A Preliminary Historiography of the Brazil’s Landless Laborers’ Movement (MST) Cliff Welch

Like many politicians, Brazilian president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva identified himself with different citizens by dressing like them. He seemed to delight in donning an Indian headdress or squeezing into a hard hat. Such images fit the populist message of this remarkable man, a man who rose from poverty to become leader of the labor movement that challenged the military dictatorship and helped restore democracy to Brazil, the world’s eighth largest economy. But in July 2003 when Lula placed the bright red cap of the Landless Laborers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra [MST]) on his head, all hell broke loose. Subsequent editions of nearly every news vehicle in the country featured alarmed criticism of this fateful act. Words like “rebellious,” “revolutionary” and “irresponsible” characterized the reaction as dozens of reporters were sent to the field to document the dangers posed to the country by the MST. The controversy reached the United States, where concerns on Wall Street and in Washington threatened to undermine Brazil’s fragile credit rating and international standing. By 2004, the Lula administration had carefully finessed most of the criticisms, supporting the right of the MST to mobilize and pressure the government while simultaneously investing in a conflicting agribusiness development scheme.

What is the MST? In contradistinction to the image projected by the Brazilian press, the collection of recently published books reviewed here describe it as an institutionalized social movement of unprecedented significance for Brazil and the world that does not pose an immediate revolutionary threat to society. On one book’s jacket, Eric Hobsbawm, a frequent traveler to Brazil, validates the MST as “the most ambitious social movement in contemporary Latin America” (Branford and Rocha 2002). On another’s cover, journalist Studs Terkel describes the MST as “a million or so ordinary people fighting for the right to live ordinary lives” (Wright and Wolford 2003). Founded in 1984, the MST fights for radical agrarian reform—that is, state intervention to reverse historic land concentration trends, distribute good agricultural land to needy workers, and reallocate resources to support small and cooperative farming as fundamental to the development of a stronger, more democratic and just society.

Today, the MST boasts a membership of more than 500,000 families—at least two million people—and has a presence in every state and more than 700 municipalities. The MST runs some 500 farm co-ops in the areas of production, marketing, credit, and technical assistance. It trains most of its own technicians, militants, and leaders. It has succeeded in redirecting government funds to support its administration of 1,800 elementary schools with more than 160,000 students, teaching basic literacy to 30,000 teenagers and adults, and operating a college. In the meantime, some sixty members are studying in Cuba to be doctors (MST 2004).

Capital Ship Etiquette

The captain goes down with the ship” is an idiom and maritime tradition that a sea captain holds ultimate responsibility for both his ship and everyone embarked on it, and he will die trying to save either of them. Although often associated with the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 and its captain, Edward J. Smith, the phrase predates the Titanic by at least 11 years.[1] In most instances the captain of the ship forgoes his own rapid departure of a ship in distress, and concentrates instead on saving other people. It often results in either the death or belated rescue of the captain as the last person on board.
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History

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The concept is closely related to another protocol from the nineteenth century, “women and children first.” Both reflect the Victorian ideal of chivalry in which the upper classes were expected to emulate a morality tied to sacred honour, service, and respect for the disadvantaged. The actions of the captain and men during the sinking of HMS Birkenhead in 1852 prompted praise from many due to the sacrifice of the men who saved the women and children by evacuating them first. Rudyard Kipling‘s poem “Soldier an’ Sailor Too” and Samuel SmilesSelf-Help both highlighted the valour of the men who stood at attention and played in the band as their ship was sinking.

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Social and legal responsibility

The idiom literally means that a captain will be the last person to leave a ship alive prior to its sinking or utter destruction, and if unable to evacuate the crew and passengers, the captain will not evacuate himself.[2] In a social context, especially as a mariner, the captain will feel compelled to take this responsibility as a type of social norm. Shirking this responsibility in a crisis would go against societal mores because of the offender’s lack of ethics.

In maritime law the responsibility of the ship’s master for his ship is paramount no matter what its condition, so abandoning a ship has legal consequences, including the nature of salvage rights. So even if a captain abandons his ship in distress, he is generally responsible for it in his absence and would be compelled to return to the ship until danger to the vessel has relented. If a naval captain evacuates a vessel in wartime, it may be considered a capital offence similar to desertion unless he subsequently returns to the ship at his first opportunity to prevent its capture and rescue the crew.

Abandoning a ship in distress may be considered a crime that can lead to imprisonment.[2] Captain Francesco Schettino, who left his ship in the midst of the Costa Concordia disaster, was not only widely reviled for his actions, but was arrested by Italian authorities on criminal charges.[3] Abandoning ship is a maritime crime that has been on the books for centuries in Spain, Greece and Italy.[4] South Korean law may also require the captain to rescue himself last.[5] In Finland the Maritime Law (Merilaki) states that the captain must do everything in his power to save everyone on board the ship in distress and that unless his life is in immediate danger, he shall not leave the vessel as long as there is reasonable hope that it can be saved.[6] In the United States, abandoning the ship is not explicitly illegal, but the captain could be charged with other crimes, such as manslaughter, which encompass common law precedent passed down through centuries. It is not illegal under international maritime law.

What is Technical Writing?

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Technical writing is sometimes defined as simplifying the complex.  Inherent in such a concise and deceptively simple definition is a whole range of skills and characteristics that address nearly every field of human endeavor at some level.  A significant subset of the broader field of technical communication, technical writing involves communicating complex information to those who need it to accomplish some task or goal.

Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) provides four definitions for the word technical, all of which relate to the profession of technical writing:

  1. of or relating to a particular subject, art, or craft, or its techniques
  2. of, involving, or concerned with applied and industrial sciences
  3. resulting from mechanical failure
  4. according to a strict application or interpretation of the law or rules

With these definitions in mind, it’s easy to see that technical writing has been around as long as there have been written languages.  Modern references to technical writing and technical communications as a profession begin around the time of World War I as technical developments in warfare, industry and telecommunications began to evolve more rapidly.  Although many people today think of technical writing as creating manuals for computers and software, the practice of technical writing takes place in any field or industry where complex ideas, concepts, processes or procedures need to be communicated.  In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines technical writers as those who “…put technical information into easily understandable language. They work primarily in information-technology-related industries, coordinating the development and dissemination of technical content for a variety of users; however, a growing number of technical communicators are using technical content to resolve business communications problems in a diversifying number of industries.”

The Goal of Technical Writing

Good technical writing results in relevant, useful and accurate information geared to specifically targeted audiences in order to enable a set of actions on the part of the audience in pursuit of a defined goal.  The goal may be using a software application, operating industrial equipment, preventing accidents, safely consuming a packaged food, assessing a medical condition, complying with a law, coaching a sports team, or any of an infinite range of possible activities.  If the activity requires expertise or skill to perform, then technical writing is a necessary component.

Only a small proportion of technical writing is actually aimed at the general consumer audience. Businesses and organizations deliver vast amounts of technical writing to explain internal procedures, design and produce products, implement processes, sell products and services to other businesses, or define policies. The leading professional association representing technical writing, Society for Technical Communication, hosts a number of special interest groups for these different aspects of the profession.

Technical Writing Categories

Technical writing comprises the largest segment of technical communications.  Technical writers work together with editors, graphic designers and illustrators, document specialists, content managers, instructional designers, trainers, and analysts to produce an amazing variety of deliverables, including:

Contracts Online and embedded help Requirements specifications
Customer Service scripts Policy documents Simulations
Demonstrations Process flows Training course materials
Design documents Project documents User manuals
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) Product catalogs Warning labels
How-to videos Product packaging Web-based Training
Instructions Proposals Websites
Knowledge base articles Release notes White papers
Reference guides

Technical writing follows a development lifecycle that often parallels the product development lifecycle of an organization:

  1. Identification of needs, audience(s), and scope
  2. Planning
  3. Research & content development
  4. Testing / review and revision
  5. Delivery / production
  6. Evaluation and feedback
  7. Disposition (revision, archiving, or destruction)

Technical Writing and Integrated Technical Communications

Enormous changes have occurred in the field of technical writing in the last 20 years, particularly with how technical content is researched, and how it is produced and delivered.  As a result, more organizations are developing integrated technical communications to effectively manage the information that must be communicated. They also build a content management strategy that encompasses delivery of technical, marketing and promotion, internal and other communications messages between the organization and its customers, suppliers, investors and employees.

source : http://www.techwirl.com

Long Put

The investor buys a put contract that is compatible with the expected timing and size of a downturn. Although a put usually doesn’t appreciate $1 for every $1 that the stock declines, the percentage gains can be significant. the put holder is willing to forfeit 100% of the premium paid and is convinced a decline is imminent, one choice is to wait until the last trading day. If the stock falls, the put might generate a nice profit after all. However, if a quick correction looks unlikely, it might make sense to sell the put while it still has some time value. A timely decision might recover part or even all of the investment.

Outlook

The investor is looking for a sharp decline in the stock’s price during the life of the option.

This strategy is compatible with a variety of long-term forecasts for the underlying stock, from very bearish to neutral. However, if the investor is firmly bullish on the underlying stock in the long run, other strategy alternatives might be more suitable.

Summary

This strategy consists of buying puts as a means to profit if the stock price moves lower. It is a candidate for bearish investors who want to participate in an anticipated downturn, but without the risk and inconveniences of selling the stock short.

The time horizon is limited to the life of the option.

Motivation

A put buyer has the opportunity to profit from a fall in the stock’s price, without risking an unlimited amount of capital, as a short stock seller does. What’s more, the leverage involved in a long put strategy can generate attractive percentage returns if the forecast is right.

Another common use for puts is hedging a long stock position. It is described separately under protective put.

Variations

These remarks are targeted toward the investor who buys puts as a standalone strategy. See the discussion on protective puts for a discussion on using long puts as a way to hedge or exit a long stock position.

Max Loss

The maximum loss is limited. The worst that can happen is for the stock price to be above the strike price at expiration with the put owner still holding the position. The put option expires worthless and the loss is the price paid for the put.

Max Gain

The profit potential is limited but substantial. The best that can happen is for the stock to become worthless. In that case, the investor can theoretically do one of two things: sell the put for its intrinsic value or exercise the put to sell the underlying stock at the strike price and simultaneously buy the equivalent amount of shares in the market at, theoretically, zero cost. The investor’s profit would be the difference between the strike price and zero, less the premium paid, commissions and fees.

Profit/Loss

The profit potential is significant, and the losses are limited to the premium paid.

Although a put option is unlikely to appreciate $1 for every $1 that the stock declines during most of the option’s life, the gains could be substantial if the stock falls sharply. Generally speaking, the earlier and more dramatic the drop in the stock’s value, the better for the long put strategy. Given that the premium investment can be small relative to the stock value it represents, the potential percentage gains and losses can be large, with the caveat that they must be realized by the time the option expires.

All other things being equal, an option typically loses time value premium with every passing day, and the rate of time value erosion tends to accelerate. That means the long put holder may not be able to re-sell the option at a profit unless at least one major pricing factor changes favorably. The most obvious would be an decline in the underlying stock’s price. A rise in volatility could also help significantly by boosting the put’s time value.

An option holder cannot lose more than the initial price paid for the option.

Breakeven

At expiration, the strategy breaks even if the stock price equals the strike price minus the cost of the option. Any stock price below that level produces a net profit. In other words:

Breakeven = strike – premium

Volatility

An increase in implied volatility would have a positive impact on this strategy, all other things being equal. Volatility tends to boost the value of any long option strategy, because it indicates a greater mathematical probability that the stock will move enough to give the option intrinsic value (or add to its current intrinsic value) by expiration day.

By the same logic, a decline in volatility has a tendency to lower the long put strategy’s value, regardless of the overall stock price trend.

Time Decay

As with most long option strategies, the passage of time has a negative impact, all other things being equal. As time remaining until expiration disappears, the statistical chances of achieving further gains shrink. That tends to be reflected in eroding time premiums, which put downward pressure on the put’s market value.

Once time value disappears, all that remains is intrinsic value. For in-the-money options, that is the difference between the going stock price and the strike price. For at-the-money and out-of-the-money options, intrinsic value is zero.

Assignment Risk

None. The investor is in control.

Expiration Risk

Slight. If the option is in-the-money at expiration, it may be exercised on your behalf by your brokerage firm. Since this investor did not own the underlying stock, an unexpected exercise could require urgent measures to find the stock for delivery at settlement. A short stock position might be a problematic outcome for an individual investor.

Every investor carrying a long option position into expiration is urged to verify all related procedures with their brokerage firm: automatic exercise minimums, exercise notification deadlines, etc.

Comments

All option investors have reason to monitor the underlying stock and keep track of dividends. This applies to long put investors, too.

On an ex-dividend date, the amount of the dividend is deducted from the value of the underlying stock. Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower stock value typically boosts the put option’s value. The effect is foreseeable and usually gets factored more gradually, but dividend dates could nevertheless be one consideration in deciding when it might be optimal to close out the put position.

Exercising a put would result in the sale of the underlying stock. These comments focus on long puts as a standalone strategy, so exercising the option would result in a short stock position, something not all individuals would choose as a goal. The plan here is to resell the put at a profit before expiration. The investor is hoping for a dramatic downturn; the sooner, the better.

Timing is of the essence. Some put holders set price targets or re-evaluation dates; others ‘play it by ear.’ Either way, all value must be realized before the put expires. If the expected results have not materialized as expiration draws near, a careful investor is ready to re-evaluate.

Long Put

Net Position (at expiration)

EXAMPLE

Long 1 XYZ 60 put

MAXIMUM GAIN

Strike price – premium paid

MAXIMUM LOSS

Premium paid

Source:  www.optionseducation.org Read more

The Key to Every Successful Business is Agility Christopher Worley Contributor Professor of Strategy at NEOMA University France – Dec 11 2014.

With most economic indicators suggesting that the Great Recession is coming to an end, it’s tempting for a business that has successfully weathered the storm to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to business as usual. But experience tells us that complacency is the worst mistake a business — especially a startup — can make.

Just ask Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), the precursor to Microsoft and Apple and creator of the minicomputer. By 1990, DEC was riding high, ranked only behind IBM in the computer industry. But under the leadership of Ken Olsen — who once famously derided the emerging personal computer, saying, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home” — DEC stuck with its original vision and its product lines, which were incompatible with emerging operating systems.

Related: Learning to Adapt Is the Key to Success

Olsen was removed from the board in 1995 and DEC was purchased by Compaq in 1998. By then, the company had lost money for five of its last seven years.

Complacent companies believe they have figured out the formula to success. In reality, there is no business as usual, no magic formula that leads to sustained high performance and financial success at companies. The long-term and repeated successes of high-performing companies are actually due to constant reinvention — their agility.
Most entrepreneurs start with a culture of agility and a commitment to be responsive to the changing needs of the clients/customers. But as organizations grow and evolve, much of that entrepreneurial daring is replaced with a dogged fixation on “The Plan” — or, in the other extreme, thrashing around in the face of crisis and trying to adapt with urgent, costly and often ineffective crisis management and organization restructuring.

An examination of hundreds of businesses over 20 years of operations has shown us that rather than digging in their heels, successful companies do a better job at four things: establishing a climate for revising strategies, perceiving and interpreting environmental (external) trends and disruptions, testing potential responses, and implementing the most promising changes.

They have a culture of continuous agility. In essence, they have “agility routines.”

With recent research suggesting that the expected life of a new American company is about six years, entrepreneurs who have enjoyed some success, but want to take their business to the next level, must adopt a culture of agility to survive.

1. Strategizing

New business owners must first focus on establishing an aspirational purpose, developing a widely shared strategy and managing the climate and commitment to execution. While it sounds obvious, too many entrepreneurs are focused instead on goals: being number one in the market or meeting threshold monthly financial targets.

An agile organization develops a dynamic strategy with change in mind and has a process for modifying the strategy in the face of change, based on aspirational targets — beyond profitability — that unify and inspire stakeholders.

Related: The One Thing You Need to Keep Your Business Relevant

Perceiving

Next comes the process of broadly, deeply and continuously monitoring the environment to sense change and rapidly communicate these perceptions to decision-makers, who interpret and

formulate appropriate responses.

Agile organizations use the perceiving routine to assess what is happening in their environment better, faster and more reliably than their competition. Entrepreneurs, in particular, fall in love with their products and ideas, and with the original business plans that back them. But this does not allow organizations to be agile. After all, if you’re producing croissants and the marketplace suddenly wants donuts, you’d better come up with a cronut & quickly.

Risk-Based Testing and Metrics [article] Risk Analysis Fundamentals and Metrics for Software Testing By TechWell Contributor – July 19, 2001

Summary:

Risk-based testing is reviewed and presented as a case study using it on a system test for a retail banking application with complex test requirements. Test documentation produced prior to test execution was kept to a minimum with responsibility passed to the individual tester. To support this approach, progress tracking metrics were used to track actual progress made and to calculate the resources required to complete the test activities.

Risk-based testing is reviewed and presented as a case study using it on a system test for a retail banking application with complex test requirements. Test documentation produced prior to test execution was kept to a minimum with responsibility passed to the individual tester. To support this approach, progress tracking metrics were used to track actual progress made and to calculate the resources required to complete the test activities.

Want to Go From MBA to CEO? Executives Will Need These Skills in 2039 By Paul Leinwand and Gary L. Neilson August 29, 2014

Good news for today’s MBA grads: The share of large company chief executives with graduate business degrees has grown nearly 50 percent in the past 10 years. But don’t start decorating your corner office yet. There’s a lot to learn before you’re ready to take the CEO chair.

Digitization and globalization will change industries in ways we can just begin to imagine today. Everything will move faster—people, teams, trends, portfolios, and competitors. Companies will find it harder to meaningfully differentiate themselves, and they will need to make complex trade-offs when deciding where to invest for growth.

Future CEOs will have be comfortable working in a reconfigured C-suite. A new role, that of chief resources officer, will probably evolve from today’s chief human resources officer. This person will help the company respond to shortages of natural resources, shifting demographics in the workforce, and all other non-financial resources. And tomorrow’s CEO is likelier than ever to be female: We anticipate that about a third of 2040’s incoming CEOs at large public companies will be women, up from just 3 percent today.

The average CEO starts the job at 52. If you’re 27—the average age of a Harvard MBA—that gives you 25 years to prepare. Here’s what we think CEOs will encounter in 2039, as well as five areas in which you can start building skills to help you succeed as one of the CEOs of tomorrow:

Develop a strategy and execute it.
Possible strategies will come and go quickly. Many will be unfamiliar, so it will be harder than ever for CEOs to find the right balance between attractive opportunities and those their companies can win.

Most companies don’t align strategy and execution well at all. It will be your job to fix this. The most successful strategies are built on what your company is able to do better than any other—its handful of differentiating capabilities. Learn how to define your company by what it does, not what it sells. Identify the capabilities core to that identity, use them as a filter for choosing opportunities, and ensure that the entire organization delivers on that promise.

Manage resources as strategic investments.
A company can’t thrive without putting resources toward what matters most—and that’s not happening today. As CEO, you will need to realize that allocating resources equally across the board is not a winning formula. Treat costs as investments and budgeting as an opportunity to align your company more closely to your strategy. Outsource or team up to accomplish the many tasks your company doesn’t need to do better than others. Learn to focus more money and time than your competitors do on the few differentiating capabilities that matter most to your success, and cut back drastically everywhere else.

Build strong, flexible, teams from across the enterprise.
Every distinctive capability relies on contributions from many different functions, such as sales, marketing, IT, distribution, legal, and so on. Think of Apple’s (AAPL)intuitive interface and design capabilities or Amazon’s (AMZN)distribution and data analytics. Integrating all these functions is a huge task and one most companies struggle with today.

As CEO, you and your executive team will need to ensure that your people work together in a coherent system and continuously deliver on and improve your company’s few distinctive capabilities as the marketplace changes. All this will require you to master the architecture of collaboration, calling on empathy, emotional intelligence, and long experience on different kinds of teams.

Be a great connector.
The vast majority of executives say their company’s overall business strategy isn’t well understood across the company and that it only moderately guides decision-making.

To get your company out of that hole, you’ll need to be a master communicator. In a more transparent, always-on world, with more stakeholders interested and invested in what your company is up to, you’ll need to communicate extensively. You’ll need to build wide-ranging partnerships and other links across enterprises. These might be formal links with other companies that contribute to your products or services, longstanding partnerships with non-governmental organizations to provide social goods, or building relationships with your industry’s regulators around the globe. Doing all this will require extraordinary listening, speaking, writing, and engagement abilities. Hone those skills in every activity you undertake.

Deploy technology as a competitive advantage.
Technology is already a disruptive force changing the structure of most industries. It will only become more powerful. You, as a CEO, will need to have a deep understanding of IT across the enterprise—far greater than any present-day CEO. You’ll also need to be expert in flexible digital business models that allow you to constantly test, improve, and change your offerings, consumer technologies that shape customer engagement, and data analytics that surpass today’s Big Data.

Luckily, many of you are already steeped in technology. The key here is to stay that way and to ensure you are expert in the technologies most crucial to your company’s differentiating capabilities and most likely to disrupt your industry.

Being a CEO is a big job, and by 2040 it will only get bigger. Focusing on developing skills in these five areas should prepare you well for the corner office.

SOURCE : http://www.bloomberg.com

The Power of Positive Disruption – By Andra Brooks

The Power of Positive Disruption

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At the beginning of the year we looked at ‘leading intentionally’ – adopting a leadership mindset in which one’s ‘purpose’ and ‘role’ are fundamentally connected and understood. Leading intentionally enables us to lead authentically and with a sense of mandate and purpose, equipping us to tackle challenges head-on because we remain grounded by the ‘intention’ of what we’re doing.

When leading intentionally, the power of positive disruption is an important concept to understand and to adopt. At its simplest – the concept is about making hard changes in the environment around us. As a leader and depending on the amount of clout you may have – this can mean anything from changing your leadership team through to changing the prevailing culture within the organization. It is vital to understand that real change only comes about when the current status quo is disrupted and a ‘new course’ is set.

Change is good

positive-disruptionPeople are frightened of change. Well, most people. In an organizational context, we are all familiar with the stereotype of the co-worker who just abhors change, stating instead that “this is how we’ve always done things around here”. The trouble is, and especially in the context of the business world, if you are not an agent for change, you risk falling behind your competitors who are more innovative, adaptable and forward thinking than you are. Being a change agent (aka a positive disrupter) doesn’t mean ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ or simply instigating ‘change for change’s sake’ – but it does mean pro-actively, assertively and with 100% commitment – creating an environment in which things that don’t work very well, can and will be done differently. This will ruffle feathers and scare some – but it must be done. The more confident you are in your own actions – the easier it is to take people with you. People gravitate towards leaders who have a strong sense of purpose and direction and a deep belief in their own convictions.

Remember that change for change’s sake is not the goal. However, the reality is that in all organizations, some parts operate much more successfully than others. Oftentimes, some parts are simply not fit for purpose. This may be your customer feedback mechanism; the way your accounts department runs; your hiring process; your reward criteria, etc. There is most definitely something within your organization that can and should be overhauled to better meet the needs of your customers and stakeholders.

Baby steps or root and branch change?

This is a key question. Do you make small changes that create positive disruption – or huge, sweeping changes that are experienced as drastic by those around you? The answer, ultimately, depends on what needs changing. If we stick with our leadership mindset which is to lead intentionally – we know that by linking our purpose with our remit, we have given ourselves permission to do what is needed. Our stakeholders are relying on us to do the ‘right thing’ for the organization and if doing so means radical change, then this is what must be done.

At the core of positive disruption is the understanding that you have to actually make change happen. We frequently use phrases like ‘talking the talk, walking the walk’ and in the context of positive disruption, this phrase is never more relevant. We all have good ideas, can talk about what we might do differently and perhaps even get buy-in from above. But until and unless these ideas take physical form – their chance of success is low.

Physical form means positively disrupting the status quo – invariably telling people to stop doing what they’ve always been doing, and to adopt a new approach. To be really effective and to increase the chance of success – this does not mean simply applying a Band-Aid – it means going into the operating theatre.

Positive disruption in practice

Identify an area that really needs overhauling. If you are new in post, consider starting with something small before taking on the bigger challenges. Look and listen to catch the waves of change that others are sponsoring.

Do a gap analysis on a piece of paper. On the left hand side, jot down the attributes of where you are now. What does the issue look and feel like? On the far right hand side, write down what great looks and feels like.

The center-section of the paper is the ‘gap’. It is the ‘no man’s land’ made up of quicksand in which ideas often sink or get shot down all too easily. Think radically of how this gap can be ‘bridged’, not by gingerly walking from left to right, but either through ‘heavy engineering’ or better still, an innovative ‘aerial assault’ that will traverse the gap – something that cannot be easily sabotaged at ground level.

Challenge yourself, and those you trust, to come up with radical ideas that will facilitate the change… then put these into practice.

Once you’ve plotted the new course – get your hands on the tiller and turn the wheel – hard. There will be choppy water ahead, but once you’ve navigated through this – you’re into new territory.

Today, not tomorrow

It all comes down to the status quo. Do not put off today what you believe can wait. Just do it. Be clear about what needs changing and stick to your guns. Don’t feel the weight of ‘what’s been done before and hasn’t worked’. If you’re a leader and you understand your business and what needs changing – forging ahead with brave new initiatives is what you’re paid to do. Don’t be afraid to make radical decisions. If they’re grounded in business rationale (i.e. you’re overhauling a department, product line or business issue that is failing) then things must change and positive disruption is the start point.

Asset Managers Pose Systemic Risk — It’s Time To Recognize It By Colin McLean, FSIP

Asset Managers Pose Systemic Risk — It’s Time To Recognize It | Enterprising Investor

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Is printing money creating new systemic risks for the world economy?

As stock markets move to new highs, asset managers are booming, with vast inflows into bond and equity funds alike. The IMF has pointed out the potentially systemic risks created by concentrated pools of inflated and increasingly correlated assets. It is now time for regulators around the world to recognize the risks inherent in asset managers and funds that are too big to fail.

The financial crisis highlighted risks in banks and insurance, but other areas have been overlooked until now. Finally, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) are beginning to recognize risks in the investment sector and are turning their attention to some of the largest managers. In Washington, D.C., this month, European Central Bank (ECB) vice president Vítor Constâncio warned of the build-up of leverage and the growing exposure to illiquid assets in the asset management sector. But there seems no hurry to plug the gaps.

More Urgency Is Needed

The risks in big bond, equity income, and emerging market funds must be addressed. Asset managers reject any suggestion that they might represent a threat to the financial system and are quick to point the finger at banks. But globally, the top 10 asset managers have a market share of almost 30% of their sector, much more than the top 10 banks represent in banking. Assets managed globally are estimated to exceed $80 trillion. Looking at it another way, BlackRock (the world’s largest asset manager) managed roughly $4.7 trillion in assets at the end of 2014, while the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (the world’s largest bank) had “only” $3.28 trillion in assets on its balance sheet.

Quantitative easing (QE) has spurred growth in the investment sector since the crisis, contrasting with shrinkage in banking. Asset managers might not have leveraged balance sheets, but they are globally interconnected. The IMF noted this month that “correlations among major asset classes have risen markedly since 2010. Worryingly, concentration is not decreasing as the industry grows. Yet central banks seem unaware they might have exacerbated risks, creating asset bubbles with easy money policies. Why have regulators been slow to act?

Might the regulatory burden itself be a key driver of these concentration risks? The industry is being forced to improve its offerings for consumers, but there is little sign that competition itself is increasing. Cost and security seem to have become priorities for investors and their advisers, even above performance. Large funds offer apparent ease of dealing — in terms of investor subscriptions and redemptions — but underlying portfolio liquidity is likely to be deteriorating as they grow.

Undoubtedly financial advisers believe they are opting for safety. The virtuous cycle of success and fund growth gets regulatory encouragement. Many advisers find that larger funds reduce the compliance burden, in addition to being easier to explain to retail clients. Name recognition, perceived liquidity, and cost have become bigger factors than performance.

But in Aggregate, Systemic Risk May Be Growing

Overall stock market trading volumes are declining, with less capital now involved in market making. Big portfolio positions might be liquid enough for normal day-to-day dealing, but could be left stranded if investors make any significant rush for an exit. Regulation directs advisers to look at the apparent liquidity and security benefits of scale, but what is missing is a test of how this might work in a crisis.

New factors have been driving this fund concentration. Some star managers have attracted an enormous following, encouraged by the emphasis on brands and personality. The industry has always enjoyed good operating leverage, but strategy now seems focused almost entirely on scale. Scale offers great commercial advantage, with profitability improving as funds grow. Fortunately there are incentives for the best managers to limit fund growth to a level that still leaves opportunities for genuine performance.

But, increasing concentration points to the dominance of scale as a factor.

The recent acceleration in scale and concentration has, to date, seen only limited tests. Moves of star managers, such as Bill Gross, CFA, have triggered significant but orderly fund flows. Yet, it is possible in some less liquid asset classes — such as emerging markets and corporate bonds — for investor liquidity demands to exceed realistic liquidity in a sell-off. A fund’s scale can create an illusion of safety that may not be understood by private investors.

The regulatory problem is that managers are typically required only to test liquidity on open-ended funds at the margin — whether subscriptions and redemptions over a period of weeks should be at bid or offer prices. They must consider whether fund inflows or outflows might compromise fairness for ongoing fund investors. And, if mutual funds are very small, managers must consider an orderly plan for protecting residual investors and ensuring orderly liquidation.

No Symmetry

While regulators worry about investors in small funds, there is no symmetry in the approach to the risks of the largest funds. Managers should be required to demonstrate the implications of a significant withdrawal: how they might achieve price discovery and liquidity. If their only plan is gating investors, the systemic risk could simply be pushed elsewhere. Investors would scramble for liquidity in other assets if their largest investments were locked-in for a period.

The FSB, chaired by Governor Mark Carney of the Bank of England, recently warned that it would move to address any too-big-to-fail problems among entities that are neither banks nor insurers. But it is still consulting and has not yet spelled out what new rules are necessary. There is an urgent need for research and analysis to develop a working definition of systemic risk. And, it would be best if this were harmonized globally so that global asset managers know where they stand.

Together, the FSB and IOSCO aim to look at the potential for size, complexity, and interconnectedness to impact the wider financial system through disorderly failure. The new consultation will likely focus on managers with AUM exceeding $1 trillion and funds of over $100 billion, but it is easy to see that smaller funds than this could raise systemic issues, particularly when considering that some may employ leverage. The asset managers likely to be affected have not yet been named, and this consultation will continue until 29 May 2015.

This approach may not capture risks to individual national or regional finances. If concentration might be a risk globally in asset managers, the risk to individual exchanges and asset classes should surely also be looked at. National regulators should ask managers to be more explicit in explaining the risks of scale to investors. More detailed attention to funds below $100 billion that might dominate their asset classes is needed. And a broader set of policy tools is necessary to address the risks stemming from financial firms at large.

It is time for regulators to move from their narrow focus on banks and insurers to recognize wider systemic risk.

Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research

Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research

09/12/2014 – Reducing income inequality would boost economic growth, according to new OECD analysis. This work finds that countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality.

The single biggest impact on growth is the widening gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared to the rest of society. Education is the key: a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth.

“This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the policy debate,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an early age are those that will grow and prosper.”

Rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand over the past two decades up to the Great Recession. In Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, the cumulative growth rate would have been six to nine percentage points higher had income disparities not widened, but also in Sweden, Finland and Norway, although from low levels. On the other hand, greater equality helped increase GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland prior to the crisis.

The paper finds new evidence that the main mechanism through which inequality affects growth is by undermining education opportunities for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development.

People whose parents have low levels of education see their educational outcomes deteriorate as income inequality rises. By contrast, there is little or no effect on people with middle or high levels of parental educational background.

The impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40 percent with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10 percent. Anti-poverty programmes will not be enough, says the OECD. Cash transfers and increasing access to public services, such as high-quality education, training and healthcare, are an essential social investment to create greater equality of opportunities in the long run.

The paper also finds no evidence that redistributive policies, such as taxes and social benefits, harm economic growth, provided these policies are well designed, targeted and implemented.

The working paper, Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth, is part of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative, an Organisation-wide reflection on the roots and lessons to be learned from the global economic crisis, as well as an exercise to review and update its analytical frameworks.