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Cracked it…

• Create solution narratives and documentation as well as acting as editor on all business and solution architecture material that forms part of the solution documentation set.

• Establish IT constraints and solution limitations, evaluating impact on solution design and be able to communicate this in business friendly language.

• Understand what the programme will deliver from a business and benefits perspective and advise on areas where this in (sic) not aligned with the evolving solution….
– Harvey Nash plc – The Power of Talent


It’s probably the third of those job requirements that I might struggle with, since I am not a Solutions Architect on £55,000 a year and therefore have a problem understanding Tralfamadorian.

The nonsense advertisement I received from a recruitment consultant as a result of posting my availability for editorial work is characteristic of quite a few such non-solutions to my evolving lack of solutions to my personal narrative, but none quite as non-aligned as this.

However, the more I read this ludicrous gibberish (and there was more… a lot more), the more I come to understand that, as a copywriter and creative marketing consultant in the late 1980s, a Solutions Architect is exactly what I was.

By ‘solution architecture material’, the alien who has written to me is, most probably, referring to what, in business-friendly language, we used to call the ‘product briefing’.  As such, it would generally contain  the ‘solution narrative’, or (as we used to know it), the ‘text’ of the ‘solution documentation set’, or ‘handbook’, as it’s sometimes referred to behind closed doors.

The context for this fearful assault on language and meaning is, I am sorry to say, financial services.

I spent three and a half years working for a direct marketing agency – ‘direct marketing’ being business-friendly language for ‘junk mail’. We specialised in pushing financial products – loans, mortgages, pensions, savings schemes, insurance, invoice discounting – call them what you will, onto ordinary consumers and small business elves. Our clients were some of the biggest ogres in the business.

We would regularly receive briefs from bewildered marketing fairies who had been tasked with creating evermore complex products to suck punters into a state of infantile dependence on the large financial institutions, banks basically, to which they would be indebted for the rest of their lives, or from which they would receive a pitiful rate of interest as a reward for long-term investments that almost certainly would go ‘down, as well as up’ – only rather less of the latter.

What characterised those briefs was often that the manager would have very little idea of what the ‘product’ was supposed to look like, or how it worked – how it translated into an actual ‘service’ that the victims in the target market could easily grasp and immediately see the benefit of – and would rely on us – me – to tell them. Behind them stood the Compliance Officer, a formidable eminence grise who would vet anything we wrote for compliance with the Financial Services Act – basically, a set of rules unenforceable in practice, warning us not to make promises on our clients’ behalf that they couldn’t keep.

Or, to couch it in Harvey Nash recruiterballs: ‘Understand what the programme will deliver from a business and benefits perspective and advise on areas where this in (sic) not aligned with the evolving solution….’

The compliance regime ultimately fell apart as the jobbers of the financial services industry rushed like Gadarene Swine over the cliff of massive overconfidence and money-lust. Globalisation of banks and the marketisation of financial ‘products’ – instruments, as they used to be known – sold like cans of beans, created a plethora of ‘solutions’ we deliberately labelled with come-on lines like ‘How to have the things you want – when you want them’.

This was marketingspeak for ‘unsecured debt’, otherwise ‘credit’, a cynical misdescription intended to leave people feeling in control of their lives even as they slide down what one of our financial clients used to call ‘the greasy chute’.

Now, I see, ‘debt’ has been relabelled once again, and is known as ‘solutions’.

The whole rickety, rackety structure came crashing down in 2008 with the run on the Northern Rock building society in the UK, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the revelation that sub-prime mortgages in the USA were being ‘bundled’ and traded as debt swaps, or ‘derivatives’, with intermediaries claiming fat commissions with each successive trade. (Not an original concept: I have written elsewhere about the massive reinsurance scam within the Lloyds of London syndicates in the mid-80s, the outrageous confidence trick underwriters perpetrated in sucking-in hundreds of new Names with unlimited liability to shore up the £6bn black hole they had created.)

Despite the crash, all this shit and more is still going on. For a horrifyingly good read over the breakfast table, I recommend you all rush immediately to Wikipedia’s List of Bank Failures in the USA, 2008-14. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bank_failures_in_the_United_States_%282008%E2%80%93present%29). Read it and gasp.

If there is one piece of advice I would leave to future generations, it is this.

 ‘Establish solution limitations.’

Or, in business-friendly language, stay away from banks.

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