Words make ideas make money.

I have worked with many brands, for many clients, with success that I’ve been able to measure and demonstrate.

From a zingy ad line to a press release, from a website to a blog post, from a feature or a byline right through to major strategic pieces such as white papers and research publications, I know what needs doing and how to do it.

Here’s my recent portfolio.


I write national appeals, which also includes working across digital, comms and fundraising teams, art direction and strategy formulation.

Daniel and Varley’s story


Daniel was born deaf, without cochleas. His deafness made him anxious about being alone at night, because he couldn’t hear those reassuring noises of domestic life downstairs: doors opening, muffled conversation, the TV. Then, his mum Ann found out about Hearing Dogs, and Daniel was matched with a lovely, soft-natured, black Labrador called Varley. Daniel met Varley on his birthday – his “best birthday present ever.” Now, at bedtime, Daniel gives Ann a kiss and signs “Goodnight mum, me and Varley are going to bed!”

More at https://www.hearingdogs.org.uk/helping-deaf-people/stories/daniel-varley/

White papers and surveys

ITPOES: The Oil Crunch

I copy-edited this major report which made national headline news, presented by Richard Branson on behalf of the Industry Task Force on Peak Oil.

More at http://www.resilience.org/stories/2010-02-10/oil-crunch-wake-call-uk-economy-report-excerpt


This blog has been ranked highly across the UK and Europe, and so I have extensive experience of blogging.

I have been quoted by the BBCBrand Republic and PR Week, and featured in Communication Director as a blogger and as a social media commentator. I have also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme as a social media commentator.

I’ve appeared on lists of online influencers in PR, social media and marketing, such as Ad Age’s Power150 list of top global marketing blogs Spinning Around’s Top Marketing BlogsEwan CarMichaels’ top 50 social media blogs of 2011, and the BrandWatch 200 list of the best advertising, marketing, media, PR and digital blogs from around the world, ranked in terms of traffic and social influence.



I wrote the internal guidance pages for myhealth London (http://www.myhealth.london.nhs.uk/), an NHS public information and engagement tool putting London patients at the heart of their local GP practice. It explained to practice staff how to update their sections on the site, including how to write effectively, and how to handle negative feedback.

I also wrote the online support pages for KTS’s MarketTerminal and QuoteTerminal services, and the support material for all of VideoLogic’s range of PC peripherals.


FH_logo    Porter-Novelli-logo-everything-pr1-1024x398

I have written the websites for Fleishman Hillard UK and Porter Novelli UK, both major PR agencies. I have also written the websites for the Air Transport Action Group (an industry sponsored initiative to promote greener flight awareness), Geothermal Engineering (a geothermal tech company), and Halo IPT (a wireless charging system jointly developed with Ove Arup). I can provide copy samples although the websites have since been redeveloped.

Press releases

I have written many press releases. Here is one example.

LoopMe to Bring Video Advertising to 1 Billion Mobile Users

LoopMe, a mobile advertising platform specialising in full-screen ad formats, has launched the first mobile Real-time Bidding (RTB) platform to deliver full-screen video and rich media ads via HTML5. This gives advertisers unprecedented scale, exceeding that of TV, to reach global audiences on Android and iOS platforms that now account for over 95% of the global smartphone market.

More at http://www.adoperationsonline.com/2014/11/14/loopme-to-bring-video-advertising-to-1-billion-mobile-users/


Facebook’s Hugely Disruptive Mobile Strategy Is Hiding In Plain Sight

Poor Facebook. Everyone is commenting on its fortunes post-IPO, but while we leave the lawyers to decide what went wrong, Facebook itself must now address some of the biggest risk factors in its S-1 filing: its reliance on advertising revenue, dependence on competitive platforms, and lack of mobile clarity in a mobile world.

More at http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/07/facebooks-hugely-disruptive-mobile-strategy-is-hiding-in-plain-sight/

Mobile Real-time Bidding: From Slow Waiting to Smart Crowds

Waiting. It’s part of our psyche. Wherever and whenever we get the opportunity, in an orderly fashion, we’ll get in line and wait.

That’s because waiting in line can work. If you’re in the line at your local bakery (maybe even reading this on a mobile device right now), you can be sure that, so long as you’re patient, the bakery has enough bread, and you have money, you’ll get what you came for.

Mobile advertising can work like this. A publisher’s ad router will ‘daisy chain’ ad requests from buyers (ie advertisers), so if buyer A doesn’t fill a request, it is sent on to buyer B, and so on until the ad is filled.

More at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/wes-biggs/mobile-realtime-bidding-f_b_2169786.htm

How Mobile Advertising Grew Up

He slid his finger across the screen. It activated. They gasped.

He swiped his finger up the screen. It scrolled. They gawked.

He said “We are calling it iPhone.” Steve Jobs regarded the audience. They went bananas.

Meanwhile, if contemporary accounts are to be believed, the development team was downing healthy swigs of whisky, in case the prototype failed to work. It did work, the team drained the flask, the mobile ecosystem was born, and with it, display mobile advertising.

Just seven years later,the IAB points out that UK mobile ad spend topped one billion pounds in 2013, and EMarketer predicts 2014’s total to exceed two billion pounds. This is growth at an astonishing rate, in which mobile advertising tech has innovated at a white-hot pace in a red-hot sector.

More at http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/how-mobile-advertising-grew-up#axzz3RcfNBTxd

How to fill the digital skills gap: think local, act global

It’s getting hot here in London. From Adfonic’s headquarters, I can look one way and see the multi-coloured buildings of Google’s Central St Giles offices – three massive floors, with dance studio and luminous orange shower rooms.

If I look the other way, I see the Barbican towers with their feet planted near Tech City, where Amazon will establish its Digital Centre of Excellence in an eight-storey, 47,000 square foot building. Boris Johnson rightly points to them as shining examples of this mega-city’s attractiveness to major employers.

More at http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/14081-how-to-fill-the-digital-skills-gap

Can Mobile RTB Become Mobile Advertising’s First Killer App?

Every technology has its definitive killer app. In the 1970s, VisiCalc was often the sole reason users invested in the Apple platform. In the 80s, Space Invaders quadrupled purchases of Atari machines. The 1990s saw the Mosaic web browser become the killer app for the Internet, and social media in all its forms democratised the web in the 21st century. Such is the appeal of its transformative powers that only last week, at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, CIOs were scrambling in search of ‘the next killer app’.

More at http://performancein.com/news/2013/01/17/can-mobile-rtb-become-mobile-advertisings-first-killer-app/

What is Real-time Bidding, and How is it Driving Mobile Marketing?

When I co-founded Adfonic in 2008, mobile advertising was in its infancy. Five years later almost to the day, Adfonic exists in a transformed world. We have smartphones, tablets and phablets, and by the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on the planet than people, according to Cisco. Soon we’re going to have wearable devices with curved screens and superfast 4G connectivity.

More at http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/mobile-digital-marketing/what-is-real-time-bidding-and-how-is-it-driving-mobile-marketing/233

Mobile RTB Can Unlock the Potential of all Digital Advertising

You wake up. You check your mobile phone. You see an advert for that tasty Toyota model you’ve been checking out recently.

On the way into work, you’re playing Angry Birds on your tablet, and the mobile ads alongside show more tempting ads for that car. One in particular offers a test drive. You click it because you’ve got a free weekend coming up and it might be fun to try. Meanwhile an electric billboard goes past the train window showing the number of people who have requested a test drive: the number ticks up by one…

More at https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2012/11/28/mobile-rtb-can-unlock-the-potential-of-all-digital-advertising-by-wes-biggs-cto-co-founder-adfonic/

MediaWeek: What the death of the mobile long-tail means for agencies

Listen in to the conversations in any digital agency, and they will be around how to consolidate. While creative designers need to think about how to make one campaign work across different platforms, even different models within those platforms, planners need to find ways of segmenting audiences in meaningful ways.

So the recent consolidation in the mobile manufacturing base could be good news for agencies that want to reduce complexity. And ultimately, new ways of buying ads could sidestep the issue altogether.

More at http://www.mediaweek.co.uk/article/1213812/death-mobile-long-tail-means-agencies

Mediapost: Data Scientists Swim, Surf, Pick And Juggle

As mobile advertising specialists, we depend on the work of our data scientists. They’re the ones who figure out exactly what our data can do for us, by applying algorithms that unlock immense value for us and for our clients.

But what exactly do data scientists do? Does their day consist of diving into deep blue oceans of data, swimming among shoals of algorithms and algebraic coral? Do they pick away at a rock face of solid data, to find diamond insights compressed over millions of years? Do they surf data? Do they juggle it? Tame it? Ingest it?

More at http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/195951/data-scientists-swim-surf-pick-and-juggle.html

iMedia Connection: Killer apps, smartphone explosions, tablet wars and big RTB data: Mobile trends in 2013

If you have online access right now, do this: go to Google Trends, and type in mobile advertising. You’ll see a vaguely static line across the screen from 2004 through 2011. Then you’ll see a huge spike to the right. That’s 2012. And we’re looking at more of the same in 2013.

At Adfonic we see the mobile world through the advertising lens. Every month we serve billions of ad impressions, and on a quarterly basis we analyse huge volumes of data across our platform to produce the Adfonic Global AdMetrics Report. The report serves as a barometer highlighting current mobile advertising trends. For example, in Q2 2012 we revealed that, globally across our platform, Android had surpassed iOS to become the most popular platform for mobile advertisers. While we can’t predict the future (yet), we anticipate more game-changing developments in 2013. Here is our pick.

More at http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/11/27/killer-apps-smartphone-explosions-tablet-wars-and-big-rtb-data-mobile-trends-in-2013/

PerformanceIN: Premium for Mobile: A Case for Definition

In our recent Global AdMetrics Report we showed an exponential rise in the availability of inventory from premium mobile publications via real-time bidding (RTB), increasing from 342 million requests in Q1 2013, to nearly two billion by Q3 2013 and then four billion in Q4 2013.

At the time, everyone knew that advertisers were embracing RTB. At byyd we have been charting the astonishing rise of programmatic mobile advertising since the tipping point in October 2012 when over half our mobile ad requests came from RTB-enabled inventory. As we said at the time, on this very website, RTB could become mobile advertising’s killer app, and we think we were right.

More at http://performancein.com/news/2014/04/04/premium-mobile-case-definition

Mobile Marketing: Twin peaks

If money makes the world go around, it does so particularly over the festive period. The run-up to Christmas can account for as much as 40 per cent of a retail store’s annual revenue and three-quarters of its annual profit. It’s important that, while of course enjoying the children singing and the sleigh bells ringing, marketers capitalise on this.

At Adfonic we regularly roll up our sleeves and delve into the tombola of data we gather on our platform, and we consistently pull out shiny new prizes. So here’s our advice for marketers who want to make the most of mobile this year.

More at http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/twin-peaks

Fourth Source: CSI: MWC – Crimes against mobile advertising and how to avoid them

Last month I looked at the difference between online and mobile advertising, and how it really boiled down to two critical issues: cookies (or lack thereof in mobile), and fragmentation of the mobile ecosystem across devices, platforms, manufacturers and so on.

This was just one part of a superset of issues that I characterised as ‘Crimes against mobile advertising’ in a session I presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week.

More at http://www.fourthsource.com/mobile/csi-mwc-crimes-against-mobile-advertising-and-how-to-avoid-them-13358

VentureBeat: The banner ad turns 20 and is still going strong — but for how long?

On October 27, 1994, the first online banner ad appeared, a 468 x 60 image for AT&T across the top of Wired Magazine’s HotWired site. Twenty years later, we’ve been through web 2.0, social media, and the mobile revolution — and yet the banner ad format persists.

From something the size of a bookmark on our old screens, the banner has shrunk to a tiny sliver as we play our mobile games, interact on our mobile social media apps, and use our mobile messaging.

But the banner’s time may be up. As the banner ad entered its third decade, Google announced full-screen mobile ads, and Facebook started making strategic moves towards full-screen mobile formats. Between them, Google and Facebook have a combined two-thirds share of the global mobile advertising market, a figure marketing research firm eMarketer expects to increase in 2015. Clearly when the two biggest mobile advertisers talk about full-screen mobile ad formats, something significant is happening. The banner ad may be about to die, and the full-screen format might kill it.

More at http://venturebeat.com/2014/11/09/the-banner-ad-turns-20-and-is-still-going-strong-but-for-how-long/

ExchangeWire: Why Mobile Video Advertising is VAST-ly Below its Potential

The IAB’s latest ad spend estimates £64m will be spent on mobile video in H1 2014, in the UK. We think that a chunk of this spend – programmatic mobile video, excluding Facebook and Google  – is much smaller than it could be, because the VAST standard has experienced slow adoption. Remove this bottleneck and mobile video ad spend could experience massive, rapid growth.

So, how much potential is being held back? While we’d like to share some numbers with a high level of confidence, the IAB/PWC study doesn’t break down the mobile spend figures. Indeed, the IAB says that it includes estimates, for example of the Facebook components, and we all know that reliable figures regarding ad spend are not in the public domain.

This is why we put our collective heads together, and came up with our own estimates, based on experience, data and intuition, of how that £64m breaks down – and, theoretically, could build back up.

More at https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2014/11/24/why-mobile-video-advertising-is-vast-ly-below-its-potential/

Digital Marketing Magazine: Mobile Advertising in 2015: More of Everything Please

As Nils Bohr famously said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

This couldn’t be truer than when you’re working in a white-hot industry, such as mobile advertising. There is so much going on with several potential tipping points in view, from adoption of formats, to developments in technology. However, there are some themes that we can safely say will be significant in 2015. There will be, quite simply, ‘more’ of everything; data, devices, players and potential. However, an increase in devices, data and players, naturally brings an increase in things like risk, fragmentation and confusion.

More at http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/mobile-digital-marketing/mobile-advertising-in-2015-more-of-everything-please/1318

Digital Marketing Magazine: Forget the Year, This is the Age of Mobile Advertising

In advertising, it seems every year for at least the past half-decade has been called ‘The Year of Mobile’. But mobile isn’t just about new devices coming down the pike, or wild projections around ad spend. It’s about adoption, technologies, champions and confidence, and, more recently, how brands can tell their stories most effectively.

Perhaps we’ve been getting this wrong all along. Maybe we should leave the year of mobile behind. So let’s call this the Age of Mobile, and recognise that we’re just at the beginning. But how did we get here in the first place?

More at http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/mobile-digital-marketing/mobile-advertising-in-2015-more-of-everything-please/1318

CIO Magazine: Joining Up the Automation

(Reproduced in full as unavailable online)

Lost. It’s a behemoth of a series. It’s big, it’s expensive, and no one really understands what’s going on. And while viewers try to make sense of it once a week, it could just be that your customers face exactly this situation every morning. It could be that they’re dealing with huge, complicated systems that have become disconnected and terribly expensive to run. They might be spending 70 percent of the budget simply keeping the lights on.

Lost is fiction, while fragmented, expensive systems are all too much fact. As separate departments have developed their own systems, created their own databases and adopted different standards, so they have become ‘islands of automation’. They are lost. They are unable to communicate with other islands, less still integrate with them. And, in the same way Lost just needs a rewrite, there is a neat, easy solution to system fragmentation. It’s called itanium.

Itanium recognises that complexity costs money, creates inflexibility and reduces reliability. The flipside is also true: keep it simple, and you can be cheap, flexible and reliable. Itanium can bring together fragmented systems, speed up new projects and enable top notch service agreements, all within the umbrella of simplicity.

Firstly, fragmentation. Equipment tends just to be bought on a one-off basis, and this creates those disconnected islands of automation. For each island, costs rise as new equipment is bought, when there may already be spare capacity in another inaccessible island. Or, it could be that suddenly a new business direction requires that islands communicate, yet they are so radically different that this becomes a real headache if not impossible. Instead of ripping this all out and starting again, itanium offers a common platform across which these islands can communicate. Its virtualisation capabilities enable people and processes to use disparate processors, operating systems and servers as a cohesive whole.

Secondly, development time. Configuring and testing new infrastructures can be painful when conflicting hardware is being brought together. Furthermore, your customers might find that when they’ve figured how to make it all work, the project’s direction has changed anyway. Far better to put together anything and everything that is available, lay a consistent platform across it all that just works, and get the project under way. Even if the project does change, itanium can change alongside. It readily enables that database-intensive system to accommodate that new end of day processing requirement.

Which brings us to the final issue of reliability, in an ever-tougher environment of service level agreements. Complexity is inherently unreliable, so it’s foolhardy in the extreme to sign agreements on the basis of a complicated, unreliable setup. As you or your customers strive to guarantee resource availability, itanium offers a way of simplifying all this and therefore making it more reliable.

So your customers may be living a twilight existence, alone and cut off in a confusing world. That’s the effect Lost has on people. Much better to simplify everything and make it work in a way people understand. Like, for example, Sesame Street.

CIO Magazine: Green Computing is a Healthier Lunch

(Reproduced in full as unavailable online)

Isaac Newton, when he postulated his first law of thermodynamics, essentially said “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The could be bad news for companies that want to become more environmentally aware, because it implies that to do so they will have to spend exorbitant amounts of money.

But instead of a free lunch, let’s look at it this way: there is such a thing as a lunch that is better for you and which leaves you spare change to buy a nice new frock. What we’re talking about here is a tofu salad followed by a gentle yoga session. It will cost a lot less and you’ll be much trimmer as a result.

It’s no secret that companies are shockingly wasteful in their use of IT resources, principally in their energy usage. Typically about 50 percent of power costs go into cooling – so it costs the same amount to cool as it does to compute. Furthermore, about two-thirds of this cooling energy is wasted. And to add to this, about 85 percent of the world’s data centres are overcooled by about 200 percent. The problem stacks up with inefficiency upon inefficiency so energy policies should be the first consideration when reducing expenditure.

So what, practically, can companies do about this? Let’s look at this from the top of an enterprise right down to processor cores.

At the data centre level you have great potential to reduce power consumption. Power constitutes around half of a data centre’s operational spending so if we go backwards with the maths, about half of that is cooling power, only one third of which is effective, and only half of which is needed. So immediately there is the potential to reduce a quarter of a data centre’s energy consumption by over 90%.

And you can realise this potential. Intelligent aircon systems use myriads of sensors to maintain correct temperatures throughout a data centre. Virtualisation can simplify the data centre’s setup and drive utilisation by performing the same number of tasks on fewer servers. Hosted and grid computing and hosted software also deliver software packages to many users with a much smaller energy footprint. In fact, you can remove entire data centres through virtualisation and hosting alone.

We can still drill down further. At the rack level you can standardise on rack designs and physically make better use of your space. At the datamart level you can use software to load-manage more efficiently. At the unit level you can choose to buy more efficient units that feature more efficient cooling – less airflow, less space, less power for cooling. And at the processor level you can make decisions based on whether or not a particular CPU has a reputation for running cool. Let’s not forget that everything mentioned in this paragraph also falls under the purview of virtualisation – take a CPU out here, replace a memory chip there and the system carries on regardless.

These changes will also have knock-on effects throughout your enterprise. As systems become more efficient and automated, so your manpower costs can be reduced as you allocate people to work more productively core activities other than maintenance and support. Purchasing will be reduced because you will be able to buy less hardware. Even rental costs could go down as you rationalise and reduce your number of data centres. Slowly it could even be that your staff take onboard the environmental message by making better use of their resources. For example, a monitor left on costs £45 a year – turn it off and you bring that down to £10.

Individually these changes all make small differences. Together they will slash your energy expenditure and you will be both ecologically and economically better off. More importantly you will be in a much better position to embrace change. As everything seems to move faster, only the companies able to adapt will survive. From Newton to Darwin in one article. Einstein would be proud.

National press

The Observer: Spleen

This was a piece I submitted independently as part of their ‘Spleen’ series in 1990 (reproduced in full as unavailable online)

I remember the first time I saw computer-generated television programme titles. I can’t recall exactly what the programme was, but I was very impressed by the smoothly moving collage I saw before me: polished aluminium reflected multiple shades as the entire construction rotated, and warm-looking abstract shapes floated in darkness to settle into a word. “Wow,” I thought. Perhaps all the arguments I’d had with my father about the usefulness of computer graphics had finally been vindicated.

I remember the last time I saw computer-generated titles. They had lots of abstract shapes floating around in the air, wacky, way-out images stencilled across the screen and looping in improbable ways that only a computer could generate and a computer programmer conceive. What they said was: “Look at the excitement and spontaneity of these titles. God, the programme must be good.”

The graphics or news and current affairs impart a different message. Look, for instance, at the majesty of Newsnight’s solar system, starting with a mini-nebula and spinning around several globes spinning around the centre, until we spin back to the centre where the title sits, not spinning. And then again there’s the metallurgy of Channel 4 News, in which we have a smoothly moving collage of polished aluminium reflecting multiple shapes as the entire construction rotates.

What we have here is a producer’s dream. Beautiful, warm, easily generated images that he can twist and bend and bounce, giving us subliminal messages to prepare our subconscious for the events to follow. Or: stuck for an idea? Grab a computer programmer as he squats in the corner smoking something suspicious, slap him about a bit, shove him in front of a screen and get him to produce something-or-other from his bouncy-bits library, and we should be all right.

Whatever happened to the classic title sequences of yesteryear, when all that designers had were models and tiny cameras precariously perched on huge booms? The Tomorrow’s World titles were great: I can still remember one showing eggs boiling with the Tomorrow’s World logo on them, and another where a huge, spherical brain was opened up and all the flaps and folds formed Star Wars-type canyons. The music was good too.

I think it was ITN that, years ago, had a patchwork of pictures of people typing, drinking cups of coffee, and running around in a frenzy to get everything together on time. You never knew what was going to happen after those titles – you half expected to see the newscaster tucking his shirt into his underpants. And the endearing thing about the Blue Peter titles was that there was a good chance that behind them something incongruous might be happening.

Now the Tomorrow’s World titles have ‘gone digital.’ These new ones say to me: ‘Stuff all that analogue nonsense, from  now on everything’s going to be perfect.’ And we have a digitally perfect Blue Peter too, with a perfect wind flowing through a perfect flag on a perfect ship.

So why do these titles annoy me? Perhaps I’m just fed up with them. They’re an example of how everything will be integrated and flawless in the not too distant future. A dehumanised, detached, lifeless series of library images wandering around the screen, they will convey the impression of a standardised, homogenised programme waiting under the controller’s button to flood our living rooms with pre-sanitised entertainment.

We will have programmes scheduled and monitoring by computer, edited digitally and produced without a blemish. Now that everything is bound by this digital strait-jacket, I guess we will never again see a newscaster’s legs, or a Blue Peter presenter hanging by his genitals from the studio rigging. We may see a computer simulation, though.

FT: What is a petabyte?

I contributed the ideas of how many mobile photos and how much mobile music would represent a petabyte to this animation for the FT, at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/bc7350a6-8fe7-11e2-ae9e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Rcco6PL9

Letters to editors

FT: Mobile advertising is well on its way

(Reproduced in full owing to FT.com paywall)

Sir, In his article “Advertisers cautious of move to mobile” (August 9), Richard Waters writes: “Internet users may be flocking to mobile but profits have been scarce as many advertisers remain wary.” Mr Waters continues by citing the discrepancy between the pricing of premium online advertising and the lower prices publishers receive for running mobile adverts today.

This comparison between the large and small screen is tempting, but omits the lesson of history. Online was once equally immature and Google could raise only a few cents for its cost-per-click online advertising. Since the maturation of the medium, pricing has logically risen drastically – and the same is set to happen with mobile.

New mobile-rich media ad formats are already commanding CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) 10 times higher than prices cited in the article. Furthermore, the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Mobile Adspend Study 2011 shows that, in fact, mobile advertising is growing more rapidly than online did. By way of example, mobile advertising generated £203m in the UK during 2011, just four years into its evolution. Online advertising generated just £165m in 2001, also four years into its journey. Continuing the comparison shows that mobile’s monthly audience in the UK in 2011 was more than 6.5m higher than the average monthly online audience in 2001. Mobile advertising isn’t just going to be big; it’s going to be bigger than online.


KTS Newsletter: MiFID: Prepare to make the leap

(Reproduced in full as unavailable online)

Do you know what MiFID is, and are you ready for it?

A £1.5 billion juggernaut is heading for the City, but not many firms appear to be taking appropriate action to prepare for its impact. That is the widely held view of observers ahead of the arrival of the latest legislation from the European Commission, MiFID.

MiFID is the acronym for the Market in Financial Instruments Directive, broadly speaking a measure to remove regulatory differences and encourage cross border trading in securities. Brussels hopes MiFID will provide a massive boost to cross border trade in financial services, increase competition and drive down prices.

It sounds reasonable enough – unless you are one of the hundreds of firms in the UK forced to develop expensive software systems, change internal procedures and retrain staff to cope with the new regime.

Impact day has already been delayed by a year until the spring of 2007 but many believe the measures should be postponed again to give firms more time to get to grips with the new system.

As providers ourselves of essential market data information to the City we can see first hand how few companies have put in place the software systems necessary to cope with it. Indeed, some technology officers are not even aware of its existence, which is particularly significant when estimates of the cost of implementation broadly come out at around £1.5 billion. That represents an IT impact as significant as the changes to computer systems required for the arrival of the year 2000.

So what is MiFID attempting? MiFID is designed to let banks and investment groups authorised in their own country offer financial services such as share trading across the EU.

The aim is to make dealing more transparent so a client buying shares in, say BT or Marks & Spencer will know whether a broker in Frankfurt or Paris could offer him a better price than his own firm in the City of London.

Under the new Directive, market traders must post not only the prices at which they have dealt shares – known as post-trade transparency – but also the prices they are willing to buy and sell shares.

A raft of other measures are also proposed to enforce the new regulations, among them the requirement to maintain computer records of transactions for up to five years.

It isn’t just equity markets which will be affected. The Directive also covers European bond markets. This has triggered a pretty robust campaign by associations representing capital markets in various European countries.

Bankers are opposed to the idea that they should have to meet the same standards of price transparency and disclosure in the fixed income and structured finance sector as the equity world.

They are claiming that the fragmented nature of the fixed income markets means excessive price transparency could obstruct, not assist, liquidity levels.

Not surprisingly, regulators reject this view, arguing that the lack of transparency actually deters investors and reduces trading volumes while allowing banks to make fat margins on the trades.

No one doubts the noble sentiments behind MiFID – and indeed some of the other measures introduced by the EU.

Brussels’s mission, set out in its Financial Services Action Plan in 1999, was to create liquid markets in Europe that would allow banks, brokers, insurers and investment funds to compete freely across borders providing cheaper services for millions of investors. The objective was to turn Europe into the world’s most competitive economy by 2010.

Those of us who have travelled across Europe or had dealings with companies in mainland Europe recognise that dream is a long way from being realised. Out of date working practices, excessive bureaucracy, and rigid internal markets still bedevil the EU.

So we should welcome measures aimed at greater harmonisation especially if the result is a better and cheaper service for investors. Earlier this year Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein unveiled the first electronic order system for retail brokers that would allow them to comply with the new directive.

But not all firms are as advanced or have the financial resources of one of the city’s leading investment houses. Firms should not be railroaded into installing costly systems to meet unrealistic deadlines.

This is perhaps where smaller technology companies can play a vital role. Historically, such companies have proven themselves inventive and cost-effective, and provide solutions that please regulators and regulated alike. They specialise in the art of the possible, finding niches in markets because they are fleet of foot and quick to seize new opportunities, such as the one provided by MiFID.

So, MiFID is workable. However, perhaps this should be qualified by the following: give different deadlines for different companies depending on their size and resources; and have waivers for small firms whose non-compliance with the directive is unlikely to jeopardise the project.

If you’d like to know more, please get in touch!