Equiniti Magazine Summer 2012
Tri-annual magazine from the Equiniti Group. Focusing on industry news, features and interviews.
MAGAZINE > SUMMER 2012 > ISSUE 08 INSIGHT + INFORMATION + LEADERSHIP The man from the Beeb Andrew Verity's inside track on economic meltdown INSIDE> THINKING ALOUD Investment services are in demand PAGE 4 RISKY BUSINESS An appetite for risk PAGE 18 FOREWORD WORDS FROM THE FRONT All business is risky 6 1 Jeff Bezos of the best John Parker, Managing Director, Equiniti Risk. It plays a part in everything we do. There was a time, in those heady days before the global economic crisis, when risk departments were treated with some apprehension by their more bullish colleagues. Risk management was seen by some as a hindrance to growth and entrepreneurialism. Of course, it never was anything of the sort. But the calamitous economic events of recent years have put the discipline of 'risk management' in a fresh light. It has found new respect. Risk management has always been core to the culture at Equiniti. That doesn't mean we're cautious, it just means we are very aware of the risks attached to every decision we make. That way, we can plan for all the likely consequences. You'll find more about risk in this issue of the magazine. Darren Smith explains our approach to it (p18), Mark Taylor touches on it (p4) and David Cumings addresses a type of risk management � the role of social media (p22). We also have a fascinating interview with Andrew Verity from BBC 5 Live, revealing his perspective on these troubled economic times. Plenty of food for thought. Hope you enjoy it. CELEBRATED RISK-TAKING ENTREPRENEURS Entrepreneurial success rests largely on understanding risk and making the right decisions. Here are six who judged it just right Before turning 30, Jeff Bezos quit Wall Street to travel cross-country to Seattle and sell books online from a garage. Amazon was soon born from this venture, and the company has gone on to innovate in fresh areas, such as the Kindle (pictured above). In 1995, Sir Philip Green bought sports retailer Olympus for �1 � not much of a risk it seems, but he also took on the company's �30 million debt. Three years later, JJB Sports bought the company for a reported �550 million. Investing all the money she had into Littlestar was a dangerous gamble for Judy Craymer � she set the production company up to produce Mamma Mia, the Abba musical. It was, however, a gamble that proved lucrative; Mamma Mia has since grossed millions from 11 worldwide productions in five years. 2 Sir Philip Green 3 Judy Craymer Please contact me at: contactus@ equiniti.com John Parker 2 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 CONTENTS INSIDE THIS ISSUE MAGAZINE > SUMMER 2012 > ISSUE 08 INSIGHT + INFORMATION + LEADERSHIP The man from the Beeb Andrew Verity's inside track on economic meltdown EQUINITI MAGAZINE NUMBER 08 Cover photograph by Andy Brown INSIDE> THINKING ALOUD Investment services are in demand PAGE 4 RISKY BUSINESS An appetite for risk PAGE 18 REGULARS 4 Caterina Fake began the photo-sharing website Flickr in financial turmoil � she had not received a wage in two years and had to mortgage her house to pour money into the company. As Flickr's popularity increased, it soon caught the attention of internet-giant Yahoo!, who subsequently acquired it in 2005 for an undisclosed sum, speculated at anything up to $100 million. Not all entrepreneurialism is self-serving. A rising star at Microsoft, John Wood left his illustrious career to start Room to Read, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to building schools and libraries across Asia and Africa. During a life-changing trekking holiday to Nepal in 1998, he experienced the problems of illiteracy first-hand. 14 years later, 12,500 libraries and 1,500 schools have been set up. Most people would be satisfied with building one highly successful international business. South African Elon Musk has created three already � Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors (below). Caterina Fake Mark Taylor's flourishing world of Investment Services A debt reduction triumph in Northern Ireland Your guide to Business Processing Services Paul Eardley on Debenhams and dog shows Latest developments across the fast-growing group An expert's guide to social media 4 Thinking Aloud 7 The challenge 8 Six Steps 22 Company secretary profile 24 What's new at Equiniti? 26 Masterclass 5 John Wood FEATURES 10 Satisfaction guaranteed Seven reasons why Equiniti delivers exceptional value Introducing Equiniti's new one-stop shop for employee benefits 17 Visible benefits 18 Risky business An appetite for risk 6 Elon Musk BBC Radio 5 Live's Andrew Verity gives his take on the global economic crisis Equiniti Magazine is published on behalf of Equiniti by White Light Media. Editorial Director: Fraser Allen Creative Director: Eric Campbell Writers: Liz Longden, Nicola Sinclair, Duncan MacLaren, Christina MacPherson Designers: Jenny Proudfoot, Ian Traynor www.whitelightmedia.co.uk Members of the APA & PPA 12 The man from the Beeb Life as a rising star with David Venus & Co 20 Kelly Millar Equiniti Magazine has been printed on environmentally responsible paper, manufactured using 50% recycled waste and 50% fibre from well managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood. www.equiniti.com > 3 THINKING ALOUD MARK TAYLOR PORTRAIT BY ANT UPTON The Managing Director of Investment Services at Equiniti is seeing a sharp rise in demand for `outsourced sharedealing' � partly prompted by the FSA's Retail Distribution Review What's your background? I've always worked in the retail investment area. I started out with Fidelity in the 80s and then Charles Schwab, moving on to run the savings and investment business for Egg and Virgin Money, as well as starting my own business. What's your average day like? We're significantly influenced by whatever the markets are doing � that's something we follow closely every day. As I run the business unit, there's also a lot of variety to my role, which I enjoy. What are your current priorities? We're building a reputation for outsourced share dealing services � something for which there is an increasing demand following the impact of the Retail Distribution Review. We're receiving enquiries from potential new entrants, well established retail brands and IFAs looking for different ways to address the needs of their clients. What are the benefits to investors of using the service from Equiniti? Many of the investors that we provide the service to are getting involved in the stock market for the first time, so we have a role to play in helping them to make the best decisions possible. We don't give advice, of course. But we do arm them with factual information � the `how to' type questions. We provide share dealing services to many employees who have maturing sharesave and investment plans. Often we have a corporate relationship with their company so this means we can make the process of buying or selling shares much simpler for the individual. We can see what shares they have got and we can provide them with the ability to transfer their other investments and ISAs to us too, so that they have a one-stop shop. Also, people are very busy. Very often, the only opportunity that they have time to look at their investments is at work, so we work closely with their employers to provide web access via corporate intranets or hold walk-in surgeries at their place of work to answer 4 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 www.equiniti.com > 5 THINKING ALOUD >MARK TAYLOR of advice, won't have easy access to it. We're all going to have to take more responsibility for our savings and investments, and there will be more `execution-only' business. There is an opportunity for us to help here � and it's already working. For instance, we send an online Shareview newsletter to customers each month. The average opening rate is 24%, which is way ahead of the industry norm. We ran a poll a few months back asking people where they would go for information on investments. The overwhelming response was friends and family, so there is a gap there that needs to be filled � and that's one of the areas where we can help with our clients' employees. questions and show them how they can make the most of the systems provided. You're launching a workplace ISA? From talking to our corporate clients, it's apparent that, to attract and retain quality staff, they need to think about their overall benefits package � and helping employees to save is part of that. In terms of savings options, pensions have become an emotive issue. Auto-enrolment means that people will have to join a pension scheme but, for many younger employees, the concept of putting money away for the next 40-plus years is daunting. Sometimes, you have to think about lifetime events rather than retirement � buying a flat, getting married etc. ISAs are complementary to pensions but attractive because you can access your savings when you need them, and they're tax-efficient. If an employee takes advantage of a workplace ISA that their company is offering as part of a benefits package, it's so simple � they don't really have to do anything. And if the employer decides to make a contribution too, to reward the employee for saving � so much the better. We've only just put our Workplace ISA out to the market and are still road-testing it, but it's generating a lot of interest. Who do you get financial advice from? Most employees ask their friends and families You also provide specialist share dealing services to senior executives? Last year, we acquired the corporate and employee services division of NatWest Stockbrokers. The team are specialists in dealing services for executives. It's a niche area where you need expertise � there are obviously sensitivities around director dealings. There's a lot of synergy between them and our existing Order Placing Desk so we are in the process of relaunching them together as the Equiniti Executive Share Dealing Service. This is not a high-volume internet service � it's a personal service through which we liaise directly with the directors and executives. What else is coming up? To what extent has this been driven by the FSA's Retail Distribution Review? Further investment in technology to make it work even harder for the customer. We want to make the website experience as quick and simple as possible. The test of success is often how many people come back. The other big priority is adapting to people's changing lifestyles and creating apps for the mobile experience. On a more product-specific level, we're also working to develop online access for SAYE maturities and SIPS (Structured Investment Plans) and intend to launch a SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) option at the end of the year. Our aim is to establish ourselves as a one-stop shop for the needs and desires of our clients. It's a big factor. Because IFAs will have to charge clients for their time rather than taking commission from financial services companies, we will see a continuing reduction in the number of advisers and those that remain will probably focus on high net-worth clients. That means that the mass market, which is probably in more need 6 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 You're also doing white-label work? For more information, please email mark. firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to your Relationship Manager There are a number of overseas brands looking to move into financial services in the UK. If someone approaches us today and says "can we have a share dealing service `in a box' ready to go and we want our brand across it," we can say yes � and save them all the hassle of building the infrastructure. THE CHALLENGE... DELIVERING DEBT REDUCTION Equiniti Data Services can help to deliver significant debt savings � as this case study with Northern Ireland's Land & Property Services shows (LPS) is the agency responsible for mapping, land registration, rating and valuation in Northern Ireland. LPS selected Equiniti Data Services to identify and segment 90,264 property records to validate and verify occupancy status. segmented cleanses, Equiniti Data Services was able to identify: � Current occupier data � Entry and exit dates to and from each property � Commercial intelligence appended to account � Telephone numbers at current residency � Principal company registration data 84.5% of end-dated accounts with outstanding debt were verified and traced. By undertaking this exercise, LPS was in a better position to meet its debt reduction targets as well as being able to identify and write off uncollectable debt, backed up by quality data. THE CHALLENGE: Land & Property Services THE PROCESS: By carrying out multi-tier Equiniti Data Services by competitive tender to help us trace a large number of records on our database for which we had incomplete or missing information," says Anne Johnston, Revenue & Benefits IT Programme Manager of LPS. "By working closely with us, Equiniti Data Services was able to verify and trace a very high percentage of domestic and commercial rate debtors in addition to identifying occupancy records and details for a high number of properties previously declared as vacant or where we had no liable person." Anne explained that this enabled LPS to generate new rate demands to 27,479 properties and follow up a further 11,006 end-dated rate demands. "Equiniti Data Services' work has been significant in helping us meet our debt reduction target for 2010/11. We were also able to identify for write-off an amount of uncollectable debt and were provided with information to enable us to review our internal processes and improve our decision making." WHAT THE CLIENT SAID: "We engaged with >�1bn was collected by LPS in rates in 2011 � an increase of 5% on the previous year To find out more about Equiniti Data Services, please contact Duncan Stevens, Managing Director at duncan. email@example.com www.equiniti.com > 7 SIX STEPS FEATURE FOR: SUCCESSFUL BPS Engaging expert advice can reap dividends � as long as you follow some simple rules. Stuart Anderson and Andrew Cleminson explain 3 1 Think before you engage There is a lot more to Business Process Services (BPS) than saving money. Before discussing the potential value that external service provision can bring, Equiniti always recommends that clients think carefully about the timing, scope and nature of the services they would like a third party to provide. Taking such an approach enables clients to optimise the performance of their in-house teams (and the securing of those gains) before asking the market if it can improve on that performance. This enables appropriate benchmarking and the crystallisation of further real benefits. 2 Ask the right questions Is buying-in services the right answer for you? In answering this question, it's important to ask four more: Have I drawn a line between core and non-core service provision in my business? Is it cost-effective to continue carrying the fixed cost of the service on my balance sheet? Can I achieve similar levels of service at less cost through an external supplier? Will that provider give me access to people, skills, technology and innovation that I wouldn't otherwise have? "Third Party provision of BPS ushers in huge potential for adding value, enabling transformation, and enriching service provision," says Stuart. "It's also important to do your homework and seek out a solid proposition that offers consultation, advice and assistance in defining the optimum scope of service." Set clear objectives from day one Clarity of objectives is important for all. It ensures that everyone knows what is expected of them right from the start. Externalisation of service provision can be unsettling and stakeholder management and effective communication of the coming change are essential. "Planning, preparation and trust are the three key attributes of success when working with third party service providers," says Andrew. "Understanding motivations and maintaining alignment, between client and supplier, are what makes the difference over time." So be clear about what you want, how to measure it and ensure the supplier measures up! And don't be afraid to change those measures as your business evolves. This is the best way to keep them relevant and maintain their validity as key indicators of success. 8 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 FEATURE 5 6 4 Keep it fresh Like everything in life and business, BPS agreements will largely flourish or flounder depending on the people that are involved. To achieve success, people must be committed to delivering the results that they promise. Keep in mind that the people working on the contract are likely to change over a period of several years. Also remember that it's very important to understand how a supplier is going to refresh its proposition as it develops. Things can become stale, so a good BPS provider looks for ways of innovating and refreshing its team and the services it delivers, on a day-today basis. Tools that help include the implementation of a Balanced Score Card that will measure all aspects of the contractual arrangement and the creation of an Innovation Fund in which both clients and suppliers invest in bringing new ideas and offerings to the table. Know who you're dealing with Service providers have to continually invest in their people. Having the right number of people with differentiated skills is a key indicator of future success and strong service delivery. Time spent understanding the shape of the organisation beyond its key players is time well spent. Evidence of high service levels and a proven track record in meeting client expectations is a must. Make sure you meet as many of the people providing the service as possible face to face and ask for regular service and performance reviews. Communication works both ways, so remember to keep the provider informed about relevant developments within your organisation. Regular communication builds strong relationships, benefits both parties and enables both, together, to cope with the stresses and strains of keeping pace with ever growing customer demands. Share benefits "It's important to maintain alignment between the contracting party and the contractor over time," says Stuart. "So much changes so quickly, that common yardsticks are needed for measuring progress. As a result, it's often helpful to build levers into a contract that create mutual incentives for both parties as the contract evolves." Andrew adds: "Everyone wants more for less and we therefore need to create governance frameworks that incentivise delivery." There are two key levers that help: the creation of a 'gain-share' regime and the development of a conveyer belt of innovation. Sharing the benefits of joint service provision has always been at the heart of best practice. What is new and exciting is the way the sharing can take place � and it's incumbent on the supplier to develop new ideas. Andrew believes Equiniti has demonstrated this type of thinking in founding the first Central Government Mutual Joint Venture � MyCSP. "Equiniti listened to what the Cabinet Office was trying to achieve and created a new model for service delivery. Government hasn't so much outsourced service provision to a Third Party; rather it has maintained its own stake and enabled employees to secure theirs in an exciting new venture. All stand to benefit as a result." MEET THE TEAM Andrew Cleminson Sales Director, Public Sector Markets Andrew draws on the Group's 175-year heritage in providing services to government, as well as developing new and innovative models to deliver sustainable services in these challenging times. Stuart Anderson Sales Director, Financial Services Markets Stuart is responsible for developing Equiniti Group's wider business process services (BPS) propositions and strategies for the financial services sector, with particular focus on banking and insurance. www.equiniti.com > 9 CLIENT FEEDBACK SATISFACTION GUARANTEED The growing Equiniti Group has never been in a stronger position to help your business prosper � even in these tough economic times. Here are seven reasons why Account Management Equiniti has invested around 5,000 hours in training to ensure its Relationship Managers (RMs) provide clients with the very best service, sharing best practice and ideas for continuous improvement. The role of the RM is to listen, understand and present options for services that are tailored to a client's needs. Quality is checked regularly through a benchmarking survey. 92% of 60 Second Survey respondents told us their RMs were `proactive' � an increase of 10% since the same time last year. Standard for the second year running, the only registrar ever to do so. The company achieved a service level performance of 99.8% in Q4, ensuring that the 95% SLA was significantly exceeded last year. In its latest report, the CCA said: "The improvements that have been implemented since the last assessment are outstanding. Quality and training are the bedrock of great performance in this contact centre." Equiniti contact centre agents are thoroughly trained at the Contact Centre Academy prior to customer contact. and interest payments annually. There has been an investment in creative services to drive best practice and improve client documentation. This has increased shareholder communications to encourage shareholders to sign up for BACS and promote a dedicated dividend planner. Payments returned by BACS are automatically reviewed and reissued; payments were issued to 18 million shareholders over the last 12 months. 96% of 60 Second Survey respondents rated Equiniti's overall standard of dividend service as good or very good. Service to Shareholders The business has invested in new technology to enhance every aspect of documentation. The launch of the Shareview secure email enquiry service has made it even easier for shareholders to get in touch, and complaint trend analysis has enhanced processes. There has been an increased focus on customer experience and the customer journey. Equiniti, responsible for printing and mailing 36 million documents over the last 12 months, has been awarded ISO9001, ISO27001 and C&CCC Standard 55 for Print & Mail. A service level performance of 99.9% last year ensured that the SLA was significantly exceeded. 97% of 60 Second Survey respondents rated Equiniti's service to shareholders as `good' or `very good,' an increase from 93% last year. Service to Company There has been significant investment in technology, including the Shareview Electronic Enquiry service enabling a structured email channel. Data segmentation reports, delivered to a number of clients, have enabled targeted mailings, including shareholding analysis for clients interested in postal sharedealing tasks and foreign holding analysis compiled to extend overseas payment service. Equiniti has also been working closely with clients to derive and implement shareholder strategies including shareholder engagement and cost reduction. Improved reporting services have been offered in direct response to client feedback. 98% of respondents to the 60 Second Survey rated the overall service to company as `good' or `very good' � an increase of 8%. Meeting Management Contact Centre Equiniti has retained the Customer Contact Association (CCA) Global 10 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 Dividend Service Equiniti is reponsible for the planning and delivery of more than 1,500 dividend Investment in technology now allows frequent and intelligently analysed proxy voting reports. There is proactive support for the mailing process, working with the client to achieve their desired strategic outcome in terms of shareholder communication. Expert support has also been made available for the increasing number of clients offering CREST and Electronic Proxy Appointment, giving more flexibility for shareholders. The Equiniti specialist team holds client briefing and planning meetings, sharing intelligence and best practice from other client meetings. Pre-season discussion forums are also held and regular ezine articles ensure focus on topical issues. Experienced and knowledgeable support is provided on the day � including management of shareholder registration, voting and polls as required � and an enhanced database of questions asked at client meetings is available. 118 meetings :: SATISFACTION IN NUMBERS 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 50 YEARS The length of Equiniti's longest client relationship have been planned and carried out on behalf of Equiniti clients so far this year. 98% of respondents to the 60 Second Survey told us they were happy with the management of their general meetings � an increase of 8%. Overall Satisfaction Equiniti has launched the Global Share Alliance, providing market-leading technology and financial services to globally listed companies. In addition, regular discussion forums and working groups are held to develop and share best practice, supported by this, the Equiniti Magazine, and the monthly Equiniti Ezine. Equiniti also sponsors the Chartered Secretary Roundtable � driving the agenda for hot topics in the industry � and the ICSA weekly e-newsletter, Newswire. The company is involved in key market issues on behalf of many of its clients. Service levels have consistently exceeded the 95% target in the Contact Centre and shareholder services for the past three years. 100% of respondents to the 60 Second Survey told us that they were satisfied with Equiniti's registration service. The survey showed improvement in all categories. 91% The percentage of shareholders calling the contact centre who rate Equiniti as `good' or `very good' �21bn The total value of BACS payments processed � 385 The number of General Meetings planned and carried out on behalf of Equiniti clients last year www.equiniti.com > 11 If you have any questions about any aspects of our service, or would like to find out more about the changes we have implemented, please feel free to contact your Relationship Manager, or John Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org INTERVIEW ANDREW VERITY After six years of interviewing people about the global economic crisis, 5 Live's Andrew Verity reveals his take on fiscal turmoil. Fellow finance journalist Liz Barclay asks the questions It's another fine mess we've got ourselves into. According to Andrew Verity presenter of Wake Up To Money on 5 Live (5.35am � 6am) we did it through an astonishing lack of economic scepticism. And getting out of it is turning into a grand global experiment � says the man who believes in Moshi Monsters and swears by the clairvoyance skills of Nouriel Roubini. He's into the swing of the interview before I can switch on my recording machine. Presenters rarely get asked for their own take on the issues they ask their interviewees intelligent questions about, 12 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 so when they do get a chance to speak there's no stopping them. "So many billions of pounds being lent without enough questions about the credit worthiness of the borrowers... Greece has been threatening to leave the Euro but it's difficult at this minute to see through the fog. Wise heads said a Greek exit was inevitable but they've been saying that for a year. Would Angela Merkel let it happen anyway?" Andrew Verity sounds as if `Angela' is someone he knows very well, which he probably does in one sense. He's been working on Wake Up To Money (fondly known as Wot-um Andrew photographed outside MediaCity UK, in Manchester YOU DID ASK since it first launched in 1994 with Adrian Chiles in the chair) for six years, so he's followed every twist and convoluted turn of the credit crunch, recession and Euro Zone saga. At the time of talking to Andrew, Greece was still hanging on by its collective fingernails. Experts like Lord Lawson were saying that leaving the Euro would give the country the opportunity to devalue and become more competitive. "It's fascinating watching the news unfold. We're watching a grand global experiment; an experiment into which of the austerity versus anti- austerity theories will take the upper hand. Will all the votes against austerity change anything? If the Greek people had voted in an anti-austerity Government, the Drachma would have revalued itself downwards dramatically leaving people with austerity anyway. "If the Greek people are paid in Drachma it's not clear that they'll be able to afford the basics of life. If the austerity measures imposed on them weren't so hard they might be able to put up with it but, with wages down by a quarter, they are angry. We don't know whether devaluation would be www.equiniti.com > 13 PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDY BROWN INTERVIEW ANDREW VERITY sufficient to kick start the economy, get the tourists back and restore the basis of economic prosperity. The watchword of our economic time is uncertainty." But the pressure for all this austerity came from the financial markets in the first place? "Yes but the financial markets are saying now that austerity on its own won't do the trick. The theory used to be that if you cut the public sector and public spending enough you would find that the public spending had been crowding out the private spending. So if you cut back far enough, the private sector will fill the gap but that's not being borne out. When I recently interviewed the economist Charles Dallara he said the idea behind public sector cuts was to impose fiscal discipline and that it isn't succeeding � like an individual who has money problems you need them to have a decent income as well as cutting back on their expenses for them to become more credit worthy. "When a creditor looks at whether a country will be able to pay back it debts, it looks at not just whether they are cutting back on spending but also at income. The public finances of countries that have implemented austerity have not improved so far in the way they hoped because the growth isn't there. However there are arguments that that's because there hasn't been enough austerity." The human truth about regulation, never mind the structure of it, is when the people involved remember what can go wrong they won't let it happen again. Andrew is convinced that we have simply been living beyond our means for years. So if it's imperative that we implement austerity, should there be compromises around the time scale? "I don't think there's any argument at any point in the political spectrum that public finances need to be brought under control � but by when and under what economic conditions is it appropriate to step up those cut backs. Some argue you have to wait until the economy is stronger and some argue you can't wait." Journalists like Andrew (and me she says immodestly) did call the fact that we were overindebted; we did say `you simply can't carry on like this' and we were patted on the head by `experts' and told `It's OK dear... things are different this time?' "Yes � you're echoing a phrase used by Kenneth Rogoff and Kevin Reinhart � `This time is different'. They are top economists in the US who have studied a huge data set over the past 800 years and looked at how similar financial crises are caused. Amongst other things, one commonly observed sign of an imminent financial crisis is a rapid run up in house prices. Lots of journalists were questioning that before 2007 and were told it's different because the economic paradigm had shifted. Interest rates were lower and looked like they'd be permanently lower. Experts claimed the financial system was more sophisticated and had 14 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 different ways of assessing risks so the figures didn't necessarily indicate reckless lending. We now know better but people create clothes for the emperor and are able to see clothes even when little boys like Nouriel Roubini are pointing out that he's naked." Andrew's gets up at 4am to get into the studio for the start of his 5.30am show Have we learned anything � the bankers, the regulators, the economists, the journalists? "We won't know that until the next crisis is approaching. I talked to one expert who told me that in the 1980s when banks everywhere were lobbying for deregulation, so that they could borrow a lot more and lend a lot more � Canada resisted. have been to consumer concerns. The Money Programme for example was talking about selfcertification mortgages and concerns that the system was open to abuse with mortgages being given to people who couldn't afford them. The FSA said there was no validity to the concerns but after the credit crunch they took steps to stop them being sold in the way they had been before. They were slow to act to PPI mis-selling too and look at what that's costing the big banks. There is huge resistance to upholding the concerns of the consumers at the heart of the agenda... and I think that has been a problem. Regulators spent more time talking to the industry than consumers � and lost sight of them." Consumers are doing that for themselves. They're mad at the banks � take the Move Your Money campaign, for example. Is there anything different in the response of the public this time and will it have a lasting impact on relationships with financial institutions? Wall Street and London allowed deregulation. In Canada, bankers and regulators remembered their own financial crisis of 1980s. It was seared into their memories so they rejected deregulation. The human truth about regulation, never mind the structure of it, is when the people involved remember what can go wrong they won't let it happen again. Our own previous banking crisis was in the 1970s and by the time we got to 2005 there weren't that many financial civil servants around who remembered." "I don't think people are going to forget this crisis too easily. It's not reasonable to blame bankers alone but people will continue to regard the senior bankers as the main culprits. It's our responsibility as journalists not to tar everyone with the same brush. Of course, there were irresponsible decisions taken by bankers but there were irresponsible decisions taken by regulators and individuals too. We do need an economy that's predicated on economic growth that isn't simply based on borrowing beyond our means. "We weren't as well off as we thought we were, GDP hasn't gone back up, the confidence we felt wasn't based on anything concrete. People still think technology is the future but to say that financial services is the future would be greeted with howls of derision. People feel we need to base our economy a bit more on making things. All political parties are saying they want more export-led growth and we're not doing too badly. It's interesting as a journalist that this has brought about a shift where the good news story is more in demand now. Positive business stories are easier to place. Take the Mini. It's a big success story. People who work on the Mini are based in the UK and the economic benefits accrue to us. So that's a good news story. If you go to a shopping mall in Asia you see British firms in evidence. There are reasons to feel confidence. Companies are exporting British ingenuity" What's holding us back on the growth front? What about impending twin peaks regulations � the new FSA and PRA � will they change things? "The FSA wasn't as responsive as it might "The large corporations have lots of money and could drive growth but they need to have confidence that they are going to get a good return for their investment. Fear is still the dominant emotion and we need the confidence to come back. There are little signs like unemployment dipping and private sector wages are growing slightly. Part of the problem with lack of www.equiniti.com > 15 INTERVIEW ANDREW VERITY growth is that wages have fallen back and people have felt squeezed with inflation growing faster than wages, but that's softening � inflation is subsiding and wages are creeping up so, when people are no longer getting worse off in real terms, retail spending will come back." Enough macro economics! What's it like presenting a daily radio programme at that unearthly hour of the morning? "I get up at 4. I live close to work so it's not that bad and my eccentric circadian rhythm gets me through. I sleep during the day and that helps. But you can't go around pretending you have a normal life or you indulge the present at the expense of the future." Does it make you a grumpy old sod? Do your children call you that? "They're too scared to tell me! The early morning regime is great as I get to spend more time with them. They're into Moshi Monsters, an online game where you look after your pet monster. It's supposed to be free but it gets to the point where to do the next thing you have to be members and that means paying. So they're earning by cleaning the bathroom for instance. They get three quid � they have to learn they get nothing for free." And before we finish � I can't let Andrew go without asking him what it's like to work with Mickey Clark? "Don't be cross with me for saying Mickey's a lovely bloke. That early in the morning, for six years, seeing him every morning � honestly I don't think I've ever worked with anyone easier. He's a much pleasanter chap than you'd guess from some of his interview questions." :: DEPRESSIONS WE HAVE KNOWN (AND NOT LOVED) As it always says in the financial blurb, "your investment may go down as well as up", and so it is with recessions. Hard as it may be to stomach, economic recessions are natural and inevitable. They have always happened and probably always will. Here are three from recent times: The Great Depression The ultimate benchmark in global recessions. However, bad things get, this mother of economic disaster trumps the lot. It started in 1929 and lasted, off and on, for eight years. In 1936, 207 people marched 200 miles from Jarrow to London to protest against their extreme poverty. Tough times indeed. The oil crisis It's 1973 and OPEC decides to hike oil prices four-fold. That combined with the financial hangover of the Vietnam War in the US leads to stagflation and, as Wall Street starts sneezing, Britain catches a cold. It lasted two years, but no sooner had we recovered than 1978's Winter of Discontent arrived. The monetarist recession Blamed on the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher's Government, which mirrored those in the US and were designed to counteract high inflation, the recession of the early eighties was a precursor to further industrial strife � chiefly the miner's strike. 16 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 EMPLOYEE BENEFITS FEATURE Visible Benefits Equiniti's one-stop-shop allows your employees to view, model and manage their benefits at the click of a mouse H ow often have you sat down to look at your personal finances, only to have to jump up again to gather information from a dozen files scattered around your home or office? How much simpler life would be if everything was together in one place. Yet when it comes to your employees' benefits, that very simplicity will soon be available. Equiniti has developed a portal that will enable your employees to view and control their benefits in a single location. "We are delivering the most comprehensive online Benefits Portal in the industry," says David Coleman, Head of Employee Benefits at Equiniti. "It integrates Flex, Total Reward Statements (TRS), pensions and share plans, plus a workplace ISA. The portal will allow our clients' employees to enquire and transact in real time and offers the benefits of single sign on, detailed MI and customisable branding." As one of the largest employee benefit administrators, Equiniti understands that the needs of individual companies differ, as do the requirements of their employees. A benefits package must be tailored to fit the changing demands of today's workplace. Equiniti brings a wealth of experience to meet these challenges, including more than ten years providing Flex and TRS to over 80,000 employees; the outsourcing of pension, payroll and annuity administration to 2.9m pension members; and a position as the UK market leader in share plan administration with over 20 years' experience. "We have the total package to deliver an end-to-end service for our clients and their employees," adds David. "We offer a package that can include benefits consultancy, branding, design and creative strategy, benefit broking, system delivery, scheme administration and contact centre services." Employee benefit products available from the portal from a single log-in include: Flex Providing insurance and high street products; Government voucher schemes such as childcare and cycle-to-work; pension extra for employees, enabling them to take advantage of tax or NI efficiencies; and bolt-on benefits that enjoy employee discounts. These options provide an attractive package to current and potential staff, and may result in a significant secondary NI saving to the employer. Total Reward Brings everything together so employees can see the true value of their benefits, whether by an annual statement (paper or pdf), or via a real-time benefits portal. This can include everything from salary and car allowance to holiday entitlement and company pension contributions. Workplace ISA Enables a direct link from an employee scheme maturity into an ISA; further monthly purchases with a wide investment choice; and a facility for companies to monitor how many accounts have been opened, and to contribute to an employee's ISA. Share schemes Provides award-winning Sharesave and SIP plans within the ESP portal, alongside any Discretionary, Executive or unapproved share bonus plans offered. Pensions A fully outsourced consulting, software and administration service. Our software supports more than 10m members. For more information please contact David Coleman on 0207 469 1895, email email@example.com or contact your Relationship Manager www.equiniti.com > 17 FEATURE RISK An appetite for 18 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 18 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 RISK MANAGEMENT Clients are increasingly turning to Equiniti for assurance and support in risk management. Darren Smith explains why rior to the global banking crisis, there were some irresponsible executives and organisations in the financial services world who had little regard for good risk management and saw it as an obstacle to growth and enterprise. They wanted to take risks; they didn't want to consider what might happen if these risks actually failed and what impact this might have. But recent events have changed everything. The value of good strategic risk management has gained greater recognition � not only as an essential element of responsible business management but also as a key tool for stability and growth. Darren Smith, Head of Compliance and Risk at Equiniti, has noticed this change in perception. Equiniti has always placed a firm emphasis on intelligent, comprehensive risk management with strong leadership from the Board down � it's been a key element of the company's success and significant growth since its inception in 2007. Equiniti recognises the need for change and diversity and it has an appetite for risk. However, that risk is carefully balanced with a strong risk management culture and detailed awareness of the potential consequences, and the ways in which any negative impacts can be mitigated. Sharing that expertise and providing robust assurance on how effective Equiniti is at assessing and managing risk is now in greater demand from clients who appoint Equiniti as a key supplier or partner. "Client engagement on risk has significantly ramped up," says Darren. "Clients more and more want to know that Equiniti takes risk management seriously and that this culture is embedded throughout the organisation." Darren is at the helm of Equiniti's risk function that provides the methodology to assess, identify and manage risk. "It is not our role to tell the business what the risks are and how to manage them," he says. "They are the experts in what they do, we are there to provide them with the tools to do this and offer expert guidance and support." This involves risk management policies that are continually reassessed and developed as the business changes and evolves. His team also ensures that effective information on risks and risk management is in place to support the Board's risk governance and is focussed on enhancing risk awareness throughout the business. With this strong support and oversight, the business is able to clearly establish its risk appetite and understand how it is performing against this appetite. The principles that Equiniti have adopted are mandatory throughout the organisation. "We have strong risk management controls evidenced in our regulated business areas, and we extend that level of control across all business areas," Darren says. Equiniti continually reviews its approach to risk and benchmarks itself against the expectations of the FSA and those of its clients. "Our system is mature," says Darren, who has over 13 years experience in risk management and compliance within the industry. "It's based on our heritage in responsible financial services and we take it very seriously � our reputation and the reputations of our clients are paramount." Equiniti's approach to risk management is based on a three lines of defence model. "The first line of defence is the business and its operational managers who are responsible for the application of effective systems and controls," says Darren. "My team is the second line of defence, as we develop policies, oversee their implementation and generally enhance awareness. Finally, Equiniti has an experienced internal audit function that independently assesses these first two defences." Equiniti also adopts an Enterprise Wide Risk Management (EWRM) approach which provides a sound platform to identify all key risks that may exist or emerge from its business activities. "EWRM breaks down risks into a number of core areas such as process and resource risk, legal and regulatory risk and financial risk," says Darren. "Each of these risk areas is then assigned by Equiniti's CEO to an owner at executive management level. Risk owners are responsible for establishing risk appetite which is agreed with the Board and ensuring that the level of risk being run is in line with this appetite. The risk profile of all Equiniti business areas is reviewed and subject to challenge regularly through our Compliance & Risk Committee and Audit Committee." The most important aspect of risk is that it is not just a top management issue, it's a company culture issue. "People are encouraged and supported in assessing and managing risk as a key part of their every day jobs," says Darren. "It's something we all do to protect both Equiniti and our clients. The more aware that people are of risk, the more that everyone benefits." www.equiniti.com > 19 MY EQUINITI: KELLY MILLAR A passion for horses, the determination to complete a marathon and a love for working with her clients are three of Kelly Millar's most striking traits "It's fantastic working in such an experienced team where, for instance, you have directors who write books and are recognised industry experts." Kelly Millar looks surprisingly energetic when we meet � considering she has just run her first marathon. "I wasn't a very happy individual between 22 and 24 miles," she says. "It was so hilly and that really drags when you have 26 miles to get through. But once I got to the last two miles, I was fine." Kelly brings the same drive and determination to her role as Director at David Venus & Co as she demonstrated pounding the country lanes in the Halstead & Essex Marathon. "I work with our clients on a day-to-day basis, and every day is different," she says. "My portfolio ranges from FTSE100 companies to smaller private firms; one day I could be doing technical work or business development, the next working on publications or attending a seminar. I love the variety." Kelly began her training at Matheson Ormsby Prentice, a law firm in Dublin. After a move to the UK, she took up a post with Clyde and Co, where she managed its company secretarial services. She then joined David Venus & Co four years ago as a senior manager and is now a Director. 20 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 Established in 1980, David Venus, which is part of the Equiniti Group, is a firm of chartered secretaries providing company law advice and corporate guidance to private and public companies. "We provide a full company secretarial service for clients or, if they already have an inhouse CoSec team, we can carry out additional projects for them, freeing up their time to concentrate on other priorities. We're also currently rolling out Co-efficient, which provides a board evaluation service � something that is increasingly in demand due to changes in corporate governance guidance." Kelly adds: "It's fantastic working in such an experienced team where, for instance, you have directors who write books and are recognised industry experts. That's a very positive influence for new members of the team coming in � everyone here is constantly exposed to work of very high quality. We have a strong track record of delivering results and clients stay with us. That's the best recommendation of all. Joining Equiniti has had mutual benefits for David Venus & Co and Equiniti clients. "We've had lots of interaction with Equiniti clients," says Kelly. "Our work has developed to quite large undertakings." The David Venus & Co HQ is in Esher, Surrey � a short hop from Sandown Racecourse. "It's a great business environment but in a country-type setting," says Kelly. "It reflects the culture of the company." As the owner of three horses, it's also an apt location for Kelly. Three quick questions PORTRAIT BY ANT UPTON What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? It's important to be honest at all times, particularly if you think something is wrong. Tell us something surprising about yourself. I sang at the National Concert Hall in Dublin as part of the National Children's Choir. If you didn't work for David Venus & Co, what would you do? I would like to work with horses � I already have three! www.equiniti.com > 21 COMPANY SECRETARY PROFILE Dressed for success He may be a judge at Crufts, but Debenhams Company Secretary Paul Eardley's work is far from a dog's life Tell us a bit about your role I'm both Company Secretary and General Counsel for Debenhams. General Counsel is head of the legal department, covering the full ambit of the business's legal requirements, except for employment and property, so it's a pretty broad remit. On the company secretarial side, we're a FTSE250 company, so it's the full brief � corporate administration, board administration, and corporate governance and all that goes with it. that the lawyers working in-house for the business are truly retail specialists. What are your current priorities? I'm always really busy, so my priorities change weekly. I have a pretty full-on workload and have to be pretty quick on my feet and responsive to the requests of the business. There is a lot of juggling � prioritising and re-prioritising � and I have to be quite clear with people about what my priorities need to be on a particular day. relationship and I've always found them very easy to work with and very responsive. I suppose the main benefit the relationship brings to me personally is that, because I've worked with them for a long time, I trust them and don't need to worry about that side of the business. It's not something that keeps me awake at night � hopefully they'll be pleased to hear that! How is Debenhams coping with economic downturn? If you were able to choose a completely different career, what would it be? What attracted you to Debenhams? I quite fancied a change of sector. I suppose what is interesting about retail is that it is something that everyone has a view on. My previous role was also Company Secretary/General Counsel with Spirent Communications plc, which is in the telecommunications testing sector. However when I used to tell people what Spirent do their eyes would glaze over! So the idea of moving into a more mainstream sector was quite attractive. Our CEO Michael Sharp took over the role last September and has done a really good job of articulating our strategy. It has been well communicated both internally and externally. So I'd say we're coping well, and the organisation is very positive. To be honest, it would probably be an accountant. That sounds a bit boring, but it's probably true, because I was quite good at maths at school. If I hadn't been a lawyer or an accountant, I'll go for professional dog handler. What is the biggest single lesson you have learnt in your current role? Were the challenges of the two roles similar? Manage people's expectations! I suppose the biggest single thing I've learnt is you're not going to keep everyone happy in the space of one day. It really is a case of prioritising. This means that communication is very important, as is having a good PA � someone who is proactive about managing the schedule as the day develops. In the middle of a field in some far flung part of the country. The next question will explain all! Where are you most likely to be found on a Sunday afternoon? Do you have a secret talent? There are a lot of similarities on the corporate side, but it's quite different on the business side, because they are very different sectors. The legal team are much more hands-on with the business here in Debenhams, whereas my role at Spirent was very much corporate-focused. What benefits does Equiniti's relationship with Debenhams bring? How do you find working with a more hands-on approach? It was a bit of a learning curve to start with, but now I really enjoy it. It means 22 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 Equiniti was appointed as Debenhams' registrar when the company was re-floated in 2006, so they've been with us ever since we came back to the market. They were also Spirent's registrars, so I have had a long relationship with them. It's a good, strong I show dogs and judge dogs, principally Australian Terriers and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. I've done it all my life. My parents were dog showers, I've been showing dogs since I was seven, and I judged my first dog show when I was 18. In 2007, I owned the top terrier in the UK (a competition that runs across all championship dog shows in the space of a calendar year.) I've judged at Crufts five times. For several years now I've been a member of the Kennel Club and sat on its Breed Standards Sub-Committee, which monitors breed standards and recommends appropriate changes. PAUL EARDLEY DEBENHAMS CV 1984-1986 Articled Clerk, Slater Heelis, Manchester 1987-1989 Solicitor in the corporate department, Linklaters 1989-1990 Solicitor in the corporate department, Mallesons Sydney 1990-1993 Solicitor in the corporate department, Linklaters 1993-1997 Partner in the corporate department, DLA Manchester 1997 Joined Spirent Communications plc 2002�2007 General Counsel and Company Secretary, Spirent Communications plc 2007�present General Counsel and Company Secretary, Debenhams www.equiniti.com > 23 WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE LATEST NEWS FROM ACROSS EQUINITI WHAT'S NEW AT EQUINITI? SHAREHOLDER SOLUTIONS EQUINITI ICS Driving up shareholder mandates Equiniti ICS nominated for Microsoft accolade Equiniti ICS is proud to announce that it has been nominated for Microsoft's Hosting Solution Partner of the Year. The award is in recognition of innovation and expertise, and of a commitment to engaging with Microsoft. Equiniti ICS has been nominated for implementing Microsoft System Center 2012, offering improved virtual machine implementation, server management and monitoring; recognising its ability to innovate, and to use technology to address customers' business challenges. Through its strategic relationship with Microsoft and deployment of its latest technology, Equiniti ICS is able to offer key hosted-IT and cloud services, including infrastructure, service and software, covering Microsoft CRM online, case management and HR and payroll. The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Awards are fiercely contested, with winners and finalists chosen from Microsoft's 640,000 worldwide partners. Equiniti ICS has also achieved its fourth Microsoft Gold Competency, making it the only Microsoft Partner in Northern Ireland to hold competencies in web development, software development, ISV (Independent Software Vendor), and portals and collaboration. The Microsoft Hosting Solution Partner of the Year will be announced in July 2012 in Toronto. The end of 2011 saw the launch of a new feature enabling shareholders to see details of outstanding dividend monies held for them by Equiniti on their dividend payment stationery. While some shareholders previously had a BACS mandate on their account, many were still receiving dividend payments by cheque. However, as part of the outstanding monies release process, shareholders are now required to provide BACS mandate authority for future payments. With the initial roll-out of this service proving successful, the next phase of roll-out is planned for Q3-Q4 2012. We look forward to increasing the BACS mandate level on many more client share registers. The focus of this service is not restricted to the UK � the proportion of shareholders receiving payments by cheque overseas is much higher than in the UK. Following a thorough review of both the application process and communication of the Overseas Payment Service to shareholders, Equiniti has simplified the application process and, with the "Our customer base support of third-party experts, is maturing, and created a new range of marketing materials that we will be piloting our customers are with shareholders in Q2 and Q3 becoming more aware 2012. We look forward to sharing of what technology the results of these campaigns and providing so we want to can do, insight on how to convert more of your make sure it's at overseas shareholders from the cheque payments. If youwe do heart of what are interested in undertaking your as a company" own overseas shareholder campaign, please contact your Relationship Manager. Big Society Capital selects Equiniti Equiniti is delighted to have been chosen as the share registration partner to administer the share register for the Big Society Capital, a new financial institution set up to help fund charities and community groups. "We are delighted to be supporting this ground-breaking socially responsible development," said Paul Matthews, Managing Director, Corporate Markets at Equiniti. "Our experience in share registration spans more than 50 years and we look forward to working with Big Society Capital in the future." Equiniti will manage the register, and deliver shares to the four Merlin Banks on receipt of their quarterly subscriptions. David Venus & Co will also be supporting the Big Society team with routine company secretarial services. 24 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 PENSION SOLUTIONS Paymaster selected for MyCSP Equiniti Group's Paymaster business has been confirmed as the private sector partner in the groundbreaking mutual joint venture MyCSP Ltd. MyCSP is a new private enterprise, administering pensions for 1.5 million civil servants under a seven-year commercial contract with the Cabinet Office. Paymaster takes 40% ownership alongside the Government and employees, in return for investment and expertise that will help MyCSP transform into a thriving commercial business. The contract makes use of A big welcome to Equiniti We're delighted to welcome eight new clients to Equiniti. We will now be managing the share registers for the following companies: Imagination Technologies Group plc Leaders in semiconductor System-on-Chip Intellectual Property (SoC IP) and innovative consumer products. DRS Data & Research Services plc Specialists in developing and manufacturing scanning and imaging technologies. Inspired Energy plc A leading provider of energy purchasing and management. Nandan Cleantec plc Bio-energy solutions through cutting-edge technologies. Sphere Medical plc Specialists in monitoring and diagnostic products. Naibu Global International Company plc Chinese sportswear brand, based in the Fujian Province. Grampian Investment Trust Limited Investment agents and consultants. Retroscreen Virology Group plc Leading contract virology research company. Paul Bingham, Managing Director of Equiniti Group's Paymaster business, at the launch of MyCSP capabilities from across the Equiniti Group, including a robust quality and IT infrastructure, Claybrook's market-leading software, and the expertise gained working with half of the FTSE100. This is a pioneering first joint venture with UK central government, putting Paymaster ahead of the market and providing a great platform for further opportunities. It was signed as Paymaster celebrates its 175th anniversary. Xafinity wins two awards in a fortnight Xafinity Claybrook has scooped the prestigious title of Pension Technology Provider of the Year at the UK Pensions Awards. Competition was tough, with the judging panel selecting Xafinity from a shortlist which included aquilaheywood, DCisions, eShare, JLT Employee Benefits Group, Johnson Fleming and PensionsFirst. Michael Payten, Managing Director of Xafinity Claybrook, said: "This is an award that Xafinity Claybrook has claimed numerous times in previous years and securing it once again this year is testament both to the quality of Claybrook's software products, and to the professionalism and commitment of our skilled people." solutions, and our ability to respond to the individual requirements of our customers," added Michael. "It's a fantastic achievement to win the same "These wins reinforce our position as a trusted and reliable provider to schemes of all sizes" Xafinity won a second award for Pensions Administration Software at the UK Pensions and Investment Provider Awards. "I'm really proud of this recognition as it reflects Xafinity Claybrook's commitment to providing client-focussed category in the same year at these two leading industry awards ceremonies. These wins reinforce our position as a trusted and reliable provider to schemes of all sizes in the private and public sector, as well as third party administrators." CABINET OFFICE www.equiniti.com > 25 MASTERCLASS Digital platforms provide a valuable opportunity to extend the reach of your brand, but where should you begin and how can you protect your reputation online? Online marketing expert David Cumings provides the guide What's your social media strategy? hatever industry your business operates in, your organisation is likely to have an increasing need to be visible to the customers you interact with. These days, more and more people expect that interaction to take place online � and this new virtual relationship can be very different to those your business is used to cultivating. The online environment offers many benefits for business. For instance, most customers want a meaningful two-way conversation with organisations they buy from and online social media provides a simple and effective way of achieving that. Like any investment, building your business profile through social media does come with risks but, once mastered, it can deliver significant benefits. As a reader of the Equiniti Magazine, you're unlikely to be directly responsible for your business's social media strategy � but you do have a vested interest in ensuring it is properly planned and executed. Here are some of the key steps that need to be considered. Know your audience Before your business even thinks about creating content, it's essential that you establish who you are targeting. Segment your audience into relevant chunks and conduct a `buyer persona' exercise for each, outlining the issues and challenges they face and how you can address these online. Bringing the segments to life by giving them names, jobs, interests and preferred social media will help focus your efforts. Commit time and energy What's the plan? Social media is no different to any other business endeavour in that it should always begin with a clear strategy. First of all, your business should set its objectives: what do you need to achieve, and how does that translate in real business terms, such as increased sales or better brand recognition in new markets? Establish clear targets that are measurable � not only does this give you a roadmap to refer to, but it also proves to other stakeholders that the investment is worth it. 26 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2012 Online marketing requires a considerable investment of time. If this is the route you are taking, your business needs to make a sustained commitment to creating content and ensure that any platforms on which you operate are frequently updated. A blog looks terrible if the writer hasn't posted in months, and the same applies to neglected Twitter accounts. The blog is the engine of the social media strategy, and it's a great place to start because it allows you to plan ahead. You can start by simply saying `we commit to writing two blog posts a week' and then assign the responsibility and deadlines accordingly. For large organisations or those dealing with sensitive subjects, blogging also has the advantage of allowing plenty of time for people to review and approve any draft posts prior to them being made public. Once you have the content in place, platforms such as Twitter can be used to direct traffic to the blog. Twitter is probably the most effective option for driving traffic, but businesses may also benefit from having a presence on LinkedIn, and Facebook is well suited to speaking directly to consumers. Which platform, or mix of platforms, that your organisation chooses really depends on your business, audience and objectives. Never, ever sell This is one of the biggest mistakes made by businesses using online platforms, and it's a big turn-off. The key is to create content that educates and entertains; The blog is the engine of the social media strategy, and it's a great place to start because it allows you to plan ahead. content that's relevant to your target market and addresses their sources of pain. Talk about what the audience needs, not what you need, and provide answers and solutions wherever possible. Tone of voice is another aspect of communications that it's important to get right. Your organisation should speak to your audience as you would if you shook their hand in the street, instead of attempting to adopt a `brand' in your communications. Authenticity is always the best approach. Harness the skills of your colleagues Many businesses are naturally concerned about protecting the integrity of their brand from rogue tweeters. The most important safeguard is to create a clear policy of what's acceptable to say online, and what's not. Put those guidelines in writing and make sure they're visible to everyone involved. You will probably want to reserve blogging and tweeting for a small, tight group of employees, but don't assume that this has to be executives only. Conduct an audit of your staff and find the `digital citizens' � people who can write, film or take great photos and are comfortable online. Make the most of their skills by getting them involved early on, and encourage them to work within the guidelines you have set. Be ready to respond ILLUSTRATION: IAN TRAYNOR Use monitoring tools to keep an eye on what people are saying about you online, so that if the worst happens and you're facing a PR crisis, you're not caught on the back foot. Take for example the disagreement this spring between Scottish brewer BrewDog and its larger drinks rivals Diageo. BrewDog created an online storm when it accused Diageo of having abused its position as corporate sponsor to the British Institute of Innkeeping awards. Thankfully, Diageo was quick to react, releasing an official apology without being provoked into an online debate. On the rare occasion when you find your business in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, you need to react quickly and appropriately. Ignoring the situation will only cause it to escalate. � David Cumings is a digital expert who helps businesses build their profile online. Find out more at www. forthmetrics.com www.equiniti.com > 27 Does your Employee Benefits scheme bear fruit? Equiniti delivers award-winning share plans through the most comprehensive Employee Share Plans Portal in the industry. To find out more about our award-winning approach or see a demo of our online services, contact Jennifer Bigg or John Daughtrey Jennifer Bigg t: 07425 626653 e: firstname.lastname@example.org John Daughtrey t: 07921 105629 e: email@example.com Equiniti provides tailored Employee Share Plan Solutions to 40% of FTSE100 companies.