Talent, AI and COVID

Appearing in May 2022 issue of In The Black magazine

Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World
By Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross
St Martin’s Press

Recruiting and managing creative people is a different process than that used for people with technical skills, according to Cowen and Gross, who have been studying and consulting on the issue for many years. In this book they provide advice on how to understand an applicant’s thought processes and willingness to embrace new thinking. In the interview, they suggest examining what the person does in their after-hours time. Non-work activities are more likely to reveal personality than the dry lists of a CV. In fact, the interview should be more of a free-flowing discussion than a structured Q&A. There is an appendix of questions that might help to assess creativity and work attitudes.

Very creative people can sometimes be difficult to work with, so there might be a need to re-consider job design and supervision arrangements. Along the way, Cowen and Gross discuss how to effectively conduct online interviews, and how recruiting creative women differs from recruiting creative men. In terms of managing and retaining creative people, the key is keeping them stimulated and challenged, with rewards that are appropriate to the individual. All this takes effort and innovation from the employer but the returns can be well worth the investment.

Artificial Intelligence for Asset Management and Investment: A Strategic Perspective
By Al Naqvi
Wiley

Naqvi is the CEO of the American Institute of Artificial Intelligence so he is understandably enthusiastic about the whole subject of AI. In this book he argues that few companies operating in the investment space are properly using AI, and he has good points to make about the capacity of AI systems to scan huge amounts of information, finding anomalies and patterns. This can form the basis of investment strategy and risk management. He claims, for example, that the Institute’s AI system predicted the COVID-19 pandemic through scattered mentions of a viral outbreak in China.

At the same time, AI can generate vast improvements in asset use and customer relations. AI can, he says, turn virtually all aspects of business into a science. He offers a model for adopting AI across company operations, including execution aspects.

Naqvi acknowledges that many senior managers might be reluctant to turn over large sections of the business to a computer system. He is dismissive of such concerns, taking the view that those who do not accept AI will be left behind by those who do. This tone can be a bit grating, but nevertheless the book offers important insights into a critical emerging field.

Pacific Accounting Review: Accounting and finance lessons in the time of COVID: Views from the Pacific (volume 33, number 2)
Edited by David Ding, Julie Harrison, Martien Lubberink, and Chris van Staden
Emerald Publishing

This e-book special issue of Pacific Accounting Review brings together a collection of articles looking at how the finance profession in the region has dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. It covers a wide range of topics, from accounting for support provided by governments to provisioning standards to insolvencies arising from the pandemic. Several articles deal with taxation issues and accounting regulations, and there are pieces dealing with auditing and the non-profit sector. On the investment side, research shows that the usual strategy of diversification was ineffective, as there were no ‘safe havens’ on the investment spectrum. In relation to subsidies provided to companies, there are issues for chief finance officers, especially in cases where the impact of the pandemic was relatively minor.

Several articles look ahead to the period in which the pandemic winds down, and consider paths for long-term reform. This is particularly relevant in the recognition of tax losses, while there are other questions relating to sustainability reporting.

There is a follow-up issue of Pacific Accounting Review (volume 33, number 5) which discusses the impact that the pandemic has had on global economies and assesses the role that the financial sector has played in managing the crisis.

Downloadable Resources

Banking on it

The annual examination of the banking sector by consulting giant McKinsey has found a mixed picture, with the leaders doing well despite the pandemic while the lower half failed to cover their cost of equity. Nevertheless, the general picture is better than was expected two years ago, with the dislocation being less than that flowing from the Global Financial Crisis.

But there have been many indirect effects. Digital banking accelerated, cash use fell, savings expanded, remote became a way of working, and sustainability has moved up the priorities list. These are the key challenges for the sector going forward.

Download the report from:
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/global-banking-annual-review

Leadership talk

In this useful podcast series, leadership coach Dan Haesler interviews a range of eminent Australians, mostly from the business community but with a leavening of other specialists. For example, the interview with neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett on how brain functioning affects decision-making is a fascinating one. The podcasts are unstructured, often sounding more like a friendly chat than a detailed discussion. But overall the approach is successful. Episodes that are well worth catching are the interview with journalist Stan Grant on leadership, a conversation on the difference between coaching and mentoring, and how leaders should respond to the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Listen at:
https://www.podcast.habitsofleadership.com

Analytics

The Melbourne Business School and management consulting firm Kearney have released the fourth edition of their annual Analytics Impact Index report. The annual survey looks at more than 300 global companies across 35 industries, with a focus on sustainability. The findings show that those companies that have implemented analytics to optimise processes have reduced waste or emissions by 39 per cent. However, most companies are still unclear about the link between environmental sustainability and analytics. There has been a small drop in the number of companies considered Leaders and Explorers, while the percentage of Followers and Laggards has increased.

Download from:
https://mbs.edu/news/How-companies-are-using-analytics-to-tackle-sustainability

Nice work

Recruitment firm Michael Page has released its regular report on the best-paying jobs and sectors in Australia. In the finance field, the best-paying jobs are: Chief Financial Officer, with an average salary of $280,000; Investment Director in a large-cap fund ($300,000); Head of Operations in a resources company ($325,000); and Chief Technology Officer ($330,000).

The report notes that despite the upheavals caused by the coronavirus pandemic, employment growth has remained surprisingly strong. However, growth in the gig economy and the adoption of hybrid and flexible arrangements are likely to be permanent features of the work picture.

For further information, go to:
https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/market-insights/industry-reports/top-10-highest-paying-jobs-australia-2022

Reducing carbon

This TED Talk is a mix of entertainment and information, with climate strategist Gabrielle Walker discussing ideas for reducing atmospheric carbon. Planting more trees is simple and effective, as is using wood as a building material instead of emissions-heavy concrete. Spreading ground-up basalt on fields is surprisingly useful, and geosequestration is a well-tested process. A new proposal called air capture shows promise, and breeding animals that promote tree growth by foraging is an idea that can be readily scaled. The best ideas, says Walker, marry technology and natural processes, and the result is likely to be a portfolio of options.

Watch at:
https://www.ted.com/talks/gabrielle_walker_woolly_pigs_high_tech_and_other_ingenious_ways_to_take_carbon_out_of_the_air

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