October 2017

What Opportunities Do Different Sectors Provide?

Discussion Panel - LSBM

LSBM was visited this week by three speakers on 18th October 2017 between 1pm and 2pm for a discussion about 'What Opportunities Do Different Sectors Provide?'

This is the third of our official 'Lighthouse Events' and drew together input from the following three speakers, who were chaired by Arif Zaman, Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM (right of picture).

  • George McFarlane, Director of Sector Development, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) (second from the right)
  • Azhar Kholwadia, Atos Consulting and Young Management Consultancies Association (Young MCA) Council (second from the left)
  • Lindsay Watson, Animation producer and founder, Animated Women (left of picture)

 

The first of the speakers was George McFarlane from the CBI.

George spoke about some of his own background, from studying as an undergraduate in English and History (focusing on government and politics) at Queen Marys, London; followed by a Masters in Public Policy at UCL. This sparked an interest in politics that has carried over to various volunteering activities, and which led to a number of internships on campaigns, and then a parliamentary internship more focused on public policy analysis, research and generally supporting the work of a Member of Parliament.

This then was followed by work on a CBI graduate scheme for seven years where numerous promotions have ended up with George in his current role as Director of Sector Development.

The CBI was founded in 1965 and represents businesses to government, and describe themselves in the following terms: (Source)

"With over 50 years of experience, we are the UK’s most effective and influential business organisation.

We provide our members with the influence, insight and access they need to plan ahead with confidence and grow.

We represent their views as we work with policymakers to deliver a healthy environment for businesses to succeed, create jobs and ultimately, drive economic growth and prosperity.

It is our purpose to help businesses, like yours, create a more prosperous society.

The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors. Together they employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of the private sector-employed workforce.

With 13 offices around the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi, the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world."

George's job is to provide support to six major industries through the work of the CBI. Those being:

  • Manufacturing - with a particular focus on Defence and Aerospace
  • Health and Life Sciences
  • Technology
  • Media and Telecoms
  • Higher Education
  • Construction

Trying to create a dialogue with government (both at home and in the EU and elsewhere, where appropriate) around the problems and issues that these industries face.

George suggested that we are standing on the brink of enormous business and technological developments and automation that will pose real challenges as to how companies do business.

But that there are also real opportunities, such as for example improving care for patients through automated care systems that trigger when intervention may be needed.

Automation was a big part of George's talk, with him expressing the opinion that certain industries that had previously been felt to be 'immune to automation' were now undergoing changes, or at least having ideas floated around that may support automation in the future.

One example he gave was sports journalism, where he had read an article that suggested that stats could potentially be compiled algorithmically, and phrasing inserted based on that automatically that could match the tone. (You can see a discussion of this idea here)

In fact, that article extends the idea further, with Pete Clifton, Editor-in-Chief of the Press Association being quoted as saying:

‘It will be more a case of offering an extra level when it comes to short market reports, election results and football reporting. They are more accurate than when somebody was trying to write too many stories on their own."

So, on that basis, he is extending the idea out to political journalists and financial journalists!

Pete Clifton does, however, offer the opinion:

"Will it take over from proper journalists? Of course it won’t. We won’t have a robot going to a big fire or covering a crown court case."

But again...that is an opinion. Might it be that a robot could eventually do the job of a journalist? Who knows. It wasn't that long ago that the idea of driverless cars sounded utterly absurd, and yet that too may become a reality much sooner than anyone expected.

Regardless, it highlights the point that education can never be a cul-de-sac, one-time event. It has to be on-going and continuous so that people can be better equipped to handle complicated processes and software. And also that people may need to get used to the idea that they will have to change jobs and potentially careers more frequently, as the idea of a job-for-life becomes rarer and rarer.

Backing this up then is the need to build up transferable skills and capabilities that can carry between jobs.

George spoke about a Mickinsey report that suggested that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is disrupting business at 300 times the speed of the changes seen during the industrial revolution (you can read the discussion paper about AI from June 2017 here) to highlight that change at this period of time is far more rapid than at any previous time in human history. This may be seen as a good, or a bad thing, because in many ways change is also indicative of opportunity, but it can nevertheless seem daunting to be running on ground that constantly seems to be shifting in terms of both the playing field and the players on it.

As aspiring graduates, however, students have already put themselves in a good position to start to learn how to navigate those challenges. George spoke about how graduates tend to benefit from higher levels of employment and earnings than those without. With CBI surveys showing that most firms expect the biggest growth in jobs to be in managerial, professional and technical roles with these expected to make up almost half of all roles by 2024.

CBI surveys cite such elements as attitudes to work, communication skills and team working as key benefits that graduates can learn to develop while studying.

He pointed to an increasingly longer working life, and an older workforce. So that if we do face skills gaps caused by technological innovation, that learning needs to continue throughout the working life if people are going to be properly equipped to do the jobs of the future.

George proffered the statistics that £45 billion is spent annually in the UK on training and development budgets at work and that 2/3rds of companies have a learning and development strategy (though quite what the other 1/3rd are doing is anyone's guess!)

It should be said that another report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in April 2017 shows;

"...The UK lies fourth from the bottom on the EU league table on participation in job-related adult learning, with evidence showing a deterioration since 2007."

So, quite how many reasons there are to be cheerful about the state of training and development post-higher-education in the UK, is perhaps an open question.

(There is an interesting study by PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) that suggests that 3 in 10 UK jobs will be replaced by robots by 2030, and that most at risk are financial services jobs (61% are at risk in the US Financial Services according to this report). So it may be that even jobs that are currently very highly sought after and paid, may fall prey to the vagaries of a Hal 9000 Computer of the future!)

He finished by saying that there is no one answer to the problem of how to successfully predict what the future may be for different sectors, but that continuing training and seeing work as an on-going journey of learning is key to staying ahead of the curve of changes that will inevitably lie ahead.

 


The next speaker was Azhar Kholwadia, Atos Consulting and Young Management Consultancies Association (Young MCA) Council.

He approached the subject both from the perspective of working as a management consultant (where he has been working for around the last 5 years), and also with being actively involved with the Young MCA.

He spoke about some of the stereotypes of consultancy, which may include coming into a firm, putting forward lots of ideas for change, then leaving and letting someone else do all the work, and then moved on to what he felt was the consultancy process.

The roles may include thought leadership - What has happened, what is happening, and what may happen in the future? Atos, for example, does lots of work in the technology sector, looking at models for change. For example, they have recently worked with several Premier League clubs to help to design their digital strategy.

Another project that Azhar worked on was integrating an AI Robot into a bank in Ireland. This system was designed to integrate all of the information that the bank held about individual customers, so that the system could then present product recommendations for that customer that were more specifically tailored to their needs. This may be their account manager at the bank offering them a new variation on their current account, a new credit card, or a suggestion of a loan facility for example.

It is important to note that AI can be about 'enhancement' therefore, and not simply about 'replacement' of human capital. In this case the AI threw up the data, but it was the account manager that then was able to filter it based on their experience with the customer, before finally presenting their recommendations.

This sense of 'knowing' a client based on both direct experience with them, as well as extra data that AI can help to show up, is perhaps where the future integration of human capital and AI lies.

This may also involve going abroad. For example, working with government agencies to establish better agricultural process and strategies in Afganistan is one project that Atos is currently working on.

Azhar came into consulting from a perspective of being a customer, and consulting helps to explore the ideas around how the 'journey' of a customer through the process of engaging with the product or service can be made better. This may involve tailoring many different variations of a journey. For example, the experience of buying a holiday online may be different for a single man buying a holiday for himself, then a man buying a family holiday. There may also be substantial crossovers, but there may be key distinctions at certain junctures of the journey that can be the difference between what the eventual outcome is (buying vs not buying, length of stay, where to stay etc)

They also do extensive work for the NHS which looks at the systems that are in place and how they can be improved.

Azhar summarised this process as:

Selling Consultancy

  • Thought Leadership and Proposition Design
  • Promoting and Prospecting
  • Bidding and Pitching
  • Contract

Delivering Consultancy

  • Entry
  • Diagnosis
  • Intervention
  • Reporting and Closure

In terms of where he felt the value of consultancy lay, he spoke about the growth of the market for consultancy services in the UK, to over £10 billion in 2016, as evidence of the value that was being delivered (though equally it could simply indicate that higher fees are being charged. 'Value' is a fairly nebulous thought concept that often depends on the eyes of the perceiver to judge.)

One interesting area that Azhar spoke about was where this consultancy fee income was being generated from, with percentages of 'Aggregate fee income by service line' described by him as follows:

  • Digital and Technology Consulting - 28%
  • Operations - 11%
  • Financial - 10%
  • Strategy - 8%
  • Programme/Project Management - 8%
  • Human Capital - 8%
  • Economic and Regulatory - 6%
  • Business Transformation - 6%
  • Change Management - 5%
  • Risk Management - 5%
  • Disputes and Investigations - 3%
  • Environmental - 3%
  • Sales, Marketing and Corporate Communications - 2%

Personally, I found it interesting (firstly as to why the chart added up to103%!?), but secondly that both Human Capital (8%) and Environmental (3%) consulting have so much less of the pie than you might imagine based on much of the PR that we hear from firms about how much they value their employees and the environment.

The figures do serve to show how widely spread consulting is though, and that it covers a wide range of market sectors (albeit that around half of the money is spent on only the top three). But Digital and Technology Consulting is clearly in-vogue, no doubt aided by the huge amounts of money that are often both generated by technology companies, and also that can be raised in financing initiatives where there are proposed technology improvements that may cut costs or streamline processes (no doubt sometimes at the expense of jobs).

It is often useful to 'follow the money', rather than the 'press releases', to see what companies really care about, and this is an interesting snapshot of spending priorities in at least one area of spending (consulting services).

Azhar spoke about how there is a movement in consulting to 'niching down' to smaller, more focused agencies that have tighter skill-sets in certain industries or consulting processes.

He finished by talking a little about the Young MCA. The Young MCA is a part of the Management Consulting Association which is the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK and has been at the heart of the UK Consulting Industry since 1956. It provides opportunities for networking and the sharing of experiences for consultants with 0-5 years of consulting experience. It is run by the Young MCA Council (of which Azhar is a member), which comprises representatives from all Young MCA member firms. The council works with the MCA board to deliver its mission and objectives, and currently has over 2000 members.

He spoke about how consultants regularly got together to discuss what was currently working and how processes could be improved. This is often thematic. So, last year was the 'Year of Technology' with all events around that, and this year was the 'Year of Diversity', with events focusing around that.

In terms of the ethnic and gender mix in the consulting industry he said that studies showed that 82% identified as white/british (slightly below the National UK statistics of 87% in the 2011 census), followed by those identifying as mixed race. In addition, 57% of consultants are male and 43% female (compared to 49% men and 51% women in the 2011 census).

 


The final speaker was Lindsay Watson, Animation producer and founder, Animated Women.

Lindsay was clearly passionate about the creative industries and animation in particular. She spoke about about how there are many more opportunities than people may realise, especially as computers and virtual reality are becoming increasingly important, and digital project management and consultancy are coming to the fore.

Lindsay spoke about the challenges for women in the media, and how she had come from Canada to the UK, but hadn't found a body that represented female imators in the UK, and so had decided to set one up in 2013, Animated Women UK.

They have grown from zero to 1,250 newsletter subscribers, which Lindsay said was around 25% of all the women working in animation and VFX (visual effects) in the UK.

The stated vision of Animated Women UK is:

"We want women from all backgrounds of the industry and at every stage in their career to fulfill their potential and realise their dreams. We value openness, honesty and a positive approach towards collaborating with women and men to achieve our mission.

We want to support a network of women who can help each other achieve success at every stage of the animation or VFX pipeline. This change will be visible when we see results such as: better female characters on screen, an increase in women-led start-ups and an increase in women winning awards in technical areas."

Along with five key aims, which Lindsay said were arrived at following her interviewing 100 key 'VIP' women animators in the UK:

  • Networking - Over thirty networking events have been run in the last 4 years
  • Mentoring - They currently have over ninety members on their list who are potentially willing to mentor
  • Showcasing - They have done showcasing events with the International Animation Festival
  • Recruitment - They advertise jobs that are available for women in the industry
  • Education - They have also carried out research projects which looked at the skills that women may need in the industry and the goals and career milestones they may wish to aspire to achieve.

She spoke about how many of the children's animation brands that we think of as 'typically British' are now owned by American companies, citing the example of Thomas the Tank Engine (Winnie the Pooh is another one, which is owned by Disney). So she said that she was passionate about getting more British animation on screen.

During the research that was carried out they found that there were a preponderance of women involved in the production side of the industry, starting as PAs or runners and working their way up into becoming Production Assistants. But that very few women were in key artistic or lead technical positions, which is one area that they are looking to see a change in, notibly recently by helping to promote the work of women who have had success, for example at the BAFTA's, so they can be seen increasingly as role models for others.

One of Lindsays concerns was that their research indicates that many women are leaving the animation industry, because they are not getting access to the roles that would meet the needs of their day-to-day lifestyles as much as they would like them to.

Lindsay herself is an animation producer whose company CANUK Productions focuses on development of IP and co-production of animated children’s series. She continues to publish academic papers relating to girls animation, regularly presenting information about the subject at international conferences and events. In 2015 she completed a Masters of Fine Art from Bournemouth University (Professional Media Practice - animation management) and published a paper on British animation funding in partnership with Animation UK.

Her company describes itself in the following terms:

"CANUK Productions works with animation studios, distributors and producers from around the world to create high standard, multi-platform, quality content for children and their families.

CANUK has established key contacts within the animation industry in Britain, Canada and Europe. The company attends annual markets and festivals and is available for representation, executive producing and consultancy.

CANUK’s aim is to promote and develop British IP in partnership with Canadian studios for international distribution. CANUK is keen to engage in new opportunities and with fresh talent.

At CANUK we are passionate about animation in all of its forms. We utilize Canada and Britain’s treaty status, including the UK’s newest tax breaks in support of original new projects on both sides of the pond.

With a focus on creating original British stories for an international audience, CanUK aims to represent the next generation in animation, particularly for girls."

She also currently offers consultancy services to Animation companies to help them to finance their films, as she has found that finance is often the key missing ingredient for moving otherwise promising projects forward.

She spoke about how she felt that the UK currently has no coherent government policy for long-term investment for 'lifestyle businesses', and that many other countries, such as Ireland, Germany and France do much better in this regard. This extends to having specific development funds and policies that relate to animation, and which would allow companies to withhold the animation rights to their intellectual property, and Lindsay continues to lobby government for far more appreciation and support of animation and the people and companies that produce it in the UK.

Her final message was that animation is a great industry in which to work. VR, FinTech, and Technology investment are great ways to become involved. That it's possible to feel like you are really creating something for the future by building great stories and characters, but that in addition, it is a compelling and changing industry which offers unique opportunities for personal growth.

 

Many thanks to all of the panel for coming along to speak at LSBM, and we are already looking forward to the next one!

You can find more details about Lighthouse Events here.

 

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

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