20200421 Nigel’s Newsletter: in the face of lockdowns….

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

We’ve added around 1,000 subscribers since the last newsletter so, to you, thank you and to those who’ve been on the list for, in some cases, getting on for 20 years, thanks for your patience over the past few months while other things have taken priority.

Hello

First, it’s important to recognise the challenges that you are all facing
at this time. Many of you will have either personally or through relatives suffered both sickness and loss due to the astonishingly active virus known by several names but most commonly CoVid-19.

To those who have suffered bereavement, I send my condolences. To those whose family and friends have suffered from illnesses aggravated by CoVid-19, including some very serious conditions, I wish you well. I have family working on the medical front line in the UK and also in NHS Trust management and medic friends in Malaysia. The constant strain on them and their families is awful and I wish all those struggling to combat this awful thing and to protect and preserve life the very best of luck and that they stay happy, safe and well.

Of course, away from the medical front line, there are the millions of
people around the world who are providing services to those of us who are hiding in our own protective bubbles. The shopkeepers, the dustmen, the cashiers in supermarkets and the hordes of cleaners who patrol buildings, stations and other places doing their best to keep the spread under control all deserve our immense gratitude. Perhaps, when this is over, we will recognise them for all they do behind the scenes to make our lives better. One thing is clear – it’s those that so many dismiss as “the little people” who keep the world turning for the rest of us.

And then there are those who are separated by lock downs: I know many families around the world where, for reasons beyond their control, one member has ended up in the wrong place and can’t get home. My own son, making a dash to Taiwan to update papers for his daughter who was locked down in Hainan, China, has found himself stuck in his Taipei apartment for weeks because the borders were closed before he could return to his family. Many friends have been separated from children at university, many overseas but, equally, many in the same country as them but unable to move due to
movement control orders and the like. Here in Malaysia, where I found myself able to leave but, if I did, I would have been unable to return home as only Malaysian nationals are allowed entry, there are many students stranded in hall or local accommodation, unable to return to their families.

And, of course, many people are separated from elderly or infirm relatives, unable even to see them in nursing homes or, in the worse cases, to attend funerals.

All of the precautions are necessary. A small and vocal minority, in some countries, are protesting and, even, taking legal action claiming their civil rights are being constrained. Some US courts have agreed with some religious groups that a ban on assembly is a breach of the constitutional rights. This seems like an utterly ridiculous decision.

For the rest of us, the challenges are different. First, for those that
live alone the challenge of isolation is exactly that. Isolation. I know
lots of people who spent the first two weeks of lock down cleaning. But the shine soon wore off that. Haha.

In many countries where all coffee shops, restaurants and bars are closed, the only human contact for those who live alone is going to the shops. But even that, in some countries, is heavily policed. In Malaysia, for example, we are allowed to go shopping only within a ten kilometre radius. For those of us in the city, that’s fine but for many it heavily restricts their options. And we are not allowed out for
any purpose except food shopping, going to a pharmacy or going for medical treatment.

The challenges for families are no less great but they are different. While many countries are reporting a reduction in a wide variety of crimes, domestic violence has been increasing. There is no justification for it but it is easy to understand: being at home in the company of the same people, both couples and families, is a novel experience and it’s not a holiday.

For those who live in houses, there’s the escape of the garden, perhaps
setting up a desk in the garage and using that as an office. But around the world the reality of life is that there has long been a trend towards
smaller apartments, often built for those who socialise and even eat
outside the home. For those, the challenges are enormous. For years, they have basically gone home to sleep and not much else. Now, they have to cook, eat, sleep and work, often two people working, in a space that was never intended for such intensity of use. The strain on relationships is immense and we should expect a significant rise in break-ups during and soon after restrictions are relaxed.

Then there are those who have young families – and the not so young. With everyone cooped up, tempers can easily fray. Those trying to work having to do so around active toddlers, those trying to concentrate finding the demands of teenagers are disruptive.

And then there are all the self-employed, the tradesmen, the labourers and shift workers who are worried about their livelihoods and whether, after the crisis is deemed over and the aid stops, the businesses that employed them will still be there. The news from Cornwall in England, a region heavily dependent on tourism, is that if the summer trade doesn’t come, some 80% of businesses will fail. Similar warnings are being given in, for example, Phuket. This is showing the fallacy of two decades of countries falling for the ridiculous idea that they can stop making things and that
financial services and tourism are enough to support economies.
International tourism can be considered more or less dead for several
months and, along with it, the conferences and exhibitions businesses. If regulations relating to mass gatherings continue then physical conferences and exhibitions will have a long time before recovery and, therefore, the jobs and revenue they bring, are restored.

It’s the same for training. Seminars are, to all intents and purposes,
impossible. I had planned that a new e-learning platform would be launched in March 2019.

I am not a fan of on-line seminars or “podcasts.” I’ve played with both
over the years and while many people are enjoying the novelty, my
experience of both is that they do not provide the long term benefit that we get from a proper e-learning course.

The new platform was to replace the platform that I designed and we
launched in 2002 and which had served us well. But successive developers told me I couldn’t have what I wanted and so with typical Nigel-ness, I decided to do it myself. A year’s development turned into two, with further handicap because I decided to undertake a back to the brick – in some cases even beyond that – renovation of my flat. What should have been done in six to eight weeks has, so far, gone on for more than a year. It was the same problem as the software: people telling me that what I wanted was impossible when what they really meant was they were too lazy to do it, or too set in their ways. I have everything I wanted and we were three days away from completion when the lock down happened.

Trying to program something as complex as an e-learning platform while that was going on proved extremely difficult. Then, by chance, I found that someone else had developed a platform that did 95% of what I’d been building and, in some aspects, a bit more. Mine went in the bin, I had a test course running on their platform within two weeks.

We are, of course, now launching courses regularly and by the middle of next year, will have one of the most comprehensive training regimes in the world. The objective is that the courses will includes those for compliance and senior officers, owners and directors as well as those for front-line staff in financial institutions. Yet, as we know, financial crime risk and compliance training is needed outside the confines of the regulated sector. Our early courses, therefore, include an awareness course for non-regulated businesses and a special, pocket money, course for 12 to 24 year olds to help them identify and avoid financial crime risks.

I changed the schedule to allow for the production of a course specifically dealing with the issues relating to the financial crime effects of CoVid-19, including looking at the medical information about the virus so that users can spot fraudulent claims. Released on the 8th April, it’s already been updated twice. It’s subtitled “lock down and beyond” because I’ve also looked at the potential risks that will arise as companies start to go back to work. Some of it might seem facile but the fact is that the psychological challenges of the return of a lot of people at once are going to be as much of an issue as anything else – so that’s mentioned, too. We are going to need a holistic approach to the provision of financial services to ensure that criminals don’t find cracks that they can exploit.

One of the noticeable aspects of the current situation is the turf war that “fintechs” are waging against banks, etc. in this time of crisis – and the fact that regulators are supporting the invaders against the incumbent businesses. What risks are developing there?

I decided that the new e-learning platform needed a new name. All the old names, Quick to Learn More, Click to Learn More,
AntiMoneyLaunderingTraining all point to the new website at
www.financialcrimeriskandcompliancetraining.com.

Please pop by, have a look around. The marketing site and the platform are very different so have a look at both.

We used to sign off mails with “regards” or some such. Now, increasingly, that’s being replaced with a variation of this:

Stay home and stay safe but mostly stay well

Nigel Morris-Cotterill