From 6 April 2017, companies with more than 250 staff are required to annually report on their gender pay gap. This must be published on both their own and government websites.

The following information is required:

  • mean gender pay gap in hourly pay
  • median gender pay gap in hourly pay
  • mean bonus gender pay gap
  • median bonus gender pay gap
  • proportion of males and females receiving a bonus payment
  • proportion of males and females in each pay quartile

Although some companies have chosen to include this information in the annual report, an article in the Financial Times today (08.05.17) states that of the 9,000 companies who must now comply, only 5 (including a window-blind manufacturer, an umbrella company and a cleaning company) have published their data on government websites.[1]

Business, charities and public sector organisations are all required to publish the data under the new regulations.

Employers have until April 2018 to publish the figures, but given the pre-emption, the government had hoped that there would have been a larger number of early adopters.

It is possible that there are reputational and technical reasons that companies are slow to release their figures. Companies are likely to be anxious about how the statistics will make them look to both the public and their employees.

When taking into account full- and part-time employees the current national gender pay gap was 18.1% at April 2016, although the lowest this has been in the economy since 1997, it is hoped that the new regulations will reduce this further.[2]

But many companies are publishing figures that are much higher than this. At April 2016, Virgin Money had a gender pay gap of 36%.

Companies should seek to publish the information in the most accurate and timely manner. It is likely that larger companies will take their time, ensuring correct figures, appropriate accompanying narrative and managing the associated risks. That said, there is a reputational risk involved in not doing so. As always, it is often more telling what you don’t say.

 

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/a0b4e202-331d-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3

[2] https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/
earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/annualsurveyofhoursandearnings/
2016provisionalresults#gender-pay-differences

The head of marketing at Mondelez has quit her job. The company says “Our search for a successor will focus on finding a digital-first, disruptive and innovative leader who can build on Dana’s legacy and mobilise breakthrough marketing in a rapidly changing global consumer landscape.”

In today’s Financial Times Lucy Kellaway says that in this single, shortish sentence Mondelez has evoked not one, but many business clichés, each begging to be banned.

Why do clichés exist at all? Some say they’re useful because they are a form of shorthand. In fact they obfuscate meaning rather than convey it. What clichés sometimes convey amongst groups of people is a vague sense of belonging and invariably of being more clever than everyone else. But it’s a club of the clueless, making you and what you say forgettable.

Why do marketing clichés seem especially repellant? Other professions have their own, but perhaps it’s down to the volume and frequency with which ‘marketing speak’ is used. It spreads like wildfire if that’s not too clichéd a thought for you. A politician these days who doesn’t say ‘fit for purpose’? Unthinkable.

Most important of all, why do we need Lucy Kellaway to tell us what we all know to be true anyway? We need her because clichés are easy and comfortable. We fall into them because we are often lazy, sometimes stupid and occasionally both, and expressing ourselves precisely and thinking about things clearly is hard work.

So, thanks Lucy Kellaway for reminding us that we really ought to do better than spout this nonsense. In the meantime, to emphasise its absurdity, here are some definitions that may or may not be helpful:

Game changer

You’re playing Assassins Creed and you switch to Overwatch.

Granular

Often followed by the word ‘detail’ which is a kind of doubling up of the idea. Unless you’re talking about general detail of course. And phrases such as ‘let’s get granular’? Mildly unpleasant.

Value-add

‘What’s the value-add?’ you hear people say when they are asking about where the added value is. Apart from anything else, it’s a really ugly, car-crash of a phrase. Always sounds like a chopped off, half-a-thought. 

Thinking outside the box

Assumes that you’re already thinking in a box and begs questions such as if your thinking comes from outside the box how do you bring it back in again? And does it still have straight sides?

Low hanging fruit

This cliché, referring to ‘the simple or easy’, must rely on some kind of shared memory, given the separation of the growing process from many or our lives. This is probably the reason why people have forgotten that low hanging fruit often rots quickly or is the most damaged from disease.

Singing from the same hymn sheet

My upbringing as a Methodist allows me safely to say that this is no guarantee of a satisfactory, let alone harmonious result.

Killed in action

When it happens in war it is a tragedy. When consultants tell you it has happened to them, it is proof that they often over-estimate their importance and lead very dull lives. Killed in Acton could be both true and worse.

Names have ‘Handle With Care’ written all over them. These ticking bombs of emotion can go off any time you’re developing or launching them, provoking love, hate and everything in between. And that’s just among the people who are creating them.

So it is with caution that one approaches reports that Verizon will be launching ‘Oath’ – some sort of rebranded combination of Yahoo and AOL.

What is our response?

First, what will ‘Oath’ really be the name of? It is hard to believe that Verizon would purchase Yahoo and then immediately jettison the brand equity they paid money for. Yahoo (minus the Alibaba bit) cost Verizon $4.83 billion in July 2016, though thanks to the revelation of massive data breaches the deal has taken time to complete.

Despite this, of course, the Yahoo name has value. It remains among the biggest destinations for Internet users, particularly people who just use its email. And AOL is still a pretty big name.

Digging a little deeper into the story, it seems the Yahoo brand will not disappear, but rather that it will remain as part of a typical ‘house of brands’ strategy – a media brand sitting beneath ‘Oath’ and alongside Verizon’s other media entities, AOL and the Huffington Post.

Second, merging AOL and Yahoo is no surprise. In buying Yahoo, Verizon’s goal was to create a group of internet destinations with enough visitors so it could provide a credible alternative to Google and Facebook.

The Twittersphere is lit with the usual outrage reserved for the launch of pretty much anything new, but particularly a new name.

No doubt things will settle down as people get used to the new name and put it in context. But, interestingly, one test this name doesn’t really pass is the international pronunciation one. ‘Oath’. That ‘t’ and ‘h’ combination. For the French? For the Spanish?

 

The Government has triggered Article 50 on Wednesday 29 March 2017.

But what does this mean for corporate reporting? Unfortunately, all it tells us at the moment is that we should be braced for uncertainty.

Following the referendum in June last year, the Financial Reporting Council issued a statement regarding reporting and legislation in the UK going forward.

“Stakeholders have asked about the implications of the referendum result for our regulatory work. Our regulatory framework is unchanged and we will continue to apply it. The FRC will also continue to play its part in representing the interests of the UK internationally. We will pay close attention to the decisions now taken by the Government and Parliament, and continue to work in collaboration with our key stakeholders, particularly investors, business and the professionals we regulate, in order to ensure our work continues to support economic growth.”

We believe this still stands. Going into the divorce period, businesses should be transparent and comprehensive, particularly in assessing their principal risks. The fall out of Brexit is likely to be a risk that will be directly impacting a number of large listed companies in the UK and the discussion of risk management and identification of principal risks should reflect this.

To understand how best to ensure appropriate risk assessment see our recent white paper on ‘The importance of risk reporting’.

A two-day event running at Excel venue in London, Smart IoT brings together five events in one, including Cloud Expo Europe, Cloud Security Expo, Big Data World, Smart IoT and Data Centre World.

For those unsure what IoT stands for – it’s the Internet of Things – put plainly, it’s the emerging technology that connects different systems together to enable smarter running of businesses, homes and cities. Things such as your Hive energy smart meter, Fitbit wearable device or CitySense smart parking app are all part of the Internet of Things technology.

I attended 11 sessions over the two days and have gathered here the highlights from the best sessions. This isn’t intended to be a direct replication of what I heard, rather the things that stood out for me.

Fintech Global overview by Susanne Chishti, CEO and Founder of Fintech Circle

  • Fintech only started 15 years ago in 2000 and back then required $5m to create a start-up – that has decreased to $5k in 2016; leaving the door wide open for small businesses to invest
  • The barriers to entry have been slowly removed from establishment of digital payment systems, reduced regulation, increase of wearables and development of integrated solutions
  • The industry is now seeing the tech giants moving in, but innovation is ripe for the taking, as even those companies don’t know yet know how to harness the power of all the data they are collecting and innovate accordingly eg Facebook now has a credit card and Starbucks has a payment app but have they thought about how they’re connecting these customers peer to peer?
  • Open API’s are the key to successful innovation in Fintech – anyone remember MySpace? Up until 2006 it had a very strong following and year on year growth as a social media tool for connecting friends together to chat. In 2006 Facebook came onto the market and by 2007 MySpace had rapidly declined. Why? Facebook made the bold decision to open up its API to developers to create new functionality

Women Leaders in Technology panel discussion with Alejandra Leon Moreno, Director and Lead Architect Digital, Architecture & Emerging Technology at Philips IT; Sue Daley, Head of Big Data, Cloud and Mobile Services, techUK; Susanne Chishti, CEO & Founder, FINTECHCircle

  • Education for girls is key to helping women into digital and tech – teaching them early at school and then University about problem solving, encouraging them to play with lego at an early age, or engage in computer games such as Minecraft – giving them the same toys as boys – will help equip and encourage women considering tech as a career
  • Raising awareness of industry and roles for women in digital and tech is required – conferences help do this
  • Marketing teams are now moving much further toward digital and this is an opportunity to be leveraged – many women are in marketing teams and there is potential to make the shift into tech
  • Diversity in the workplace helps both men and women thrive and grow – women generally lack confidence to showcase their skills and share knowledge so male counterparts can help by encouraging female co-workers to speak up
  • Many international companies do not recognise that there is a gender gap – targets need to be put in place for recruiting women into tech industries – Bloomberg have issued a diversity index to encourage this
  • Companies need to stop hiring in their own male mould – they need to look beyond existing skills and recruit skills that don’t exist across genders – collaboration between genders is key to effecting culture change
  • If companies continue to ignore the gender imbalance, we will see more technology projects falter at the start, as programmes coded by male only teams will not always achieve success e.g. AI Robots that don’t recognise a female voice

There’s no such thing as #BigData: Jeremy Waite, IBM Watson

  • 4/5 executives today feel overwhelmed and under prepared for the changes happening to business in digital over the next 5 years – they don’t know how to predict for this
  • There is no such thing as Big Data – only small spoonfuls of data [@scobleizer]
  • The digital universe will be 40x bigger in 2020 than it is today – that’s equivalent to a company the size of Google being created every 24 hours
  • Only half of the data being created daily as being analysed, yet still we are capturing more every second
  • 80% of enterprise companies don’t even share data between sales and marketing teams so useful insights are not being acted on within individual businesses
  • 88% of consumer chat is in private message chat e.g. Facebook messenger, Snapchat – so no business really knows what their customers are thinking or saying to each other as we can’t see the clicks any more
  • 75% of companies still make decisions based on emotion – this is down to the CEO using his/her gut feeling rather than using the data to inform decision making
  • IBM Watson is trying to understand peoples’ emotions – it is tracking sentiment data from Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to get a deeper insight by crunching 10million data points per second
  • The aim of building Watson was to do something fun with data but now it is being used to save people’s lives in a project collaboration with the NHS
  • But the problem that still exists, is how do you extract meaning out of the noise – what is the future for business?
  • Steven B Johnson, an influential TED speaker, says that the future is wherever people are having the most fun

Financial data visualisation, Oliver T Woolf, Bloomberg

  • Visual tools are to language what data itself is to thoughts
  • Thoughts however, are limited by the capacity to express them but the capacity to express them is futile, if the thoughts are not there in the first place
  • Hence innovation in visual tools and improvements in the collection of data must go hand in hand
  • But value is only created by good interpretation of the results and validation of the ideas that ensue
  • Like a football team – the players are the data; the management/infrastructure are the visuals:
    • England = great data but unsound infrastructure;
    • Leicester = decent data but great infrastructure;
    • Barcelona = great data and infrastructure
  • Candle graphs are probably the most useful type of chart used to analyse and understand financial data on which time slots can be overlaid to provide a deeper picture of any given financial data
  • Relative rotational graphs can then take this information further by showing financial data across four areas of strength
  • Data visualisation, interpretation and validation are the steps you should follow for successful financial data insights

So what does this all mean for future business? My four key take-outs are:

  • Don’t be an elephant – businesses need to be agile to stay ahead of the crowd and use technology such as open APIs and ecosystems to support business success
  • Be flexible to change – keep an eye on the future; encourage group problem solving and include your female colleagues – multiple brains are better than one
  • Invest in your data – big data is everywhere; what is crucial to identify, is the data that is critical to organisational success; along with a meaningful, yet simple way of presenting this data visually
  • Have fun – get the maximum enjoyment from work and collaborations – you will achieve personal success, that will in turn benefit your business

The mining sector is an industry that affects all our lives. From the cars we drive, to the cell phones we use, the utensils we eat with, and the money we spend – these all rely on the extraction of valuable minerals, metals and resources from the earth.

But over the years, extractive industries of all kinds have faced both public and expert criticism for everything from failing mine infrastructure and machinery and environmental damage to inconsistent safety track records and even human exploitation.

Given this background, Gather looked at the websites of 20 mining companies – to see how effective they are being in using their digital communications to manage stakeholder expectations – and their reputations.

Methodology

Our benchmark, based on criteria we specifically designed, reviewed 20 companies of varying sizes across the globe, who mine for a number of different resources. A large percentage of these are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

We focused on three key areas that we identified as being important, in our experience, to meeting stakeholder demands, as well as being useful in building a companies’ reputation:

Stakeholder engagement

We looked at how effective the site design and content was in meeting audience interests and needs. Criteria reviewed covered the brand story, values, channels and tailored content for key corporate audiences.

Content experience

We analysed content execution and delivery across the website and other channels. The research reviewed design, imagery, graphics and interactive content along with information architecture, signposting, calls to action and related content.

Sustainability and governance

We reviewed the critical information that companies must make available to aid business trust and transparency, elements that comply with FRC and GRI standards. These included environmental impact, employee and labour relations, human rights and community relations, as well evidence of reports, risk approach and community contribution.

The results

A few companies stood out, including Anglo American, Trafigura, Vedanta Resources, Antofagasta and Barrick Gold. They present coherent, thoughtful, tailored and designed user- experiences that encourage exploration of information across channels and positively invite stakeholders to interact with their brand online.

Elsewhere, within the 20, while there were some flourishes of good content experience and audience engagement directed at customers, jobseekers and investors, overall there was a lack of in-depth content about the company. We found insufficient information about its story, values, operational setup and future investments and what made it different. Tailored and relevant content to support jobseekers was minimal and often missing a useful job search or practical vacancy and application information. In addition, social media was overlooked as an engagement tool for these and other wider stakeholder groups.

Overall, sustainability and governance content was treated seriously with subject matter including the breakdown of key issues and company approach. However, even when this was done well, many companies didn’t quite deliver the breadth of content and transparency of information that effective CSR requires.

In general, we concluded that there was little evidence of the sites being actively or strategically managed beyond the uploading of press releases and announcements. This has led to many sites being static, unchanging entities, that lack content variety, engagement and effective design execution.

It seems mining companies could dig deeper if they want to make their corporate websites really effective.

For a presentation of the findings – and our recommendations – email Clare Bennett, Digital Strategy Director at clare@gather.london or call 020 7610 6140.

There are different views about the merger announced yesterday between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management. For some, it’s a genuine attempt to provide customers with an improved and more differentiated offer able to compete with global players on a much wider scale. For others, it is a sign of weakness – an act of desperation by both companies looking to glean £200m in annual cost savings in the face of the rise of cheaper, passive fund managers.

Either way, the merger is big news for the Scottish financial services industry – and for everyone involved, especially employees. One thing we can certainly say is that it already seems to be a more natural cultural fit than Agent Provocateur and Mike Ashley.

Standard Life has said that the new name will incorporate both its name and that of Aberdeen’s and be based in Scotland. Martin Gilbert from Aberdeen and Keith Skeoch from Standard Life will be co-chief executives of the new group.

The CFO will be from Aberdeen and the CIO will be from Standard Life. The board of the group will be a combination of executives and will have an equal number of directors from both companies.

The current Standard Life chairman will be the chairman of the group, and the current chairman of Aberdeen will be the deputy chairman.

Job losses will occur only where there are duplicates they say and cultural changes are ‘likely to be minimal’.

It all sounds neat enough. Even so, there will be work to do. Bringing some 11,000 people together in these circumstances will need careful management and considered communication. The feeling is that these two employers will want to be seen to act decently if redundancies are to be made (‘they’re not hedge fund managers, after all’ – someone has said).  And everyone will be waiting to see how the chemistry between Keith Skeoch and Martin Gilbert develops. How they lead will undoubtedly set the tone – and trajectory – for the entire enterprise.

Getting to the truth has never been easy, but these days it seems to be harder than ever to know where to find it. Claims of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ are everywhere – not least in the White House. Channel 4 even launched a week dedicated to fake news. It’s hard to keep up.

A major component of evidence is statistics. But context is everything and with the emergence of ideas like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ statistics can be made very easily to support stories that have little or nothing to do with truth. People will believe what they want to hear.

The debate between objective and relative truth is, of course, an old one, but a recent Guardian ‘long read’ has questioned whether or not statistics still have the ability to accurately represent the world at all, suggesting that privatised data is taking over and that data analytics and technical statistical analysis is being replaced by automatically accumulated data. So where can we seek truth? In the currency of the usual statistics and the context in which they’re presented, or in the data that we now inadvertently produce everyday?

Historically statistics have been used to present information as objective, but more recent techniques of data analysis allow companies, individuals and even political parties to produce much more subjective evidence. And this can be used to support ever more subjective narratives reflected in the context and language with which they are represented.

Take science. When science claims something to be true it is the extent to which the narrative, supported by the evidence, can be agreed upon in the scientific community that gives the evidence its force, its context. Replication of experiments, scrutiny of results and broad agreement on a shared narrative are key attributes of ‘truth’.

Anyone can dispute one or two statistics but once statistics are woven together into a narrative, they present a tapestry of evidence that will bear the test of scrutiny by the widest audience. It is at this point that the story is credible and the statistics are interpreted as truth.

Subjective data can only support subjective truth. And that’s no kind of truth at all.

My name is Athena. I am 15 years old and have just completed a one-week work-placement at Gather. Here’s a little insight into what it was like…

Coming in on the first day I was somewhat apprehensive. The combination of being in an unfamiliar part of the city and having no idea what to expect from the week, as it was my first time working in this environment, led me to feel nervous and uneasy. However, upon my arrival I was greeted by smiling faces and was instantly made to feel welcome. The day began with a tour around the beautiful, spacious office, where I was introduced to the whole team.

Shortly afterwards I was given my first assignment: to carry out a research audit. Although new to this kind of work, I found that everyone was helpful and open to questions, which made me feel relaxed and confident in my task. I was also given an agenda and was happy to see that it would be an action-packed week with database work, research audits and daily meetings with members of the team being on the list. I was pleased to be given the opportunity to make a real contribution and found all my assignments to be both educational and enjoyable.

One of the highlights of my day would always be the meetings I would have with various members of the project management, brand, reporting and digital teams, in which I would be given valuable insight into each area of the company and its function. I found the introduction to new business that I received towards the end of the week from one of the partners to be particularly informative, as it covered and clarified every aspect of strategic communications.

All in all, I have found my week to be an excellent introduction to strategic communications and branding and a significant insight into the world of business. If I could sum up Gather in three words it would be cohesive, innovative and interactive.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) held an Open Meeting on 1 February 2017 to discuss their priorities for 2017/18, as well as hearing opinions from a number of panelists and other attendees, to determine the effectiveness of the FRC’s plan.

The discussion was focused on the seven priorities the FRC has outlined in the Draft Plan & Budget and Levy Proposal. These priorities include:

  • Promoting and restoring trust in business and effective investor stewardship
  • Addressing the challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring
  • Increasing speed and effectiveness whilst ensuring high quality in audit and
  • Continuing to promote clear and concise reporting.

The FRC explained that they will be consulting on both revisions to the Corporate Governance Code and the Guidance on Board Effectiveness during Summer 2017. In line with the Government’s call for Corporate Governance reforms, the FRC will play a major role in addressing these changes whilst seeking to maintain international trust in response to Brexit and triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The panel discussion provided insights from a broad cross-section of professionals on the FRC’s plan for 2017, with speakers from the Investment Association, Confederation of British Industry, the Institute Faculty of Actuaries and the London Business School.  Some of the key points were:

  • Governance of public companies in the UK is generally well regarded within the UK and internationally particularly in responding to changing demands. However, increased regulation may not be the answer for further improvements in governance. It is likely that the influence of the FRC in raising issues and stimulating debate will be sufficient to bring about change. The ‘comply or explain’ principle of the Code works well, better than hard rules, and the FRC should use this to their advantage.
  • The extent to which private companies should be subjected to higher standards of governance if they are making a big enough impact with wider stakeholders in the markets that they operate in.
  • Companies need to be doing more to provide investors with the information they need regarding remuneration reporting, board activities, engagement and culture, whilst investors need to be more active with enforcing stewardship.
  • At present, corporate reporting is driven by a focus on tangible assets and there needs to be more consideration given to intangibles, especially given the value of brands. Investors do not see any reporting on the role of intangibles in creating value when using the annual report as their key source of information.

The FRC has an ambitious agenda planned for this year. It is likely 2017 will be a year of change for the FRC, as they seek to update the relevant guidance to improve trust and promote confidence in business.

Our view is that it is important for the FRC to encourage the marketplace to continue to reform reporting but it is also important to have the right balance of regulations to ensure companies and their boards are clear about what is expected of them.