Archive for October, 2016

The Story of Time Twister

We’ve narrated it before and here we are re-iterating for the curious: “The story of the Time Twister”.

We’re on a mission to save your time and here’s how Time Twister evolved from a simple internal update to your daily dose of time efficient info. 

 

Given how critical it is to be fully informed, before the Local News Daily, every team member at Frontier went through several news sources individually, for very similar information, which in retrospect was not the best use of our time as a team.

Looking for something better, we set up a system for some team members to browse through a few critical sources of news and then disseminate it among the rest. Interestingly it was called “Amal’s Daily News Update

This worked out well and we started introducing this to our close acquaintances and clients. Great feedback was received and incorporated in the Daily most of you see today. This has included expanding the sources we go through significantly, having a much earlier timing, using different formats and adding specific sector based newsletters such as Spotlight: Real Estate Bi-WeeklySpotlight: Business and Finance and Spotlight: Health Sector Weekly.

We love to keep creating new products so that you almost never miss out on the stories or events you are keen to know about. Spotlight: Business Events Update and Spotlight: Social Events Update are two of these newsletters we recently started compiling on a weekly basis. And of course, the Deposit Rate Snapshot gives a quick snapshot of publicly published deposit rates of banks and finance companies every month. Interesting? We thought so too!

We learnt that different readers have different information needs. Some like it in one long email, others broken up in different ways. Some only want certain types of news, others would like the daily only when travelling. We cater to all this.

 

We will filter out the noise, so you hear what’s important to you, and deliver it in a way that works best for you. 

Drop by our blog for more on curated products and the Frontier Way.

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Use Subtle Cues to Encourage Better Meetings

This week on Friday Focus, we look at subtle cues which could encourage the holding of better meetings.

Meetings are a necessary evil. But some would say, there’s too many of them. How can you make sure your organization actually ends up with more effective meetings? 

 

Start by collecting data. Use the data you collect to diagnose the problem. A few places to look when employees are dissatisfied with meetings are:

  • Is there an agenda?
  • Is the objective of the meeting clear?
  • Is advance preparation completed or a pre-read sent out?
  • Did the meeting start on time?
  • Is the length of the meeting appropriate?
  • Does the meeting have the right attendees (number and people)?

Next, design an intervention. Again, at this point, most smart, high performing employees know how to run a meeting. So what’s the point of sending an email reminding everyone that their meetings should have an agenda? The problem isn’t a lack of knowledge. It’s a lack of action. So rather than telling our employees what to do, we opted for a more subtle approach – a slight behavioral cue that needs no explanation.

We chose to install a preformatted whiteboard in each conference room. The whiteboard had the word “Agenda” at the top. Underneath were three columns: “Agenda Topic”, “Desired Outcome” and “Time.” The Agenda Whiteboard not only suggested that people in the conference room should have an agenda, but that there should be a clearly desired outcome and a certain amount of meeting time allocated to discussion. 

A month after the installation of the agenda whiteboards, our next survey revealed that 63% of meetings now had an agenda. At the same time, meeting dissatisfaction dropped from 44% to 16%.

 

The next time you’re tempted to send out an email – or have a meeting – reminding people how to run a meeting, resist. Instead, consider what data-based behavioral intervention you could try instead. 

For more tips on effectiveness and management, visit hbr.org.

Visit the Archives page for more from the Friday Focus.

Want to save time? Write longer e-mails

This week on Friday Focus we bid adieu to the flashback series and take a look at why writing short e – mails is just old school. 

A key rule for e-mail isn’t always keeping it brief, says productivity expert Cal Newport. Here’s why.

 

He says you should write longer e-mails, ironically in the interest of saving time and aggravation.

The author of Deep Work and professor of computing science at Georgetown University promotes a technique he calls “process-centric e-mail.” On his Study Hacks Blog he advises that when sending or replying to an e-mail, you should identify the goal this emerging e-mail thread is trying to achieve.

An example might be arranging a meeting or grabbing a coffee with a collaborator. The goal, therefore, is to synchronize a plan for such a meeting with a minimum of back-and-forth e-mails. Instead of just suggesting getting together – or responding to such a suggestion with “sure” – come up with a process that gets you and your correspondent to that goal while keeping messages to the minimum. Also, explain what you are doing, so the recipient understands.

So if a request comes in, he says, the reply should go something along these lines:

I propose we meet at the Starbucks on campus. Below I have listed four dates and times over the next two weeks. If any of these work for you, let me know and I will consider your reply confirmation that the meeting is set. If none of these times work, then call me or text me on my cell (<number>) Tuesday or Thursday from 12:30 to 1:30, when I’m sure to be around, and we’ll find something that works.

This will take you longer, he acknowledges, but stresses that it doesn’t matter because you are dramatically reducing the number of times you will receive, open, and have to reply to other e-mails.

 

There you have it, contrary to popular belief, spending time on an e – mail could save time as well. 

For more on saving time and improving efficiency, visit the globe and mail.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IN SEPTEMBER

September was a busy month for markets with a plethora of policy reviews, conferences and data releases. Two events towards the end of the month became the highlights and focus of the preceding weeks; the US Federal Reserve’s policy review on the 21st and the OPEC meeting in Algiers held from 26-28th. On the run up to the Fed policy review investors and traders were slightly risk averse, selling riskier assets in Emerging Markets and in mid-September there were concerns that  the EM rally may be ending, as investors indulged in profit taking prior to the policy review. But some analysts remained confident the rally will continue  and were proven right as the month ended positively for Emerging Market equities, with the Fed’s decision to postpone its rate hike leading to gains. However, given comments made by the US Fed’s Chairwoman Janet Yellen, markets now factor in an above even chance for a Fed rate hike in December.

US and Asia Pacific markets were affected by concerns about the financial health of Deutsch Bank after US authorities slapped a $14 billion fine for wrongdoings in the pre-2008 mortgage market. The concerns have subsided on reports the bank is working on reducing the magnitude of the fine. The uncertainty over the tightening US Presidential elections continued to haunt markets over the month. The first Presidential debate saw Hillary Clinton taking the edge, but the polls keep forecasting a tight race between Clinton and Trump and increasing popularity for alternative candidate Gary Johnson. Global markets, especially EMs, are on edge about the increasing possibility of a Trump presidency.

The October 2nd announcement by British Prime Minister Theresa May to officially trigger Brexit by March 2017  renewed concerns over Brexit as the Pound dropped to its lowest since 1985. She also mentioned no special favors will be granted to the financial sector during exit talks with the EU, increasing angst about the future of London as a financial center.

The other highlight of the month was the OPEC meeting where major oil producing nations agreed to a production cut for the first time in eight years. Oil prices reached the $50 mark for the first time since August following the announcement. Saudi Arabia proved to have made a major policy shift when it allowed Iran, Nigeria and Libya to remain pretty much uncommitted to production cuts. Thus, Iran is seen as the big winner from the agreement. Yet, analysts continue to doubt the ability of the cuts being adhered to and a comprehensive agreement is to be made in November.

 

Recruitment, the Frontier Way

cartoon picture of selecting a candidate for a job

Candidates often ask us what the recruitment process at Frontier is like and whether it is as contrarian as the culture at Frontier. Given that, we thought to write a post on it which we can share with future candidates.

While specifics for roles differ, the underneath captures what everyone has to go through, including interns, on whose recruitment we place as much weight as on longer term posts.

The key take away from this is, it is very hard to get any sort of position at Frontier. There is a range of tests/interviews you need to take part in that would take a lot of your time, and even at the final level, after going through many hours of your time and ours, you still have a high chance of being rejected. This can be the cause of hard feelings by some, but in our view has been essential to our success.

As you may know from past blog posts, the work environment at Frontier is very independent and democratic. And this philosophy extends to the recruitment process as well.

The initial stages would have any new candidate sitting through multiple tests/questions. Some are done online, in keeping with our largely remote work culture. The tests done would be dependent on the role for which she is being hired. An economics related hire would face economics related testing and an equity related hire would face capital market related testing. Most interviews happen after this stage. Very often we try to schedule recruitments at a time we can blind test similar candidates. I.e. Tests are often given for which the answers are sent to the assessors (which include Amal, our CEO) without the candidates’ names on the answers. This is to assess the tests separate from the identity of the test taker without any sense of bias.

However, towards the end of the process, each candidate will have to be given the go ahead by every team member, including current interns. A new candidate will only move forward if he receives unanimous approval from the team, a question which is put to them on an anonymous basis, so they can answer it freely.

Further, at Frontier, prestigious qualifications and pedigree count for much less than how a candidate performs at our own tests. Almost all judgement is carried out based on performance during the in house tests that every candidate will be put through. Even those who have failed in the traditional sense but do well at the tests will find themselves on similar footing to those who have perfect CVs or perfect grades.

Even if we feel a candidate would be really great through all this, at varied points in the process we try to understand if Frontier is the best thing for them as we are open about what we don’t offer.

If we also feel that they would do better for themselves in another firm, even though they would add a lot of value to us, we lead them that way, because a core value we have is that:

… we help all stakeholders make the BEST CHOICE, even if it is not with Frontier.

We believe it is the right thing to do, to help team members find better jobs, and our clients better business partners, if Frontier is no longer their best choice.