We can’t quite believe it’s been nearly four months since our last Client Forum, but we’re delighted to announce that we’ll be back this October for another one!
Having run these events bi-annually for the past four years, we’ve learnt a fair bit about what makes a successful forum, and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming both old and new faces to this next exclusive date.
The Autumn Forum is a unique opportunity to explore our solutions in more depth, and learn how other HR, L&D and Risk Management professionals across a number of sectors are leveraging digital technology to solve their learning challenges.
With a rage of sessions covering platform functionality, content and industry discussion, the day aims to showcase real client case studies – giving attendees an insight into practical ways to approach their company learning. Instead of offering the kind of lofty general discussion that we often see from learning and development events, the Autumn Forum aims to demystify some of the industry’s latest ‘buzzwords’, and offer delegates practical insight into how to start incorporating new trends into their own L&D journeys.
This Autumn, the Unicorn Client Forum will take place on Tuesday 4th October in the heart of Canary Wharf, and will be brought to you in partnership with our apps studio, Amuzo. The day will be split into main room welcome and keynote sessions, and registration-only breakouts that will give attendees access to specialist slots run by our experts.
More information coming soon. If you have a specific query relating to the Unicorn Forum, please contact your Relationship Manager, or the Unicorn Marketing Department. This is an invite-only event.
Downing street is upping the pressure on ministers to begin implementing plans to leave the EU, it was reported this week.
Accusing Liam Fox – one of three cabinet ministers put in charge of overseeing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU – of ‘playing games’, Theresa May has made her position on government in-fighting clear. Such comments come as City sources claim that Britain’s exit from the EU is already looking likely to take place at least a year after first envisaged.
With government insiders talking of ‘chaos’ amongst the two new departments involved in overseeing Brexit, some believe that initial timelines are already well out of scope, and could be delayed even further if action is not taken soon. Indeed, murmurs about undermining public confidence have already started to surface from Tory backbench Eurosceptics.
However, Number 10 has dismissed talk of hesitation or departmental disarray as nonsensical, with Theresa May sending a clear message to press and public alike that Brexit is very much still ‘full steam ahead’. As things currently stand, the government looks set to trigger Article 50 – which will formally start the process for Britain’s departure from the EU – at the start of 2017. A Downing Street source said: ‘Everyone has a view on Article 50 and timetables. The Prime Minister has set up departments to implement Brexit and they need to get their ducks in a row – but we are looking at early next year. That is what the Prime Minister has told leaders of other EU countries. There is no indication that it is going to go further than that. We know that Brexit means Brexit and that we have to get on with it. It is full steam ahead.’
How this sits with senior banking figures – many of whom at June’s Annual Retail Banking Conference said they ‘welcomed the government’s decision not to invoke Article 50 with immediate effect – is still to be seen.
We do welcome the government’s decision not to invoke article 50 for now, as we do need time to plan for a stable and orderly transition for the banking sector. –Noreen Doyle, Chair BBA
Invoking article 50 will simply accelerate decisions that might otherwise have taken a decade. –Justin Bisseker, Pan-European Banks Analyst Schroders
With reports of playground power struggles between the so-called ‘three Brexiteers’ – Dr Fox, Mr Johnson and the Secretary for Exiting the EU, David Davis – Whitehall officials have apparently been braced for tension. In a leaked letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox effectively demanded the break-up of the Foreign Office in order to pass certain key responsibilities to his new department. Mrs May was swift to react to Mr Fox’s demands, wading in from her holiday in Switzerland to quash any rumour of such a shakeup and telling Mr Fox to ‘stop playing games’ and get on with the job in hand.
Naturally, such bickering has done little for the public’s perception of the key government figures trusted with the delicate and lengthy task of facilitating our departure from the EU.
On Tuesday it was also reported that Euro-sceptic Tories are already starting to fear that the government is shying away from its commitment to get Britain out of the EU – heading instead for what has been widely referred to as ‘Brexit Lite’. Plans are now thought to be in the pipeline for two cross-party groups to pressure the government into committing to a strict, public timeline for leaving. However, ministers are keen to be see to be erring on the side of caution for good reason, insisting that the potentially extended timeline is the best interests for allowing comprehensive negotiations before the departure is formalised.
As far as more clues to post-Brexit conditions, each week seems to bring new developments. Last weekend, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the billions of pounds of funding that currently comes from the EU to support farmers, scientists and other projects will now be provided by the Treasury. Estimated at a cost of close to £6billion a year, the Treasury is set to guarantee continued funding for EU-backed schemes signed before this year’s Autumn Statement – meaning relative business as usual for a number of areas previously expected to take a hit.
Indeed, confidence certainly seems to be on the up since an initially hesitant period in the immediate wake of June’s referendum. Perhaps it is testament to national confidence that, for now at least, Britain is not allowing a political shock to become an economic one.
Read more about Brexit and the recent Westminster ‘doom-mongering’ here.
“Something must be done to break the inertia of the UK banking public”, said the BBC yesterday in its report on the latest activity from the Competition and Markets Authority’s latest plans for retail banking.
Following what is reported to have been a two-year investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded that not enough is being done to pressurise banks into offering significantly cheaper or better services to customers. Indeed, only 4% of UK businesses and 3% of individuals currently switch their bank in any one year. As a result of these findings, the BBC yesterday said that, “some very big changes are now in the pipeline for the way people use their bank accounts and the way banks charge their customers”.
In essence, banking’s ‘big five’ (RBS, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Santander) plus the Nationwide building society each have their own significant, but crucially captive markets. “The older and larger banks, which still account for the large majority of the retail banking market, do not have to work hard enough to win and retain customers and it is difficult for new and smaller providers to attract customers,” said the CMA. Thus its latest initiative will look not only to make switching easier, but also aims to encourage customers to look elsewhere for a better deal that will ultimately save them money and offer other benefits – especially if they are likely to go overdrawn.
The topic of overdrafts has itself been a spotlight issue for The CMA throughout its investigations, as it now orders banks to put a hard cap on just how much they can charge customers for going into the red. Historically, this is an area that has caused controversy as banks have been allowed to charge more or less what they like for unauthorised overdraft use. In fact, in 2009 the Office of Fair Trading (now part of the CMA) failed in its legal challenge to overthrow the right of banks to set their own charges as they saw fit.
Forcing banks to cap and declare their overdraft charges does not, of course, go so far as to suggest that a monthly limit on overdraft fees and charges should be set by a regulator, but it will at least make things clearer for customers. “Many personal customers, in particular overdraft users, could make significant savings by switching to a different current account,” says the CMA. It aims to bring this particular change into force by September next year.
Open Banking and the push for further CMA reform
In a bid to stimulate greater competition – and improve options for customers – The CMA is pushing for an industry-wide adoption of what is being referred to as ‘open banking’. In principle, open banking would see the financial technology industry strive to develop a computer application that would allow customers to manage accounts that may be across multiple banks through one central interface.
In recent years, we’ve seen vendor-specific banking apps pop up all over the place, but these only offer management of accounts held with that particular bank. This new, ‘all purpose’ app should also – so The CMA says – allow authorised intermediaries to provide a kind of ‘price and service comparison’, so that customers are able to check their existing provider(s) against others in the market at large, and thus potentially find other providers that are better suited to their specific saving and spending needs.
The CMA hopes that this will encourage customers to move money around – either to avoid upcoming overdraft charges, or to gain higher interest on more generous accounts.
And how soon will all this happen? The CMA’s final report, published yesterday, is just the latest in a very long line of official inquiries into the banking industry that have been held over the past 20 years. With a myriad of proposals on the table, all aimed at improving the customer experience in the retail banking arena, it is hard to say for sure which of these will be carried forward – and indeed when we might see them enforced. However, with plans around competition, overdraft caps and open banking now finalised and published, we’re told that official implementation dates range from the beginning of 2017 to the autumn of 2018. Watch this space!
For more information, visit the BBC business website here.
Last week the BBC reported that last year saw nearly six million instances of cyber crime in England and Wales.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cyber is fast-becoming the most common type of crime – with 3.8 million fraud offences and 2 million instances of computer misuse recorded between March 2015 and 2016. It also noted that the majority of these were linked to some kind of bank account fraud, meaning that as ever banks remain at the forefront of issues of cyber security.
“In today’s climate, 70% of all fraud is cyber-related”, said Arancha Sanchez (CISO, Santander) at last month’s BBA Annual Retail Banking conference, where she expressed a belief that banks have a clear duty not only to protect themselves, but also to educate and assist their customer base. “Although at present, only half of firms consider cyber security to be a priority for them.”
“The widespread use of computers, laptops and smart-phones to facilitate fraud has changed [the way we perceive crime]”, said Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent. “[The ONS found] we are more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other type of crime, with one in 10 adults defrauded in the past 12 months.”
“Fraud and cyber offences are not a new threat and the government has been working to get ahead of the game, committing to spend £1.9bn on cybersecurity and cybercrime over the next five years.” –Policing Minister Brandon Lewis
Indeed, of the reported two million instances of computer misuse, 1.4million involved the device in question becoming infected with a malicious virus, with the remainder related to “unauthorised access to personal information” – such as hacking. As technology continues to advance, and banks seek to provide seamless, cross-platform solutions to their customer base, it is crucial that cyber awareness is given adequate attention. “Consumers need confidence in banks, and banks need confidence in customers, said Donald Toon, Director of Economic Crime Command NCA; “Cyber Security is about Tech, Processes AND People.”
“Boards need to be able to heavily tasked with promoting a culture of cyber confidence. There isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to cyber security; and it’s a Chief Exec problem not just an IT one.” –Arancha Sanchez, CISO, Santander
Every day at Unicorn we help other companies achieve their organisational aims through implementing learning that embeds desired behaviours, practices and cultures amongst staff while also helping them meet their regulatory, legal and compliance needs.
But we can only do that successfully if our own behaviours and practices within Unicorn are also reflecting the company culture that has made us, well, us.
So how do we make sure the family ethic that has helped Unicorn grow to 90+ staff across our Bournemouth and London offices over the past few years is complemented by continually building a high performance culture internally too?
Enter Todd Eden and the LeadNow programme…
“As we grew we wanted to make sure we didn’t fall into the classic growth traps such as disconnected directors, employees feeling disempowered, inter-team tension, communication levels reduced, etc,” explains Jackie Kennedy, Unicorn Training COO.
“We needed a solution that would help us to avoid these and take us to the next level. We felt our great ‘family feel’ was getting stretched. Leadership capability in all areas and at all levels is critical to growth, and we needed a solution that was both engaging and impactful.”
The LeadNow programme is enabling Unicorn team members to lead themselves, one another and groups.
Over the course of a two-day event, team members discover…
- how coaching can help day-to-day
- the importance of understanding others
- how they lead themselves
- they understand their values and beliefs more deeply
- how to affect their attitudes,
- how to better relate to colleagues, clients and everyone else they meet
Jackie continues: “Todd initially worked with a group of 20 Unicorn directors, line managers, and team members on a two-day workshop, which was followed up six months later with a one-day leadership-in-action revitaliser.
“However, we quickly realised this unique event would benefit everyone in the business and we now intend to put all employees through this programme in the coming months.”
Each subject is explored via stimulating presentations, experiential learnings, individual reflection and socialisation; enabling each participant to develop their own personal views. The structure is simple – after an introduction to leadership there are three modules – 1) leading self, 2) leading others and 3) leading groups, followed by a planning session.
Here is some of the feedback from our impressed Unicorn’s so far…
“An awesome workshop that I would recommend to anyone.”
“Thank-you for an amazing two days. I’ve realised some huge aspects I need to work on with self-awareness / reflection and look forward to building on that!”
“I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a life changing event.”
Team members have reported that they can talk more freely and are better connected with themselves and other team members. Difficult conversations became easier, and the change in behaviours of the participants has rubbed off on their colleagues too.
Jackie concludes: “We’ve just had really great feedback and everyone enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot about themselves. Todd has this flow of activities, which build trust and depth of self-awareness. He’s also really skilled at weaving in the specific goals we had requested. A thoroughly recommended event, well, experience really!”
As an award-winning provider of L&D and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing financial services industry, Unicorn’s talents combine 28 years’ learning knowhow with superb creativity, reliability and security endorsed by numerous large organisations and professional bodies.
For more information about LeadNow visit www.leadnow.net
In this month’s T-C News, we ask four months into the new accountability regime for banks, how did the industry handle its arrival and what’s next?
The article addresses:
- how adjusting to the new accountability regime has been
- what challenges have arisen, things that needed extra attention and how they were dealt with
- preparing for the Certification Regime and training for the Conduct Rules ahead of the March 2017 deadline
- how the Senior Manager and Certification regimes have helped streamline policies and processes, especially around T&C.
“ As far as evidencing competency is concerned, CPD alone doesn’t cut it.” – Philippa Grocott, Partner, FSTP.
At Unicorn we are always committed to finding the next generation of talent. Here, Bournemouth University student Jenade shares her 6-week experience working as a Marketing Assistant.
Six weeks ago I started my placement at Unicorn Training Group Ltd and it has been nothing like I ever expected. I thought I was well equipped for the real working world, being a Communications and Media undergraduate from Bournemouth University. However, my time at Unicorn has shown me that books and lectures only take you part of the way.
Unicorn staff are lovely and had a genuine interest in my career path. Everyone has smiles for miles, as if that wasn’t enough I felt so welcomed to find out the role was specially tailored to suit me. Working as an Internal Marketing Assistant was interestingly varied and advanced well from my course teachings.
Unicorn is a rapidly progressing business, this however, can impact how communications are spread, as it becomes harder to keep track of who knows what. I met with Jackie Kennedy (COO) and we thought the introduction of a quarterly internal magazine would help to keep all staff in the loop.
Despite my nerves and reservations, Unicorn were enthusiastic and trusted me with the big responsibility of producing the first edition of the magazine- Connected +. My role was to ensure that all staff in both the Bournemouth and London branch are informed of news they may be unaware of. By featuring articles from a wide spectrum of the business, we hope Connected + will transcend the city borders to bring the Unicorn family together.
Being in a busy and dynamic environment, it was important to be flexible and adaptable especially when working around staff schedules and workloads. I spent the majority of my time working with the HR and Training Team but there was always a friendly and passionate Unicorn around the corner.
Although, Connected+ was my main focus, I was given the opportunity to take part in exciting events that I’ve never done before. Such as the UCL Airport simulation game testing (thank you Peter Phillips, Jackie Kennedy, Gemma Blackaller and Team 5!). With fresh insight into the Induction programme, I was encouraged to evaluate the current process and identify areas for improvements. During this time, Abi Pears (Marketing Manger) also encouraged me to review some of the Unicorn platforms including the website, blogs and social media footprint.
When the sunshine finally reached Bournemouth, I didn’t ever feel like I was missing out, especially with treats like these to look forward to:
Unfortunately, we hit some bumps along the way and we weren’t able to Launch the magazine during my time here but all our hard work won’t go to waste and I have no doubt that we will see the finished product sooner than you think. Don’t fear, if I have missed you out (I’m sorry!) Connected+ is ongoing project that anyone can get involved in so feel free to send Shaun Hickman a message to be a part of the Autumn Issue.
Joining Unicorn has been an instrumental part of my personal development and I only wish I had the time to meet everyone during my time here. This placement encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone and challenged my capabilities in range of topics. It has improved my confidence and developed my experience in writing and editing as well as marketing and graphic design.
Finally, I’d just like to give a big Unicorn thank you to everyone that have made my experience one to remember!
Last week, we attended the BBA’s Annual Retail Banking Conference in the heart of The City; where as well as exhibiting, we also took part in the day’s varied panel discussions, presentations and floor debates.
Bringing together some of the most influential players in the retail banking sector, this event represents a unique opportunity for the industry’s elite to gather to discuss hot topics with delegates from across the banking, insurance and fin-tech sectors. With the shock of the Brexit vote still fresh in everyone’s minds, the conference was well-placed to give a perspective from an outlet that was refreshingly free of the hyperbole that has typified political headlines in recent weeks. Changes to the advertised itinerary for the day saw last minute inclusions of figures such as ex-MEP Baroness Bowles, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, MP Harriett Baldwin.
Chairing the day was ITV’s Business Editor, Joel Hills; “We know for certain that Britain is leaving the EU”, he said, “but at this time we have absolutely no idea what that means for Britain, or for London. However, remembering the 2008 banking crash, Britain’s banks have been stress tested to destruction – and we have survived what we hope is worse.”
Whether his view is an overly optimistic one or not was very much up for discussion; Noreen Doyle, chair of the BBA was more measured in her take on things, saying that consequences – whether for better or worse – would take time to become apparent. “our message to the government is that we need an orderly transition to whatever system will be in place from here”, she commented; “We do welcome the government’s decision not to invoke article 50 for now, as we do need time to plan for a stable and orderly transition for the banking sector.” Indeed, this was a view shared by many of the other panellists, with Justin Bisseker (Pan-European Banks Analyst at Schroders) stating that, “Invoking article 50 will simply accelerate decisions that might otherwise have taken a decade. Investment decisions will likely be delayed until there is more certainty.” Adding her take on things, Harriett Baldwin MP reiterated the point that the triumph of the ‘leave’ vote was, “a clear democratic decision on a higher turnout than we get in a general election.” Although her tone implied a certain amount of uncertainty for the future of Britain’s banking sector in light of Brexit, she went on to remember the 1987 stock market crash, and the 1997 capital market crash, concluding that, “financial markets are capable of weathering times like these.”
“There have been fundamental reforms to the regime since the last crash”, she continued, “and above and beyond the effectiveness of precautionary measures put in place by The Bank of England, the critical social determinate is confidence. The UK is the most experienced financial capital in the world; we have a strong regulatory framework; we will adjust to and overcome the challenges we face. As far as we are concerned, there is no change – to the way goods and services are traded, or to the way our systems are regulated.
Let us not forget: the economy has grown 13% since 2010; the budget deficit is down from 11% of national income to just over 3%. The key message here is that Britain is strong, and we are open for business.”
Unicorn at the Conference:
In light of our solid and successful partnership with the BBA, we attended the conference in the capacity of exhibitors; taking with us some of our compliance experts to discuss our services with the attendees. [L-R Simon Mercer, ComplianceServe Product Manager; Aidan Keenlyside, Business Development Manager; Alex Prodromou, Business Development Manager.]
Our next blog from the Conference will look at Cyber Security, as we explore the panel discussion presented by HSBC, Santander and The National Crime Agency.
Unicorn first invested in Bournemouth-based Amuzo last December and the partnership’s potential has proved so positive in its first six months that Amuzo has now officially become part of the Unicorn Training Group.
Together Unicorn and Amuzo are developing and publishing learning games that engage and immerse ‘players’ along with Apps to meet employer and employee demand for Just-In-Time and reinforcement spaced learning outside of the more traditional desktop environment.
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: “This partnership is about allying the creativity of a great casual games company with the instructional design expertise of Unicorn to hit the sweet spot where the power of games can make learning more meaningful, practical and effective, and fun too.
“Equally important, Amuzo have in-depth expertise in publishing Apps to mobile platforms for global audiences, a skillset not yet embedded in the desktop-oriented world of corporate eLearning. Amuzo’s LEGO® games, for example, are played on a range of different devices and in different languages in over 100 countries worldwide.
“That knowhow and level of experience would take years to build from scratch in the eLearning world, and yet flexible, mobile learning solutions that can be made available to many thousands of people at the same time is what employers and learners want now.”
Mike Hawkyard, Amuzo MD, said: “We are delighted to strengthen our partnership with Unicorn through this new investment. Unicorn bring scale and financial strength and open up a new revenue stream for Amuzo while enabling us to continue to grow our core business of creating great games.
“With games and gamification the fastest growth areas in learning and development, adding proven world class games development to its core business helps Unicorn meet this demand with uniquely creative and effective solutions.”
The past 12 months have been record breakers for Unicorn, with sales topping £6m for the first time while Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe was ranked the World’s top LMS for financial services for the second year running. Unicorn has been creating learning and development and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing financial services for 28 years. This experience, industry expertise and award-winning creativity is unmatched in the financial services sector.
Award-winning Amuzo games have been played well over a billion times in the last two years alone and have reached #1 on the App Store in over 150 countries.