No, it’s not another Shakespeare reference, as it is a Douglas Adams quote, but is, in this case, almost a statement of facts, as if we knew what facts were anymore. Anyway, this is my last article for T&C News (stop cheering at the back) so that’s why I went for that…
Why the last article? Well, this has nothing to do with the magazine, this is more to do with my age and the fact that, as you read this (you read this?) the state is counting up my first pension payment for January, so I thought it was time to give up certain things and give way to younger, smarter people.
As if you are interested, I came into the industry in 1989, with no background in the financial world (having worked in sales in TV and retail), joining a small financial services training consultancy (small? I was the second employee!!) which had contracts with General Accident and Standard Life. I found myself suddenly training people on taxation, sales and management skills and also the new regulations, which was one heck of a learning curve, which no doubt explains my high blood pressure.
We should never forget the importance of the role of real people, trainers, coaches, managers and mentors, bringing learning and development to life for people
Interestingly, there was a lot of friction towards the new regulations at the time. As I was new to the industry I didn’t see the problem as I saw them as guidance to best practice but, of course, best practice wasn’t always the best money earner back then. I learned to overcome the friction and resistance and even managed to pass my technical exams with few problems.
I worked for nine years throughout the UK with the vast majority of financial institutions (too many to name but involved in many interesting projects and meeting lots of lovely people) and then, as the company expanded and regulations hit other parts of the globe, all around the world (including Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, South Africa, Dublin and Sydney and all of the UK, as if you’re interested). The company had built from a one-man-band to one with dozens of trainers and consultants operating near and far. In 1998 I did the leap that I probably should have done years before and started my own (little) company (just me, I’d had enough of managing people I think!).
Again, I worked with loads of different companies, now moving outside of the industry (and back to some of the areas I’d worked in before) but keeping a firm foot in the financial world.
My first article for Outlook magazine (as this magazine was called) was probably back in 1996 (or before) and I’ve been doing articles ever since (which is just about more than the number of Zoom quizzes I’ve done this year). When the owner of Outlook was taken ill, our current editor and I took over the magazine; I was originally editor and so it stayed until I decided to relinquish that role and let Mr Abbott do it all (I left it in capable hands). I have been contributing ever since but it’s now time to hang up my pen (can you hang up a pen?).
I’ve seen a lot in those years but, instead of wallowing in nostalgia, which isn’t what it used to be, I prefer to ask and answer a simple question: What’s changed since 1989? The simple answer is… not much (though I do have new socks).
Reading some old articles from 1996 onwards (it’s been a slow year) I realise that most of the areas I have focused on (skill areas rather than the technical areas) are still relevant, though they may have a slightly different focus and delivery style and requirement now. But not much. Common sense and common practice tend to be solid things.
There has been some obvious change.
One thing is our flexibility to business life, which may have been forced upon us by Covid. Back in 1989 “training”, my area, was typically 3-5 day courses, even for technical topics, which now just looks silly and outdated (as 1989 is) and very, very tiring for all involved. We now have the internet, shorter courses, distance learning (we used to call them books), Zoom (of course!) and an understanding that people learn in different ways and at different speeds. Thank goodness.
Plus, we now have in our working life an acceptance of “working from home”, flexible structures and a less rigid approach to “business”. And that is great, even though it’s something we had talked about since the early 90’s (as was a cashless society, which we are getting closer to due to that darned Covid thing; we also talked a lot about stress back then which was ignored mostly though I am pleased to say it’s been embraced now, as has approaches to mental health support for staff).
Business has changed, of course, since I came into the industry in 1989, but people, which I am much more interested in, haven’t changed that much despite the year that 2020 has turned into. Soft skills (as they are poorly named) are still key to success and still need “training”, in whatever medium. Trainers are still needed (or whatever name you would like to give them) and, as has become obvious since March 2020, we now are very aware that we all thrive on personal contact and personal support. We now know we need a blended approach to developing people but we should never forget the importance of the role of real people, trainers, coaches, managers and mentors, bringing learning and development to life for people.
It would be easy to say, after 102 years in the industry (maths isn’t my strong point) that I miss “the good old days” but I genuinely don’t. I had some fantastic times back then, I still enjoy what I do (though winding down a little) and I am still an optimist. The industry is vital to this country, vital to people’s well-being and can do lots of good. And people are still, mostly, good and nice and a pleasure to be around, when you’re allowed.
Well, that’s my view and, as of now, you are welcome to ignore it.
Though if you do want to keep in touch, my email is below (yes, I will still be doing things, total retirement is not for me).
Thanks for reading, good luck for the future and… Happy New Year and, obviously, thanks for all the fish.