Category Archives: In The Press

Where next for the automation revolution?

This is a guest post by Sandeep Kumar, Vice President at ITC Infotech and Head of the Business Consulting Group.

The increasing automation of the supply chain has become a major talking point in recent years as technology continues to play a pivotal role in the way operations are run.

Jenson/Shutterstock.com

The buzz is easy to understand – automation enables businesses to address the need to scale their operations without having to add to their workforce, with a more streamlined, flexible and efficient operation that drastically reduces errors.

Although it continues to dominate headlines today, the supply chain technology revolution actually started in the early 1980s with the advent of powerful computing models in MRP and MRP II. This later evolved into the next generation supply chain software that helped bring in advanced planning and optimisation capabilities as well as strong functional automation of warehouses and factories. The equation has been shifting ever  since then, with newer technology becoming more affordable, the cost benefits of tool driven automation became extremely attractive and application of smart tools came to be realised as a critical competitive advantage.

Many geo-political events and technology breakthroughs have contributed to this trend. The oil crisis of the 70’s triggered multiple innovations in cost reduction and efficiency, and the opening up of China and the Far East in the 80s made the making and selling of products across different continents not only possible, but cost effective. The end of the Cold-War and increase in globalisation led to rampant consumerism in the 90s – driving product proliferation, miniaturisation and reduction of life cycles, digitisation of information exchange , and increasingly stringent statutory requirements for safety and ethical practices.

The forces of globalisation have continued to drive newer themes which dominate the agenda today, such as the globalised supply chain, cost and profitability improvement, value chain integration, integrated planning and optimisation, global supply chain analytics and more. Technology has helped shape business evolution at each step.

In essence, what we see today is the supply chain being more and more digitalised and therefore more intelligent. By setting up a centralised supply chain analytics centre, for instance, businesses can benefit from processes like demand forecasting, replenishment planning, inventory analytics and sales and operations planning support in a shared services model. In this way, they can extend the benefits of standardised processes and analytics across multiple business divisions without having to increase human resources.

The impact of growing automation in supply chains has been widespread across industries. Among those most affected by transformation in supply chains are high tech OEMs and consumer electronics OEMs. These are largely sectors where cost efficiencies are paramount and technology adaptation is helping to lower the cost of product operations, and this demand has made them the pioneers in adopting new advanced capabilities that disrupt the supply chain models.

In these sectors, functions such as designing, sourcing and distribution have gone through transformational change. Companies like Cisco, for example, operate a business model that uses technology as a powerful integrator of supply chains. The automotive, aerospace and industrial manufacturing industries have also undergone similar transformation.

This evolution does not come without challenges.

In addition, the CPG, fashion apparel and retail industries are good examples of how global supply chain models bring together raw materials and ingredients from across the world, before products are manufactured and then distributed to global markets. Wal-Mart’s Retail Link, for instance is a great case of how a retailer manages its huge supplier base through a supply chain Information portal.

This evolution does not come without challenges. In this case, the challenge lies primarily in staying ahead of the curve. Early adopters of supply chain risk management like Cisco and Ericsson, for example, have been pushed into investing in such capabilities based on environmental factors putting their supply chains at risk. Wal-Mart and Lego are other examples where supply chain sustainability and codes of conduct are being put in place as a consequence of management not being live to bad supplier practices.

Another concern has been the decreasing relevance of human labour in the face of growing automation. Although, it is clear that this transformation does impact manual work content by changing the way certain tasks are performed, arguing that it subsequently leads to the removal of people from supply chains would be quite an overstatement.

Sandeep KumarWhat however needs to be reinstated is that despite the rapid technological developments, humans have always and will continue to be the drivers of these processes. Even though specific roles will keep changing, supply chains will continue to depend on technology-savvy people. Supply chain technology is moving human tasks from more repetitive data entry and crunching tasks to more intelligent supply chain decision making, enabled by smart data and technology support.

This is an interesting time for supply chains as a series of innovations and technological shifts such as mobility and the rise of digital commerce will drive further change in the coming years. Supply chain risk management, sustainability, global integrated planning capabilities, and the use of instrumented intelligence are becoming key areas of interest that will help increase in-process visibility and enable the quicker business turn around on key operations. Fast-paced change in this area means there is plenty of space for players to claim the “pioneer status”. Businesses that want to succeed and reap the benefits of supply chain automation need to be forward-looking and brave enough to take the extra step ahead of their competitors.

Three key insights on the importance of SRM

Apple and General Motors are two massively successful American enterprises with rich yet starkly contrasting histories.

Founded in 1976, Apple has exceeded a market capitalisation of $700B and has ascended to become the most valuable company in the world.  After leading global vehicle sales for 77 consecutive years in 2007, GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and recently slipped to the position of the world’s third largest automaker.

Razvan Ionut Dragomirescu/Shutterstock.com

Both organisations wield a significant amount of influence in their industries.  Each of them are making news headlines for their supplier relationship management (SRM) practices.

Here are three key insights that we can garner from these two extremely high-profile cases. 

  1. SRM cultures are built top-down

Apple CEO Tim Cook succeeded Steve Jobs in 2011 from his role of COO, which included oversight of the Global Procurement organisation.  Industry accounts portray Cook as master negotiator who knows how to develop and drive supplier relationships based on long-term potential and risk.

For example, Cook disagreed with Steve Jobs in 2011 when Jobs insisted on suing Samsung, who is both a major supplier and competitor to Apple.  Shrewd but sensible, Cook saw the big picture and the importance of the Samsung relationship to the iPhone business.

In the GTAT case, Apple’s approach is a bit curious given how it aggressively structured the deal in the face of what in hindsight was major supplier risk.  One perspective is that it was effective negotiation that protected their interests and secured exclusive rights to sapphire technology.  Another view is that the contract does not reflect the tone of a strategic co-investment arrangement for a scarce technology and billions of iPhone 6 revenue at stake.

Whether you agree or not with Apple’s approach to GTAT, there is little doubt that the SRM culture that Cook has built is a competitive advantage for Apple.  Apple’s sustained business growth and its constant flux of product innovation could not have been achieved otherwise.

Delphi was a division of GM until 1999, when GM spun them off and the relationship has been heavily strained since.  The facts coming out of the ignition switch case paint a fairly dismal picture of GM SRM’s tactics.  Top execs have admitted that suppliers “don’t really believe” in GM resulting in a competitive disadvantage.  GM has been ranked by its suppliers over the years as the worst automaker to deal with, according to an annual survey.

Dealing with the aftermath of a long-standing adversarial SRM culture, CEO Mary Barra proclaimed that building supplier relationships is among her top priorities.  Barra has just appointed a new CPO, a former Delphi executive aptly enough, who will be faced with the challenge of driving a transformation of SRM practices from top to bottom.

These stories remind us how critical it is for CPO’s to embed a SRM culture with the overarching long-term business strategy.  Despite the GTAT setback, Apple has a SRM culture that has fuelled its business growth.  GM’s exec have been unable to build an effective SRM culture, which has resulted in a decline in business performance and major reputational damage.

  1. Effective SRM practices consider external stakeholders

The crux of the GTAT-Apple deal was that Apple would loan the supplier $578m to build and operate furnaces at an Apple-owned facility in Mesa, Arizona.  This was to be a huge win for not only the local community there, but also a lift to Apple’s efforts to demonstrate that they could create jobs in the USA.

When the deal imploded, Apple closed the site resulting in over 600 jobs lost to the local community.  Apple has renewed its commitment to the town by setting plans to re-purpose the former GTAT facility.

GM has a wide array of constituents and stakeholders to answer to regarding its dealings with Delphi.  The Attorney General of Arizona has filed a $3B lawsuit for the families of victims of the faulty ignition switches.  Surely, there are more to come.

Building an SRM plan is primarily focused on delivering solutions that meet customer needs, but it does not end there.  Procurement managers must be keenly aware of risks to the external stakeholder environment, which should be carefully identified with business partners such as Legal, HR, Public Relations and others.

  1. Demand for strong procurement executives will rise 

Procurement practitioners have reason to be encouraged by the visibility that these stories bring to the function.  The public scrutiny that Apple and GM are facing with their SRM practices exemplify how strong procurement leadership can make a profound impact on the success of large multinational enterprises.

Top execs will be looking for CPO’s that can build and sustain a culture in which the value potential of effectively managed supplier relationships can be fully realised.  The mission of the progressive CPO will include transforming procurement into an organisation of forward-thinking, relationship-savvy business strategists that have deep understanding of the external environment.

Finally, properly incentivising the new procurement organisation to live the values of its SRM culture will be paramount.  CPO’s will be focused on expanding traditional procurement metrics to include broader KPI’s in the areas of product innovation, market share and customer satisfaction.

Why are we making it so hard for the next generation?

Bright young things are turning well-worn tropes on their head – sound familiar?* 

*Procurement had an image problem – that’s why we created Procurious.

Female engineers recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

The engineering industry is facing an uphill struggle…

Promising, young procurement professionals will find common ground in the lack of careers advice, visibility and fractured career pathways that female engineers are all experiencing.

Which leads us to pose the question: why are we making it so hard for the next generation?

Engineers are the backbone of our operations, their work can be felt in everything from production and manufacturing processes, through to transport and logistics solutions. And as they’re increasingly being exposed to more modern technologies – 3D printing being one such example – our reliance on these wunderkind will only increase.

This week saw three outstanding female engineers recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for their professional achievements and the work they do encouraging other young people into engineering.

28-year-old senior hardware engineer Naomi Mitchison from Selex-ES has been named the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, and will play an ambassadorial role for the profession in the forthcoming months.

20-year-old Jessica Bestwick, who works for Rolls Royce, was presented with the IET’s Mary George Prize for Apprentices, and 27-year-old Lucy Ackland who works for Renishaw PLC in Stone, Staffordshire won the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Award.

Recognising outstanding female engineers has never been so important after the IET revealed worrying new statistics charting skills and demand. The survey showed that women represent only six per cent of the engineering workforce – the lowest percentage in the whole of Europe. If this trend continues, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 87,000 new engineers it is estimated the country will need each year over the next decade (according to Engineering UK 2014, the state of engineering).

Michelle Richmond, IET Director of Membership, and a former YWE winner, said: “The lack of women in engineering is a huge problem for this country, contributing to skills shortages which threaten the economy. It also means that women are missing out on interesting and rewarding careers.

How to minimise export risks and protect human rights

An innovative pairing of government and tech are working together to protect human rights abroad. 

alexskopje/Shutterstock.com

The UK government has published its first ever cyber security guidance that provides advice on how to manage export risks, thus leading the way in ethical business export practices.

‘Assessing Cyber Security Export Risks’ is the first tech sector guidance of its kind in the world. It provides cyber security companies of all sizes with actionable advice, to help identify and manage the risks of exporting their products and services. It gives detailed background information and a framework to help companies develop their due diligence processes, manage human rights risks and identify national security risks. This reduces the likelihood of a buyer being able to use their technology to help perpetrate human rights abuses. It also reduces the likelihood of reputational damage to British companies.

Sounds a bit too UK-orientated. Why should I be interested in this?

On the face of it the guidance is catering for a suitably British audience, but let’s not downplay the importance of this publication. Guidance of this kind is truly a watershed moment – hopefully providing impetus, inspiration, and paving the way for similar initiatives.

Cyber security capabilities are used around the world to strengthen the integrity of critical national infrastructures, prevent the theft of corporate and personal data, and tackle fraud. Their export presents the UK with a significant economic opportunity. HM Government has recognised this and is working with industry through the Cyber Growth Partnership to help companies realise this growth, with the aim of increasing UK cyber security exports to £2bn by 2016.

Most often cyber security capabilities are used only to defend networks or disrupt criminal activity. However, some cyber products and services can enable surveillance and espionage or disrupt, deny and degrade online services. If used inappropriately, they may pose a risk to human rights, to UK national security and to the reputation and legal standing of the exporter.

Ruth Davis, Head of Cyber, Justice and Emergency Services, techUK said: “The advice in this document is designed to help companies reduce reputational risk and to have confidence in the deals they make. We believe that ethical business practice is key; human rights and a vibrant British cyber sector are two sides of the same coin.”

The Guidance sets out a risk assessment process that helps companies to: 

  • Look at the capabilities of the product or service they want to export and how it could be used by purchasers.
  • Examine the places where they are exporting to including their political and legal frameworks, the state’s respect for human rights and potentially vulnerable people.
  • Assess who the end purchaser of the product is and how they intend to use it.
  • Evaluate potential business partners and re-sellers.
  • It also provides advice on how to mitigate and build risk management clauses into the contract.

Dibble Clark, Cyber Lead at 3SDL, a Malvern Cluster cyber security company commented: “Recent events have put the human rights responsibilities of cyber export companies in the spotlight and there is particular scrutiny on our sector, both from governments and NGOs. The responsibility to respect human rights is something no company can ignore, whether large or small.

Rt. Hon Baroness Anelay, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said: “This groundbreaking guidance will help cyber security businesses manage human rights risk by adopting effective due diligence policies and enable them to respect human rights wherever they operate.”

Black Friday/Cyber Monday: the real effect on supply chains

They say this is the most wonderful time of the year – but the growing transatlantic popularity of this sales phenomenon won’t just put strain on cash registers… The frenzied (sometimes violent) stampede of bargain hunters will undoubtedly place strain on supply chains and logistics networks too.

Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

According to Visa, £360,000 is expected to be spent every minute on Black Friday (28th November) – with a further £281 million forecast to be spent on the busiest day for online shopping; Cyber Monday.

Black Friday has long been established as a traditional sales bonanza in the US, and is predicted to see $2.48 billion spent online this year, up by 28 per cent. Meanwhile the more recent eCommerce follow up Cyber Monday is expected to increase by 15 per cent to $2.6 billion, and Thanksgiving Day itself has been predicted to see online sales of $1.35 billion, up 27 per cent.

Global IT services company IT Infotech have shared with us its thoughts on why retailers, logistics and delivery firms should be prepared for extra pressure through Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

The American tradition has been an increasingly popular import in the UK, with leading retailers including Amazon, Argos and John Lewis offering sales both online and in-store.

“UK retailers are already bracing their logistics operations to handle the Christmas rush, which can see as much as 70 per cent of yearly sales volumes achieved in the last two weeks of December”, says Venkata V, who works with some of the top retailers around the globe.

“However, with the US expecting one of the biggest sales periods in history this Thanksgiving, the UK should be prepared to see a spike in demand and more strain on their logistics. Even retailers not offering specific Black Friday discounts themselves can expect more demand as shoppers are inspired to hunt for Christmas bargains.”

The rapid escalation in demand created by sales events like Black Friday can be extremely lucrative, but also cause havoc on unprepared supply chains, as demonstrated by China’s recent “Single’s Day” event. The country’s biggest sales event saw the e-commerce leader Alibaba rake in sales of over £9 billion, but the day has previously slowed down delivery times from two days to over a week.

Saravana Kumar who heads Supply Chain consulting in ITC Infotech says: “Marketing, production and logistics teams should work closely together to make sure their operation can handle increased demand on the 28th of November, especially as they are likely to already be stretched by the Christmas period. Flexible retailers have a strong opportunity to capitalise on the sales event by reacting to demand and adjusting their pricing strategy on the fly, increasing and lowering prices as needed”.

“The increased complexity of omni-channel retail has made the supply chain more challenging, also presents an opportunity for well-prepared operations. Capacity should be available to quickly move stock for the most popular products around to meet increased demand online or in particular stores.”

Further comment is offered from Paul Doble, chief sales and marketing officer at DX, a leading independent mail, parcels and logistics end-to-end network operator:

“Throughout the busy Christmas trading season retailers must try to forecast as accurately as possible the volumes that will need to be sent, and then communicate these expectations to their logistics partners, who will take up a huge percentage of this volume. The alternative is the situation many retailers have faced in previous years, where through a combination of inaccurate planning, poor communication and unanticipated weather conditions, demand outstrips capacity and leaves retailers unable to meet their promises to online shoppers.”

Doble continues: “It’s a problem that is often exacerbated when retailers try to maximise the online shopping window, pushing back their Christmas order deadlines and thereby drastically increasing the risk of delayed deliveries when bad weather and other factors disrupt the supply chain.”

Doble concludes with a thought-provoking double-header: “Ultimately, when Christmas presents fail to arrive, it will be the retailer that bears the brunt of disgruntled Customers and negative publicity. As such, retailers need to be asking themselves the question: just how robust are my Christmas delivery plans?”

Podcast: Social Media for Procurement

ATK helps put procurement in the drivers’ seat with social media

A.T. Kearney’s Knowledge Director, Helen Clegg, is spearheading the discussion for educating the procurement profession on the benefits of social media.

Hear my interview with Helen http://bit.ly/14VDC1x where I share how to leverage social networks, from building relationships with suppliers to receiving real-time news about supply chain disruptions.

On the topic of risk, I share with Helen my view that there are more risks to procurement professionals for NOT being connected with social media, than there are to being involved.

I also share my top tips for building a social media presence, as well as recommending that everyone finds a millennial mentor!

If you find it useful, I would love you to share it with your Procurious network, on LinkedIn or over Twitter?!

How to detect fraud in your organisation

This is a guest article from Visna Lampasi, The Faculty’s 2014 Chief Procurement Officer of the Year (Asia Pacific).

With the growing emphasis placed on the CIPS Ethical Mark, we quizzed Visna Lampasi – Global Chief Procurement Officer & Procurement Thought Leader on how to detect fraud in your organisation.

Procurious asks: Do you believe fraud has become a bigger issue for Procurement in recent years? And if so, why? 

Visna answers: The number of instances in procurement fraud and corruption is increasing and becoming a far bigger issue than previously for organisations globally.

Whilst some industries have imposed pay freezes and pay cuts over the last number of years, the living costs have been rising and during a time when the jobs market has been stagnant.

If you couple this with an organisation who has poor procure-to-pay controls, then this will unfortunately reveal opportunities to defraud.

Procurious: From a  procurement perspective, what do you see as the most common examples of unethical conduct  are in the supply chain today?  (bribery; misconduct by suppliers; misappropriation of company funds etc.)

Visna: There are many types of procurement fraud, which can be committed across the entire source-to-settle core process not just procure-to-pay.

The ones that I have come across the most throughout my procurement career are: – 

·         Fictitious suppliers and sub-contractors
·         False, inflated or duplicate invoices
·         Unjustified sole source awards
·         Bribery and kickbacks

·         Undeclared Conflicts of Interest
·         Purchases for personal use or resell
·         Split purchases

Procurious: What do you believe are the most important activities for detecting and deterring fraud in the business?  

Visna: The simplest way to prevent procurement fraud is to: – 

1)      ensure that you have robust “Procurement Policies & Procedures” in place and that these are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are effective,

2)      proactively drive organisational “Compliance” against these policies and procedures,

3)      ensure appropriate “Segregation of Duties” – ensure that the person who can set-up a supplier, issue purchase orders, and process an invoice for payment is not the same,

4)      ensure tight controls within your “Procure-to-Pay” process as a minimum, with appropriate checks and balances in place.

Don’t forget to address your “Source-to-Contract” process as well, which is the front end of the Source-to-Settle process and more often than not is disregarded.

Procurious: Government Procurement have long had strict gift and hospitality policies in place and the private sector are increasingly following suit. Do you think there’s such a thing as ‘going too far’?

Visna: There needs to be a balance here and one that takes into account different cultures and customs that an organisation is going to encounter when doing business both locally and overseas.

The important thing here is that an organisation has a policy in place around gifts, meals and entertainment and that is being followed by its employees.

Full transparency is key and will assist to address questions around reasonableness and perception prior to acceptance.

Procurious: Western countries often have quite different beliefs and practices around what constitutes unethical behaviour.  Do you have any tips for dealing with suppliers in other countries which may take a more lax attitude towards gifts and payments?  

Visna: My suggestion would be to look to your organisation’s corporate values and Code of Conduct for guidance around expectations of ethical behaviour and determine if these align with the country you are seeking to do business with.

Many organisations also have lists of embargoed countries, which will also assist in identifying whether the country is approved to do business with.

Procurious: If businesses are serious about taking a ‘zero tolerance attitude’ towards corruption, what policies, procedures and employee training will be fundamental?   

Visna: Robust procurement policies and procedures are fundamental, supported with regular communications and on-going training to increase awareness and build capability.

Current members of The Chartered Institute Procurement of Supply can complete an eLearning  module on Ethical Sourcing, which incorporates elements around procurement fraud and corruption.

A license can also be purchased for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply Anti-Procurement Fraud Training,  which will allow organisations to deploy this online training to all of their employees globally.

Leading female entrepreneurs front government export drive

The UK Trade & Investment arm of the UK government has just distributed ‘From local to global’. The guidance has been collated and published in aid of the GREAT Britain campaign – a campaign that encompasses the very best of Britain’s businesses, tourism, and educational offerings.

Kelly Hoppen offers export advice

Kelly Hoppen was chosen to pen the forward to a new online document that delves into the logistics and economics of the huge export market.

Kelly boasts an enviable track record, with over 30 years of first-hand experience building businesses.

“Language, logistical and cultural barriers can all be business obstacles. However, these barriers can be overcome with the right support, guidance and people to cheer you along throughout the journey,” she says. To that end here are a number of tips to help first timers thinking of entering the export business:

Know the currency

Understand the currencies you will need to deal with. Talk with your foreign exchange provider early, as they can give you insights into the potential currency risks.

Start small

It’s tempting to pursue multiple markets. Don’t. Begin by focusing on one or two markets.

Appreciate cultural differences

Failure to take account of different cultures can lead to damaging and costly mistakes. This could range from causing offence by not observing correct protocol to inappropriate packaging and marketing.

Get paid

It’s easy to overlook the risk of non-payment. Establish the credit rating of potential clients and guard against non-payment through letters of credit or credit insurance. If you’re a UK business, UKEF (UK Export Finance) can provide advice and insurance where the private market can’t help.

Business skills and networking

Kelly isn’t the only one offering her advice. Here’s Heather Melville, Director of Strategic Partnerships at RBS, on networking internationally:

Learn your markets

Use the experiences of your new contacts to get under the skin of new markets. Learn about the opportunities and the challenges. Ask questions to get the right answers.

Immerse yourself in the culture

Tap into the expertise of your local contacts. They can advise you on what to wear, what traditions to respect and even teach you some local dialect to throw in!

Know the business card etiquette

Be aware of business card customs when networking abroad. In Japan, for example, the business card is often embossed and represents a significant part of the process. Present your own card with both hands, and take the time to receive a card warmly.

Importing and exporting advice

Tips for using digital to sell overseas

The final part of the published guidance revolves around the notion of ‘selling while you sleep’.

Remember these top tips: 

Distance isn’t a barrier

Asian consumers, for example, are more connected because of their love of smart phones, meaning there are vast opportunities to extend the reach of your brand.

Spot common trends

Engage with your customer using the common trends in their market. Learning how different markets operate is simple but extremely effective.

Cost of digital

Weigh up the options of ‘digital only’ vs ‘digital and physical presence’ within a new market.

Know whether to scale up or down

Scalability is easy and affordable. Whether you want to sell into one country or 101, e-marketplaces allow you to trade across multiple countries via one platform.

Engage with social networks

Be more social. Consumers expect to be able to engage with you or other shoppers before purchasing.

How much do you really know about digital currencies?

In a report commissioned by HP, the Ponemon Institute has made a number of interesting finds. Its “Security & Compliance Trends in Innovative Electronic Payments” paper reveals that support for digital currencies and new electronic payment systems are perhaps stronger than originally thought.

Need a primer on digital payments? Watch this very informative video from e-commerce platform PinnacleCart.

Understanding the future of money and mobile payments

New electronic payment systems and virtual currencies are expected to make paper currency the horse and buggy of the 21st century. Are organisations up to the challenge of ensuring security and privacy when businesses and consumers use these payment systems for purchasing items and transferring of funds?

And while 79 per cent of the US organisations that took part in the research plan to adopt digital currencies, a key barrier to the adoption of innovative electronic payments remains. Namely: the issue of security. In terms of new electronic payments, all of the following were cited in respondent’s answers as either currently supported in marketplaces or the not too distant future: payments with a mobile device or use of phone number, e-currency (Bitcoin or other open source P2P money), stored value cards, and bar codes.

The biggest concern seems to be authentication risks with the use of virtual currencies. While new payment models are evolving, but the same security fundamentals for maximum protection in the overall payment process are still needed. The most critical are one-time passwords or tokens, federated identity and authentication systems and multi-factor authentication

There is also the perception that the pressure to quickly migrate to the use of innovative electronic payments is making it difficult to address the security and privacy issues.

A case-in-point: Digital wallets (or e-wallets) are used to hold virtual currency – and high profile names in technology like Google and Apple already have solutions in place to drive the adaption rate. In-fact belief is so strong that almost half (46 per cent) of respondents predict that virtual currencies will overtake paper currencies within the next five years. Perhaps there’s some truth in this… we are increasingly looking to financial institutions and credit card companies to make the inroads needed to take such practices to the next level. They’ll be the ones to create new approaches to the security and privacy of the electronic payment platform. These organisations are closer to the consumer experience with electronic payment systems and might have a greater incentive to innovate and improve both security and privacy.

What do you make of these new virtual payment systems: is more time needed to fully realise the benefits (and drawbacks) of such innovations? 

Is the economic future really as small as this book says?

If we believed everything we read then the UK has had to draft in Eastern Europeans to help make sandwiches, and our mobile phones are all giving us cancer…

Being the skeptical sort we’re inclined to take The Future is Small with a grain of salt, seeing as it raises pertinent questions about the future of investing.

wrangler/Shutterstock.com

The book begins by placing a spotlight on the current stagnation of world economies – arguing that despite trillions of dollars of support having been injected into the global financial system, the global economy will remain moribund for decades to come.

This is irrespective of record low interest rates remaining in place, and governments running higher budget deficits for longer than originally planned.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, given the words of Dr John Glen’s still ring in our ears – what we took away from the CIPS 2014 conference.

But given Williams’ credentials maybe there is some truth in his views… Could it be that small firms are set to be the stock market outperformers of the future?

Fundamentally, Gervais believes that it is the greater growth potential of genuinely small companies that explains why many can buck a tough economic trend, whereas most larger companies with major market positions are trapped by their flat sales lines.

Gervais Williams is an award-winning equity fund manager. He received Grant Thornton’s Quoted Companies’ Award Investor of the Year in both 2009 and 2010; then in 2012 his Diverse Income Trust was recognised as the Best New Investment Trust by the Association of Investment Companies. He was also What Investment’s Fund Manager of the Year 2014.

Gervais is a respected commentator on prospective market trends. He outlined his controversial views in his book Slow Finance in 2011 and develops those ideas in The Future is Small.

Is bigger always better, or is there beauty to be found in smallness? Could this be the new dawn that the little guys have been seeking?