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What are the massive changes in these unprecedented times? Octopus Intelligence

What are the massive changes in these unprecedented times?

By | Opinion

Unprecedented change

We are living through unprecedented times, and it’s increasingly the case what we did in the past is not repeatable.

Here are a few just overarching observations are shaping our world today:

Retail markets

Online retailing is superseding bricks and mortar retailers. Especially those who are not adapting to online offers. The Amazon factor. Then the big shopping centres unable to trade by offering just small unique retailers. They can’t afford rents and rates and will be out of the game. Shopping centres want the big brands.  Until very recently they are the ones that can afford the rents and rates over a sustained period of time. On line, retailers don’t pay rates. The consequence for suppliers is that the big online players will soon also own the supply lines. Our town centre’s containing the same retail/food brands, charity shops, barbers and kebab shops . The same as the next town centre, as well as, making shopping experiences more tedious than it used to be.

Transport and infrastructure 

The vividly ambitious intent to thrust driverless cars onto the populous will mean fewer cars.  And fewer car sales, fewer suppliers, monopoly of the giants etc. Even in remote areas? Either this is true, or there are other elements involved that seem unmoved by whatever reality presents them. None the less this, in either case, represents substantive future disruption.

Debt

Millennial debt, a lack of money management skills and a limited understanding of how to build value. And the startling absence of how to develop their self-reliance has to be a concern. This situation will inevitably prompt money lenders to make more debt-based products.  In turn this will undoubtedly increase individual debt burdens. This debt will change the property market as home ownership will almost certainly continue to decline. People will expect to be perpetually in debt.

Taxation 

Taxation increase, per capita in developed countries will become much higher. Cost of living will continue to rise. Governments will be essentially less solvent, and surplus income will likely stop becoming an objective (due to its almost impossible attainability). Baby boomers and Gen Z will be most likely to liquidate their assets during their lifetime due to the expected retirement circumstances changing. So only 20%, or less will have substantive estates.

Brain Drain 

A prevalent and pervasive skills deficit will mean that retirement expectations will diminish for Generation X’s because millennials and Gen Z will have less inclination and insufficient skill sets to inherit many skilled roles. Already most countries are raising the retirement age.  Likely to be exacerbated by the influx of more unskilled workers. On top of this there will be technology shortcomings meaning further dependence on less-skilled workers.

Social 

Bipolarity between low paid options will be a massive social challenge (highly qualified, student debt, working perpetually as baristas). A middle cohort of older professionals who continue to have none of their earlier aspirations of a ‘lifestyle’ because they will be much in demand and possibly will be overworked. Then there will be a more remote uber-wealthy class who can sustain their positions by mutual interdependency with each other.  Mostly because of tradition and legitimate self-preservation purposes. This gap will almost inevitably lead to less social freedom, more legal and legislative controls and higher regulation.

Political

Current events within the global political sphere are undoubtedly challenging.  It is no underestimation to state that the implications and impact on all sectors will be significant. Now more than ever it is vital to understand not just what is happening or what the potential impact on any given industry sector is. What’s most critical is to understand what options are available to your organisation.

The future looks interesting; it is not all bad news; many opportunities are prevailing for those who mobilise to ‘rearguard’ risk and capitalise on their advancement.

There are many measures and countermeasures and challenging every assumption is important.  Every opportunity must be analysed and every decision must be made against a much more stringent focus on how the circumstances will continue to move and change faster and faster and to truly succeed it is vital to have to keep constant vigil in every direction.

By Darrell West

Intelligence is just knowing…

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A trigger happy glaring gap in thinking

By | Opinion

Technology solutions are great but you really need to think.

“Yes, you have information. You can find out all about a man, track him down, keep an eye on him. But you have to look him in the eye. All the tech you have can’t help you with that. A license to kill also means a license NOT to kill”.

– Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Mallory, Spectre

It is very common for companies to search for a hi-tech solution which will solve our intelligence and decision-making problems.

Technology in this sector is sold as smart, pretty and the easy option. It’s not.

Now, we believe technology is an essential part of the process (we are building something, so we are not hypocrites). But it’s just that; part of the intelligence process.

Jumping straight to technology shows a glaring gap in thinking.

Why? Well, a decision by competitors, regulators and every other living human originate as an idea from someone’s mind.

To understand the situation you face you need to look deeper. Technology will not tell you why a decision was made, what will happen next and what you are going to do about it. It will not get into the minds of your competitors. Intelligence does.

It can’t even make a decent cup of tea never mind deciding to pull the proverbial trigger or not.

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London Property brick and trowel

What the heck is wrong with the property market?

By | Opinion

Brexit, the London Property Market & What Can Be Done

An unprecedented environmental change will inevitably lead to unprecedented events within the property sector.

Brexit’s effects on the property market so far have been just that, unprecedented.

As the possible deadline of March 29th draws closer and for that matter any extension therein, the compounding effects upon the London property market become more evident.

And the uncertainty in the market is growing undoubtedly more exposed.

UBS analysts have noted that in previous cycles of property downturn, a London downturn had preceded a decline in the broader UK market.

However, this time this appears not to be the case. The London market downturn is happening while regions of the UK continue to grow.

What are the possible reasons for this?

A Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) market survey uncovered three significant points regarding the London Property Market;

1. Compared to regionally, London respondents report the most significant fall in house prices (RICS September 2018)

2. Negative price trends across London with price softening being led by London (RICS January 2019)

3. Buyers are now more cautious, and new buyer enquires gauge fell to -21% in November 2018 (RICS November 2018)

These three key points demonstrate how the uncertainty generated by Brexit has spilt over into the property market in the capital. However, as previously mentioned this remains isolated to London.

The same report indicates that regions in the North and Midlands of the UK are on the rise. It poses the question of what is different in the UK market, or more importantly why?

What is driving sales and prices up in these other areas of the UK?

Considering the RICS report, we can extrapolate that the UK buyer mindset is currently tending more towards caution. Coupling this with the naturally high prices of the London property market could explain the drop in interest.

However, the same report states that the rental market is currently booming. A point reinforced through Gov.UK figures which show London private rental increasing 1.6% compared the rest of England.

Demonstrating there is still an opportunity to be had in the London market. However, the wrong market could be being targeted.

To compound the problem of wrong markets being targeted are the London mortgage lending patterns. Gov.UK state a major issue in new buyers in the capital is the loan to income ratio.

The Bank of England will only permit 15% of lenders new mortgages of a ratio which exceeds 4.5. With the average first-time buyer having a ratio of 4.04 (movers 4.01) and as this is on an upward trend the issue is certain to persist for private buyers.

Essentially this means if intending buyers can’t borrow. Also, they can’t buy, which opens up a pipeline for developers and estate agents alike.

Will synergy help?

Is synergy possible with mortgage brokers? Or could a second option explored of an extended London market rent to buy scheme?

However, this again suggests a shift of the targeted market for the purchasing of London property.

Multiple developers in the capital are seeing uptakes in business. For example, Derwent London has raised its dividend as it starts to make the most of the commercial property market.

Further external investors have started to quietly enter the market for London properties. In particular, German real estate giant Grand City Properties SA. They have recently undergone a property buying spree. One of which was a purchase of 117 apartments in 159-uni Hill House. Their current investment alone is present at 800 properties as of February 2019 (Independent 2019).

There are opportunities within the London market

There are demonstrable signs that there is development opportunity in London.  And further that there are still parties that are more than interested in London properties. However, a perspective change may have to take place.

Secondly, what you need to consider are developers activities when they conduct on the ground post-purchase.

UK developers should take note and monitor these signs. In particular, market leading FTSE 100 giants are currently tanking more than 20%. Persimmon has seen a rise in sales. However, this is predicated in the help to buy scheme. Fears surrounding the continuation of this has again recognised the giants share price fall.

This proposes interesting questions. What is it that these developers plan on doing, or are doing? And which is being missed by the significant host of national developers?

One theory is the commercial property. However, a more realistic thought is that they may be turning properties of a different ilk to residential properties.  To meet the differentiation of supply and demand in the capital.

So what effect will this have on the post-Brexit landscape in London?

Uncertainty could also mean opportunity

Naturally this uncertainty and seeming negative environmental pressures are causing problems for business operating in the market. However, within uncertainty opportunities are very much available. Provided it is backedup with the correct industry knowledge.

All firms associated with the market, be they estate agents, mortgage brokers, developers etc. need to recognise that although the market appears is on a downward trend. The correct application of industry and competitor knowledge could catapult them into market dominance.

This is because with industry knowledge business can start to identify consumer pain points associated with the property market.  Then allow them to start to plan actionable plans to address these and re-stimulate growth.

To gain this insight, however, will take expertise.

Be Powered by Intelligence

Utilising Intelligence services can leverage key industry consumer and macro environmental insights to construct an exceptional value proposition for customers.  And thus, a sustained competitive advantage in a market which is currently stagnating and falling.

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Intelligence briefings

By | Opinion

When developing a senior management intelligence briefing, the writer must understand what interests them. Sounds obvious, but I have seen real examples of reports from the military in the field which were not read by anyone. 6 months and many millions of pounds spent before anyone noticed the information was no longer required. Also, you need to understand how much detail the reader wants to see.

Otherwise, the reader will gain no value from it. Do they want specific information? Alternatively, do they prefer a “high altitude” strategic level briefing with an ability to ask more detailed questions? The intelligence brief should not be a regurgitation of media reports with associated hyperlinks. The brief requires thought not just media monitoring software. Leaders should ensure that the first thing they do each day/week is to study their intelligence briefing. It should form what they are doing and deciding that day/week.

However, there are still companies who don’t use intelligence and rely on instinct and experience. Riding a bike blindfolded carrying a box of fresh eggs is easy to do until they hit a pothole in the road or have to turn a corner: bumps, bruises and egg on their face.

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Are products circling to the bottom?

By | Opinion

Are products circling to the bottom? Have you noticed that a company comes out with a great new product or a musician has a smash hit album, and their customers love it?

Then their competitors start the race to copy what they have done? This copying may explain the number of Ed Sheeran clones around at the moment and why Apple is between a rock and a hard place.

The trouble is with this plagiarism becomes the industry standard very quickly, and the reduced impact on the then delighted customer. They shrug their shoulders and get on with it.

So then, the company with the original idea has a set of customers with even higher expectations and thus have to innovate to keep up.

Intelligence helps companies like this to jump three steps ahead of the competition, isolate weaknesses in current offerings and predict what is going to happen in the future.

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Change is risky

By | Opinion

Great ideas take time to establish themselves. According to Seth Godin in this excellent new book, ‘This is Marketing’, it is because the best ideas require significant change. They fly in the face of the status quo and inertia is very powerful.

Great ideas create a lot of noise and distrust. He says “Change is risky and that’s why some companies want others to go first to test the water.”

Smart companies use intelligence to reduce uncertainty and the consequences of risk allowing you to have a clear head to make better decisions. Intelligence can also determine how successful your great idea could be before committing millions and risking brand and reputation. Intelligence tells it how it is and provides a bedrock of certainty upon which to build decision making and future proofing strategies.

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Cyber security mega-breaches on the horizon?

By | Opinion

Security breaches typically with vast cost to a company. Even a mid-size organisation can rack up multiple millions to rectify damage from just one breach.

Data breaches are even more expensive, triggering sudden lack of trust in customers, which can take years to regain. Depending on location, fines can add to the cost. In the UK, for example, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is sharpening its claws, preparing to fine offending companies, punishing them while swelling the Treasury coffers.

Smaller, but significant, breaches may not even hit the headlines

In 2019 we will see more mega-breaches. It is likely that this will, ironically, mean that smaller, but significant, breaches may not even hit the headlines, to some extent “normalising” the event.

With all the cyber security available there is one weakness that cannot be managed by automation: people. People will continue to make mistakes and people will continue to be repetitive and lazy in the way they do things.

The biggest threat, however, is not the individuals that form a user or customer base – it is the apathetic approach of many business leaders, the belief that “it” won’t happen to us”, because they have the latest cyber security system. Cyber security systems are all very well, but is naïve to over-rely on them.

They only have to be lucky once

Hackers will always be one step ahead. They know what they are going to do and how they intend to break in. As with terrorists, hackers just need to be lucky once, whilst the authorities need to be lucky every time.

Yes, businesses should have software with the best bells and whistles, but their security professionals will next year need to actively go on the attack, and be more vigilant than ever in analysing the latest hacking trends.

An Intelligence led approach to Cyber Security is required for 2019.

Ask questions like:

So what?
How are they going to hack into your system?
Why they would want to steal your information?
Who will want to hack into the system?
What do we do to stop them?