logosuk2 With all the bad news coming out of the Middle East at the moment, its good to report about something great happening in this sector – its a pity its not being talked about more in the current climate.

Israel – the start up nation

Israel’s often dubbed the start-up nation because of its unique tech ecosystem. But tech-savvy Israeli-Arabs have struggled to compete with Tel Aviv’s unique tech scene, because of the geographic distance from the centre of the country, limited funding, restricted social network access and by not being allowed to serve in the army, which funds a lot of technical research.

But despite these barriers, a vibrant tech cluster is emerging in the Arab community, centred around Nazareth. The birthplace of Jesus is also an Arab town where Muslims and Christians live side by side. Its surrounding neighbourhoods are now establishing a reputation as the hub of Arab entrepreneurship and innovation in Israel.

Coming to the UK

Organised by the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, a delegation of Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs is meeting the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP, in London today, (2nd December, 2015) as part of a three-day tech trip to talk to some of the capital’s most innovative technology companies and services. Israel’s seeded 7,000 start-ups in the past decade, more than any other country outside the US. But the nation’s Arab minority faces many obstacles within this thriving sector.

The UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv is a public-private initiative investing in Israeli-Arab rising-stars, helping them develop their skills and foster business relationships abroad. By encouraging them to set the UK as their destination to grow and expand globally and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, who’ll have a better chance of becoming part of the Israeli economic mainstream.

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Veuve Clicquot Business Woman awrd fro 2014 goes to Thomas Cook CEO, Harriet Green

In a time when political correctness and ticked boxes dominate business, its great to see credit going to someone who truly deserves it.

Harriet Green, the dynamic CEO of the now re-vitalised Thomas Cook holiday group has been recognised with a prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Woman award.

Harriet became CEO in July 2012 – after having the courage to cold-call the Company’s chairman. Just 12 months later, she’d designed and launched a bold strategy that focussed on digital leadership, new product innovation and placing customers at the very heart of the business. In the last year, the business refinanced and unified its many brands under the new ‘Sunny Heart’ umbrella, with the Group’s 27,000 employees working as one global team across 80 countries to deliver the transformation. Today, the share price has risen around 950%. An incredible achievement.

“Madame Clicquot transformed her family business through belief, innovation, and a ‘can do’ attitude, which are as relevant today as they were then, and I’m honoured to accept the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award on behalf of everyone at Thomas Cook as we continue to transform our business, just like Madame Clicquot did, through innovation, belief and our ‘can do’ attitude,” said Harriet.

“Madame Clicquot was truly one of the first real businesswomen of our age. I’ve long admired her spirit, courage, and determination. She and the original Mr Thomas Cook were of the same generation and together they created two amazingly powerful brands, whose heritage and promise clearly live on today – over 170 years later.”

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FSA is no authority for bank regulation - its a waste of resources...

Lloyds Banking Group is the latest shady bank to receive a slap on the wrist from the FCA. In fact, the $45 Million fine meted out for gross financial mis-selling is the biggest to date. But it won’t change things one little bit. Why do I say this?

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How dare I question. What right do I have. If I know so much, I should start a bank! What had I done – collapsed the economy, started a bank run or something?

No. This stream of vitriol was for suggesting, “maybe people like bank branches.”

Earlier that day, MovenBank’s Brett King gave me his view about bank branches, having read my piece about the psychology of financial services buying.

We hadn’t agreed, but valuing his view, I printed it. People should have both sides. But by arguing, I’d upset someone. And the smelly stuff hit the proverbial…

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You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it. Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example. Wonga - the acceptable face of credit. Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.

Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.

But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…

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Here’s a question for you. Imagine all four banks merging. What would we lose? OK – so they wouldn’t share one trough – and no one makes one that big. four brands - yet nothing to choose between any of them. Are we being served?

If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank? I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.

For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?

How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?

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A writer who I follow was bemoaning the lack of change in banking the other day. Now the point was perfectly valid – until he took a pop at P2P lending. True disruption. the effect may be massive but the true percentages are surprisingly low! As I follow social banking – and as one of its great supporters, I had to disagree. But it raised an interesting question. How do we measure disruption?

The writer in question was James Gardner, who’s the general manager of Spigot, the leading business process software vendor in the innovation space.

In theory, he should know. But then he suggested that it could be “nearly 100%”. That sure had a disrupting effect on me – because that’s plain silly…

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Business as usual for the global auditors. Its just like there was no banking crash. Pricewaterhouse Coopers – PwC – has just published its results.

what did you do before you audited my banks?

Three things jump off the page to me. And each mind-numbing fact reminds me just how stupid banks and enterprises really are.

Firstly, PwC two main businesses turned over £900 Million and £650 Million each. The next is that UK Chairman Ian Powell will net a bonus of £3.7 Million.

And thirdly, they took on 1,200 graduates – average age 24 – to work with clients. Congratulations. That waste-of-space intern is now costing you £2,500 a day…

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Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Could  a mower teach our failing banks a valuable lesson? Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.

About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.

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How Standard & Poor really decided US financial policy

Once upon a time, we thought US financial policy was decided democratically. That concept was blown away like a dollar bill in Hurricane Katrina.

The US government in reality is no more than some crude Punch & Judy show, the strings being pulled by a financial Mafia run by Wall Street and its lobbyists. Everything neatly stage-managed by a company called Standard & Poor.

Standard & Poor was perceived as the US financial world’s steadying influence. The trusted hand deciding the efficacy of decisions taken on Wall Street.

The banking crash revealed a startling fallibility – but was that the real story?

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They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected. What's in your wallet - a lot less plastic, these days... Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.

But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.

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This is one of those flights of wonder moments. An idea that came out of the blue. What I’d like you to think about is – what places us apart from other animals? Why doing something for no reason defines us as real people... Sounds easy at first. Is it our use of tools, how smart we are – even our reasoning. But those aren’t definitions, they’re just more shades of the same colours.

Every animal will have those qualities to some extent, some smarter than others. Just what is it we have that animals really don’t – and what should we value?

Just think about it – It might just make you look at people differently…

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How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM? CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting. Salesforce is great, but here's something that will get you similar beneifits right away, too... Everybody knows, we’re told often enough, that looking after customers is vital. But as a process, many companies don’t see it as that important.

In fact, most companies don’t think about managing the relationship with their customers until something goes wrong and they find they can’t.

Ironic, really. When you consider that CRM will start to deliver benefits instantly, the moment you roll it out to your users. Let’s take a look…

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Just a few months ago, I had high hopes for what Tesco bank might achieve. Even with Fred Goodwin fan-boy Benny Higgins in charge. How a new bank deals with customers will make or break it. Tesco seems badly broken. But the recent prolonged outage for so many customers has been handled badly. And Benny Higgins has shown his old-school banking colours.

Given the opportunity to show strength and courage, he chose to make excuses. Instead of holding his hands up, he chose mitigation.

Every new venture has a wobble. He could have shone, but he blew his chance. Not only does Tesco have the wrong boss, it has the wrong staff. Here’s why…

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OK, regular readers will know I’m not buying the hype around SmartPhone NFC. This is for a number of reasons and none of which are about it being new. for NFC mobile payments to work, it must reach all it market... and it won't. I’ve talked about security, why quick isn’t a good reason, but that’s not everything. The real show-stopper to me is market reach. NFC just won’t fit the market.

Every other payment system before NFC reached its market cheaply and quickly. Now I’m going to show just how far NFC will fall short. Time to wake up…

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Paying huge bonuses to retain top people in banks has long been controversial. Distasteful certainly – but maybe even counter-productive. Karl Duncker shows us paying bonues for ideas doesn't work. Let me tell you about a test Karl Duncker did just after the Thirties banking crash. You could be surprised. And even more angry with the banks…

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Can anyone tell me what message RBS is using for its current media campaign? Sure, NatWest’s you may know, but what about RBS? RBS - will the Royal Bank of Scotland brand disappear - and would will replace it?

Although owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest isn’t as hated as its parent. Strange, because really NatWest’s no better – some may even say its worse.

I’d like to talk a little about NatWest, but lets concentrate first on RBS as a brand. What can be done with a brand so damaged it’s lost the trust of its market?

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I love it when I come across great ideas. Like game changing, eureka moments. But it frustrates me when solutions appear for problems that don’t exist.NFC - a great idea - but what was the problem it fixed? Take NFC payment systems, for example. A clever use of the tech in our pockets. But who said we had a problem at the cash-out?

We, the consumers don’t. The retailers like the short delay as they get to up-sell. Maybe its the payment system providers who have a problem. Like card fraud?

Here’s the crazy thing about NFC. The security is actually weaker. Much weaker. NFC presents a far higher risk profile than any other system…

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I’ve just read a Management Today supplement about West Yorks Fire Service. Remember how Public Service budgets are meant to be getting cut back?

The Public Sector should think about value - not building empires! Well, it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the case, if this is a typical Public IT project. Based on what they’ve chosen, I reckon half a million’s gone up in smoke.

It should have cost a tenth of that – and it’ll only reach 60% of their users…

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The banks are making money again. They’ve all got innovation teams in place. Change is desperately needed, so why aren’t we seeing it? why the banks don't want to innovate...

Its too easy to point to our banks and say that they don’t understand innovation. But you’d be wrong, very wrong. They understand it all too well.

They know what change will mean. That’s why they won’t let it happen…

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Easter of 2011 will probably be remembered as the time the Cloud went down. Bad as it was for Amazon’s EC2, the sky didn’t actually fall on anybody. Bad for some - but not that many. how Amazon's EC2 Easter failure actually makes the Cloud safer...

Maybe the great bank holiday weather took many writers away for the weekend. But the number of “its all over for Cloud” rants were mercifully few.

So, what should be taken away from Amazon’s failure. What have we learnt? Well, its shown intelligent system design is as vital for Cloud as anywhere else. Along with how many “experts” can still talk through their back-ends…

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When everyone’s talking about bank regulation, you know something’s wrong. And when everyone’s condemning it, you know we need to act. FSA is no authority for bank regulation - its a waste of resources...

Anger centres around the Financial Services Authority. A Cabinet Office quango. But two spectacular failures by the FSA have destroyed public confidence…

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Corporate security people and most security resellers wind me up. Always have. They constantly ignore the lessons life teaches us.

We meet strangers every day. So how come they can’t deal with new devices? We deal with strangers in real life. Why can't security people deal with new devices?

Life is constantly teaching us lessons. We deal with most things it throws at us. Security guys have a seizure when anything new appears.

Take Smartphones and the iPad for example. These guys are paid to know stuff. But they’re crap at doing their job because they can’t cope with the new.

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The financial media all seem to be agreed. The High Street banks are screwed. Restrictive, greedy, self-serving. Banks have been found guilty on all counts.

banking needs a new dawn - but why is it so dark still? Commercial incompetence kills companies in other markets. But not banking. What’s so special about these guys?

What the banks do isn’t all that difficult. Their technology’s an eighties throw back. Could it be that there are other forces in play here?

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The fall-out has still to settle from one of the greatest tragedies of recent times. While the furore and finger-pointing surrounding it will take a lot longer.

Technology is rarely the problem, it's the management of it... I’ve no desire to trivialise this terrible event, but let’s look at what it has shown us.

Given the prevailing circumstances, the technology behaved entirely predictively. The technology didn’t fail, we failed to manage it. Could we fail with NFC?

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Quite a reaction last week when the news broke about the RSA SecureID breach. Someone may now know how to compromise two-factor tokens. Technology isn't everything. RSA should tell us that! Whilst every villain knows how to work around two-factor authentication anyway, the exposure of the underlying algorithm should have been viewed as inevitable. Before I’m castigated for saying this, let me explain…

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My apologies for this deviation from my usual style. But we need some help. A lot. Not for some worthy charity, but for a nation. Can Martha Lane Fox show the kind of drive needed to create a true digital Britain? Britain is being dragged deep under water by BT, after we survived the shipwreck caused by the SS Banking’s collision with a financial reality iceberg.

We must divorce BT from the cosy relationship it enjoys with central government. Its smug monopoly on the mechanism for change, its incompetence.

We need a publicly revered figurehead to drive this forward. A digital Joan d’Arc. Martha, we need you.

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So, petulant HSBC picked up their ball and set their sights on Hong Kong. Again. And then to no one’s surprise, they decided to stay in London. Again.

Maybe being handed the tickets and having the door held open wasn’t expected. Looks like we’re stuck with them. What if they had decided to go? HSBC threatens to go. Would we get by without them?

What if they had gone. What if all the banks decided to go. What would happen?

Would the economy fall apart, or would we actually be better off?

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Society. We hear that word daily. But basically its all about you, me, everybody. Society is the framework that binds us, defines us. How banks should be - great, working together.

We work best together. Get things done. Our lives are richer, we all achieve more. What happens when we build places that divide us?

That’s right. We destroy trust. And no trust means no sale.

Like banks. It’s just not us, its just us and them. And its gone wrong. Unsociable. Maybe we need something better. A social, community bank…

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Paying for the things you want in the blink of an eye. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You don’t sign, or PIN, or even touch. But who’s to say its you buying? How NFC back-end fraud detection must get smart!

You see, this speed carries one big penalty. Security. Not for the device, for you. The transaction is now so fast, it can’t be fraud-checked conventionally.

“Contactless” means just that. No contact from either side – counter or customer. There’ll be no alerts, no chance to stop a fraudster. Or is there?

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