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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Done and Dusted... :-)

Hi Everyone,

I know it has been a while since my last post. I do apologize, but I was trying to focus on my studies for my final year at university. I have already started looking for a job and have had a couple of interviews, on which I am waiting for their final response, so fingers crossed.

Looking for something to write about in my next post, I came across a very interesting video from www.onlinemba.com and I thought I should share it with you.

Enjoy!!
Ellie

Created by OnlineMBA.com

Friday, 8 November 2013

Factoring...continued

This is just a quick post. I continue to look into the area of Factoring/Invoice Trading. One of my favourite web-based invoice auction site is MarketInvoice. I took the liberty to link a few of their blog posts onto my website. Please take a look, I am sure you will find them very interesting.

Breaking Down Barriers to Finance

How To Call a Bank Manager's Bluff

London's Startups show the way in Remaking Finance

Lending Club shares surge in US stock market

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Factoring...A new twist to an old idea.

During this summer, I spent time as an Intern in a finance department, where I was processing a large number of invoices. That gave me the chance to become more familiar with the issues of factoring, which I had been introduced to during my studies.

Just for the record, the definition of factoring, as stated on the internet is as follows:

“Factoring is a financial transaction in which a business sells its accounts receivable/ invoices to a third party, the factor, at a discount.
In "advance" factoring, the business owner sells his receivables in the form of invoice to the factor, who makes an advance of 70-85% of the purchase price of the receivable amount. The factor collects the full amount from the customer in due course and pays the balance amount due to the business owner after deducting his commission and other charges”.

The latest development is that various investors can now become factors and can bypass the traditional role of the banks in the factoring process. The invoice holders are now provided with increased liquidity and lower financing costs. Even the government is trying to induce this type of factoring by participating in the process as an investor/factor.

 “As part of the Government’s Business Finance Partnership, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (‘BIS’) is committing £5m as an Investor Member on MarketInvoice, with expected yearly returns of approximately 10-12%. With funds on MarketInvoice recycled every 45 days, this £5m commitment will equate to approximately £40m in investment to SMEs over the next year.

I am attaching some links to websites that allow individuals to participate in the process of factoring as investors.

The following link gives a few reasons why this type of funding of working capital is becoming more popular.

There will be more on this subject on my next blog at the Accountant Magazine (The Accountant Blog)

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Dragons' Den Series 11

Yet another series of Dragons' Den returns to our TV sets once again! 
5 of Britain's most influential business icons come together and give the chance to entrepreneurs to explain why they should invest in their business.

Who are the Dragons?
Deborah Meaden - Leisure and Marketing Expert
Peter Jones - Telecommunications 
Duncan Bannatyne - Hotel and Club owner
Kelly Hoppen - Interior Design
Piers Linney - Cloud Computer Pioneer
BBC - The Dragons

Every week, I will be posting a new episode so make sure you tune back to my blog to see who is successful in the den.

BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 1
BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 2
BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 3
BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 4
BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 5
BBC iPlayer - Dragons' Den Episode 6


Ellie Fanis
BPP University

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Working Holiday - Part 2


In my previous blog post, 'A Working Holiday', I discussed how important it has become, for us students, to try and get a form of international work experience as early in our careers as possible.

I am sure you agree with me that working in a foreign country can be scary, but it is definitely worth the effort. During these past two months, I had been working in the accounting department of a multinational organization in Greece, and I thought I would let you know how I got on. 


The main problem is "logistics", e.g. where do you stay for how long and how difficult it is to make all these arrangements. Being able to "work around" the logistics problem demonstrates the motivation one should have, in order to arrange an international internship. Employers are usually "attracted" to potential employees who have the ability to find solutions to everyday problems quickly and accurately. Regarding my "logistics" problem, I was lucky enough to have friends and relatives in Greece and it was possible to stay with them during my internship.


Another big problem was, of course, the language. In the beginning I was afraid that my communication skills (in Greek) are going to be a problem. Being bilingual, the extent of me speaking Greek was at home, and with friends and family. You can imagine my frustration when I was trying to understand (as fast as possible) what my colleagues where talking about, and of course my embarrassment, when I thought I said the wrong thing and I was waiting for confirmation that they understood what I said. After the first couple of days, everyone got used to my Greek accent and with a lot of goodwill from my colleagues that problem sorted itself out.


Although two months are not long enough, I believe that I got a good understanding of the culture and methodologies of the organization. 
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the company, even though based in Greece, was organized in a typical Anglo-Saxon way with a lot of clearly defined/standardized procedures and clear separation of tasks. As this was the first time I was working in a finance department, I found it very interesting and exciting, even though sometimes the tasks were very repetitive. I spent a lot of time processing invoices from suppliers and made sure that the database was always up-to-date. The biggest challenge was to locate the occasional missing invoice, which as usual, was either misfiled or on the floor behind the recycling bin, which is the most dangerous place for an invoice to be.


Now that my internship has drawn to a close, I can say that it has been a very enjoyable and educational experience. Not only did I get the hands-on experience I needed but also, and more importantly for me, this experience has boosted my confidence. 


As students, in the early stages of our careers, we rely a lot on the "goodwill" shown to us by our potential employers, in order to get some hands-on training. In the current business environment, being able to get some experience has become a real challenge. 


Regarding this summer's internship I can only say that I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me and I am hoping that they will continue to do so for other students.

Ellie Fanis
BPP University

This post first appeared in The Accountant blog (August 2013)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Working Holiday

Recently I came across an article in the Independent discussing the need for international exposure at an early stage in the students' careers. According to the article, "61% of recruiters have problems recruiting candidates for graduate positions, as they do not possess the soft skills, work experience and business acumen required by international organisations". Apparently, very few UK students are participating in programmes that help them gain valuable experience in the international marketplace, or look for opportunities as part of their studies via international exchange programmes like Erasmus runs, for example.
For many of us, graduation is just around the corner and we need to give some thought to our future careers. Many universities are encouraging their students to apply for international internships in order to develop these crucial soft skills like cross-cultural communications and adapting to foreign working cultures. However, it is challenging trying to arrange these international internships but if you can, they are a great addition to your CV, and make navigating an international career easier.
Working in a foreign country, means you have to prove to yourself, and others, you have the ability to work in a different culture and therefore under different pressures, and perhaps out of your comfort zone.
If you are interested in working for a multinational corporation once you graduate then working as an international intern you can get a deeper understanding of how those organisations operate.
Given the fact that globalisation is here to stay, it is essential to be able to adapt to an ever-changing market place. The employees of a multinational organisation have to be able to understand the business culture across multiple locations and be able to establish working relationships with colleagues across worldwide.
A truly sustainable global business model takes time and effort to develop, but once developed, it has to be preserved and utilised. For that reason, those corporations are looking for what they call "global graduates" - someone who is able to add value across the company's network.
Over the past few years, I have come across quite a few global graduates who had participated in the Erasmus Student Exchange Program. Some of them studied and worked in countries such as Holland, Greece and Belgium and are now working for large multinational corporations, based across Europe. They believe these types of exchange programmes have helped them mature as individuals while exposing them to new educational systems, enabling them to meet a variety of individuals and employers and to think about various cross-border opportunities.
Thinking about the variety of countries these individuals came from and what they achieved made me realise that distance and location are only geographical terms, and the bigger the scale, the shorter the distance on the world map.
With this in mind, my internship this summer will be with a multinational corporation based in Europe. I am confident this international experience will be very rewarding and I am looking forward to this challenge and will keep you posted on my activities.

I leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein: "The only source of knowledge is experience".

Ellie Fanis
BPP University

This post first appeared in The Accountant blog (May 2013)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Future Workforce


In March, I attended the Preparing the 2025 Workforce - Attracting and Developing Talent Conference where the speakers included former US secretary of education Margaret Spellings; Manpower Group UK managing director Mark Cahill; and, Barclays head of employability Tessa Oversby. 

The main focus of the conference was to discuss Britain's evolving position in the global economic arena and to provide the audience with a pathway to career success. Two topics addressed were whether the UK government is doing enough to create apprenticeship schemes for school leavers and how students and graduates can make the most of their future careers.


At the end of the discussion, I was left with the impression that if universities do not create academic programmes to better suit employers' needs, there is going to be a shortage in certain skills that will be in demand in the near future. Take ownership in preparing the current and future workforce with the skills they need to ensure productivity and add value to the future economy.


In my previous blog, The Expectation Gap, I spoke of the issue that us students feel we are not adequately prepared to supply our prospective employers with the skills they require from us.


It seems there are still questions as to what the ideal skill set a chosen profession requires one should have, depending on their chosen profession, and at the same time to take into account the "manpower mix" that the economy will need in the next decade.


For example, there is the expectation (according to Bill Gates) that there will be a shortage of programmers in the second half of the decade. If this assumption is true, the education system will have to provide the necessary infrastructure and know-how in order to train people in this profession. Hopefully, as the demand for these skills increases, students will pay back the investment through taxes and adding value to the economy. 


Here are some of the most important statistics to come out of the conference:

  • 62% of the employers feel there is a national skills shortage;
  • If the government is able to divert the 1.03 million unemployed youth back into the workforce, it is possible taxpayers will save £13bn ($19.7bn) in welfare, healthcare and other benefits that would be otherwise be paid over their lifetimes; and,
  • The expected cost of university education can exceed £100,000 (due to accumulated interest charges).
In the past, the government was willing to pay for the cost of university education because it was almost guaranteed a person with a university degree would earn more money and pay more taxes throughout their working lives than the average person. 

However, with the introduction of university fees, a considerable amount of that cost is passed down to the student who has to choose the right degree and "educational profile" to guarantee on-going success in his/her professional careers. 


One final point made at the conference was that all employment growth in the next fifteen years will be on the back of those people who continue to develop their "educational profile" with further and higher education.


I leave you with a quote from Greek philosopher Plato: "The direction in which education starts a man, will determine his future in life".

This post first appeared in The Accountant (April 2013)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Expectation Gap

My plan since I started this blog more than a year ago has always been to cover issues related to preparing for the next step - a professional career - which, I hope will begin after graduation.

In my first blog, I looked back to being a child and talked about my childhood career dream, which at the tender age of five was to become a "cashier because they get all the money."


Now, being halfway through my accounting degree studies, it has become obvious that I am going to need a lot more skills, as well as my academic qualifications, to ensure I'm employable. However, it seems there is a gap between what we students think we need to know and what the employers are actually looking for.

I would like to think employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who have invested in their personal and professional development and have a variety of skills to offer.

Of course this expectation gap varies from student to student and person to person but it does need to be bridged. In order to do that, we need to take extra steps towards meeting the expectations of our future employers because a very strong academic record does not always guarantee an easy passage towards employment. An individual's character and their personality also play a significant role in getting a good job offer.

I would recommend that all us students do our own research on this issue in order to try and bridge that gap and ensure we are not at the back of the queue at the job centre after graduation has been and gone!

If we can show our potential employers we have made some steps towards easing the transition from academia to a professional career as easy as possible this is likely to work in our favour.

Thankfully, it seems a lot of universities are on the same wave length and are trying to address the issue. Many are now offering Employability Awards, which is a form of extra credit given to students who have taken additional steps in order to make themselves more "attractive" to potential employers.

As a student at BPP, I am participating in the university's Employability Scheme. The scheme assigns me to a careers consultant who then helps me develop a more professional image, which is close to what employers are looking for. My mentor will collaborate with me to identify my strengths and weaknesses in relation to my career goals and agree to what actions to take in order to achieve them.




On the back of the global financial crisis and an abundance of redundancies the job market has been saturated with highly qualified job seekers making competition fierce. This makes it even more important we take advantage of the opportunities offered through these types of university schemes to increase our chances of finding a job.

There is a lot of online information about the various employability schemes on offer, which I'm sure you will find useful. So with no more excuses, I recommend you go out and increase your chances like I'm trying to do. Good luck!

Ellie Fanis 
BPP University

This post first appeared in The Accountant (February 2013)

Monday, 11 February 2013

Employability Skills


You may have noticed that I have created a new page called Employability Awards, which refers to a scheme provided by careers services across universities in order to help students kick start their careers.

As a student at BPP, I will be participating in my university's scheme and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.
In my opinion, every student (or non student) should have access to such  a scheme and for that reason I will try to collect and publish as much information related to this subject as possible.

From the moment I started researching the "Employability" subject, I have come across a lot of useful material.  

A very good resource may be the BBC SkillsWise  website, which offers a quick guide to the different skill-sets needed to survive in today's working environment.

For example, you will find short (two minute) videos about skills related to IT, English and Maths which we utilize in our everyday working life, without even noticing it.

I hope you find this useful.

Ellie Fanis
BPP University College

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Updates


Page 4: Youtube...if you want to


Page 5: Employability Awards
Universities all around England are now offering Employability Awards Schemes which aim to  make students aware of the competitive nature of the job market and improve their employability prospects. Click on the link above to find out what are the benefits of participating in schemes like this.  

Friday, 18 January 2013

Virtual Classrooms

During recent years we consumers have been bombarded with the development of the 'next' electronic device or gadget designed to make our lives easier. Many of these devices help us to keep in touch with friends, family, classmates and colleagues as well as stay up-to-date with current affairs more easily and while on the move. In fact, there is a good chance you are reading my blog on the latest tablet or smartphone from anywhere in the world.

Given the popularity and technological innovation behind these devices, a new trend has begun to emerge in the higher education industry - the introduction of online courses that lead towards traditional degrees.

Many universities globally, through the use of sophisticated technology, are now able to offer "classroom-like" teaching to thousands of students simultaneously, without them being in a traditional classroom. 

Universities like Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have introduced a new platform, edX, which delivers various courses online aiming to "revolutionise education around the world". Recently, UK universities such as King's College, Warwick, BPP University and the Open University have also announced they will be offering online courses to their students during 2013. 

Not long ago, I was asked by my lecturers at BPP University to participate in a user's acceptance test of a new online interactive platform designed to work on an iPad. For a week, along with a few other students, I had the responsibility of testing the functionality of the platform. The goal was to evaluate the experience a student will have while accessing various activity sheets, watching webinars and complete/submit assignments for each module. At the end of the test drive we all felt the technology had come a long way and teaching had taken a whole new meaning. 

After testing this online learning platform, I had the opportunity to experience online learning for real. I watched a few BPP webinars, where the lecturers and the students were spread all over the country. The webinars were arranged for specific dates and times and we all logged on into our "virtual classroom". We had the chance to participate in the webinars, ask questions individually or as a group, and work on problems given by the professors. 

The use of the technology certainly made the distance shorter than it actually was, the classroom bigger than physically possible and the communication more relaxed because the majority of the attendees were at home and the distractions were minimised. I really enjoyed this experience as it exposed me to a new way of participating in a lecture.

Of course, some people prefer the traditional way of learning with face-to-face interaction amongst students and teachers, but, in my opinion, times have changed and we have to do our best to adapt. We now have the opportunity to attend lectures where one teacher is able to reach thousands of students at once and spread knowledge as efficiently as possible.

I am really looking forward to participate in my next online learning experience.

This post first appeared in The Accountant (Januanry 2013)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Birth of a Business

The business term 'a startup company', which we became very familiar with during the dot-com boom, has now become a common term.
A startup is a company or temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Unfortunately, it is quite a common occurrence that these companies do not survive beyond their introductory phase.



Most entrepreneurs create startups in order to evaluate and research business ideas, which may lead to the creation of a new product or sometimes even a whole new industry.



For most of us, the image we have of entrepreneurs today has been developed with the help of television shows such as Dragons' DenBe Your Own Boss or The Apprentice, to name a few. These reality shows, emphasize the importance of being able to elaborate on a business idea, to develop the necessary business skills, and hopefully to get the seed money needed, in order to start a business.

I find these shows very educational and they seem to be very appealing to young people like me. I recently discovered there is a big initiative focused towards helping startup companies in the Information Technology sector to develop their business ideas further and hopefully become successful.

For example, a few weeks ago The Telegraph helped organise the London Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is an international organisation of active entrepreneurs who focus on founding startups and launching potentially successful ventures. During 2012 they organised more than 600 events in 100 countries around the world.

Those events encouraged application developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts to come together, share ideas, form teams, build products, and subsequently launch a startup. The winner of each national competition represent their country in an international event, where people from all over the world vote for their favourite startup idea such as their favourite web application.

I'm writing about this because I have a personal stake in the competition - my cousin took part in the recent London event and actually won the UK competition with his team, Smartward, and then came third overall in the international competition.

These startup events are very important in helping bring awareness to the industry and encourage young entrepreneurs to participate and become part of a wider network of individuals and companies who can assist each other in achieving their goals.

By participating in these events, we can build our confidence, meet other people with similar interests and in general develop vital business skills early on in our professional lives.

I am sure we all have a lot of business ideas for a startup or a web application, but those ideas will not become reality unless we decide to take them one step further. I believe that by taking part in events like the London Startup Weekend, we will be making a good start towards turning our ideas into reality.

And finally, as the Chinese proverb says: "A good start is half way to success."

This post first appeared in The Accountant (December 2012)

Friday, 14 December 2012

M for Motivation

When taking the early train into Central London, I see many people commuting. When looking around the carriage, I think to myself, “Where do people find the motivation to get to work?”
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Trying to answer this question, my dad recommended I’d read a chapter from the book “The Upside of Irrationality”, written by Dan Ariely. The chapter of the book was called “The Meaning of Labour”. 
In the book, Ariely talks about experiments he and his colleagues at MIT had carried out. Amongst all the experiments he described, there was one I liked the most.
 Two participants were asked to build Lego robots and they would be paid a decreasing amount of money for every one they made.
The first participant was told that the robots would be kept in a box for later use. He started building the robots and soon enough, after ten robots, he gave up, because he realised that the price of the 10th robot was half of what he was paid for the first, so economically it didn’t make sense for him to continue.
The second participant was being paid for the robots in the same way, BUT after finishing one, and began the next one; the assistant was dismantling the previous robot in front of his own eyes. The participant was not happy with the dismantling and gradually his motivation to build the robots diminished. Even if he was to be paid the same amount as the first participant, he saw no point in continuing after the fourth robot was built. Clearly, money was not the issue for stopping.
The first participant was able to point at the finished robots and feel pride for what he had achieved. The second participant felt that he had nothing to show for his work and saw no point in completing the task.
I am sure that while reading these lines, you can feel the “emptiness” the second participant felt, when they destroyed his robots. So as you can see, that feeling worked against the participant’s willingness to continue with the experiment.  
This experiment made me look back at my Internship during the summer, where I was analysing time-series of data and producing daily reports and charts. In the beginning, I was focusing on producing the reports as fast as possible. After a while, I noticed that some of the reports were not being used. The reason was that the markets were moving very fast and the conditions were changing all the time, so my work was not up-to-date. I discussed this with the manager and he ensured me that my analysis was of good quality, but as the market conditions change, the reports were “yesterday’s” news. That made me feel demoralized, but this was the “nature” of my work.
It seems that what bothered me the most was the fear that my work was not being recognised, thus impacting my motivation. The reassurance from my colleagues helped me overcome this feeling.
Just as I am writing these lines, I realised that writing this blog is similar to building “lego robots” that may soon be dismantled. Perhaps only my family reads them. Not knowing how many people read my posts can be demoralising, but I am not giving up. As someone famous said: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
It seems that the field of psychology can play an important role in helping us develop our own understanding of what motivates us and how to improve our performance. It may also help employers understand that more money is not always the best way to increase productivity and performance.

Ellie Fanis
BPP University College


If you would like to learn more about Dan Ariely and his experiments, please refer to the  page "Taking account of...: Page 4: YouTube...if you want to"

This post first appeared in The Accountant (December 2012)


Friday, 12 October 2012

Career Advice for Beginners

At the beginning of this week, I was contacted by a headhunter via LinkedIn about joining the BBA Recruit (LinkedIn) group. Building Business Associates is a recruitment agency that advertises job vacancies in all areas of the finance industry. 

I was looking at what kind of discussions there was already happening in the group. The creator of the group has been updating the discussion board with articles in the aim to advise people, whether they are beginning their careers or in the middle of them, about how to make the most of it!

As I am at the beginning of my career, I thought I might share with you some articles I found that I found helpful for myself and could be for you too:

How NOT to write a CV | BBA Associates Recruit

The ABC of starting a new job | BBA Associates Recruit

How to get a recruiter's positive attention | BBA Associates Recruit

There are more of these articles and job vacancies on the agency's website at Building Business Associates (Website) if you would like to have a look.

As well as this website, I also recommend you have a look at eFinancialCareers for recent job vacancies too.

Ellie Fanis
BPP University College







Thursday, 4 October 2012

Masters of Money: Keynes, Hayek and Marx

Lately, the BBC, alongside the Open University, has been broadcasting interesting documentaries telling the life stories of 3 economists: Keynes, Hayek and Marx. Presented by Economics editor Stephanie Flanders explains how their thoughts and actions have influenced the way we live our lives. 

If this sounds like something you would be interested to watch, then I have included the YouTube links below for you:

Masters Of Money: John Maynard Keynes (1/3 BBC) - YouTube
Masters Of Money: Friedrich Hayek (2/3 BBC) - YouTube
Masters of Money: Marx (3/3 BBC) - YouTube

Enjoy!
Ellie Fanis
BPP University

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