When Anne Harrison asked if any of her team would like to submit an article for publication, I immediately thought that it would be a great idea to do “A Week in the Life” of the team. I thought it might give some insight into the typical week (if there is such a thing) for us.
Actually, that first paragraph was a little white lie. My true motive was to have something to show those friends and family who still think of me as a Chandler Bing character from the show Friends – you know, the guy who goes to work every day and despite hundreds of conversations, nobody actually has a clue what he does for a living. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen to you as well, we all know the truth…
To give you some background, I work as a Performance Consultant for Anne Harrison, working on projects for both of the teams within our structure – we are a centre of expertise in the Edinburgh office and as such we provide performance measurement for both our UK and Dutch businesses.
So, for what it is worth, I hope you enjoy a little insight into the sometimes interesting, frequently frustrating, occasionally mind-boggling and often hectic world of the Performance Analysis team here at Kames Capital. Please note that these views do not necessarily reflect the views of my colleagues because I didn’t actually tell them I was writing this.
I’ve tried not to make it too formal – after all, I would be happier if you all got to the end without falling asleep.
My week inevitably starts with a bacon roll (or if my wife is reading this, a bowl of cereal and some toast). Let’s be fair, most of us need something to kick off their working week, especially if they’ve had to watch Dunfermline Athletic on the Saturday.
The team seems quiet today, a few people are grabbing some holidays before the end of the month and three colleagues are out at our office in The Hague to meet with colleagues.
Still, to start a Monday there are always some bizarre weekend stories to be told (take your pick from cowboys to blokes dressed in all-in-one suits – names have been withheld but are available to the highest bidder).
After a quick trawl through my e-mails, including one from Anne in The Hague to make sure that I’ve actually turned up to work, it is time to set out my plans for the day ahead.
I’ve no formal meetings in the calendar for today – an unusual but welcome occurrence that will hopefully allow me to get through a stack of project work.
First on the list today is some work on a reporting process change for the Dutch team, which presents my colleague Kenny and I with a challenge – we need to amend several of our current report formats to meet these new requirements. Unfortunately this proves to be easier said than done, and after much head-banging and frustration, yet another mini project is born. It is often the case that what looks like a small change can turn out to cause a huge amount of work. Without doubt one of the most frustrating parts of our job is the amount of manual intervention relating to what should be routine tasks, something that we are constantly trying to address.
After a Michelin Star lunch from our canteen and a quick scan through the web to see what is happening in the world, it is back to the grind. Or so I thought, as an interesting debate begins as to what team name we should choose for the company quiz night later in the week. Actually, disturbing is probably a better word to describe the conversation, and I’ll leave it at that for the moment – it is a family-friendly publication after all.
The first item on my agenda for this afternoon is to produce the monthly task matrix for the UK performance team. After a review of all new or redundant tasks and a meeting with Rhona, who manages this team, the work for the month ahead is allocated to the relevant analysts. This month, with a new colleague having joined, there are plenty of tasks being moved around. As I’m sure many of you are aware, it pays to cross-train in case of unexpected absences!
Once this has been circulated, it is time to delve into the murky world of data feeds, and my attempt to clean up some issues within a new accounting data feed that has been built over the last few months – data which will ultimately lead to additional performance and attribution reporting for our Dutch colleagues that we were previously unable to provide. With so many different data fields and types to consider, all changes to be made to our feeds must be carefully planned and thoroughly tested before implementation. Some progress is made this afternoon but, as expected, a lot more work will need done by myself and our IT department before the changes are complete.
With my working day over, it is time to head back home to the Kingdom of Fife by travelling like a movie star – in a way. What it really means is a boneshaker of a journey on a train that resembles the Hogwarts Express – take my word for it, if I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would swear that trains this old were all in museums.
Most of the team are back in the office today – and much to my disgust those who were in The Hague have neglected to follow my previous tradition of bringing back the cheapest, nastiest sweets for the team from the Duty Free shop at Schiphol. This is duly noted for future reference.
First up for me is my regular weekly meeting with Anne to discuss all of my ongoing projects and the inevitable additions to my list that have resulted from Anne’s trip to The Hague. Most of these actions surround data feed content and issues (can you see a theme developing here?) and these are duly added to my ever growing project list.
The rest of my morning is taken up with some further changes to processes – at least these ones seem to go more smoothly than those from yesterday.
Lunch is home-made today, saving me both some money and the tough choice of which dish in the canteen that I dislike the least. I did consider chocolate too, but I decide that shaking the vending machine like King Kong to try and get a free bar of chocolate may bring too much attention from around our floor.
I’ve deliberately blocked some time out in my calendar this afternoon to try and make some headway into a couple of things.
Initially I’m going to try and document a full procedure for one of the most complex manual tasks that fall within the remit of our Dutch team. Good documentation is one of the keys to our success as a team, and despite our reluctance for manual processes, these are inevitable given the range of output that we are asked for. As such, we need to have precise guides for each of these tasks to ensure accuracy at all times.
The rest of the afternoon is spent with my thinking cap on – the senior members of the team have a planning session tomorrow and it is important to make sure that nothing is missed. Although some of the content will be plainly obvious (training etc), it is a great chance for us all to have our ideas heard and try to ensure that the team is as best prepared as possible for the undoubted challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.
With brain hurting I head for Platform 93/4 for the train home. On the agenda tonight is a game of football and a good chance to let out frustrations by kicking both a ball and some friends for an hour.
A very busy Wednesday ahead, with five meetings planned.
Three of these meetings are with my colleagues from our Dutch performance team. I’m trying to understand some of the issues that are causing reconciliation breaks on their funds each month, with a view to getting these fixed. While I’m sure under time pressure it is easier to find the problem and fix it yourself, ultimately we’re striving for perfection with these data feeds. Once I’ve collected the thoughts from the team, these issues will be raised with our colleagues in The Hague who are responsible for the feed, and we’ll try to get as much sorted as we can. It is amazing how much time and effort can be saved with better quality of data.
A brief meeting with our IT development this morning too, to go over a few changes to one of our processes. As always, what seems to me to be fairly complicated is greeted with “that’s pretty easy, shouldn’t be a problem” – just the kind of response we were hoping for.
At high noon comes the kind of meeting I like – with food served! This is a planning meeting for the months ahead, with Anne and the senior team members having a chance to brainstorm and get a lot of ideas put down on paper. Oh, and to eat. Even for me there was far too much food, so the leftovers are picked up by some of the other guys in the team and our “human dustbins” will no doubt make light work of what is left.
It was a very productive session, and I think we’ve come out with fairly clear ideas of the challenges ahead along with priorities for the team, from projects to training. Those responsible for each area can now make more detailed plans for their teams.
After the last of my data feed meetings today, it is back to analysis time for me. I’ve come across another issue with the new data files that we have been building, and I need to trawl through the spreadsheets of raw data to try and identify a solution that suits us, but doesn’t break anything else and is manageable for our IT team to implement.
Anne also informs me that of these new funds, there is now a small subset of funds that have been deemed a higher priority for reporting. At this point it is time to load the data into our live system, and while I know what issues we have, I’ll at least be able to correct any issues manually to allow things to move on to the next stage.
Home time – as always, one of my main challenges is the train. Tonight I’ve made a bit of a schoolboy error and have appeared first at the door of the train, which means it is up to me to get the door open. Getting your arm out of the window to reach round and open the door is akin to one of those things I see people do on a games console where you press every button simultaneously in an effort to contort your character into some ridiculous pose. Battered and bruised, I finally get off the train.
Thursday starts with some further work on process documentation, and a walk-through test of a new procedure to make sure that nothing has been missed or is incorrect.
The next task today is a follow-up from Monday and the changes in process for one of our Dutch performance reports. This is down to the deadline for these changes being brought forward, and so some juggling of workload will need to be done to accommodate this. We map out what we think will need done before making any fundamental changes to the calculations and reports.
A team lunch has been organised for today for various reasons, and so at noon the desks empty and everyone heads for lunch. Well, not everyone – Richard, who manages the Dutch team, has some urgent work to complete, and as for me, a trip to the dentist later this afternoon means that I abstain. By all accounts everyone has had a good lunch, backed up by the fact that I think several of them have fallen asleep by 3pm.
My afternoon is spent working on the same project as this morning. Despite many challenges and questions, we make some promising progress. The optimism is short-lived though, as we realise the sheer amount of work that will be involved in rolling out these changes to the rest of the affected funds in the relatively short time period available to us.
As mentioned earlier this week, the company quiz night takes place tonight, and being defending champions, the team is fairly confident that our mix of knowledge will see us put up another good show tonight. After all, having such specialist subjects as 80s music, football, 80s music, football, 80s music and er, football should see us through. Watch this space . . .
Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike twice was wrong. Unbelievably, after a tension filled evening, our quiz team once again claimed the trophy (a glittering gold effort to go with our silver one from last year). Despite a couple of ropey rounds and some unwarranted abuse surrounding our team name, we sneaked the win by a very small margin. A good team effort with everyone contributing, with a special mention to Wesley for sportsmanship – shouting out one of the answers to make sure all teams heard it and got an extra point! In a blatant attempt to milk our victory for all it is worth, the trophies from 2011 and 2012 are placed in the middle of the desks for all passers-by to see. We have been assured that should we win next year, the trophy will be so small that no-one can see it.
Back to the grind this morning though, and with it being the second business day after month end, the teams are starting to get busier with the first batch of monthly reports, including peer group reporting, data checking, data loading and some preparation for the main data feeds arriving at the start of next week.
First for me though is some analysis work based on data from our TPA, and some of the potential issues with the content. A bit of progress made and a meeting arranged for later in the month to discuss with them.
I also spend some time completing a new procedure note for roll-out to the Dutch team in the very near future.
Next this morning is a project meeting around KIID documents. There is plenty to discuss as always and plenty of actions for me around the production of past performance numbers and SRRI measures – more to add to my “to do” list!!
At lunchtime Anne has bought some goodies for us to celebrate our quiz success. Now these are incredibly unhealthy, but it would be rude not to try at least one of each . . . .
Early afternoon sees me looking at some of my actions from the KIID meeting, and trying to figure out the most efficient way of producing the information required from our team going forward. This will then be documented and the task will be allocated to one of the analysts in the team.
Anne decides that I need more to do and asks me to investigate some numbers on one of our Dutch performance reports – another quick induction to a process that I haven’t previously been involved with.
The middle of the afternoon is taken up with a conference call to our new Multi-Manager Property team. This allows us to give some background to what we currently do, and to find out what reporting and analysis the new team would like from us on an ongoing basis. This is a very positive call and hopefully we can help the new team with some performance reporting when they are up and running.
The last stretch toward the end of Friday is trying to get a few small tasks finished ahead of what will be an incredibly busy week next week, trying to juggle multiple projects with assisting the teams with anything I can during their month-end production cycle.
At last it is time to head home, and along with Harry, Ron, Hermione and Professor Dumbledore (thanks do my daughter for the right Harry Potter names), I get on the Hogwarts Express, once again in the forlorn hope that come Monday morning, there might be a train to work that doesn’t require anyone to shovel coal to get it moving, and Dunfermline might have 3 more points in the Scottish Premier League.