I’ve just returned from Northern Ireland, having spent time in Belfast and took a tour around the provence to witness first hand the state of the politics there today.
Sure, the burnt-out cars of the Troubled-time are gone, I was able to walk where I chose, but the markers for the fault lines are clear for all to see. They hang from lamp-posts, from flagpoles attached to the front of houses and emblazoned on the end-walls of streets everywhere. I’m talking about Union Jacks and Ulster Unionist flags – and a significant number of Loyalist battle flags, too.
The UK media’s not too keen to talk about the flags. With investment money flowing in now, Belfast is thriving. An optimistic young city that’s a joy to spend time in. But within a mile of the centre, even around the corner from the majestic, globally recognised Queens University, teeming with it’s wonderful mix of accents and language from laughing foreign students, the symbols of sectarianism abound.
So why with all this new-found prosperity are the old sectarian feelings still so prevalent – why does the air have a sense of a unease, like a coiled spring or smoundering tinderbox?
Brexit – the fear of betrayal
Look beyond the Loyalist Crumlin and Shankill and you’ll come upon the Nationalist strongholds of The Falls. Forbidding steel gates stand ready to fall across the centre of the area in the event of unrest and ironically, they rest open against The Peace Wall. Its intention was noble but its now covered with political propaganda of the Marxist left, stoking the unrest and providing an insight into where the nationalist IRA, INLA, New IRA and Sinn Féin’s allegiances lie. Here you see Palestinian, Jihadist, Catalonian and Venezuelan images. The clear expression of “our republic” and talk of British occupation.
The Irish government in Dublin has long held links to the PLO and a few seconds research will reveal the extent of Sinn Féin’s long-held anti-semitism. Given that legacy, the murals should surprise no one.
On the Loyalist side of the gates, bold murals celebrate the historic British alliance and army connections, along with memorials to fallen Loyalist fighters. But I didn’t expect to see Israeli messages of solidarity for the Unionists, along with one in support of the Polish, recalling the contribution of the RAF’s Polish Squadron in the Second World War.
battlelines drawn anew?
Later that day, sipping my expresso back in the shabby-chiq cosmopolitan surroundings of the Cathedral Quarter, I reflected on what I’d seen. I imagined a land forfeited in the name of some ill-conceived accord with the EU that established a unified Ireland lazily justified by its majority Remain vote in the 2016 Referendum.
I remembered the IRA’s old alliance with Gaddafi’s Libya. Of course, that’s now gone. But something far more sinister has stepped in to fill that void. A pact between our more modern arab enemies.
I thought about a Marxist-driven land-grab by an army of criminals and terrorists armed by Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran, the spectre of roadside IED’s and suicide vests faced off by beleaguered Loyalists. What part might Israel play, could we see our very own Middle East-style conflict, a ferry or shuttle flight away. Just as the Troubles decided no winners, Ireland could become our new Afghanistan.
Whatever happens, we cannot – we dare not – betray this noble and loyal union. We can’t forget that these are proud British people, no matter what concessions the EU push us to accept in return for our own independence.
I wonder how long it will be until the Rebel Alliance of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, Jo Swinson’s Libdems and Ian Ashford’s SNP realise the triple-irony of what they’ve done?
The first irony is that their grab for power has left them in voters minds with only a cigarette paper of difference between each of the three parties. The electorate won’t have a clear choice, leaving the alliance parties vulnerable in terms of vote share.
The second irony is the trick that brought them victory is the same trick that could destroy them. They exploited a weakened Tory party’s fragile majority for their power grab. If they ever get round to a general election, each party will have to stand and face the voters alone.
That exposes them to a populist swing in support of the bruised and mistreated Tories, along with a powerful push towards the full-fat leave policy of the Brexit Party. So with their “partners” standing against them, only a fifth of any voting share will be theirs. As we’ve seen, there is no policy daylight between any of them, leaving voters with no clear differentiator between the alliance parties. Plaid Cymru are the most exposed as Wales voted as a nation (53% – 47%) to leave the EU.
Crucially, voters have little reason to vote for this Rebel Alliance, given that they have made it perfectly clear they won’t honour voter’s wishes, so who would want to vote for any of them – who wants to see their vote ignored?
But the final irony is this. And it’s the key one. Should any of this evil trinity see the light, break free and try to differentiate themselves to crawl out of their cesspit of rancid coalition, the others will simply team up against them to bring them down. If it’s worked against the mighty Tory party, bringing down each other with the same tactics will be easy.
the Scottish perspective
And what of Scotland? The SNP will be up against a Conservative party that has its integrity intact. The SNP will have to break ranks with the LIbDems to gain share in its homeland and Labour will want to assert itself in Scotland. The LibDems will appeal to Remain-loving Scots who don’t want to break up the Union.
On that basis, it’s hard to see the SNP gaining any share – far more likely to see them losing ground.
The nuclear option this junta has deployed could contaminate British politics for a very long time. So don’t give up your day-job, comrades…
Savour your victory, you modern day politburo, you may find the damage you’ve done to British democracy could take a generation to heal – if ever.
Its nice to see something that I championed 18 months ago now become a reality. Spark headphones had a great idea, but needed serious funding to bring it to market. Many would simply shrug their shoulders and move on. Some things are maybe not to be.
But not Spark. They decided to get the funding without the banks or other formal channels taking away control from their business, just for bringing it to market. Spark went down the crowd-funding route. Crowd-funding is where ordinary people – the people in the street like you or me – can invest in an idea they think is great and just put in whatever money they feel comfortable with. Its that simple.
Crowd-funding in online and purely social-media driven technology. Most campaigns are run for a short period with a specific target in mind. If that goal isn’t reached, you get your money back. So its a great low risk strategy. But one that’s really satisfying to see come to market. Many crowd-funded businesses offer an incentive, such as shares or you get the items you invested in at preferential rates. But all offer the satisfaction of putting one over on the banks and the suits.
And that can’t be bad, can it?
London, 4 June 2015: Smart devices on track to replace cash and cards as UK mobile payments projected to hit over £1.2bn a week by 2020. So says Jeremy Nicholds, Executive Director for Mobile, Visa Europe.
Visa’s latest predictions
Despite many false dawns, UK mobile payments is predicted to grow three-fold over the next five years as savvy shoppers embrace new options and spend more on mobile, with one in four consumers estimated to spend more than £50 a week on mobile by 2020.
British consumers driving the change
Nicholds believes the UK is moving towards a “cash-last” society as one in four Brits expect to use their mobile phone to make payments on a daily basis by 2020, growing from the one in twelve who do so already today. According to new research from Visa Europe, consumer adoption of mobile payments will grow faster than ever in the next five years, with six in ten Britons (60%) expected to use their mobile devices for payments at least once a week by 2020.
The UK mobile payments boom will probably see an upsurge in the weekly value spent using mobile devices, with the market growing to an estimated £1.2bn per week* by 2020. The tech-enabled shopper expects to spend £27 on mobile each week by 2020, up from the £17 they spend today. In fact, nearly 24% respondents think they could spend more than £50 a week using a mobile device by 2020, an estimate sure to raise eyebrows in the payments industry.
While apps and music are still the items are the most popular mobile purchase today, Visa has observed a growing number of consumers already buying higher value items, with electronics (23%) and clothes (22%) among their top-five most purchased m-commerce items.
The expected British embrace of digital payments is a sign of shoppers’ becoming less nervous with mobile payments as the option becomes more widely available, easier to use and better understood. With the increasing publicity around m-commerce options, digital wallets and contactless payments, 43% of shoppers say they may be interested in using a mobile wallet service and nearly half (47%) are interested in using their smartphone to make low-value contactless payments in a shop.
Nicholds added, “While we’re excited to see consumers saying they expect to triple their weekly spend using mobile payments over the next five years, we at Visa think those numbers could be rather conservative and that the actual adoption rate will be much higher. This is particularly true when you look at the growth in contactless usage, which saw European usage grow by 2x and spend grow by 3x over the last 12 months.
Contactless and online commerce enhancements have been key in paving the way for the next generation of mobile payment technology. The environmental conditions are already in place to meet the demands and expectations for digital payments. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ consumers will embrace this new way to pay – it’s when – and for us the next 12 months are when mobile payments become mainstream.”
People who’re already using mobile devices to make transactions are also open to other mobile money services. The research highlights that these ‘mobile money’ users are five times more likely to be interested in paying friends through a smartphone app compared to non-users (48% vs. 9%). One in five would be open to social media payments too, compared with only one in twenty non-users.
Lack of knowledge – and worries, too
When looking at the main concerns about mobile payments, a third of respondents admitted that they simply didn’t know enough about it. As with other new technologies, this has resulted in apprehension about issues like privacy, fraud and security.
Jeremy Nicholds continued, “We’re witnessing a huge surge in interest from consumers in the UK for faster and more convenient payment methods as mobile and online commerce technologies continue to evolve at pace. This is why Visa Europe spends more than €200 million in on innovation including a number of secure payment technologies such as tokenisation to address security and convenience.
When it comes to money, concerns over control and security are understandable though a simple lack of knowledge is often an underlying cause, and consumers are quick to see the benefits of convenience. We’ve seen this with contactless card adoption – once people learn about the technology, see others using it and get used to paying with it, usage soars.”
Friction at the point of sale
Visa has invested a lot of money in mobile payments, with services like Apple’s ApplePay slowly beginning to get traction. But its the retailers themselves, who’ll have to invest heavily in new Point-of-Sale infrastructure, something they’re currently reluctant to do as consumer interest is still a long way away from critical mass and many moving to online buying anyway.
The problem with mobile payments and a point may industry commentators always make is that its solving a problem that simply doesn’t exist. Cards are easy to use, quick, familiar, have virtually 100% adoption everywhere, are cheap and free to replace. Who’ll buy you a new phone if it breaks or gets stolen?
You’re also far more likely to be mugged for that nice expensive smartphone than a piece of plastic.
But let’s not forget, suppliers like Visa and MasterCard get huge amounts of money from retailers and don’t want to lose out, should mobile payments take off.
And let’s not forget the threat posed by PayPal – but that’s a topic for another day!
About the ‘Mobile Money’ report
The mobile money research was conducted between 30 April and 20 May 2015 in six European countries: Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK.
The total sample size was 12,015 consumers, approximately 2,000 respondents per country.
For more information, visit www.visaeurope.com and @VisaEuropeNews
[*] Figure calculated from ONS Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2013 release and research figures from Visa Europe’s Mobile Money report.
Could London beat Silicon Valley as Crypto-currency’s centre of excellence?
Well, Visa thinks so. it hosted a gathering of crypto-currency start-ups and other interested parties to its Digital Catapult event in London recently. Visa’s not alone in thinking this. An expert from the London School of Economics (LSE), one of the most respected financial academic centres in the world believes it too. They even put a date on it – 2020.
Crypto-currency to explode?
Investment in crypto-currency start-ups in 2015 could even beat the dotcom frenzy of a few years ago. A technology called Blockchain has the potential to transform the future of payments in the banking sector – it may even transform way we cast and count our votes in the 2020 General Election. Financial observers have been waiting for the next big thing for a while now. Mobile payments has failed to catch the imagination of consumers, despite the presence of heavyweights like Google with Google Wallet and Apple with ApplePay, its not seeing the level of growth that the hype suggested. Maybe crypto-currency will.
Visa’s Europe Collab launch start-up innovation hubs in London and Israel are there to spot and engage with Europe’s top financial technology entrepreneurs, as the UK is now Europe’s fastest growing region for fintech with over 135,000 employees. Deal-volume, mostly out of London, has been growing at an annualized rate of around 74% since 2008, compared with 27% globally, and 13% in Silicon Valley, according to Accenture.
Speakers at Visa’s London event included leading monetary academic Garrick Hileman from the LSE, Hendrik Kleinsmiede of Visa Europe Collab one of Europe’s crypto-currency and Blockchain gurus in the financial services sector and Nicolas Cary, co-founder of Blockchain, one of the world’s best known BitCoin wallet company. According to Garrick Hileman of the LSE, “BitCoin is in a battle with more than 600 crypto-currencies. The governance structure in Europe and the US surrounding BitCoin may be an inhibitor to expansion for crypto-currencies whilst it may flourish in fertile territories like Sub Saharan Africa with over 50% of BitCoin mining being provided by China.”
UK leading the way
Sian Jones of COINsult feels “The UK is the only jurisdiction that is coming out with a holistic approach to digital currencies regulation.”
While according to Hendrik Kleinsmiede of Visa Europe Collab, “The level of investment in crypto-currencies is at an unprecedented high – to date over $667million. If you compare 2014 to 1995 at the beginning of the dotcom boom, there’s now more money being invested in crypto-currency than there was in dotcom.”
Are the Banks ready`/
Nick Cary of Blockchain noted “Banks are being exceedingly cautious but by summer there should be new policies in place to make it easier for BitCoin companies to operate in Europe and the US. The US is seeking a compliance pathway for Bitcoin start-ups, with New York setting the future as the model for regulation of Bitcoin “banks.”
Great news, but let’s not forget what became of the dotcom boom…
According to the Office of National Statistics & Forbes – 2.8 million of the UK population now work from home regularly, alongside 1 in 5 Americans. This makes it’s one of the fastest growing workplace trends.
The problem can sometimes be convincing your boss its right for the company – and you.
The team at London & Zurich have published an interactive guide on how office-workers can convince their boss to let them work from home, remotely in their dream location, or adopt a flexible working scheme. It features 26 articles, videos & apps on how to make sure you still get things done, all wrapped up in one, very cool infographic. Check it out here.
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?
Autumn 2011 has been a really interesting time for banking. I mean new banking, not that tired old high street of ours.
MovenBank’s appeared, Zopa’s broken more records, Wonga’s won more awards and a new social P2P player’s launching, CivilisedMoney.
It generated quite a lot of Twitter traffic with people on digital banking’s front-line, like banking innovators, Darren G and Aden Davies. And raised one key question.
Online or on high street – can a click ever replace a footstep?
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?
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.
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…
I mean, there are some great web browsers – and they’re all free, for Pete’s sake. Gaming calls for the latest technology. People happily buy that, don’t they?
But for some reason, we have to placate the stupid and design sites like its 1999. Web designers are told that they must maintain full compatibility with everything. Not just for browsers maybe a version behind, but stuff from another age.
Well, I think it’s time we ask the question. Should we push or just follow?
Business as usual for the global auditors. Its just like there was no banking crash. Pricewaterhouse Coopers – PwC – has just published its results.
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…
Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?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.
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?
They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected.
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.
OK, OK. I wouldn’t have put this on here but it’s Jen Aniston and its the weekend.
Anyway. You don’t want to hear from me. Here you go…
Well. Not a whole lot for me to say after that, is there. Have a great weekend!
How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM?
CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting.
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…
NFC on phones is being pushed hard – the Next Big Thing for affluent spenders.
Sure, it makes sense at first. A cool way to pay. But…
Why not – we’ve this gadget-laden generation. Out to impress. They’ll love NFC.
Well, maybe they won’t even think about it.
How can I say this. It flies in the face of everything the marketers are saying to us.
But that’s the thing about marketers. They can sometimes miss the obvious…
Email. Its been around for over 40 years. And up there as our No 1 business tool.
But things could be about to get very interesting in Inbox world.
As they say on Wall Street, what follows are some forward-looking statements. Therefore take this as my personal view, as the outcome is far from certain.
Three events have got me thinking about what might happen. Let’s set the scene.
And taking the stage are RIM, Microsoft, VMWare, Zimbra and SalesForce…
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.
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…
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.
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…
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?
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.
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…