How to co-ordinate work on digital poverty across the WCIT?

Please join our next Homelessness Panel meeting, online Thursday 10 June 17:00-18:30. 

Our guest speakers will be Paul Finnis and David Lakin from the Digital Poverty Alliance. 

 The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Digital Access for All (DAFA) are bringing together organisations to kick start an alliance aimed at tackling the issue of digital poverty and ending digital poverty for all, particularly for disadvantaged children. 

The WCIT is considering signing up as a member organisation and so Paul and David are going to tell us more and then the Panel will discuss.  We would then like to discuss the possibility of leading a cross-Company working group within the WCIT on Digital Poverty.

There has been lots of activity on this since our January event on the topic and so please join the Panel meeting to hear more.  If interested, please email our secretary Martin Hogg

Financial Services Technology Panel continues its ESG quest

We promised a series of events to explore the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance to our society in general and to the Financial Services sector in particular. Our third event on “Self Assessment Versus Regulation” saw another expert panel debate the issue, with an audience drawn from the Livery movement, Academia, Financial Services and others new to WCIT, illustrating the huge interest in the ESG movement and confirming that the WCIT focus, with its Social Value initiative and FS Technology Panel ESG series, is the right one for our times.

“Environment, Social and Governance – Self Assessment Versus Regulation took us through the arguments and we learned that they are not straight forward.

Rebecca Healey, our chair, set the scene by telling us that ESG is moving from niche to mainstream and that data and access to it “will go on steroids” referring to a data lake that consumers can access directly and highlighting the challenge for regulators as well as investors.

Sally Bridgeland, in a surprising view from an actuary told us that, while data is critical, it is far from the only important factor, and characterised it rather as a catalyst for action. She emphasised the need for meaningful interpretation of data, of the difference between data and knowledge and warned that, while moving to regulation may be useful, one size does not fit all.

Vivian Frost used Sustainalytics flag ship ESG Risk rating methodology to highlight how it is not just about companies’ own data, how AI is used to take in data from many sources, including unstructured data, and underlined the importance of distinguishing between material and immaterial disclosure by companies. Her conclusion was that it is very important to understand the quality of disclosure and scoring, and she called for transparency throughout the process.

Faisal Rafi, who spends his time researching Fund Managers, talked to us of the complex challenges they face, positing that some regulation is needed. His view is that fund managers are researching companies in themselves and challenged accounting bodies to step up and create standards. Faisal’s warning, echoing Sally’s one size does not fit all message, was that it is time to move away from using ESG for binary judgements to incorporating it into the process for evaluating the worth of a company.

Prof Alex Edmans asked the controversial question “does ESG actually pay off?” and warned of confirmation bias. He developed the idea that Purpose leads to Profit, looking at materiality as a driver and giving the example of companies that look after their employees outperforming their peers. He encouraged us to look at what drives long term success, introducing the importance of intangible, qualitative factors. His key message was that companies that outperform others score highly on material issues and these differ from company to company and industry to industry.

Prof Rajkumar Roy brought a new perspective on the question of Regulation Vs Self Assessment, focusing on the outcomes we want to achieve, and asking what impacts those outcomes most. He defined ESG as a movement, not bound by a few metrics, that needs cultural change – something he first developed in his 2004 in the report he ceded “Who Cares Wins”. He challenged the Financial Services industry on whether we would accept financial exclusion and told us that the ESG movement requires the development of socially responsible professionals along with leadership, as the City University, London is doing. He cited the developing problem of complex data algorithms and the need for mathematical rigour, urging us to do what we can to develop data we can trust, acknowledging a need for some regulation.

We learned so much during this session and, as our Chair summarised, it seems that we should focus on Principles, rather than Prescriptive, based regulation. And our debate moved opinion again! At the beginning our debate 74% of our audience voted Yes to regulation, moving to only 19% by the end, with 60% saying YES but laterThe No vote moved too –from 21% at the start up to 26% at the end.

Rob Wirszycz, the WCIT Junior Warden rounded the event off by coining yet another phrase – “consequentiality” – based on materiality – meaning the extent to which it matters to companies to be involved in operating to ESG principles and reflected on the power of employees to choose. He likened regulation to a hammer, that could be a sledge hammer or a light “tap and nudge” influencing force and asked if we need to “raise the floor” for all or “touch the ceiling” in a competition. The WCIT Social Value Leadership Group (SVLG) of 12 companies, that Rob leads, aims at raising standards and finished by saying that ESG now a movement that has a name!

In the latest ‘Talking Tuesday’, Liveryman Nicholas Beale and IT legend Dame Wendy Hall discussed the ‘unethical optimisation principle’

If AI tries to maximize profits there is evidently a risk that it will pick an unethical strategy in order to do so. A paper in Royal Society Open Science proved last year this was disproportionately likely, with the risk usually tending to 1 as the strategy space grew.

Nicholas and Dame Wendy led an interactive discussion in a group including the Master, several past Masters and a FTSE 100 Chair. As Information Technologists, we need to ensure that our technologies do not create ethical chaos, and a number of ways of approaching this were discussed.

The Master welcomed this re-launch of the Ethical & Spiritual Development Panel, addressing these and other important issues.

Talking Tuesdays: the WCIT women’s rowing squad

Did you know that WCIT is the first Livery Company to have an all-female rowing squad?  In 2020, the Cito Panel was delighted to announce the formation of the WCIT Women’s Rowing Squad. To celebrate the newly formed team, a number of guests joined the ladies for a recent Talking Tuesday event. 

This was an extremely enjoyable and fun evening, where people were able to virtually meet the President Rita W Bologna, Captain Clare Verga and Deputy Captain Suzanne Harkins, as well as the full rowing team. Guests and members of WCIT heard about the formation of the team, the history of women’s rowing, TTRA events, practices, races and what the future holds for the ladies. They were also joined by a truly inspirational guest speaker Patricia Carswell – the pint-sized rower from ‘Girl on the River’ who shared her story, her wins and her losses.  A great evening and we wish the team every success in the future.   

WCIT virtual visit to the National Museum of Computing

Eighteen souls braved one of the two glorious March afternoons England had and stayed in.  They may have missed the sunshine, but instead they were treated to the sights of the mechanical levers, valves, diodes and transistors of The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.  Given that the tour was held virtually, and was hosted by two highly knowledgeable guides throughout, we missed nothing important.  The guides talked us through the main exhibits, including not only the earliest machines used to help decode the German Enigma cypher in World War II, the Turing-Welchman Bombe and Colossus of the 1940s but also the world’s oldest working computer. 

Using the wealth of physical exhibits at TNMOC as it is colloquially known, we were expertly guided through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, to the rise of personal computing and the rise of mobile computing and the internet.

Lilian Baylis Technology School through to the final of the Sheriff’s Challenge 2021!

On Tuesday 23 March 2021, LBTS were voted by the three judges through to the final of the Sheriffs’ challenge!

The topic this year was ‘Why is the post Covid-19 world completely different?’. Coached by WCIT Liveryman David Barker, the students met over eight weeks to brainstorm, research, plan, script and rehearse their 8-minute presentation. They were scored on their project plan, organisation of the team and structure, content and knowledge of the subject and presentation skills to engage and inspire the audience.

Liveryman David Barker said “Anfal, Amena and Alexandra inspired everyone in the heat with their creative ideas and execution to the problem posed by the judges. The students have impressed me every time I meet them with their dedication and desire to get to the final and to be the best they could be.”

The final itself will be on Tuesday 11  May and will be judged by the two Sheriffs currently in office: Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli and Mr Christopher Hayward CC.

Growth Tech 11

On Tuesday, 23 March 2021, we held our third virtual Growth Tech event – The Funding and Talent Landscape Part 1. The three GT events planned for 2021 will focus on two of the most important issues for any entrepreneur, namely where to source capital and how to find talent. In the first of the trilogy, GT11 was directed at start-ups and very early-stage companies.

After a few words from the Master, four speakers each had ten minutes to provide insight to the approx. 70 strong audience before a general discussion was had with questions taken from the floor.

Andy Bloxam, Investment Director at Foresight Williams, outlined how the partnership between one of the UK’s leading VC firms and the new tech spinout from Williams F1 was supporting innovative engineering businesses. He also advised on how best to present an investment case to investors. Samantha Maxwell-Reed, Chair of Expand Executive Search which source tech talent in the UK and USA then provided important tips on how to approach the thorny issue of finding great people.

The other side of the coin was then heard as Mark Leaning, successful tech entrepreneur and CEO of Directed Systems, outlined the issues he had to overcome, including funding from highly targeted angel investors alongside government grants and using his extensive network to find the best people. Finally, Nic Marks provided a totally different perspective; as the heir to Trebor Sweets, he outlined how that business was centred on the welfare of its workforce and how he has tried to encapsulate this at Friday Pulse, which measures employee happiness .

Feedback from attendees was positive – mainly because the event was both informative and inspiring. Growth Tech 12, scheduled for Tuesday, 22 June 2021, will consider the same topic but for later stage tech companies.

WCIT Equality Committee’s International Women’s Day event 2021

Financial Services Technology Panel grasps the ESG nettle

The Financial Services Technology Panel has set out to be “the place to come to debate the issues of the day”, so began by tackling the vast, and often controversial, subjects of Environmental, Social and Governance, through a series of events.

The first one in November 2020 aimed to inform, explore, and raise awareness around ESG – its history and relevance to us today:

“Environment, Social and Governance – What it really means and why it matters in Financial Services” showcased our own members’ expert knowledge.

Anders tracked ESG back to 1998, when John Elkington, the authority on Corporate Social Responsibility, defined value creation for business as being more than financial. Indranil examined what it will take for the business model to focus on sustainability – to create value through sustainable innovation. Ray told us about how the Government is using its own purchasing process to ensure adherence to good ESG principles in its supply chain, and how it has been consulting on possible regulation to encourage good corporate behaviour. Gary focussed on the “S” in ESG, educating us on Diversity and Inclusion, in particular on Digital Accessibility in the Financial sector. Rob asked what might persuade those who are slow, to adopt ESG, and gave us a challenge – to define how we in the WCIT can further the Social Value agenda. And all of them were ably managed by our event chair, John.

We kicked off 2021 with our second event in January, asking if ESG will deliver its promise:

Is the promise of ESG false? Or will it be our saviour?” tested whether a WCIT online debate can change minds. And it did!

We ran this event as an inter-livery debate with over 150 attendees from WCIT, WCIB, World Traders, Marketors, Stationers, Actuaries, and the Financial Services Group, and gathered a panel of world class speakers and chair.

The debate was opened by the Master, Mark Holford, and Julia George introduced the FS Tech Panel. Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli masterfully managed a lively interaction between “For” and “Against” speakers, polls, and Q&A.

The key debate question “Is ESG essential to achieving sustainability?” was polled to the audience. The “Yes” vote dropped from 86% at the start to 60% at the end of the debate. How did this happen?

Professor Mainelli reminded us that climate change is not a new topic and has been on the table in the City since 1985, but what have we achieved in 36 years?

Richard Peers opened the debate, arguing for ESG, maintaining “there is no Planet B” and argued not to focus on the negatives, the promise is there. He likened the current focus on ESG only a matter of one format over another, such as VHS giving way to Netflix – it is here to stay.

Jenny Knott countered, arguing that no-one is saying ESG is not a force for good, but it is the how that is in question, voicing her concern that a potential ESG index would only be a gravy train. The many ESG indices, e.g., MSCI, Morgan Stanley’s, are self-regulating and still focus on the financials.

Laurent Rousseau argued for the need for Ethical Asset Valuation, citing Christian Gollier’s book, and maintained that as funds flow into socially virtuous financial investments, the cost of capital reduces and the price in the long term will reflect the true value (financial and social) of the investment.

Mike Wardle argued that ESG is a minor step towards making an impact. The first argument is over-reliance on ESG data provided by companies themselves, second is funds announcing their compliance without making a real difference, so Greenwashing.

And so, the arguments raged back and forth during a lively question and answer session.

We will soon be announcing our next ESG event in our series so please keep an eye on our website for further details.

The Haberdashers’ Company Monmouth Enterprise Initiative and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists “My city IT career”

Every year the Haberdashers’ Company joins with a modern livery company to deliver work experience for Year 12 students in their schools. The event would usually include a day’s work experience in host companies across the City with other activities at Haberdashers’ Hall. 2020 was the second year to work with WCIT.

It became clear as the year went on that the idea of having companies host students for a day was probably not going to happen. But the WCIT would not be deterred by a global pandemic! Understanding the importance of the engagement with young people at a time when they are making decisions around careers and university courses, ‘My City IT Career’ was born. A series of 30-minute video presentations by WCIT members, all of whom have come into IT via different routes, demonstrated the diversity of opportunities in the IT industry.

Topics ranged from IT consultancy, setting up a software company, apprenticeship opportunities and computer programming. At the end of the day, a poll showed that 96% of the students would consider a career in IT and felt they were far better informed as to the opportunities available.
The programme was hailed a great success and is now being rolled out to the WCIT’s affiliate schools, starting with Hammersmith Academy. The videos are also being made available to schools nationwide through the Livery Schools Link network.

A huge thank you to Freeman Julia Condon, our WCIT presenters and the team at Haberdashers for all their hard work in organising and putting on such a successful event.