The Notebook: Andy Silvester on the City’s ecosystem, a cricket charity and ‘no bullsh*t’ books
As a child, I was fascinated by trains – not necessarily how diesel engines worked, but how the various moving parts of a train system worked together. Alas, the space limits of a terraced house in south London meant that my dream to build an entire train set across the top floor were thwarted.
The fascination with how ‘all the pieces fit together’ hasn’t changed though – the fact that the Tube works as well as it does, for instance, is a marvel of engineering, logistics and human innovation. We shouldn’t take these things for granted.
But since I began to work in the Square Mile, I’ve begun to notice that complicated, dynamic systems are not just reserved for train networks. Indeed the City is a living, breathing ecosystem in which all the parts have to work together in order to stay ahead of global competition.
This Thursday, the great and good (and the fun) of the Square Mile and beyond will gather in the Guildhall to celebrate those businesses, investors and personalities who have seen success over the past year at the City A.M. awards.
What is perhaps most notable about our awards is the sheer breadth of excellence we recognise – from the bank of the year battle between household names to a more polite, backroom battle between the capital’s law firms.
The great truth is, of course, that it is the variety and breadth of the City’s offering that makes it work – just like my imaginary train set, which would never have run smoothly if even a signal light was out or a point set the wrong way.
There is much chatter about what the City’s post-Brexit future might look like – and we as much as anyone would welcome a ‘Big Bang 2.0’ (a phrase coined by then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a City A.M. interview, in fact) to turn the Square Mile into a swashbuckling financial centre.
But like most ecosystems, it is probably the case that the City’s post-Brexit future is more likely to be secured not by dramatic interventions and grand legislative moves, but by the gradual, intelligent iteration of all of those different parts of the City’s model, be it the smarter use of AI to draw up contracts in the legal sector or the gradual integration of the best of ‘fintech’ into traditional banking services.
No one industry will ensure the City’s post-Brexit future – it will be the product of a functioning whole. Now, where’s my Hornby instruction manual?
CRICKET BUILDS HOPE, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
To the Oval, last week, to celebrate the work of a charity doing wonderful things – with a bat in hand. Cricket Builds Hope, a charity now just a little over ten years old, has been the driving force behind building a new cricketing nation – Rwanda, complete with a high quality stadium. It has been so successful that the country’s U19 women knocked off rivals from the West Indies and Zimbabwe in a recent tournament, two far more established homes of the greatest of games. Rwanda is by no means a perfect country, and its leader Paul Kagame a distinctly complicated figure, but targeted programmes to grow civil society like this one can only be a good thing. The do raised a cool £100,000 for the charity.
HOUSE OF CREDIT CARDS
The purported ‘price crash’ in the property market in 2023 already appears to have been slightly overcooked. And even if it’s bad as some say, we’re only looking at prices heading back to where they were at the start of 2021 or so. No significant fall in prices will make much difference to first-time buyers, especially in the UK, where deposits continue to outpace average wage growth. The only answer is building houses – and we can start with those bits of the greenbelt that not even a twitcher could love.
THE BEEB HAS LOST ITS WAY
To the BBC homepage we go, keen to take in lashings of public service journalism. Or, as it turns out, a ‘top rack’ of stories which includes the results of a concocted boxing match featuring a Youtuber in Saudi Arabia, a press release on the BBC’s decision to bring back its own series The Traitors and a story on how a “man uses a £2 bus fare cap to travel 137 miles”. Meanwhile, the BBC is shutting down valuable broadcasting services across the world, not least BBC Persia – never more needed than now. Auntie has her priorities out of order.
NO BULLSH*T RECOMMENDATIONS
It is fair to say – at least judging from the occasional look at my Linkedin feed – that advice on leadership is in distinctly greater supply than great leadership itself. There are plenty of examples around in the sporting world – much has rightly been made of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s transformation of English cricket – but frankly there is probably not that much to be learnt from the success of a team that includes the world’s number one bowler and arguably the planet’s best batsman. Indeed it is probably more helpful to look at the business world in rather greater detail.
Chris Hirst’s ‘No Bullsh*t Leadership’ is the best of a broad canon. The former global CEO of Havas Creative’s book is one of the few that manages to actually translate a title into workable lessons for anybody looking to move a team forward, and I’m told a sequel – No Bullsh*t Change – is on the way. As for the ‘no bullsh*t’ part, I hope his third book is targeted at whoever writes ESG strategies…