From the Enron Scandal to the News International phone hacking and police corruption scandal. An impressive CV, indeed. Any predictions of where Jon Chapman will work next?
Jon Chapman, formerly of News International
UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph reports that Jon Chapman has already left News International. It will be fascinating to see how Jon Chapman manages to further improve his already impressive CV. Let cantankerous know if you have any idea where he is now.
Vodafone’s reputation has been seriously damaged today as millions of users discover they cannot use their phones and laptops. It seems Vodafone can’t afford security guards for its data centres or decent disaster recovery despite billions in profits. This failure will hurt Vodafone commercially, as businesses across the UK review Vodafone’s position as a either sole or preferred supplier. The irony is that Vodafone will be reviewing this policy too: the internal email below contains the priceless quote ‘In the meantime if you could support me in managing your end users with updates I would be very grateful and as always, if you should have any concerns or questions, please do call me (if you can) or E-mail me and I will respond as quickly as I can’. Amazing.
Good morning to you all,
You may well be aware by now, either from your users, through myself or through the media, that there is currently a major outage on the UK Vodafone network.
Sadly this outage has been caused by the behaviour of a small group of criminals who last night attempted to break into the Vodafone data Centre based in Basingstoke. These individuals failed to breach the building but did manage to cause damage to the site infrastructure, leading to today’s issues. That damage has resulted in a loss of service on 5 exchange sites, in turn causing disruption for users from Oxford down to Bristol and across as far as West London.
I would like to assure you of two facts at this time. Firstly, please be assured that there is absolutely no security risk to your business data due to the actions of the afore mentioned individuals. Secondly, the outage is a P1 concern for everyone at Vodafone, from our CEO through to myself and the customer services teams. A P1 category fix is the highest priority and we already have 7 engineers on site with all the hardware they need to execute the corrections. Everyone in Vodafone is on standby to support both you as our customer and to support the network teams in the efforts.
Some users are already restored to full service but others are experiencing anything from a full loss of service to restricted service on voice, SMS, Data sessions or voicemail. It remains our commitment to restore service to all as quickly as possible.
I am in receipt of regular updates from our support teams and I will share this with you as they come in. In the meantime if you could support me in managing your end users with updates I would be very grateful and as always, if you should have any concerns or questions, please do call me (if you can) or E-mail me and I will respond as quickly as I can.
My thanks to you for your patience and my apologies for the issues experienced.