Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Work in progress: how we learn

As we launch Learning week 2017 at TDX Group, I have been reflecting on what learning means to me and to TDX Group as an organisation.
In my job I am often asked, ‘What training can I have?’, ‘How do I know what I need?’, ‘What will TDX Group do for me?’ and ‘How much money can I spend?’.
I used to measure and report on how many training courses we ran and how many ‘people hours’ of training we did and that somehow would make me feel good about the amount of ‘stuff’ we were doing – our colleagues *must* be learning all of the time, right? And yes I’m sure many of them were and have been then able to use what they have learnt to progress their careers. But, if we’re honest, there are times when we have all gone along for a course, enjoyed the lunch and come back to work. Guess what? Nothing changed… but the chips were nice... and the satisfaction scores were 4.3 out of 5.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to engage people, draw them in and then send them back into the world with an appetite for change and a curiosity and thirst for knowledge and I wonder if the day of the typical training course is disappearing and we need to do things differently.
In other parts of our lives (and even in the way our children learn at school) we use devices to watch TED talks, or listen to podcasts, or consult the University of Google (J), taking in knowledge in short, bitesize sessions. We want information quickly and we talk to our friends and colleagues and share information. This feels like a much more natural and self-driven method of learning. And, actively making the choice about what, when and why is critical. What I have definitely learnt is that individuals really need to have the desire to learn and to drive their own development – not to ask others to do it for them. This takes time, commitment and an awful lot of self-reflection and persistence. What I’ve also learnt is that when people are prepared to share their knowledge and expertise rather than hold it as power, then others can fly. Seeing someone who shares and applies their knowledge and experience in the workplace provides the role-modelling that is needed to turn information into learning and learning into change – for an individual, and for an organisation. 
This is what is so amazing about TDX Group for me and this shines brightly with Learning week. So many of our colleagues have offered their time and expertise to volunteer to run sessions on a broad variety of subjects from taxation (yes… really) to Spanish and mindfulness, personal brand and project management. 
We have an amazing resource bank of knowledge and a team of people keen to share it.
So go on ... offer up your time, share your knowledge, make a difference.
By Jo Thorburn, HR Business Partner, TDX Group

Friday, 21 April 2017

The business cycle is very much alive

Just before the crash in 2007, we had never had it so good. The housing and stock markets were racing ahead, banks and financial institutions were falling over themselves to lend further and further into the subprime market and then the music stopped. Almost overnight the credit markets seized up and the rest is history.
Around ten years before this, the Asian financial crisis swept through East Asia decimating the emerging ’Tiger’ economies and impacting severely the developed economies in Europe and North America.
The late 80s and early 90s were characterised by a recession which was in itself preceded by the stagflation which dominated much of the 1970s.
Looking at this objectively (and despite many claims that the business cycle is dead) it is evident that we are in a cycle of boom and bust that resets itself, to varying degrees, around every ten years. So, is now the time to start preparing for the next downturn?
As we look at the economy in 2017, stock markets are back at record highs, housing markets are rallying, lending continues to rise and many of the underlying structural issues that caused the 2007 crash remain unchanged. On the public sector side, government debts are spiralling and student loans have reached record levels. To be blunt, the warning signs are everywhere and once again we find ourselves in a credit fuelled bubble that will, like all bubbles, inevitably pop. Looking back to 2007, one of the key features of the economic crisis was how quickly it unfolded; the time from the first signs of crisis to individuals queuing outside banks was remarkably short. The key lesson, therefore, is that individuals and organisations need to act before any crisis hits if they are to protect themselves from the full impact of the downturn.
Here at TDX Group, like everyone else we experienced the rollercoaster ride from the global financial crisis as it impacted and ultimately reshaped our business. Thinking back, however, the activities of one of our clients in the year leading up to the crisis seemed insightful – and perhaps gives us all a lesson or two we can learn in the current situation.
Accepting that the economy was overheated our client embarked on a strategy to prepare themselves for what they thought was inevitable. Their strategy encompassed two key elements:
1: Fix the collections and recoveries process
To ensure the process in collections and recoveries was truly fit for purpose and scalable, they invested, up-front, in this capability to ensure that when volumes did start to increase they were ready to respond. Working with TDX Group provided flexibility and optionality across collections and recoveries and ensured that there was a plan B as suppliers exited the market and volumes spiked. In comparison, too many other creditors relied on debt sale, specific purchasers or specific DCAs and were severely impacted when they were no longer able to operate post the financial crash.
2: Clear out all warehouse and legacy debt
This client also embarked on an ambitious programme with us to divest all outstanding warehouse debt that resulted in the sale of around £1-2 billion of assets. The programme was so successful that as the crisis hit at the end of 2007, non-performing loans on the balance sheet were at an all-time low almost to the extent that there were no post default accounts.
What was generally lacking in 2007 were strategies aligned to individuals’ financial circumstances.  The strict one-size-fits-all approach implemented by many creditors simply resulted in consumers ignoring their problems, triggering a further rise in defaults and personal insolvencies, and a reliance on high-cost short-term lending. 
Being able to effectively identify and verify those who are capable of paying versus those who are potentially vulnerable and / or falling into genuine financial difficulty produces a wide-range of scenarios, each one requiring a carefully considered strategy. By responding to customers fairly and appropriately, active engagement with the customer is likely to be retained and recoveries activity can be targeted accordingly. 
Hindsight truly is a wonderful thing, but I think there is logic in really looking at the economic evidence around you and, using history as a guide, being prepared for what lies ahead. I think all lenders in the markets should be thinking now about the business cycle and how they can prepare for what lies ahead, this is not a question of ‘if’, it is a question of ‘when’.
Here at TDX Group, across our range of international markets, clients are starting to approach us worried about the next downturn and asking for help to ensure they are as well equipped to manage the consequences. As we move forward with these clients, the experiences of 2007 seem to resonate and as I look at the economic picture around us, being prepared now seems more important than ever.
By Stuart Bungay, Director of Product and Marketing, TDX Group