Risky business

Over the last few decades, there has been a proliferation and expansion of career categories and roles within large organisations, many of which add dubious value to their stakeholders.

Examples might include the exponential growth of the previously named “Personnel” department; the size of the Human Resources’ departments as a ratio of the entire company has generally expanded exponentially since, say, the 1980s.

This spawned the utterly pointless diversity military industrial complex, based mainly on a ridiculous 1989 essay by Peggy McIntosh.

Another example, perhaps less obvious, is the Risk department.

Financial institutions in particular, have an increasing footprint of staff with “Risk” in their job title. For those who have been lucky enough to not work with these people, “risk” is a code for “no responsibilities“.

Being a “risk professional” means never having to be accountable for anything.

That might sound like an inflammatory statement but it’s easily empirically-checked; there have been plenty of documented failure in organisations’ risk management over the last few years. Examples include Wokepac’s Paedophile Enablement Programme, CBA’s Mafia Laundry Scheme, and dozens of leaks of personal data by private and public sector organisations.

How many of those resulted in the resignation or firing of the most senior risk officer? Perhaps you could let us know in the comments if any “risk professional” lost their job as a consequence.

The Audit team, at least, serve a useful purpose of checking compliance occurred as required for critical activities. By contrast, the Risk team are generally worse than useless as they advise on avoiding things that might happen. Proving they have helped is an impossible task as it is like proving a negative; the car didn’t crash because we took the keys from you.

Risk is one of those departments capable of parthenogenesis. Decades ago, risk was mainly a safety or financial function; what can we do to not kill workers or how do we hedge against this financial transaction going to shit?

These days though, all sorts of risks are documented in Excel spreadsheets or expensive software products that are just glorified versions of spreadsheets. Risk “professionals” in a crappy mediocre retail bank pretend they can somehow quantity geopolitical risks or mitigate for earthquakes in Indonesia by facilititing post-it note workshops and acting like over-promoted junior police officers bullying and pestering those people whose job it is to actually generate revenue.

The science behind risk management is complete bollocks. Depending on which source you select, you’ll be shown a complicated methodology which pretends it can somehow grade probability and impact to provide a credibility-lite relative score of the risks to the organisation.

Of course, with all models, the input parameters and assumptions behind the calculations are critical to the likely accuracy of the result they give. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

The people in these risk roles are never impressive individuals either. As with any kind of critic, they are most likely providing feedback on people whose job they simply couldn’t do themselves.

Those who can, do.

Those who can’t, teach.

Those who can’t even teach, measure risk”.

An classic example comes to mind from my recent experience in an Australian bank. My interlocutor was a chap who seemingly had made a career out of being deeply unpleasant.

In one of those frequent coincidences with ugly personalities, he was also physically repulsive; no chin, terrible dentistry, a lopsided face (think Thom York without the talent). Better still, he suffered from extreme rhoticism; he pronounced “th” as “f” or “v” and “r” as “w”.

Hi, I’m ve genewal manager of wisk and I fink we must gwade vese wisks“.

We once had an illuminating conversation over a corporate slide deck; there was wholesome picture of a young child on scooter. The kid was wearing a helmet and open-toed shoes. We had an argument about which was the greater problem.

My view; it’s almost certain the kid will rip her foot whilst scooting.

His view; if she bangs her head she might suffer a brain injury.

He seemed somewhat offended when I asked him how many children he had (spoiler alert; none, and little chance of that changing).

So how did it go for us, corporately and in government, with this massive army of risk managers keeping us safe?

Bill’s Opinion

Just as the lawyers of the world mainly missed writing the word “pandemic” in their definition of Force Majeure, the Risk team in most organisations have completely failed to do their job.

Of course, the most likely response to this will be to hire more, not fewer/better risk managers.

Wince and wepeat.

Everybody was Kung Flu fighting

99% of everything written about Covid19 seems to be uninformed speculation at best and more likely, just made up bullshit.

So, just for a bit of light relief, here’s some random thoughts on the subject:

  1. If your first action after thinking, “hmm, it might be time to stockpile”, is to panic buy toilet paper, you might have misunderstood the relative use of fluffy white arse paper in a national emergency, compared to say, dried beans or medicine.
  2. Related; people are about to learn how good modern supply chains are. They are akin to modern witchcraft. As fast as you can fill your spare bedroom with bog roll, Coles and Woolworths will restock the shelves. The supply chain for nearly everything you are going to need has not yet been materially disrupted. Sure, we might run out of some items but there will be plenty of adjacent replacement versions for a long time yet. Well done for helping an Account Sales Manager make their Q2 2020 numbers early though.
  3. Most business travel is frivolous and businesses can manage just fine without it. Seriously, nearly all of it is just status-driven bollocks that a phone or video call could replace and still achieve an adequate outcome. If you’re really contrarian, now might be the best time to book a luxury holiday in Asia this December. Rajasthan is lovely that time of year.
  4. The IT department have been lying like a cheap Chinese Rolex about their capacity to simultaneously support lots of remote workers (*waves at Wokepac). Some scrambling to buy more licences might save a few IT Infrastructure Managers’ careers but most of the bottleneck will be in physical infrastructure. Best get those CVs tidied up and in the market, chaps, and beat the rush.
  5. No Australian manager under the age of 55 knows what to do with their P&L in a downturn. Not. A. Single. One. A bit of a clue; cancelling the magazine subscriptions and daily flowers in reception or calling the landlord and asking for a discount on the office rent isn’t going to help you.
  6. Consider the possibility it might be better to catch it early; you’ll get the best medical care and then it’s done. Later means you’ll get the mass-treatment quality, if any treatment at all.
  7. Stay clear of French people (a great excuse in case they win the Six Nations).

Bill’s Opinion

Isn’t it absolutely wonderful the Woketivists have been shunted off the news now we’ve got something requiring adult attention?

Predictions are notoriously difficult

…especially about the future.

But they are a fun diversion.

Here’s ten of mine for the year 2020. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australian Politics

Politicians of all sides of the aisle increase the warnings against reliance on China. There will be noises made by the Federal government to have closer trade and defence links with the USA (particularly following the USA election).

A Westpac executive is jailed for the AUSTRAC issues. Probably Lynn Cobley.

Global Politics

The UK will reach a WTO+ deal (ie closer to WTO terms than a full trade deal) with the EU and negotiations won’t be extended. Boris will call their bluff.

Congress won’t send the impeachment papers to the Senate. The GOP will make political hay about this all the way to the election.

Zeitgeist

Sentiment turns against Saint Greta. There’s a financial scandal involving her parents or handlers.

A judge in the USA finds a single mother of a transgender child guilty of abuse. The Supreme Court supports this finding on appeal.

Sport

Six Nations table:

1 England

2 Ireland

3 Wales

4 France

5 Scotland

6 Italy

Australia finishes bottom of the Rugby Championship table.

Economy

Gold to temporarily breach all time high ($1,895).

The Dow to breach 30,000.

Wokepac housekeeping

We’d like to tuck our best mate, Brian, up in bed and let him enjoy his retirement in peace, or at least until he gets called back for the court case.

Unfortunately, we have a little housekeeping to do first.

The coverage of the aftermath the source of our amusement today.

Ok, we’re calling plagiarism on the Spectator. An internet search will show the use of “Wokepac” started here. You’re welcome, chaps.

Then there’s this objective review of Brian’s awful performance by Peter Van Onselen much of which is indeed accurate. Let’s face it, Brian took his eye off the ball and didn’t pay enough attention to the core part of his job description, that is, running a bank.

The question is, though, what was he spending his resource on instead?

Well, we’ve answered that question continually here and neatly summed it up with the tag, “Wokepac”.

Peter is unable to point to the rainbow-coloured elephant in the room though.

Why?

Awkward.

Bill’s Opinion

Peter’s wife was fired by Brian resigned two years ago and Peter is still spitting tacks over it.

Question for Peter; how absolutely awful do you have to be at your job to be fired by Brian Hartzer whilst in possession of female genitalia?

Ainslie was part of the diversity diversion problem at Westpac. She, like many other diversity quota hires, had the easiest job in the world; turn up late, attend some “women in banking” conferences, collect pay cheque. Rinse. Repeat.

Yet she still got fired resigned.

Today’s blog is brought to you by the words, “shareholder” and “value”

Despite tomorrow being his final day as CEO of Wokepac, Brian is whooping it up on social media like a pouting Insta-influencer with brand new Botox lips.

He’s becoming the Creepbook for Business equivalent of herpes, only much harder to get rid of and without the preceding moments of pleasure.

Demonstrating a level of self-unawareness usually associated with people called Bono talking about climate change whilst sipping champagne on private jets, he is doing a high five lap of honour around Linked-in.

It’s the nature of the high fives that’s most amusing though. I’ve yet to see a single message of thanks and farewell from anyone who looks vaguely experienced or competent. Instead, it seems to be a lot of folks with job tittles one might expect to see on the cryogenic pods in the hold of the Golgafrincham Ark B.

Exhibit 1: A Monitoring and Control Manager

It seems to me, a paucity of “monitoring and control” might have been the prime reason Brian will be spending less time in a dinner suit from next week.

Exhibit 2: Maybe policemen are getting younger but this is a Senior Business Banker apparently.

Exhibit 3: Credit Assessor.

Exhibit 4: An “accomplished CEO“, which is surely code for “unemployed”?

Exhibit 5: A Regional General Manager, SME

I think Jason’s sycophancy is my favourite of the selection though; “Farewell to an inspirational leader that was tasked with navigating Australia’s oldest bank through the toughest conditions in history.

Tougher than, say, 1929-31, 1939-45, any of the subsequent recessions or the 2008 financial crisis?

Well no, perhaps nothing quite on that scale.

But still, perhaps the toughest self-inflicted conditions in history?

Yes, let’s agree on that.

Bill’s Opinion

I have two observations on Brian and his sycophants*:

1. He certainly got full value from that dinner suit, and

2. Get woke, go broke (well, at least fired).

* I think I may have seen Brian and His Sycophants supporting Primus at the Brixton Academy.

Vanished, like an old oak table

Queenie: Vanished, Lord Percy, not *varnished*.

Lord Percy Percy: Forgive me, my lady, but my uncle Bertram’s old oak table completely vanished. ‘Twas on the night of the great Stepney fire. And on that same terrible night, his house and all his other things completely vanished too. So did he, in fact. It was a most perplexing mystery.

Aaaaaand, Brian is gone.

Overnight news coverage like this probably didn’t help:

Here’s a thought; if your best line of defence is that you’re not as bad as one of the largest frauds of our generation or not as bad as the largest banking collapses in the modern era, you might be in trouble.

Seriously though, Wokepac has more change and comms consultants than Belgium has waffle makers and he still made gaffes like this.

Who was advising him and why didn’t they said, “Brian, just fucking work from home until the Board meeting”?

Bill’s Opinion

Introducing William of Ockham’s General Theory of Australia:

A small pond results in a masssive case of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This is fine in a rising or stable market.

The moment negative consequences occur however, the enormous gulf between actual competence and perception is exposed.

Just the PR disaster of this sorry episode should be proof enough.

For me, a critical indicator you are dealing with someone who is subject to The General Theory of Australia are the shoes they are wearing.

No, hear me out…..

If you have a good inkling the person is earning, let’s say more than $250k a year, yet they are wearing rubber-soled shoes, likely bought at Kmart, rather than handmade Loakes or perhaps Cheney’s, then there’s a fair chance they’ve rose to that position without ever having to be tested in adversity.

That metric doesn’t work so well for females; I tend to judge the women by their choice of Friday casual clothes.

Brian’s bunker

Good friend of this organ, Brian Hartzer, CEO of Wokepac, hasn’t had the greatest of weeks.

It turns out that, while he was spending much of his working life making diversity hires, virtue signalling with drag queens and using shareholder value to project pretty coloured lights on the HQ for whatever victimhood day it happens to be, he took his eye off the less important part of his job description; running a bank.

Don’t worry, nothing bad happened, just a few illegal international money transfers in breach of the anti-laundering laws.

How many, you ask?

Oh, just 23 million.

Any issue in that number? Oh, only a load of payments likely used to facilitate sexual abuse of children in third world countries.

Nothing to see here then.

What’s really interesting though is how quickly Brian managed to recruit Prince Andrew’s PR manager.

Well, one assumes that’s what’s happened, otherwise how else can the press release be explained?

Bill’s Opinion

If facilitating extensive sexual abuse of children through professional incompetence isn’t a firing matter, I’m struggling to work out what is.

The most likely explanation is that the bank needs a little time to sort out the work visa for Brian’s replacement.

We can exclusively confirm that this will be none other than Prince Andrew who has fortunately suddenly become available for new work.

Nobody named Brian is ever competent

It’s an uncomfortable but unconscious truth that some first names are not associated with success. Those which immediately spring to mind include; Wayne, Kevin, and Nigel.

Brian is another example. Yes, the guitarist from Queen is highly competent in the fields of music and astrophysics, but he’s the exception, like Farage is amongst all the Nigels.

Australia has a classic “incompetent Brian” running (ruining?) the bank, Wokepac.

Luckily for Brian, he’s a member of The Club, which is handy because this time next year he’ll need to find a new job.

Why?

Two reasons:

Firstly, he’s been at the helm during the latter phases of the multi-decade ongoing decline of the weakest of Australia’s “big four” banks, culminating in the apologetic letter (from page 10) in the annual report.

Secondly, he’s got to find $8m cash in his personal bank account between now and March next year.

Now, I’ve no doubt Brian’s personal wealth easily exceeds that; he earns over half of that a year in the salary component of his package alone, notwithstanding his generous decision to waive his performance bonus.

The more pertinent question is whether or not he has enough personal belief in the future of Wokepac, the Australian banking industry and the Australian economy in general, to cash in $8m of his investments and personal wealth and transfer it to shares in the dog of the banking sector?

Bills Opinion

Since joining The Club, Brian has feathered his nest nicely whilst virtue signalling, using shareholder’s money, on matters LGBTQ+, Aboriginal, diversity and every other cause célèbre.

The time has come to see quite how committed he is to this as a future business strategy. Chicken or pig, Brian?

O’Sullivan’s Law

All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.

This “law” was first defined in 1989. Thirty years later it seems far more prescient than anyone at the time might have imagined.

For example, this would be funny if it were satire:

181 CEOs of major corporations redefine the purpose of a company. No, really they did.

While we’re in a mood for favourite quotations, here’s good one from G. K. Chesterton:

….let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

Back to our social justice warrior CEOs. One wonders whether the concept of Chesterton’s Fence ever crossed their minds when they happily redefined the purpose of privately-owned companies, given the almost 400-year history behind such things?

I once briefly worked for a large banking and finance company and read with interest an interview with the CEO where he claimed to be “driving innovation in the insurance industry”. It’s a pretty hubristic and arrogant claim to be a “disrupter” of a centuries-old business model where risk remedies are described on paper, exchanged for money and then re-issued to multiple parties to distribute potential impact. It’s not quite as simple a business idea as “bake bread, sell bread”, but it’s not far off.

Of course, he wasn’t driving innovation at all; the company had simply launched a flaky and quite rubbish mobile phone app and meanwhile he’d taken his focus off the core business in all his excitement. He was unemployed within a year of that interview after a particularly damning set of end-of year accounts.

So, our coalition of the woke have decided their shareholders aren’t their first priority, eh? Well, let’s hope they’ve employed a good speech-writer for the next shareholder’s meeting, as things might become a little warm, particularly if the annual report isn’t stellar.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s great that the 181 CEOs have helpfully signalled to the market that they care less about shareholder value than being “good corporate citizens”, however that nebulous statement is defined.

Perhaps we might continue to invest our pension funds into their company stock, perhaps we might not, but our decision is more informed now than it was prior to their virtue signalling press release.

In related news, Brian Hartzer is rapidly completing his application form to join The Business Roundtable.