Today, 9th of August 2017, marks ten years since the beginning of the financial crisis which had devastating effects in the life of thousands and thousands of people around the world and filled the pockets (even more) of a few privileged people.
Back in 2007 I was about to become a freshman at University as classes were about to start in a few weeks’ time. I was 23 years old, determined to give my absolute best, focused and motivated.
I went to University a bit later than most people do but life happened that way for me and that’s fine. What matters is that despite all the adversity, I went and I graduated.
In July 2007 I was partying hard in Ibiza with three of my friends and we had the best time together. Memories I will cherish forever.
However, I don’t recall having heard anything about a financial crisis, all I knew was something about a Wall Street crash back in 1920-something and obviously, that subject was completely outside of my radar. Investments? Banks? Nah. Not a subject for me. It wasn't until Lehman Brothers collapsed that I remember the general panic and that things really started to look bad. Or maybe I was just not paying attention before.
I completed High School with a Diploma
in Pottery and Ceramics. At University, studied Marketing, Advertising and PR because
at 23 years old I finally decided I wanted to be a copywriter.
I wanted to be the person that writes ads and creates content; I wanted to surrender myself to my artistic vein, to allow for my creativity to fully blossom and develop. I had come to the conclusion that my path was an artistic one and it was time to embrace my future. I had it all figured out. Even when I got pregnant with my daughter during the second semester at Uni, I carried on.
I took a gap year (school year of 2008/2009) because birth was scheduled for December so I couldn’t attend the January exams relating to courses beginning in September. It was the wise thing to do.
When I returned to Uni for my second year (2009/2010) my motivation was stronger than ever. I now had the cutest tiny little human who would be looking up to me and to everything I’d do, she depended on me and it was my duty to ensure all her needs were taken care of. I started to do everything with her in mind and solely having her best interests at heart. And that’s when things changed.
Things were not good at home and that’s as far as I will go in relation to exposing that part of my life. The only thing I’ll say is this: the worst things got, the stronger my motivation to succeed would get.
As part of my course, I needed to attend a Business class. It was only one semester but that Professor gave us two separate classes so in some ways they were linked. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I had two business classes the same semester.
A few lessons into the class and I felt like I had seen God. What on Earth had I been doing studying arts all my life because that was so not the right path for me.
I landed a job at a Bank shortly after that and from there on, I became determined to learn as much as I could on my own because switching courses to Business or Economics was not an option. I didn’t had the funds and didn’t want to feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life. Especially when I had to take into consideration that I went to Uni later than usual.
I did countless online courses on platforms like Coursera and some of them were so daunting and full of jargon – not to mention the fact they were all in English – so I actually had to repeat a few of them until I could grasp what they were on about.
I started reading the Financial Times so I could understand what was happening in the financial world. I took advantage of a few colleagues that were much more knowledgeable than me to ask questions and learn from them. I became an avid reader of a Portuguese Business newspaper and slowly things started to fall into place and words I had no idea what they meant before, I now recognized and understand them.
I did all of this while looking after a new born, whilst working and whilst attending University. Talk about will power. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did it nonetheless.
I have been working in this industry for nearly 10 years now. I have seen people come and people go. I am blessed to be able to work in an industry that I genuinely love. There is not a single day that goes like the previous one. Everything changes at an incredible pace and if you stop, you become obsolete.
Ten years on since the beginning of the financial crisis, have we learned anything?
I hope so. I see firms committed to give the example from the top; there is more regulation; there is more awareness.
Do I believe that it will happen again? Unfortunately yes but maybe not as the ones we’ve seen before. The financial services industry business is the money business and the goal is to make even more money using someone else’s money. It’s called an “investment” and it can go right or wrong. You risk what you can afford to lose.
The problem with that statement is that the majority of people that cannot afford to lose are usually the ones that end up losing everything even though they have never placed a penny in an investment.
It starts with a family member losing its job. Then, one bill gets left behind, then another and by the time you realise you’re receiving a letter from the Bank saying you’re facing your home is being repossessed.
It’s scary to witness how the financial crisis has long been forgotten by the industry and yet it’s the complete opposite for consumers. People that ten years on, on a daily basis still worry about a new potential crash and what effect will it have – again – on their families and how will they cope.
It’s a cruel business the money business so I guess it’s totally legitimate for people to ask me why am I in it? How can I associate myself with such practices? The answer is simple. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. No matter how small. I believe in fairness and in righteousness. I believe in doing the right thing so I don’t mind being associated with such industry because if more of us believe in the same thing as me, maybe one day, thinking about a financial crisis where people are left to starve and homeless for no fault of their own will sound surreal and impossible.
Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this. I have met so many great people, so many professionals that are a tribute to this industry and profession.
I act in a way I know I will never have to bow my head in shame and in a way
that it won’t disappoint my family and have their values judged by others due
to my actions. I will never act in a way that will make Diana ashamed of being
my daughter. I will always do what my heart tells me is the right thing to do.
One can dream and, so far, all my dreams have come true.
Like I said. Motivation.
As most of you are probably aware, I work in a Pensions and Asset Management firm and have a role in the Compliance Department.
Sometimes is hard for me to explain to people what Compliance is (most of the time they confuse it with Complaints) so I just tend to say that I work in the Legal and Regulatory Department of the firm as it’s easier for people to have an idea and understand better my line of work.
To clarify this a little bit better, Compliance basically is the Department in charge of analysing the regulatory requirements for the industry, keep up with any changes (trust me, there’s a lot aaaallll the time!) and ultimately ensure those are effectively implemented internally and that every department is compliant with said imposed regulations.
Sounds boring? It actually isn’t – well, not for me anyway. I get bored very easily, my attention span is very reduced if I’m not doing something interesting or that captivates me and I believe that’s the reason why the financial services industry is a perfect fit for me because every day is different. There is always something changing, there is always something new, there is always a new challenge. Additionally, you are only told about the outcome not the process in which you have to do this so this allows me to use my creativity. It's the cherry on top for me.
The challenge I came across this morning was an article by the National Audit Office (I receive their newsletters) in relation to Online Fraud and the first paragraph was “Fraud is the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales and most happens online.”
This got me thinking that scams are everywhere and it is true that the amount of people that can’t identify an online fraud is alarmingly high and it's worryingly above what should be classed as acceptable.
In 2016, up to 30th September, there was an estimated 1.9 MILLION “cyber-related” fraud incidents. 623 THOUSAND were actual fraud incidents recorded and this carries and estimated loss to individuals of £10 BILLION.
So how can you keep yourself safe?
Do you use the internet? Here’s a few things you can do to keep you safe:
1. Make sure you have an active firewall and anti-virus and that these are updated and monitored frequently.
2. If you use online banking, DON’T GOOGLE YOUR BANK, instead write the website address on the top bar completely. Banks update their systems every day for security reasons, by accessing via Google you could potentially be accessing a website with previous security settings.
3. If you shop online (like most of us do) and you spot a nice dress on a sponsored ad on Facebook by a firm you've never heard of before and it re-directs you to a website with a ton of cute dresses and shoes and it’s like heaven on earth, make a google search of the firm before you purchase anything. Check for the security lock on the left top side of the page which will guarantee you that the website has encryption and your debit/credit card details are safe. It's a light green padlock icon and says "Secure" just before the website address.
4. DON’T TAKE COLD CALLS. Cold calls (or unsolicited calls) from financial services firms are mostly banned and not allowed UNLESS you already have a business relationship with that firm. There are some additional rules surrounding these but bottom line is, if someone calls you to sell you something, to speak to you about investing money, or saying you were missold PPI or they know you have been in an accident, the safest thing to do is hung up .
5. PROTECT YOUR ELDERLY FAMILY MEMBERS. There is a gigantic number relating to Pension fraud and I have seen first-hand people losing all their money in pension transfer scams.
6. The Financial Conduct Authority – regulator of the financial services in the UK – has several tools available for consumers to use and abuse. http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/ has a lot of relevant information available. Here you can learn the warning signs for investment scams. If you’re looking to invest money, find were you can get impartial advice. Additionally, you can also check the FCA warning list that details the name of firms known to defraud people.
7. USE THE SCAMSMART. If it’s difficult for you to use this facility, contact your Bank/Building Society or contact the FCA consumer helpline on the number 0800 111 6768 (freephone) or 0300 500 8082 from the UK, or + 44 207 066 1000 from abroad. The line is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm.
8. DON’T RUSH INTO ANY FINANCIAL DECISIONS OVER THE PHONE. Scammers tend to use pressure in order to make you rush into a decision without having the time to rationalize over it. Don’t fall for it.
9. If you receive a phone call saying it’s from your bank and they give you the number of the branch for you to contact back in case you want to double check the veracity of the call, don’t use that number. Use the number YOU HAVE for your bank. Usually scammers are on the other side of the line waiting for your call.
10.ASK HELP/ADVICE. There is no shame in asking for help if you’re unsure about something, especially when it comes to your hard working earned money.
11.THINK SMART. IF SOMETHING SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT USUALLY IS.
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A recent scam that has been making people to be a victim of fraud comes via e-mail. People receive what appears to be an invoice of music recently purchased on the iTunes store.
Below it says “To cancel your purchase within 14 days of receiving this invoice, go to Cancel andx Manage Subscriptions ”(yes, it even comes with a spelling error).
Bottom line is: no one will detect a spelling mistake as all they’re worries about it “I have been a victim of fraud”. So the first thing they do is to click on the link where the bank details are requested to confirm where to send the monies too. Once you put those details in, instead of seeing a refund on your account, you’re likely to see your account being drained.
Here’s a print screen of an e-mail I personally received last year. I know the same scam is still going strong as one of my colleagues received the same one last week which can only mean that a lot of people fall for it.
So, what caused me to suspect this specific e-mail?
Well, you’ll be surprised to know that I almost feel for it. I clicked on the link for the refund and it was only when I clicked on it that alarm bells ring for me. I went back to check the e-mail address of the sender “Apple™ <firstname.lastname@example.org>” and realised there and then that it was a scam. Out of precaution I changed my Apple ID password, reported it to Apple and moved on.
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If you have any questions on this topic or would like for me to write more about this subject don’t hesitate to contact me. I happily talk about this all day :)