Philippa Scobie of Financial Momentum: “Open, honest and transparent communication”

Open and honest communication engenders a transparent business culture to help teams understand and share the same vision. Transparency will be inherent in the way businesses set up processes, talk with teams and deal with suppliers. Stakeholders will receive reports in which data, figures, mistakes and successes are all shared. Accessing this sort of data […]

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Open and honest communication engenders a transparent business culture to help teams understand and share the same vision. Transparency will be inherent in the way businesses set up processes, talk with teams and deal with suppliers. Stakeholders will receive reports in which data, figures, mistakes and successes are all shared. Accessing this sort of data is going to be more valuable than profit margins in the future. A business that values honesty, transparency and integrity above profit is the type of business that will effect change and make a positive impact. Blockchain will enhance this transparency as integrity and honesty are built into blockchain transactions by design. Theoretically, no single person, organization, or government, has control over the information held within a blockchain which is why I think it will become the platform for reporting financial information in the future, available in real-time and to anyone who wants it.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Philippa Scobie of FInancial Momentum.

Philippa Scobie is a leading expert at leveraging a company’s assets in terms of time and people, to reduce financial waste, grow exponentially and establish a world-class company culture that attracts global talent. Empowering business with the financial systems and processes to boost growth and productivity, she has worked closely with numerous fintech start-ups and hypergrowth businesses, quickly transforming them from founder-managed ventures to multidimensional organizations with 7-figure+ turnovers.

Philippa lives in Bedford, UK, with her husband and two young sons and is a firm believer that happiness is a journey, not a destination. The very act of striving to achieve great things is where the real fun, growth and reward lie rather than simply in the results.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I started my work life as a finance graduate at Lehman Brothers and spent six years working in London, Zurich and Dubai. During that time, I took my accountancy and tax advisor exams (CIMA and CTA) before eventually leaving to work with a small, private equity company. It was here that I started managing real estate and commercial investments as part of our clients’ portfolios and providing those clients with their performance or taxation reports. I took time out to have my two boys, after which I decided to move into self employment and opened my own accountancy practice working with microbusinesses. This experience highlighted the need so many business owners and solopreneurs have for financial mentoring and coaching. It saddened me to see so many common mistakes businesses repeatedly made. But because I was at the compliance end of the process, it felt there was very little I could do to prevent the mistakes. Those mistakes had already been made and accountants, by their nature, cannot be there to oversee every financial decision a business owner makes. What those businesses really needed was a financial toolkit to help them understand the financial and taxation impacts of all their choices — especially in the early years of running a business. Despite being financially savvy myself, I could have also done with a toolkit to help me avoid slipping back into an employee mentality or simply to remind me that all the money you make isn’t actually yours. That’s why I’m so passionate now about educating clients when it comes to their finances. I am driven to empower people who have dared to dream big, and help them make effective and beneficial financial decisions for their business, their employees and more importantly, for themselves.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Artificial Intelligence (AI) whether it be robots on the phone or chatbots online. But AI also affects the way we search the internet and the way we shop and it is evolving all the time. While human workers will never become obsolete, AI is certainly going to alter the way we work. But a disruption doesn’t have to be negative. The advances we make with AI will only drive innovation and open up a new world of work and create more jobs as a result. While employers cannot counter moves that are yet to be made, they can look to enhance skills AI is unlikely to ever have: problem solving, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. Those traits are going to be vital for businesses to succeed and grow because the end user of any business will always be human.

As for Blockchain, I see a lot happening with smart contracts. Created in response to the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin used an emerging technology called Blockchain which creates timestamps to ensure data cannot be tampered with. Prior to the 2008, there was a lot of tampering with financial information which led to the crash itself — all because companies wanted to appear better than they were: success by deception. Integrity, transparency and honesty are built into Blockchain transactions by design. Theoretically, no single person, organisation, or government, has control over the information held within a blockchain and therefore businesses should move towards embracing it. Transparency is set to become a competitive advantage in a very short space of time and how transparent a business is will form a significant part of corporate marketing strategy.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

I have recently had this exact conversation with my stepdaughter who couldn’t decide whether to do a Master’s Degree or to go and get a job. However, as she was finding it difficult to get a job in her chosen field due to the pandemic, she’s embarking on her Masters ‘just because’. While I believe she is better off doing that than nothing at all, I don’t think qualifications are always worth the paper they are written on. That said, when it comes to university or college, there are three outcomes which I feel people view as the same thing but which I view as separate entities. You have qualifications, you have knowledge and you have education.

Many employers want qualifications — they want to see you have the skills to do the job as advertised. But you can educate yourself through YouTube if you wanted, or you could immerse yourself in books on your topic to gain the knowledge to perform the job you want or even start your own business. Think of all the millionaires who didn’t even go to college. They have knowledge and perhaps educated themselves through trial and error or by watching a mentor. They took personal responsibility from day one to go out there and get what they wanted. You could be the most qualified person in the room but if you are passive and don’t take personal responsibility for your path in life, you are not going to get far.

The advantage of college is less about qualifications and more about relationships — you learn about yourself, how to work with others and it can be a beneficial pre-cursor to employed roles especially through the valuable connections you can make in a college or university environment. It can transform mindsets and attitudes and develop personal responsibilities.

Overall, I would say education is a journey; it’s a process. College can be part of that journey if you need qualifications to meet your specific goals but it’s not the only path to get to where you want to go. My advice to any young adult would be to research how other people achieved what you aim to do. Talk to them about how they got where they are and evaluate how you could do it too, in a way that suits you both personally and financially.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

I believe the change needs to come from employers rather than potential employees, particularly when it comes to ensuring they find and hire the best talent. So many employers rely on a CV and references that do not ask the right questions or offer a true reflection of personality, hidden skills or unrealised talent. Someone could be an excellent fit for a company, its culture and its ambitions but because of an outdated and archaic way of advertising a position, that talent goes unnoticed or doesn’t even make it through to the interview stage.

People are often looking to change career who might be ideal in terms of fit but are put off applying because they didn’t follow a set path into a particular sector or even achieved the required qualifications. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they cannot learn, cannot adopt and cannot be the very best that the employer is looking for.

So rather than rely on CVs and references, employers need a process where they can meet all candidates on a personal level and not on an obsolete ‘piece of paper’ level.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

AI is so attractive to employers: it never takes a sick day, doesn’t complain and doesn’t want health insurance or a pension. So when it comes to planning a career, learning to speak a computer language will ensure people mitigate against the risk of losing jobs to AI — after all, if you can speak the dominant language of any workforce then there will be a place for you, especially as AI will continue to enhance innovation and innovation will thrust AI further into our work and home spheres.

AI is so mainstream already and we don’t perhaps realise it but, no matter how advanced AI systems get, humans will always want personal service and good communication. If you can communicate effectively and get to the emotional heart of people’s issues then you have skills employers need and want. Empathy is something AI will never have, even when humans have been intrinsic to the initial programming.

The human touch is everything and always will be.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I think people over a certain age and with a certain lifestyle will wish to continue working from home. Perhaps they have young children or are carers who have realised they can work just as effectively from home; I’m a prime example of that. I need to be close to my children’s school and I also like to be close to my home so I can fit chores around my day. It’s helped me so much to work from home; I can get more of a handle on my life. However, even I feel the need to go to a co-working space once a week as there is huge value in being part of a wider working community being able to interact with them is so important to both my mental and physical health. In general, people have just seen the benefits of working from home and they want to continue to experience those benefits. But when it comes to younger people, they will want and need to experience being in the workplace and socialising with colleagues to enhance and solidify working relationships. As with anything, balance is key and so flexible working will be the new trend. People want choice.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

I feel people need to find value in the person and not what is in a CV. As human beings, we are so diverse and adaptable. We are not just a piece of paper or a series of past roles and responsibilities. Every day has shaped us in a way that’s as unique as our fingerprints regardless of age, gender and socioeconomic background.

College and university is not a path for everyone and in the UK, a lot of that is based on affordability but that shouldn’t immediately rule people out of opportunities that they are perhaps perfectly qualified for otherwise.

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

I think employers will find it hard to accept that the 9–5 working day is redundant. If they are to harness the power of different energies and working rhythms, adapting to a flexible working day will pay dividends. Night owls will find their creative flow long after their morning counterparts have retired for bed and early bids could see a day’s work completed before lunch. This is the smarter way for a business to operate if they can navigate the challenges around trust.

At the same time, employees will need to believe that productivity will always win over presenteeism and that turning up sick or staying late for the sake of being seen, will not curry favour with those at the top. In fact, employers themselves will be rewarded if they value health, well-being and family above being in the office at all hours. Those will be the companies that attract and retain global talent and therefore elevate their status.

Accepting job misery in exchange for job security is already on its way out and employers and employees both want trust, dedication and value from each other.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?

Being made unemployed through no fault of your own should always come with some element of security. In the UK, our government furlough scheme certainly helped prevent a large rise in unemployment particularly in the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality and entertainment. But the scheme wasn’t planned. Grants were awarded to small businesses without means testing and some who didn’t need the money were awarded it and those who needed it, didn’t receive it (for example, new businesses who had been operating for less than two years). As a result, our taxes are being increased to help fund health and social care but if there had been a plan, the money would have been there.

Whether a government, a business or just your personal finances, you should always have a plan B, C and D. On numerous occasions throughout my life, you can almost guarantee when someone has said ‘that will never happen’, it did. Life isn’t plain sailing and the unthinkable can happen. The institutions you think won’t go bankrupt end up causing a global financial crisis. The global pandemics you thought were confined to the history books, happen again. While we need to strike a balance between living for the moment and having a back-up plan, it’s imperative to be prepared for the worst. In fact, you should have a back-up plan for your back-up plan whether those plans are financial or taking a series of actions.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I do feel the workplace, in all its forms, has become a much nicer place to be. More and more businesses are becoming inclusive and bring a sense of home life to work. In fact, I see the lines between home and work blurring to imperceptible levels. Soon, I hope to see work as something you fit around your life rather than fitting your life around work. People won’t live for the weekends anymore and they will be more mentally and physically healthy, which will only enhance productivity in the workplace.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

At the time of writing this, this isn’t the case in the UK. Whether we are in a bubble because of the effects of Brexit, the supply chain crisis or our government’s furlough scheme, job vacancies are the highest they have been for a while. Right now, my clients’ biggest challenge is finding the right people to fill the vacant roles they have. However, when this changes we can reduce the gap between job loss and job growth by continuing to be innovative. We need to maintain innovation and keep doing things differently in all sectors and industries. We are an innovative state globally and with innovation, comes a lot of new and diverse roles.

Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Virtual Teams

We have already touched on this so I’ll be brief. Technological advances and the pandemic certainly hastened the move to working from home but this was the way we were headed. One of the prime reasons we were heading this way was to not only enable parents to work from home, but to educate their children at home. Many schools are not fit for purpose, particularly when it comes to neuro diverse children or children with special educational needs. A homeschooling environment not only ensures parents can meet current needs immediately, it also means there is academic flexibility, a choice of pace, comfort and more efficient learning. With the ability for working parents and their children will access a new found freedom that benefits them in ways rigid working and schooling structures do not.

2. Psychological safety in the workplace

Psychological and emotional safety are interchangeable terms. In this sort of environment or company culture, employees and team members will feel safe taking moderate risks, speaking their minds freely, being both expressive and creative and taking chances without the fear of rebuke, punishment or even mockery. In the past, salary has been a driving factor for people seeking particular roles and sometimes it was enough to keep them where they were for long periods of time. But that is changing even now. Feeling psychologically safe in an environment builds trust, enhances collaboration and inspires innovative thinking. When people feel safe to try things differently, teams and businesses themselves will thrive.

3. Women in Tech

Only by accessing all the diverse talent and value that women bring will the tech industry be able to harness all the intelligence and ingenuity needed to compete on a global stage. While more roles are being filled by females in tech sectors such as IT, there will be job growth for women in all other areas of tech that will enable companies to represent women and their needs as customers, far better male-dominated environments. Businesses that harness the power of gender diversity will meet the needs of their customers far more efficiently and reliably than companies that have an unbalanced ratio.

4. Neuro-diversity in AI development

As a mother to both a neuro diverse child and a neuro typical child, I have experienced the joys, the wonders and the challenges that neuro-diversity can bring. But those challenges also help me question the way I think and why I think the way I do. It also helps me question if I’m right. That’s why I know such diversity is exactly what we need in all areas of business innovation, especially in AI development. To avoid a biased AI environment we need input from all types of minds and cannot restrict ourselves to one way of thinking. While AI systems ultimately learn and grow, they still need human input at the beginning to teach them. That’s why we need a diverse range of teachers whether they are male, female, neuro-diverse or neuro-typical.

5. Open, honest and transparent communication

Open and honest communication engenders a transparent business culture to help teams understand and share the same vision. Transparency will be inherent in the way businesses set up processes, talk with teams and deal with suppliers. Stakeholders will receive reports in which data, figures, mistakes and successes are all shared. Accessing this sort of data is going to be more valuable than profit margins in the future. A business that values honesty, transparency and integrity above profit is the type of business that will effect change and make a positive impact. Blockchain will enhance this transparency as integrity and honesty are built into blockchain transactions by design. Theoretically, no single person, organisation, or government, has control over the information held within a blockchain which is why I think it will become the platform for reporting financial information in the future, available in real-time and to anyone who wants it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

My personal mantra is “progress not perfection”. It’s what keeps me moving and my business evolving. While perfection is held in high regard by many, I find it toxic. It’s what can keep us stuck and in a constant state of unhappiness trying to attain something that is often unachievable.

Everything you do in life has its purpose: every job, every conversation, every connection and every place you visit. There is a greater plan and this has been shown to me more times than I can remember. If you ever feel you can’t see the point of something, just look to get the best out of it and move on swiftly; the reason for the lesson or the experience will always show itself. There is value in every situation whether it’s perfect or not. Don’t put all your energies into getting one thing perfect before being able to move forward. If you do, you won’t get anywhere fast and you will be left behind.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I can’t choose between Bezos, Branson or Musk! All of these trailblazers believed in themselves and never gave up. They didn’t worry if other people didn’t believe in them and then never felt they had to prove themselves. And now, because of that belief and determination, they will go down in the history books.

I would love to know what they think the work place will look like in the future and I’d love to get their perspective of neuro diversity in the human population or even how far AI will and should go.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

You can follow Financial Momentum and learn more about what I do on my website or you can connect with me on LInkedIn.

I also have a business called Financial Foundations that empowers small business owners and entrepreneurs to become their own Financial Directors. Learning everything they need to know about their financials and how their business operates when it comes to profits and loss, they are better positioned to grow in line with their ambitions.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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