Conflict Analysis October 30, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Political risk , add a comment
It’s not often you see an opportunity to get engaged with a political risk organization in its relatively early days but I recently met Will Goodhind, the founder of conflictanalysis.org. Will’s background is in defence and the military but he is now studying for a masters in security studies at UCL. . . oh, and rolling out a political risk charity that provides reports on some of the key flashpoints in the world’s conflict.
Right now reports are being prepared on ten different countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Sudan and Tajikistan.) that will give structured political and security analyses. There is also a political events newsletter and an opportunities newsletter. Both of these free publications have developed quite a following as a resource of information for career development and networking opportunities. So there is nothing to lose by registering. Send an email to email@example.com with either ‘Opportunities’ or ‘Events’ in the heading
If you want to get involved Will also invites you to send a CV and short letter outlining any previous experience and especially any regional experience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. As well as regional analysis Will also may have opportunities for those wanting to get involved in areas such as marketing, business development and IT (a lot of the reports will be available on the web).
Risk and Insurance July 19, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Political risk, insurance , 1 comment so far
*** Update 22 March 2013 *** RSA Internship Applications closed on 15 March – watch out for next year’s programme ***
em>The summer of 2009 was not a great time to be trying to get an internship in the City of London. The financial crisis was swamping the banks and many banking professionals were switching over to other parts of the financial services sector. At that time Jakub Chalupczak was a second year statistics student at UCL, looking for an internship to boost his chances of getting on to a reputable graduate training scheme.
Jakub now works at RSA Insurance Group, one of the world’s leading multinational quoted insurance groups, as a Graduate Underwriter. We talked to him at RSA’s office on Leadenhall Street in the City of London about how the crisis led him in an unexpected direction, his current role and how he got there.
What led you to consider an insurance career?
The financial services crisis of 2009 meant it was a difficult time to be looking for an internship, but using the UCL JobOnline resource I found a summer job with an insurance broker. I had never considered an insurance career before but was attracted to this role as it carried great level of responsibility and was located in the City of London, the largest insurance market in the world.
This turned out to be a great experience and made me consider insurance as a long-term career. Towards the end of my internship I asked a senior colleague in the brokerage firm for advice on reputable graduate schemes within the industry and he recommended the RSA graduate scheme – which I went on to research and apply for. And that’s how I ended up here!
What is it about the sector that engaged you?
I love the fact that no two days are ever the same. There’s lots of variety, with different insurance propositions coming in from places, and each representing a new challenge. To find an insurance solution to these challenges, I have to use my intelligence –analytical and numerical skills are absolutely key to what I do.
The job also involves meeting lots of different types of people – one day you might be out of the office meeting brokers, for example, while another you could be presenting to senior people within the business.
So what is it you do exactly?
RSA is a general insurer and the team I work in handles commercial property insurance – hotels, shops, restaurants, offices, that kind of thing. Each morning, I get contacted by insurance brokers who are working on behalf of commercial property owners who have property that requires insurance. This could be anything from a hotel in Turkey to a windfarm or a factory somewhere. To calculate the insurance solution, though, we have to know a lot about the proposition and take into account any risk factors around it – this includes lots of factors such as the potential for burglary, outbreak of war or how many other insured properties we have in that area. To work out whether we should offer insurance and at what price involves analytical work – looking at the past history of certain types of property, the crime rate in any city or part of a city, the risk of incidences like earthquakes and, of course, the condition of the property. It is my responsibility to work through these issues and get us to a solution and, since graduating, I have been taking professional insurance exams on the job which help me with this.
What was the recruitment process for RSA like?
Fairly quick – from start to finish, it took around a month. Like many graduate programmes, it involved completing an initial application form, a range of verbal and numerical online tests and role plays and interviews at an assessment centre day.
Was it tough?
I was really well prepared, so it wasn’t as tough as it might have been. It did show me how tough competitive the jobs market is, though; one guy had already made a lot of money through running an online gambling site, and another had heaps of experience with a consultancy before deciding to retrain. Frankly if I hadn’t taken the whole job search seriously I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
What did you do to prepare?
My internship experience was invaluable as it gave me something really tangible to draw upon in my interviews. In addition to my degree and the extracurricular stuff I’d been doing – such as ‘life saving’, which taught me to be calm in a crisis – I had lots of real life examples and experiences to talk about and which I’m sure helped set me apart from the competition . I also used the careers service a lot – for practice interviews, CV checking, job search and I got a lot from a Focus on Management course I completed at University.
Employers sometimes say university doesn’t prepare you for the world of work. What’s your take on that?
The course I did was crucial to the job I do now, so I’d disagree with that. It gave me the economic grounding I needed, taught me how to solve problems logically and also gave me the tools I need to work as part of a team as well as on my own initiative – which is an important skill you can take to any job.
Finally, Jakub, what are your top tips for current students?
• Do consider insurance. It’s a great ‘City’ career, with opportunities to work with people across different parts of the business. There are also chances to travel; I’ve already been to Belgium and the Netherlands and once my training programme is completed I could potentially spend more time overseas.
• Prepare. Research the company, the role, take advantage of the careers service at university and practice your interview techniques with friends or family. Keep up-to-date on what is happening in the profession by reading the news every day – especially the business pages of the national newspapers and the financial news pages.
• Look critically at your CV. Make sure you have a good breadth of experience – internships, part time jobs, extracurricular activities – which will give you lots of experience to talk about at interviews.
With a 300 year heritage, RSA is one of the world’s leading multinational quoted insurance groups. RSA has major operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe and writes business in around 140 countries. RSA employs around 23,000 people and offers internships as well as an annual graduate trainee scheme. More details can be found at: www.rsagroup.com/rsagroup/en/careers
Political Risk – by the numbers May 28, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Political risk, networking , add a comment
While Seán Doyle was studying his Masters in International Peace and Security at King’s College London he admits he would have had to be dragged forcibly into professional accountancy. Yet two years later he is a graduate trainee with KPMG in London and studying for professional exams with the ICAEW. He has surprised himself by how interesting he finds it and his mother is delighted! We talked to Seán about how this change came about.
Seán, what made you consider accountancy? After leaving King’s I went into a more typical role from the War Studies cohort and became an armed forces analyst with IHS Jane’s. I was especially focused on corruption in Eastern and Central Europe and while I enjoyed it and was able to be effective I started to get lost when I reached the numbers. I think I realised in the long term not being at ease around the numbers was going to be a significant limitation on my professional skills.
What does your work involve? Technically I’m a ‘graduate trainee’ – in other words I’m on the graduate training programme. I was able to do this because they consider all graduates regardless of how long they have been out of university. I am based in the ‘Investigations and Compliance’ section which is part of KPMG Risk Consulting’s Forensic Accountancy Practice. A major part of our work involves ensuring that fraud is prevented or detected. London is really a good place to be for this work, not so much because the place is full of criminals but because it’s a big financial centre which means money moved from one country often passes through London before reaching its final destination – money laundering is always a danger. The court system is also safe and predictable. This means that firms with interests in developing countries will often prefer to take commercial disputes (and the investigations arising from them) to London rather than keeping them in their home country. All this means we deal with some big cases. I really think that if I’d stayed in Dublin I would have had to work for 40 years and have a lot of luck to get involved with the level of cases I’m dealing with here as a trainee. I have to look at lots of material to detect unusual processes and patterns that would alert us to problems or provide evidence of wrong doing. This could mean anything from ploughing through 2 million emails to reviewing thousands of mortgage agreements. I have to make assessments about this information and, where necessary, create an understandable narrative about what it is telling us about companies or individuals. This has to be understood by non-specialists. Most especially by judges, but also by the victim so that they can take measures to prevent the fraud from re-occuring. You have to stay alert and use your knowledge and analytical skills to pick up on things that could be easily missed. Of course we are often up against people who are very motivated themselves. In one recent case our investigations seemed to hit a brick wall because the person whose assets we were investigating had them all tied up in a divorce case. On further investigation it turned out that he had been conveniently divorcing the same woman several times over the years – and it always seemed to coincide with a financial investigation. We do come across the occasional ‘cartoon criminal’ like this.
It would be very unusual find a classic ‘smoking gun’, much more typical would be building a full picture over a time and connecting apparently disparate things together.
How did your academic background prepare you for this? In a general way by developing my writing and research skills but more specifically by providing me with language skills (I studied Russian and my work focuses on Eastern Europe); and modules on things like Law and governance. For example I wrote essays and articles on the UN Security Council which indirectly helped me understand how people construct legal arguments around decisions that aren’t that clear cut in reality. My modules on governance really helped with the compliance aspect of my job which has a focus on rules and attitudes around compliance issues and the training needed. Other subjects I studied included wartime journalism which has a clear relevance in terms of the writing I have to do.
In a more general sense there is a real parallel between the motivation I had for researching in the academic arena and research in the practical way I conduct it for KPMG. In both domains I see that I am motivated to get through material to understand what is really going on.
Where there is a gap is the whole area around numbers. It’s not something that is covered on the masters course especially.
Why KPMG? Well they do consider people from a wide range of backgrounds and they support you in training around ‘the numbers’ from scratch. So, amazingly, I am now studying for the ICAEW exams (Chartered Accountancy) – and finding it more interesting than I had ever imagined. It was also important for me that I was able to access the support they are able to offer. They really want you to get through the professional exams and they know that if you fail one of the exams more than once then it’s game over. So far I’ve been okay. Even with the tax module – which I find hard to be positive about – I was able to get through. So the fact they give you practice exams and revision time meant a lot to me.
What tips for those considering this kind of career? Well if you are applying for KPMG make sure you are motivated to do the job. By the time you get to final interview they will have worked out if you are intelligent enough and have the right experience. The final interview really tests whether you are motivated to do the job and involves presenting a case study. It isn’t that difficult for them to tell whether you have prepared this thoroughly and are able to demonstrate a genuine interest. The interviewers will really grill you on this because they do want to see if you can think on your feet. They also want to see whether you will fit in with the culture of the firm. So do have a look at the company values and have an honest look to see if they really resonate with you.
A few more tips I found useful
- Do consider this as a career. I rejected it flat out before I knew about it but there is a real connection between my subject and this work.
- Do less applications but do them better. Tired people put in tired applications.
- CVs – customise them. It’s usually obvious when you haven’t. Consider for example is your language skill relevant? Often it will be. So give it more prominence in your skills section. I also tend to recommend a profile early on in the CV to highlight your key selling points
- Use your careers service. I was lucky in my department, they really got on our case about using careers and I did I found it very helpful both for CV checking and the practice interview they gave me. Typically in the careers library you come across material by accident as well which really reinforces my message about being open minded.
- Network. Again we had lots of events which enabled us to meet people but you can use things like LinkedIn to network. People like me aren’t in a position to give out jobs but we do have useful things to tell you. I think people avoid it through a fear of rejection. The best way to make sure you get a positive response is really reading the profile of the person you are communicating with and finding a legitimate point of connection. I wouldn’t be very motivated just to help people I don’t know who just want a job.
- Check your online profile. Even if recruiters don’t check your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts (though they sometimes do) your colleagues most likely will and you want to make sure you present a professional profile.
- Don’t take it personally. Sometimes recruiters make mistakes and sometimes in a rejection there are things for you to learn. In either case you mustn’t get discouraged.
THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT THE OPINION OF KPMG UK LLP
Political Risk and the London insurance market May 11, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : AON, Political risk, The Careers Group Blogs, london, politics , add a comment
“Political risk is a significant feature of the London insurance market, which is the world’s number one market for international insurance and reinsurance.” My interview with Caspar Bartington of the CII was going splendidly I thought. I was visiting Caspar because I’ve just started careers work with Queen Mary College, University of London and he has been there a couple of times for careers events
Why doesn’t political risk have a higher profile amongst students? There are a number of reasons. Insurance is a hidden gem – it has a perception problem that means it is misunderstood by most students. On top of that, sector employers don’t recruit in the same way as other financial companies. There aren’t, for example, as many structured placements and companies don’t attend that many careers fairs, although the CII does plenty of student sessions each year. People tend to hear about schemes and opportunities through personal and professional networks more than careers fairs and directories. Having said that, lots of students and graduates have found their way in to the profession and it is a competitive sector to break into.
So do all insurance companies have a political risk section? Many companies will have a political risk expert but only a few will have specialist teams. Aon is one such company, and indeed its graduate scheme allows some new entrants to spend six months in the kidnap and ransom division as well as other placements in more calm areas such as fine art! Aon also has a summer placement scheme so they are worth getting to know well.
Would students be at a disadvantage if they were too clearly focused on political risk as an option to the exclusion of considering other areas of the insurance business? Well I think an interest in, and knowledge of, political risk as a feature of insurance would be an excellent platform for any application. Frankly there is a low level of knowledge of the profession in general so any informed focus would be a good start. Having said that I think it would be in the students’ own interest to be open-minded about other areas of the insurance business. After all it is part of the same profession. Until they have got some practical experience it probably wouldn’t be wise to make final decisions. In any case the sector is pretty good at accommodating individual preferences so there is no need to panic about it.
One other point worth making is that the sector does recruit from a wide range of degree disciplines – the main focus when recruiting is the range of skills and aptitudes candidates can bring rather than just the subject studied.
What does political risk work in insurance involve? A real variety of things. On the one hand looking over historical data to generate a prognosis about future stability in a particular country. Emerging markets, for example, can provide growth opportunities for business but they are also more liable to be impacted by government action and supply chains are increasingly vulnerable. Issues such as unexpected nationalisation, physical damage from political violence, the cancellation of export/import licenses and default on contracts. We rely on political risk expertise to help us take these kinds of issues into account when offering insurance. They provide expertise in issues such as kidnapping and terrorism – and these days terrorist attacks are considered as a foreseeable risk. There are around 20,000 kidnappings a year and these also have to be factored in when companies are considering insurance. I know of one insurance professional who has to conduct negotiations with Somali pirates who had taken a ship that her company had insured. Of course these kinds of negotiations are carried out in conjunction with legal authorities but nevertheless insurance professionals can be involved in this kind of work.
What advice would you have for students interested in the sector? You won’t be surprised to hear that my top tip is to become a Discover member of the CII. It only costs £35 a year and will quickly help you get up to speed with the sector. Students should email email@example.com for full details. Membership gives free access to lots of events, such as the lunchtime lecture series hosted at Lloyds of London (who also have a graduate programme that includes a political risk element, incidentally). The most recent series of lectures included experts talking about topics like risk around the Olympics or the issues around deep sea oil exploration. These are great places to network as well.
Secondly, you should read the FT and The Economist – fairly obvious I suppose – but also the trade press such as the Insurance Times and Post.
Don’t forget you can read more on careers in political risk by searching this blog or use the search term political risk at careerstagged.co.uk
Download Aon’s latest Political Risk Map produced by Aon here
Intelligence and Security – increasing demand for graduates January 12, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , add a comment
I caught up with Luke Vile from BeecherMadden – a specialist headhunting firm that supply expertise to the intelligence and security sector. We published an interview with Luke last autumn http://bit.ly/zAJhz3 and he wanted to give us an update. You can contact Luke at Luke Vile +44 (0) 20 3036 0509 Luke.firstname.lastname@example.org
The good news for King’s students with an interest in the sector is that there is an increase in DEMAND. I asked Luke what was driving this.
“ A number of factors –
* Crises. For example maritime companies are having to respond to fragile security especially off the horn of Africa. This is driving demand both for consultancy and physical security. One of the consequences is that there is a need for more people who are able to analyse the situation in the region. In fact one of the students we placed from King’s College had done a dissertation on this topic so that was very helpful.
* Regional instability. Clearly the Arab spring has shaken things up. Egypt, for example, is no longer the stable country it was. Afghanistan is undergoing change as western forces withdraw. New regimes demand a revision in the ways organisations and businesses relate to countries.
* Legislation. Things like the new Bribery Act change the landscape as well as more countries adopt different rules. Buying a bank in Kenya, for example, requires different considerations now than a couple of years ago.
* Economic situation. While the economic crisis is by no means over there are emerging areas of stability and growth. So, for example, now banks are finding their feet again they may be able to consider engaging with emerging markets like Turkey.
* Graduates. Intelligence and security graduates are becoming a recognised resource in the industry. Employers know that students from colleges like King’s can provide excellent analytical skills, knowledge and a willingness and ability to get stuck in. Frankly even if they are put on a good starting salary they are going to be cheaper than an ex-army officer”
I also asked Luke who his clients were and what kind of student he wanted to hear from?
“Our clients include small, niche consulting security firms, the larger intelligence and security outfits and commercial professional services firms who by the nature of their size and range of activities will sometime have a need for the kind of personnel we aim to supply. Ideally we recruit people who can start work fairly quickly but I would encourage anyone with the kind of background that War Studies implies to get in touch.”
Writing Security briefings November 29, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk, internships , 2comments
We recently spoke to a consultant who studies at King’s College War Studies department and now works for a private security company working in high risk and emerging markets such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Gaza West Bank, Pakistan, Iraq and many more, including most recently, Libya. For the time being I have made the report anonymous. Part of the discussion focused on what goes into security briefs.
What does your company do? Mainly we provide physical security mainly but also have an element of analysis to support that function. For example we may be approached by an oil company drilling a new well outside of Basra. They provide numbers of staff, locations, dates and request protection for their operations.
We can provide things like access control, vehicle search, perimeter control, armed guards and cars to protect their staff wherever they need to go. This does mean there are a lot of ex-military staff on our team. However, I have no military background. I started as an intern working on Pakistan and Yemen.
Now I work with the Commercial Support team. I put together bids to win security work. This brings everything together - for example how our recruitment works, how our finance works, how we store our equipment. Also pulling in information from our people on the ground – what’s happening in such and such a small town. Or a high level report about what’s going in Pakistan or Iraq. I don’t do analysis work as such in this role but I still need to have a very good idea of what is going on.
What is the difference between this and working as a research analyst. As an intern research analyst I was writing more security reports rather than bids for work. For example on a daily basis I produce a short security report – A bullet point list of security related events that that have happened in the last 24 hours. Produced on a daily basis. On Pakistan it could be a fortnightly 8 or 10 page brief called ‘Northern Pakistan Explored’. Looking at Peshawar or a larger area which includes a graph that, for example, shows the number of IED attacks and the number of incidents of small arms fire. A monthly report Pakistan report is also produced. Similar reports on Yemen would look at security issues in the main cities. I also wrote more specialised briefs on energy security for a firm’s windfarm resources in an emerging market.
When writing for commercial clients you have to be brief and to the point. If you are worried about your engineers being blown up they want to know practical things such as where is it physically safe to go and not go. They want numbers and they want to know that you are talking to guys on the ground with military experience. If you throw in a few acronyms they like that. Essentially though it is just about being straight and to the point.
This work doesn’t involve client contact though your work does reache clients. My work in the commercial team involves much more client contact.
This succint approach can also help with applications by the way. Our senior managers have to read a hell of a lot of information every day and they can get irritated with what they see as long-winded stuff.
The interview for the internship. I think one of the reasons I got the interview was that I was able to include some basic previous work experience with the Canadian High Commission – it was the most boring job processing visas but it looked good on the CV. In the interview itself I didn’t bluff and pretend I was a world expert. I told them that I knew a fair amount but that I was also there to learn. Anyone who gives the impression of bluffing or blagging could end up producing unreliable material which could literally be fatal for our clients. I also had to deal with a really tough question on the difference between a threat and a risk – to be honest I couldn’t answer that then and I couldn’t answer it now. They questioned me on why I had said certain things in my application but also curved ball questions such as what are main risks of operating in certain parts of Columbia which I didn’t know too much about
Did the Internship impact on your studies? Yes. A significant impact to be honest but I had a very pragmatic view of it from the beginning and it had always been my intention to get the vital work experience. On the other hand without a Masters I would not have been able to get the internship. There isn’t a single intern I have met that wasn’t doing a Masters at King’s.
What tips do you have for current students?
* Intern early. I started early with the internship and it was crucial in creating a paid opportunity later.
* Get career clarity. If you want to be an academic you are going to need better grades than I was prepared to get. In which case internships wouldn’t be so important. Think tanks also need better grades but also some work experience. Interning is great. It was very beneficial for me. It is hard to get a foot in the door and the only way to meet people is to get an internship and establish a network.
* Cold call rather than email to ask about internships. It is easy to lose an email but a phone call is more direct. The worse that can happen is they say no. Do something that other people won’t do. There were loads of networking events at organisations such as RUSI and that’s also a good way to meet people.
What value did the course give you? The course is great and for this sector a Masters is really an entry level qualification. It isn’t designed to cover the operations side of the things I also have to deal with. What armoured car formations are proving effective or exactly what kinds of weapons are being used – things like that. Unless you have a military background you have to get that from people on the ground. I am still learning a lot and I still have to get input from other people. Though less and less as I get more experience.
Is it a male dominated industry? Yes, most definitely. Though partly this is because a high proportion of our staff are operations based and they are often men (ex-military). We have 70 permanent employees and 2500 contractors. The vast majority of the contractors are male. It is much more balanced in the area I work in.
You can find similiar articles by searching Careerstagged
This post updated April 3rd 2013
Political Risk Recruitment Agency October 13, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Political risk , add a comment
BeecherMadden is one of a handful of specialist recruitment agencies that work in the niche area of business risk and resilience. We spoke to Luke Vile one of their directors about the kind of people they can help recruit.
Luke, I haven’t come across agencies operating in this area before? Well there are only a handful – around four or five agencies in this sector. It started developing around the millennium when the concerns about the ‘millenium bug’ made business much more aware of issues around risk and what we call resilience. Since then businesses have developed whole divisions that manage these risks, and entire consulting firms have been founded that provide such services.
We proactively identify people to work in areas such as
- Business continuity
- Disaster recovery
- Crisis management
- Physical Security
- National security and defence
- Operational Management – ranging from facilities management and senior management recruitment through to operational risk
- Technology security
‘Risk’ as a concept of business management covers all of the above areas. For example banks may want someone to define who gets access to what layers of their IT or information, and a company may want to devise protocols for deciding who gets physical access to which parts of their buildings. It could also involve more policy type work. For example assessing the potential threats for a company’s operations in a particular region through intelligence control.
So who are your clients? Lots of financial firms (investment and retail banks) consultancies, professional services firms such as auditors, defence consultancies, retailers, consumer goods companies
How do you find people? Well we proactively search – which is why we approached King’s College. We have been able to place a number of postgraduates from the War Studies department. When we meet people we can then be approached by clients or more proactively approach them and suggest they may want to take a look at certain individuals. It is more common than is thought for jobs to be created for strong candidates, from junior to senior levels.
What do you look for if you are considering postgraduates? Well I think of it as a certain ‘X factor’ but what it comes down to is a combination of things: An excellent academic track record as a foundation. Some previous experience is important but not always essential. Though you may not need heaps of experience. Frankly junior people bring a certain energy and freshness, and they are certainly cheaper than senior people. As well as this they will need to have impeccable communication skills, be able to present well and have a corporate personality. They should also be able to be convincing and knowledgeable about the industries they want to be develop careers in. The academic course may be great at giving a global overview of international security but our clients need to know you can see the security implications for their firms and their operations in ‘real world situations;. Finally a certain element of intrepidness.
What kind of roles have you placed students in previously? We have had people placed as crisis analysts for investment banks – researching potential crisis points in regions of operations. Others have been placed as security consultants looking at contingency plans if there are natural disasters and providing an audit of current security measures and we have had people become researchers looking at the political issues for a banks operations in a particular region.
How should people proceed if they think they might be suitable? Well we want to hear from people who might be able to start work within six months so people who have just started their masters should wait a while. Otherwise people are free to email or phone me for a discussion. No obligation of course.
Working for Control Risks January 24, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , 1 comment so far
We recently spoke to one of our alumni from King’s College London who graduated with a Masters in Imperial and Commonwealth History from King’s. Less than a month later he started work with Control Risks – one of the biggest political risk outfits with offices in 35 countries. He came back to talk to our new intake to talk about his work but prefers to remain anonymous.
What do Control Risks do? It’s a UK-based risk consultancy that covers a whole range of things for different clients. We are involved with everything from corporate investigations, political and security analysis, security consulting in-country, kidnap-and-ransom advice, and so on. In short, helping our clients succeed in complex environments.
What is your role? I’m an editor. I do everything from compiling regional summaries to simple spelling and grammar checks to more in-depth criticism of the analysts’ reports; essentially ensuring that the written reports from our in-house analysts are solidly based and well written. While our in-house analysts know their stuff they may sometimes have errors creep in,
What helped you get the job? Well, I had a reasonable amount of internship experience and previous work, with a think-tank as an editorial assistant, for example, and with publications in India. I’d also built up some regional knowledge both of India and also several other countries through working on a business magazine there. I was also interviewed twice after sending in a CV and covering letter and I also had to do a 90 minute test editing some sample reports
How does the work differ from the analysts you mentioned? I work with the analysts to produce the reports – they do the bulk of the research and writing. They build up a lot of expertise on specific countries and regions – though we do have a small number of people who focus on global issues such as piracy and financial regulation. They’ll also do client presentations and speak to journalists and so on. Interviews are intensive – you can be interviewed by five people and will often have to give a sample presentation to a client, say a mining company.
What skills do they need? Regional experience and preferably work experience in one or more of the countries you’d be analysing. Languages are obviously useful, as is any knowledge or experience working in the areas that Control Risks tends to deal with most often – oil and gas, mining, insurance and shipping, for example, as well as political knowledge. Contacts in the given countries are also a massive plus. The material we produce is specifically designed for companies, so it might be useful to be able to demonstrate that you can write in a style that’s more suited to business or journalism than just a university context.
What would an analyst’s typical day look like? Most days would start with a review of newspapers – including our database that gives us access to lots of local newspapers. Fairly early on in the day a headline for a particular update on a given topic has to be sent to the editor. This update involves writing a 500-word briefing on an aspect of the specific project the analyst is working on. This is ‘predictive’ in tone: not just what happened, but what it means for the future. We also do longer 3- analysis papers dealing with longer-term scenarios, produce bespoke reports on particular areas or projects, and respond on a daily basis to client requests. There are occasional opportunities for analysts to take research trips to their countries of focus.
How easy is it to transfer from one region of expertise to another? Not that easy, frankly. You would have to demonstrate that you have the necessary expertise which is hard to build up when you already engaged with a region.
Do the analysts get training? They start out covering a whole region, picking up things from a range of countries and receive feedback from more senior people. They get opportunities to network and attend conferences and also get overseas trips to help with their research.
Working in Strategic Communications November 25, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , 4comments
Tom Wein graduated with a BA in War Studies from King’s College London. He came back to talk to King’s students about his work with the Strategic Communication Laboratory (www.scl.cc/)
What was your background and what do you do I grew up in the UK and did a BA in the War Studies department. I had applied for Masters courses but I applied to Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) as well. SCL conduct social science research in difficult to access places such as war zones, the middle east, Russia and Afghanistan on sensitive topics such as terrorism. This research then forms the basis for potential strategic communication campaigns – a form of public affairs campaigns, or public diplomacy.
We don’t implement the campaigns but provide reports and recommendations in the form of PowerPoint presentation and massive written reports. This consists of quantitative and qualitative interviews, data analysis and statistics. I’m involved with the analysis as a team leader. I don’t do the research – I wouldn’t be very popular wandering around Pakistan saying, “hello, talk to me”.
What is the end result of these campaigns? Usually counter-radicalisation. Less persuading people not to join certain groups but more about ensuring that those who are ambivalent about or oppose these groups can stand up more confidently and openly. All our research showed for example that most people in the middle east don’t support radical groups but that they are reluctant to get involved with politics. Who our ultimate clients are may not be obvious to us – we get a lot of sub contracted work from the USA. In the UK we have done work for the MOD and the FCO. For the Singaporean government we did a project on how national service is perceived and how they people could be made more enthusiastic about it. We have an elections branch also who have helped on campaigns in the Caribbean for example. One well known ‘end-result’ example was a campaign we were involved with when we had to persuade Lloyd’s ‘names’ to continue investing despite heavy losses they had sustained on the markets. The video campaign worked so well that one senior Lloyd’s figure credited us with saving the company.
The founder of the company had his roots in advertising but our work stresses behaviour change underpinned by rigorous research that allowed us to demonstrate more clearly, step by step, why we are right.
What helped you get a job with just a first degree? Well, I think I was extraordinarily lucky but I had sent off lots of CVs. Admittedly it was quantity before quality and I relied on hitting the company at the right time. With SCL I think they appreciated my initiative and willingness to have a go. It was a young company and valued people who could be smart and adaptable while they were establishing themselves. Other companies who needed more specific sector or regional expertise may not have been so open to me. In fact now SCL are starting now to need more specialists and those with some expertise. We’re not talking decades of Chechnya experience or fluent Russian but some regional expertise. As well as the middle east and central Asia, expertise in central and south America would be of interest and the Caribbean would be of interest to our electoral teams. We get ad hoc projects in many different countries. Africa is another area of interest.
I was also helped by the fact that I thought I was being interviewed for an unpaid internship and it was only later i realised it was a job interview. – I must have been more relaxed. The fact that I had tracked them down in the first place also helped.
What other skills and background are helpful? Writing skills are vital and in a small team we need decent prose style. A communications or journalism background also indicates a certain independence and initiative. Other skills that would be helpful would be a psychology background or even web design for example – any ancillary ‘hard’ skills like that.
How academic is your social science work? The academic community helped design the methodology and we have many academics still involved. There is, however, a constant tension in what we send to our clients: readers such as the military who like clear cut answers and our other audience, social scientists, who are happy with caveats and qualifications and emphasize evidence. Our research has a commercial imperative that academic research doesn’t have. You have to work with material you have, in a confident manner. Material that sometimes in an academic arena might not be sufficient to produce a report at all.
We do visit the countries because you can find out things you wouldn’t find out otherwise. For example you can visit a market in the middle east and see youths wearing either Barcelona or Real Madrid shirts while a mall in the far east they would have either Manchester United or Liverpool shirts. This micro level detail could impact a lot on final recommendations. For example a recommendation that suggested providing a football league as a counter to boredom and excessive influence by a local mosque might include a recommendation to provide relevant club shirts to supply a higher level of interest and engagement.
In Afghanistan we have a permanent in-country research manager. This helps give us a competitive edge.
Where else should people look for opportunities?
- Albany Associates – Albany Associates is a UK-based, internationally-focussed company with a strong track record in delivering communications and public diplomacy strategies; consulting on media and telecommunications law and regulatory frameworks; advising on media infrastructure development including assisting the development of public service broadcasting and providing professional training and institutional capacity building” the main organisation. Almost all ex-British Army. In the USA (nb they do have a UK office)
- Bell Pottinger.
- L-3 Communications
- Political Risk is a related sector for which London is a centre such as Kroll, Control Risk, Jane’s and AKE (search careerstagged.co.uk for ‘political risk’)
- Job boards such as the Foreign Policy Association, Foreign Policy Magazine, UN Association for the UK, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.
- The Washington Post article on ‘Top Secret America’ at http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/ A very good list. USA focused but many of the organisations listed will have offices elsewhere – especially Dubai and you won’t need a USA work permit for those locations.
- Olive Group – http://www.olivegroup.com/ “Olive Group is a leading, global provider of integrated risk mitigation solutions to multinational corporations, governments, non-governmental organisations and private individuals”
What is a Crisis Management Analyst? November 9, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk, international development , add a comment
We held the first in a series of conversations with King’s College London War Studies alumni with Elettra Pauletto of ISS who is working as a crisis management analyst. The role combines very practical contingency planning for clients (eg if the building becomes unusable where can we continue operations from and how quickly?) to bigger picture political risk research. Elettra has joined other War Studies alumni working for ISS and you can read a more in depth case study at http://bit.ly/ckSe9I
In the meantime here are some other key tips gleaned from Elettra’s talk
- You will need something that gives you an edge. Typically this might be regional experience but in Elettra’s case she was able also to point to her practical experience working with an NGO in Africa. This was very good training for contingency planning and having an idea of the steps needed to be taken in the case of a power outage, for example.
- Any related experience will pay off – often in ways you don’t anticipate. Before the ISS job Elettra was doing a database job for a risk consultancy and, while it wasn’t ideal for her, it really helped her put together a good application. It taught a lot of the same skills needed and, even more importantly, gave her good contacts which helped shape her application
- Make sure you are in the loop about vacancies. Organisations that recruit in small numbers and in niche areas don’t do mainstream advertising. Lots of them though send out regular email newsletters. Elettra heard about her job in one of these. Make sure you get signed up.