Financial Crimes – The Vulnerable, The Gullible, and The Culpable

Olushola Fashola, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business SChool

Nuthall (2019) asserted that the United Nations estimates that between 2% and 5% (US$800bn–US$2trillion) of global GDP is laundered. The year 2019 saw global anti-money laundering (AML) penalties going beyond £6billion (actual value was £6.2billion which is equivalent to around $8billion), with the US imposing double the quantum of fines imposed by UK authorities (Sweet, 2020). These facts suggests financial crimes is on the rise, which is a worrying development for societies, governments, organisations, and individuals. It is therefore important that some sort of reflection (collectively or individually) be undertaken by all concerned regarding how things have deteriorated to current level in terms of emerging global narrative on financial crime. Consequently, my own lived experience within a socio-economic and institutional context offers a basis for looking at financial crime through the multiple lens of three actors – “the vulnerable”, “the gullible” and “the culpable”.


Some years back I was looking through job advertisements on various websites, hoping to find a flexible job that will permit me to spend more time with my young children. I did not search too long before I came across one placed by a supposedly US based company. Though, the role was described as Administrative Assistant, the job description was more of a home-based funds transfer officer. Considering that I have practice experience in banking and finance, I quickly applied and was very optimistic as to my chances of eventually getting the job. Just as I had anticipated, I was offered the job. However, mode of operation triggered some curiosity – the company will pay money into my account which I shall subsequently transfer to various recipients!


The unusual nature of the responsibilities attached to this job role sent alarm bells ringing. I contacted the website where I found the job to let them know of my suspicion that something was not quite right about this company and the job. The website’s initial response was to dismiss my suspicion, suggesting there was nothing unusual about either the company or the job. Whilst pondering as to the genuineness or otherwise of this job offer, I listened to the BBC money box programme focused on money mules. This made the connection between this job offer and money mule operations vividly clear. I contacted the website again, now aware of the prospect of being used as a money mule based on what I have learnt from the BBC programme. This time, the response was an apology and commitment to bar the company from using the website. Prioritisation of corporate social responsibility can help reduce the chances of financial fraud occurring (Liao et al., 2019).   


Whilst I did not allow this company the opportunity to pay any money into my bank account, I wonder how many people they had successfully persuaded into accepting such payments through their banks. The banking industry is central to economic growth and development, but also remains a vital part of the carefully orchestrated dastardly design of financial crimes’ architecture. The growing evidence against banks with respect to recurring culpability in facilitating financial crimes is a worrying trend that compounds erosion of public trust in them since the financial crisis of 2008/2009. Sanctions imposed on banks (see below) for offences with a bearing on financial crimes bears testimony to banking industry’s culpability.

Feb 2014: Standard Bank PLC fined £7.6m for failures in its anti-money laundering controls (BBC, 2014)

May 2015: Barclays fined $2.4bn for forex rigging (Financial Times, 2015)

June 2015: HSBC pays out £28m “compensation” to Swiss authorities over money-laundering claims (The Guardian, 2015)

November 2015: Barclays Bank (Barclays) was fined £72,069,400 for failing to minimise the risk that it may be used to facilitate financial crime by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (FCA, 2015)

December 2019: HSBC to pay $192m penalty in US for helping clients hide $1billion dollar worth of assets for tax evasion purpose (Financial Times, 2019).

Financial service regulators may have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring banks do not act as facilitators of financial crimes through these sanctions, but the inherent culpability of the financial regulatory system in certain jurisdictions means that these fines do not address why they have become a magnet for financial crime. The public prosecutor in the HSBC/Swiss regulator case as cited in The Guardian (2015) sums up the real source of financial service industry culpability in financial crime thus:

“When we have a law that doesn’t punish financial intermediaries accepting doubtful funds then we have a problem. This problem dates from long before the HSBC affair.”


Criminals adept at committing financial crimes often targets the vulnerable. They are also very clever at deciphering individual vulnerabilities. Unemployment was a vulnerability ready to be exploited in this case. However, various other vulnerabilities can be the focus of the ploy of these criminals. For instance, search for acceptance and love (BBC 2020), desire to help others and outright greed, are a mix of vulnerabilities often exploited by advance fee (otherwise called “419”) fraudsters.

Individuals or organisations should not think they are above gullibility when it comes to financial crimes. The website involved in this case is a subsidiary to one of the major global online platforms. Yet their vetting process allowed this job advertisement to be placed; and initial response to contacting them laid bare their gullibility – a failure in their social responsibility obligation to society!

Banking industry and its regulatory framework remains an important defence line in society’s response to combating financial crime (Ryder, 2017). A basic line of defence where banks had in the past dropped their guards is with respect to “Know Your Customer” (KYC). This important anti-money laundering requirement needs full compliance for the global fight against financial crime to be successful. Specifically, a risk-based approach to KYC practice can help operators in the financial services industry balance regulatory compliance with business exigencies. Such an approach can help focus attention on potentially risky clients such as the politically exposed person (popularly referred to as PEP). The need for some sort of global regulatory alignment to ensure that there are no safe havens for illicit wealth (Nance, 2018) will require every nation to review its laws and ensure that loopholes exploited by financial criminals and their intermediaries are plugged.


Fraud triangle comprising of opportunity, incentive/pressure, and rationalization (Cressey, 1953) had received wide scholarly attention, it is perhaps time we switched attention to actors whose moral gap facilitates financial crime. Vulnerability, gullibility, and culpability represents a collection of attributes that helps financial crime to spread like wildfire and the criminals that benefit from them to take the rest of society for granted. Hence, the need for every individual and organization to undertake a self-assessment as to whether they may be tacitly facilitating financial crime as a vulnerable, gullible, or culpable actor in a dark web that leaves society morally and economically bankrupt.


BBC (2014) Standard Bank fined over lax anti-money laundering controls. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020).

BBC (2020) Covid: Romance fraudsters ‘target lonely’ in lockdown. Available at: (Accessed 04/01/2020)

Cressey, D. (1953) Other People’s Money. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Financial Conduct Authority (2015) FCA fines Barclays £72 million for poor handling of financial crime risks. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020)

Financial Times (2015) Barclays fined $2.4bn for forex rigging. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020).

Financial Times (2019) HSBC to pay $192m penalty in US tax evasion case. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020)

Liao, L., Chen, G. and Zheng, D. (2019) Corporate social responsibility and financial fraud: evidence from China. Accounting & Finance, 59(5), pp.3133-3169.

Nance, M.T. (2018) The regime that FATF built: an introduction to the Financial Action Task Force. Crime, Law and Social Change, 69(2), pp.109-129.

Nuthall, K. (2019) FATF’s new guidelines on tackling money laundering. Accounting and Business magazine, November (Chinese Edition). Available at:,of%20global%20GDP%20is%20laundered.&text=Accountants%20assisting%20with%20property%20purchases,been%20laundered%20into%20legitimate%20accounts. (Accessed 18/12/2020).

Ryder, N. (2017) The financial crisis and financial crime in the United Kingdom: A critical analysis of the response by Financial Regulatory Agencies. The Company Lawyer, 38(1), pp.4-14.

Sweet, P. (2020) Global anti-money laundering fines top £6bn. Accountancy Age publication of 17 January 2020. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020).

The Guardian (2015) HSBC pays out £28m over money-laundering claims. Available at: (Accessed 18/12/2020)

Discover how accounting and finance underpins modern enterprise in our BA (Hons) Finance and Business Enterprise.

Staffordshire Business School Creativity and Innovation Week – w/c 18th January 2021

Creativity and Innovation Week offers students a huge variety of sessions delivered by academics from both Staffordshire Business School and the School of Digital, Technologies and Arts along with some fantastic guest speakers.

As well as our keynote presenter, Ian Reid – Chief Executive of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, we will also be welcoming the team from Alton Towers, including Janet Gurr – Hotels and Accommodation Development Director, Neil Crittenden – Commercial Director, Jo Mountney – Divisional People Partner/HR Director and Jason Mumford – Senior Recruitment and Learning & Development Manager.

The Creativity and Innovation Week 2021 is also an ideal opportunity for you to gain additional micro-credentials to enhance your employability. Use this time to take a MOS exam in Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, or perhaps even all four. This will also help you to save time in future assessments through the use of appropriate presentation tools and shortcuts to complete assessment tasks. There are also 11 LinkedIn short courses embedded into the programme.

To view the full schedule of sessions, click below:

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School

This morning I was labelled a geek. I don’t mind being called a geek (I probably am a bit of a geek) but what is interesting is that this label was awarded as a result of me sharing a plan on twitter. The plan for my allotment in 2021.

Now I don’t feel that planning makes me geeky – I’m a big believer in planning and the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail” is one that I use often. I plan a work “To Do” list at the end of each working day, a shopping list before walking down to the shops, I plan holidays months if not years in advance and yes, I plan which vegetables I am going to grow at my allotment and which beds they will go into. That way I can be sure that the soil will be right for them, the light conditions will suit them and that everything grows together in harmony to produce bountiful harvests.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Planning is a big part of business success – we create business plans, marketing plans and project plans in all aspects of our working life. Without things like business continuity planning, risk management, financial planning, many businesses fail to survive in today’s fast-moving work environment. Students are taught planning not only as part of their studies, but also as part of their own lifestyle management as a student – our students even brought together some tips to share with others in this YouTube video.

Some would say planning has been difficult during 2020 and it’s hard to plan when we don’t know what we will be able to do. I think this is actually all the more reason to plan – if plans didn’t materialise, as so many failed to during 2020, then we suck it up and plan all over again, whether it be a holiday, a birthday, a wedding or a study plan for the year. What has been bumped from the top of the list now goes back into the list again for re-scheduling.

Plans give us hope and they psychologically prepare us, they build anticipation, and they demonstrate commitment. When we plan, we mentally get organised and prepare ourselves and this is a good thing – it saves us from stressing about the unknown, relieves some uncertainty and helps us to cope better

Plans don’t have to be big, they don’t have to be impressive, they don’t have to be written down (although I do get great satisfaction from planning on paper) and they don’t have to be shared. They may not mean a thing to anybody but you, and that’s just fine. I can guarantee that you will enjoy your planned activities far more for having planned them and that you will stress less and cope better with things that challenge you.

Happy planning – you have a whole year ahead of you, LET’S GO!

Staffordshire Business School is a premier centre for business education with decades of experience in providing business courses at the forefront of industry and technological developments. Business planning is integrated into all of our new business courses – click here to find out more.

Multiple accreditations in progress for new courses

Staffordshire Business School is working with a number of professional bodies to ensure relevant accreditations for our new suite of courses.

For Digital and Social Media Marketing we are working with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the world’s leading professional marketing body.

For Business Management and Sustainability and Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship we are working with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the only professional body able to award Chartered Manager status. We are also working with The Institute of Leadership and Management who have been researching the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviours and values of great leadership since

These accreditations mean that students will have the opportunity to graduate with an additional professional qualification alongside their degree.

Plan and the future will be bright

Paul Walters, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

The event sector which includes hospitality and tourism, has seen a significant decline in commercial activity, since March 2020 and as we come to the close for the year 2020.  Many small to medium size business saw a complete loss of business, this included the festival industry which had somewhere in the region of 7 million visitors attending festivals in the UK each year.  It is reported, the UK prior to the COVID restrictions had somewhere in the region of 400 plus festivals throughout the UK each year.  Even the largest event provider on the planet ‘Live Nation’ experienced financial difficulty and received $500 million from a Saudi investment fund.  Live Nation furloughed 20% of its staff to save $600 million and Live Nation artists were informed by the company to take a pay cut.  This was a similar situation and mirrored in most cases across the Event Sector. 

Companies within the sector that had Interruption Insurance, attempted to make a claim because of the Government shut down.  The sector will fully understand what is meant by ‘interruption Insurance’.  As some insurance companies decided to decline claims on ‘Interruption Insurance.  Insurance companies argued that many claims did not specify or have insurance for the specific type of interruption.  However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, a High Court ruling on the 15th September 2020 which represented 370,000 policy holders who are some way clearer to an answer and pay out under their interruption insurance claim.  So, what do we learn from this, it is not just necessary to have interruption insurance but also specify the type of interruption be that Government shut down, a pandemic and what type of virus, be that SARS, Zika or any other known type.  

Some event companies within the sector made an early attempt to re-engage with their consumers through a different medium. Those that made the immediate change rather than cancel maintained a presence in the commercial marketplace and some saw a significant increase in revenue. 

Image source:

If you haven’t heard of Tomorrowland outdoor music festival, let me refocus your attention. This is a festival that takes place in Belgium and has a 15 year history.  In 2019 Tomorrowland had 250,000 attendees at the festival site.  When the pandemic hit the global economy, Tomorrowland didn’t cancel or postpone, they created over a period of three months an online virtual festival. Two million people registered for a ticket and 400,000 people received an invite.  Some commentators say the industry in the main wasn’t quick to respond to the change to the environment, thus providing a short-term alternative solution for their customers. 

In the North East of England, we saw the first licensed outdoor music event that ran for a period of 6 weeks. With a maximum capacity of attendees each day of 2500, contained in their own Covid secure zones, a maximum of six per zone.  The event was sponsored by Virgin money as title sponsor.  For the event to have a return on investment, a schedule of live performances over six weeks was the only solution.

Image Source: Daily Feed

So, the question on everyone’s lips, will the event industry recover and what will it look like in 2021 going forwards. 

There is no guarantee for this virus to completely dissipate from society even with a vaccine and we as a nation may experience another rise in transmission during 2021 and possible government shutdowns. The events industry must be flexible and ready to respond to the change in the environment to maintain some financial stability and continued growth.  Alternative methods for delivering events should be considered and factored into the planning process with a viable contingency if immediate change is required. 

Get your Hunter Wellington Boots on and book a ticket for Parklife outdoor music festival September 2021.

Understanding the supply chain to build resiliency and manage risk

Marzena Reszka, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

Marzena Reska

Fast forward to the coronavirus crisis, whose humanitarian and human-livelihood costs are still rising, even as it also reveals supply-chain vulnerabilities that many small and medium businesses didn’t realize they had. As a result, building flexibility and resilience in operations has gone from one priority among many to business-critical. In this context, organisations need a new approach to manage supply-chain risk and build resiliency.

In the short term, the concern has focused on the shortages of critical goods or services.  In the long term many anticipate a renewed focus on better quantifying risks, with a mindset similar to buying insurance—by using probabilistic approaches, such as discrete-event simulation, and by redesigning business cases to include potential losses from a lack of resiliency measures. These responses represent a shift in business strategy, with companies showing more willingness to weigh the benefits of investments to navigate future risks against the potential fallout from failing to do so.

The current situations shows that there is need to a much deeper view of the supply-chain vulnerability and exposure to create effective mitigation and business-continuity plans.

Thus, there is a need to work more closely with suppliers to build more transparency through collaboration. However, collaboration is often viewed as a fraught territory, with supplier networks viewed as proprietary, and to create a more cooperative working environment can involve or require a deep change of mind-set. There is no need to disclose every detail to their suppliers, but to effectively perform network planning consider:

  • transparency of inventory levels,
  • capacity,
  • and flexibility

these can give a lens into potential bottleneck issues. The research suggests organisations should begin to tackle issues in a structured way, cataloguing and addressing known risks while improving the organisation’s resilience for the inevitable unknown risks that can become a problem in the future.

Supply-chain resilience requires a risk-aware culture to help an organisation establish and maintain strong defensive layers against unknown risks, as well as respond more quickly in the event of a severe crisis or operational threat. As COVID19 brought to light vulnerabilities in companies supply chains, building resiliency is not only a matter of awareness, but of setting an intent across the organisation, clearly communicating to the entire workforce, and taking tangible action to address the immediate and long-term risks.

Risk mitigation often has an associated incremental cost, and so it is important to align on which risks need to be mitigated and which can be borne by the organisation.

  Supply chain and risk are just some of the topics we are covering on a free course – the Small business Leadership Programme – sign up now.

The Small Business Leadership Programme is provided by Staffordshire Business School and is fully funded (free). Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to boost business performance.

The course lasts ten weeks and the next two cohort start dates are

West Midlands 12th January  3.00-4.30pm

North West 13th January  3.00-4.30 pm

Register here

For more details see the website

Contact Kat Mitchell if you would like a chat


‘’Supplying resilience through assessing diversity of responses to disruption’’, (2019), H.Kahiluoto, H. Makinen. (2019).

‘’Supply chain resilience: the whole is not the sum of the parts’’, (2019),  M. Martins se Sa; P. Laczynska de Souza Miguel .

‘’Resetting Supply Chains for the next normal’’   2020  
A. Knut; R. Gupta; V. Trautwein                                                    

  ‘’Risk, Resilience, and rebalancing in global value chains’’, (2020), S. Lund; J. Manyika; J. Wotzel, E. Barribal; B. Krishnan; A. Knut; M.

Five Black Friday Thoughts

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School

2020 celebrates a decade since the arrival of the term Black Friday – traditionally the day after Thanksgiving in America, it came into existence to encourage people to take advantage of an annual holiday to spend some money and get a good deal. This year more than ever the thought of Black Friday disturbs me. It’s another tradition that seems to be driven by consumerism and globalisation – some media even have a Black Friday channel so that you can snatch up the deals as soon as they are available. This year, I find it particularly difficult to observe the way in which consumerism is pervading every aspect of our lives, at a time when for so many finances are incredibly challenged.

The deals have already started and as if Black Friday wasn’t enough, it’s swiftly followed by Cyber Monday. As a marketer I totally get it, but that just doesn’t make it right and quite frankly I struggle with it this year of all years. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to spend where we can to bring the wheels of our economy back to life, but this is about making sound choices about how to spend your hard-earned money. So, to make me feel better if nothing else, I want to ask you to stop and think before you spend your money on Black Friday deals.

These are the five things I want you to consider:

1 – Is there a chance that you are going to buy something you had no intention of purchasing, something that you really don’t need, simply because it looks like such a good deal? Let’s face it, from the minute you wake on Black Friday you’ll be inundated with marketing messages on emails, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…and you’ll see deals that you think are irresistible. Ask yourself the question – would I have gone out with the intent to buy it had it not been cleverly marketed to me?

2 – Your local small and medium sized businesses are also crying out for trade but may not have the same way of reaching you with clever marketing messages. Take a moment to consider whether you could buy the same or similar deal from a local business, to keep our SME’s afloat too.

3 – When we come out of lockdown and shops are open again, your Christmas shopping trip might also include a cup of coffee from the pop up stall run by a small business, a taxi ride from the station to the shops, a bite to eat before you head home . These small businesses and services need our trade too – don’t restrict yourself to buying online from the big retailers who arguably have deeper pockets to dig into to weather the storm. Equally, don’t deny yourself the Christmas shopping experience if that’s something you enjoy as part of the build up to the festive season.

4 – Do you need it? Do you really need it? In a world full of discarded products, where will it end up? Can it become part of a circular economy or is it a linear purchase that will end up polluting our environment once it’s use is over?

5 – Finally, can you replace this Black Friday purchase decision with something much more meaningful? UNICEF are asking us to do Black Friday with a difference, our local hospices are asking for help, there are foodbanks in desperate need of donations – which use of your hard-earned money will make you feel better in the long run?

Whichever way you choose to spend your money one thing’s for sure – there will be something else to tempt you no sooner than your hand is out of your wallet. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be followed by Boxing Day sales and New Year sales, then before you know it we’ll have Easter Eggs on the shelves!

Fintech: A ray of light in the dark?

Dr Syed Zaidi, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

Fintech (Financial Technology) refers to any business that adopts technology to make financial services better, safe and more efficient. Fintech companies blend technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and data management to financial processes to make them secure and effective.

Fintech was no doubt the topic of agenda for businesses prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but has garnered more importance due to this random economic event. This pandemic has forced businesses to think differently and it is anticipated that Fintech will play a positive role in reshaping the businesses. The adoption of digital and contactless payments globally has increased and will likely provide stimulus to banking sector to upgrade their conventional systems and move towards digitally efficient processes.

Image Source:

Impact of Pandemic on Fintech

This pandemic has forced businesses to think differently and it is anticipated that Fintech will play a positive role in reshaping the businesses. The adoption of digital and contactless payments globally has increased and will likely provide stimulus to banking sector to upgrade their conventional systems and move towards digitally efficient processes.

Image Source:

A report by FleishmanHillard discusses the progress of financial technology (fintech) in 2020 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. E-commerce transactions in the US have increased by 43% since the start of this year. The UK saw a 30% increase in e-commerce transactions, and Australia reported a 117% increase. Businesses and consumers wanted a safer and more secure environment, which has pushed businesses towards cashless and contactless payments. Fintech is predicted to remain profitable and provide safer opportunities for SMEs. It is evident that corporations should focus on cloud-based approaches to managing their businesses in order to provide safer services online.


The fintech sector is renowned for developing digital solutions and streamlining payment processing for business. One technology that has revolutionised the banking system is blockchain.

Image Source:

Blockchain is a system that records information in a manner that makes it difficult or nearly impossible to hack or alter the system. It is basically a digital record of transactions that is replicated and distributed to the entire database on the blockchain. The banking sector around the globe is exploring the potential for adopting blockchain technology for payment systems.


Business leaders realise that digital advancement can give their business an edge over competitors. Innovators and early adopters always have an advantage, so companies are rapidly moving towards digitalisation. As mentioned earlier, the current crisis has also expedited this process. As the global economy prepares to recover from this pandemic, one area of focus for businesses will be financial inclusion. According to the World Bank, there are still around 1.7 billion individuals worldwide who do not use banking systems. Fintech will be a significant factor in efforts to expand the global banking system.

The recovery of the economy is dependent on how well businesses provide safe, secure and simple financial services. Fintech will play a crucial role in mitigating the economic and social impact post Covid-19. Deloitte reported that fintech, along with strategic partnerships with retailers, government sectors and financial institutions, can provide financial services in transparent and impartial ways to economically exposed populations

Cashless Transactions

We have witnessed the effective use of fintech and digital finance during this health crisis. Cashless transactions and contactless payments have proven successful in minimising the spread of Covid-19. Various banks and financial institutions introduced discounts and encouraged the use of technologies like Apple Pay and Android Pay to discourage the exchange of physical cash. Although the use of cash had already been declining, this health emergency has increased cashless transactions. According to a Mastercard survey, 82% of global respondents regarded contactless transactions as safer, cleaner and more secure. Seventy-four per cent of respondents stated they would continue to use contactless payments even after the crisis is over. Contactless payments are also popular as individuals appreciate the convenience of not having to carry cash.


Data protection and cybersecurity will become more important as a result of the digital transformation. Financial technology offers high-quality cybersecurity and plays a vital role in countering digital fraud. The need for more holistic approach by businesses to deliver effective, sustainable and efficient financial services will make fintech more popular post-pandemic.

Image Source:


Fintech Driving Global Change – BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE 

Discover how accounting and finance underpins modern enterprise in our BA (Hons) Finance and Business Enterprise.

Growing good working habits

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School

I’ve learnt a lot this year – I’ve learnt never to throw away an eggshell, that there is a use for the cardboard middle of toilet rolls and that people chuck out a lot of stuff that you can make good use of. I’ve discovered that the circular economy as a concept can infiltrate many aspects of our lives and that we can all incorporate it into our daily routines.

A back-garden grower for most of my life, each Spring I have filled every pot, hanging basket and raised bed available with potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, onions and strawberries. For me, there are few things more satisfying than nurturing and growing something from seed to plate, but this year I went a step further. I think it is fair to say that getting an allotment 6 months ago has been quite life changing.

Nothing is impossible

At first sight I did wonder what we were letting ourselves in for, as we surveyed 250m2 of overgrown wasteland. The best we could expect was to clear the land, create some semblance of order and some defined beds, then feed and prepare the soil to grow our vegetables next year.  Lockdown changed all of that – two week’s holidays in Europe turned into two weeks of back-breaking graft, weekends with friends turned into weekends with the birds and the bees. We weeded, dug, strimmed, fertilised, and weeded and dug some more. Bit by bit the allotment began to take shape and, there was time to do some planting. Before too long we were looking at defined beds containing all the fruit and veg you could wish for. The freezer picked up at a local auction room for £20 has never worked harder – we’ve harvested, washed, peeled, blanched and frozen to fill our plates with delicious home grown produce right through until the Spring.

Pace yourself

There was a four-week period during the Summer when we picked a lettuce every day – I’m pretty sure we ate lettuce for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we were still giving lettuces away to every neighbour or family member we happened to see. Don’t get me wrong, the lettuces were delicious, but I had made the mistake of sowing all the seeds at the same time so, as a result, the lettuces were all ready to eat at the same time. Therein lies an important lesson – plan and pace yourself to reap the rewards.

This filters through to our working lives as well. As an academic I liken it to research and writing – planning when I will do my research, when I will write and outlining targets to achieve delivers the best results for me. Breaks are also planned in, to ensure that I am fresh and focused as I sit down. This year a wander down to the allotment has definitely given me some headspace.

You can’t do it all

Fighting the horsetail weed, the dread of many an allotment gardener, has taught me that I just can’t win every battle. It’s impossible to be there every time another weed pops up through the soil to rip it out, so I just have to set myself a target of one bed at a time to tackle and clear the weed. Similarly, looking at your “To Do” list at work can be quite frightening, but acknowledging that it’s not possible to get it all done and identifying the priorities to work on goes a long way towards making steady but sure progress.

Make do and mend

There are very few things that we’ve actually paid money for at the allotment. We’ve been given everything from seedlings to seats, plant pots to power tools. We ordered a couple of second hand allotment books online and have learnt that baked and crushed eggshells are an excellent slug deterrent, the cardboard centre of a toilet roll cut in half makes a couple of great plugs to grow your seeds in and plastic bottles as a cane cover can save you from poking your eye out whilst digging away! We’ve helped friends to dig up their drive in preparation for a new one, so that we can make use of the old paving slabs for a hard standing next to the polytunnel. We’ve volunteered to do the tip run with friends as they’ve  cleared their gardens so that we can make use of the old bench that they were going to throw away and we’ve swapped seedlings that we have grown in excess in exchange for those that we never got round to sowing.

Of course, this is the way that people used to do business – bartering and exchanging goods and services. The very earliest economies worked in exactly this way. For me, this extends to the way in which I work with colleagues across the university and employers that I engage with – work with me on this project and I’ll work with you on that one. Sharing ways of thinking and bringing new ideas to the table can only be a good thing and ultimately everyone benefits.t

Time to rest

The sun has set on the busiest time of year at the allotment now. We’ve dug the beds, topped with cardboard and manure and then covered over for the winter so that the worms can do their work. There are little projects for dry weekends, such as replacing the composting frame and building a new cloche, but all-in-all things have slowed down and we’re expecting a few months of rest before starting over again in the Spring.

I really like the new Insights feature in Microsoft Outlook that tells me it’s time to rest and re-think my working patterns too. Sometimes you don’t realise the bad habits you’ve created until someone or something points it out to you. Just like the soil, my body and mind need to rest and refresh and I’ll be using this tool to monitor my work patterns more closely in the coming dark winter months.

Like my vegetable beds I’m fed and watered now and ready for a good night’s rest before work tomorrow. Goodnight all!

Read this article in The Guardian to see why having an allotment can help improve your mental health: It’s official: allotments are good for you – and for your mental health

Become a responsible leader of global business.

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Our emphasis on ethical business and sustainability will position you to create long-lasting value for your organisation and you will learn the practical skills needed to become a responsible business leader.

Now what…IoB?

Fatimah Moran, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

We have all probably heard the term “the Internet of Things” (or “IoT”). This term refers to the interconnectivity of objects or “things” resulting in new data sources. Wearables, smart homes, smart cars, and smart cities are a few examples of applications that provide products to consumers but in return they also provide valuable data to companies that provide the products & services to customers. 

The Internet of Behaviours (IoB) is a technology that captures and use data“digital dusts” of people’s daily lives (Gartner, 2020) from IoT devices that focuses on individuals that can provide insights into consumer behaviours, interests, and preferences. IoB also provides companies with the ability to direct its marketing efforts towards specific consumers.

For example, a fitness wearable can track how many steps you do in a day and what time of day you are more active. This can be linked to your smart alarm clock, your TikTok account, your device location tracking application, your in-home voice assistant (such as, Amazon Alexa or Google Home), your house camera, your digital shopping list, and maybe even your smart refrigerator. That is a lot of invaluable information that can be collected about a consumer; everything from whether this consumer is a morning person to whether they have an online shopping addiction or a chocolate addiction can be inferred from collected information.

IoB also has implications for the public sector. Think of the amount of health surveillance and monitoring that is occurring because of COVID-19. Your smart phone’s (remove “location”) Test & Trace App can assist the health care system with its contact tracing capabilities. Imagine that this test and trace App could be linked to your smart car in order to discover where else you might have gone to last Friday night (pub, church, grocery store, classes, etc.) or the App could be linked to your fitness wearable. What if a surveillance tool could track whether you were washing your hands properly or whether you were wearing a mask. Imagine also who would have access to this information?

IoB has been identified as a strategic technology trend for 2021 (Gartner, 2020), and by 2023, 40 percent of people worldwide will likely be having their individual activities tracked digitally (

One of the objectives of these types of data mining/collection is to try to influence an individual’s behaviour in some way, that is, to either specifically market a product to them and/or to protect against problematic behaviour.  

What prevents the onslaught of immense personal data collection from these technology sources? Privacy and information security laws are notoriously slow to catch up with technical innovations and rely on proper consent to be obtained from individuals using devices that collect their personal information. Security of information will be paramount to ensure trust being received from individuals and companies and/or the public sector. Like anything else, however, if the resulting behaviour provides a clear benefit to individuals and provides the information the company or public sector desires, then the IoB is here to stay.

References: -19 October 2020