108th Business Lunch – 15 September 2021

Master Mark Holford pictured with Pinkerton Award 2020 finalists Freeman Anders Skjøt Kongsbak, Journeyman Alex Bilbie and Journeyman Sonia Green

WCIT was delighted to hold  its first in person formal event on 15 September 2021 – our 108th Business Lunch in the stunning surroundings of Butchers’ Hall. The Master welcomed over 100 members and their guests, and paid tribute to the Company’s achievements during the pandemic. Special recognition was given to Liveryman Frank Joshi from Mvine for the website support provided to the Company over the years; to our 2020 Pinkerton Award finalists and to Gary Phillips who has retired as Headteacher at Lilian Bayliss Technology School after 22 years.  On behalf of WCIT and the WCIT Charity, Gary was presented with a specially commissioned piece of glass called Binary.

Annual Sheriffs Ride around the City of London – 15 September 2021

On 15 September 2021 WCIT welcomed Alderman and Sheriff Professor Michael Mainelli to Information Technologists’ Hall as part of the annual Sheriffs Ride around the City of London.  Michael, his trusty steed Leo and a Light Cavalry escort broke their three hour ride for some welcome refreshments at the Hall.  The annual ride raises money for the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund and this year was also focusing on the re-opening of the City.

WCIT Annual Golf Day – 6 September 2021

WCIT Past Master and Chair of Charity Stefan Fafinski JP and Liveryman Guy Feld, WCIT Golfer of the Year

On September 6th, the annual WCIT Golf Day took place at the stunning Bearwood Lakes.

The field of 42 golfers were blessed with the best weather of recent weeks. The WCIT golfer of the year was Guy Feld and his team also finished first.

Past Master, Stef Fafinski, was on hand to present the prizes and to represent the WCIT charity with the day raising over £700.

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.