About - Barry Epstein
PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS, AWARDS & CERTIFICATIONS
IFT Member – December 2016: First from the non-external profit credit union sector.
Forensic Financial Consultant - 1983 to date: Self-taught, starting from personal circumstances
Credit Union Development Educator – UK 2005, USA 2007, Asia 2014, International 2012
Independent Financial Adviser - 1983-1994
American General Life Assurance - 1980-3: Pensions, Investment qualifications
Institute of Training Officers - 1977: Sunderland Polytechnic
Ashridge Management College - 1977: Finance for Non-Financial Managers
City & Guilds Tailoring - 1970
Fellow of Grocers Institute - 1970
London Borough of Brent - 1959-1961 – Youth Worker, grandfathered under the Albemarle and Aarvold Reports
Click here for a summary of skills and background
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
- Observation of, conversation with and inquisition of those performing tasks in the business - using Kipling’s “Six Little Serving Men” Who, What, Why, When, Where and How - without taking notes to relax people and (fortunately!) strong powers of recall of what was said.
- Understanding the key reasons why businesses become ailing - involving people, circumstances occurring within and without.
- Counselling at key levels of the business but applying stick and carrot: Frequently the root cause of an ailing business are areas of strife, silo thinking and action (or lack of it) within it; this can extend to the individual engaging the Consultant, but the rot often starts from the head or tail (or both) of a fish! This can lead to interesting group dynamics!
- Corporate Governance – Vital for all businesses (Carillion? Patisserie Valerie? etc), crucial and mandatory for all authorised “firms”.
- Organisational Leadership – defining distinct, complementary and not conflicting roles, responsibilities, duties and tasks, performance targets and measurement of outputs for the betterment of the business.
- Management of finance – Fire! Fire! Often presented with a smoulder, fire or an inferno of say lack of cash, over-stocking, lack of or incompetent key personnel, pressure from banks and creditors etc. Speedy application of asbestos blankets to suppliers, landlords, local authority, after obtaining or presenting a written authority to act as the agent of the firm (not an executive of it!) with all the key stakeholders.
Devising literate (the how – explaining) numerate (tight guestimates) based upon the past hoped for projected performance, methods of continuous monitoring, taking contemporary remedial operational action and measuring results.
- Stakeholder Support – instigating or endorsing communicative partnership working, based upon mutual preserving mutual interests, not raising false expectations or dependency, which preserve intellectual property.
- Strategy and innovation – commencing with skeletal strategic business development plan; encouraging input and obtaining collaborate working from interested stakeholders from within and without; defining key objectives with constant recognition of changing circumstances requiring constant innovation.
- Commercial Development – necessary for both with and non-profit organisations, recognising that these might have to occur and methods found to pursue these legally outside of the core remit of activity, to ensure the retained viability of the whole.
- Government and Regulatory engagement – necessary when acting as agent in particular for a regulated “firm” such as a credit union; recognising that any Government is put in place by the electorate and a regulatory body carries out its will and has no room for manoeuvre or to give advice or guidance, but a civil approach can produce positive outcomes.
- Media Management – with 24 hour news, a demand to produce sensational stories is contrary to the need, particularly in financial services, to manage the flow of news releases, during the ailing reconstruction or period of forensic enquiry, as agent to take the flack or say nowt!
- Interpersonal skills – these are very important but vital when dealing with co-operatives, particularly financial “firms” like credit unions where both by law and regulation an external consultant cannot have an executive appointment that grants authority that is superior to that of the Board of Directors, who are or can be the cause of the sickness – which makes this work interesting!
CAREER HISTORY AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Credit Union Consultancy (and a forerunner) - current
As a contractor, setting up over 30 credit unions, undertaking 60 projects for community groups and organisations; rescuing, reviving and returning to solvency previously ailing and failing credit unions, dispensing euthanasia to terminally ill ones. As credit unions are authorised deposit takers, publication of their names and also any association with other viable ones could cause reputational damage, leading to a run on funds and incur Regulatory ire and my loss of credibility with them.
Self Employed Forensic Financial Counsellor (8 years) – as a result of circumstances set out below * and lacking free capital adequacy required to continue as a broker, financial guidance was dispensed remunerated by fees, to those going through divorces, social and business break-ups and victims of financial malfeasance by others or through their own shortcomings that affected the viability of their businesses and the employment of others. Clients included world famous “pop” stars and entertainers, lawyers etc. For obvious reasons no names can be disclosed.
Work with the following organisations was also undertaken at this time ….
- North London Training and Enterprise Council (3 years)
Role: Business Enterprise Counsellor, dealing with newly self-employed start-ups under the Enterprise Allowance Scheme and developing credit unions to serve as their savings and loans providers.
- Business Link Kent (3 years)
Role: As above, with an extension of the role to rescue, resuscitate and revive ailing and failing credit unions and to test the viability of establishing and supporting additional advice and debt services.
Director and part ownership of a life and general insurance broker – Suremost Ltd (3 years) *
After two other partners abused its Client Account, its debts were paid off over 6 years using my earnings and it closed down.
Albany Life, part of American General Life Assurance (3 years)
Role: Tied agent - Life assurance, pensions and investment, estate planning, qualifying for the Million Dollar Round Table.
Simultaneously with the above, owning and running a specialist convenience store for 9 years, selling it for residential development, as its site value was worth more than the business.
Each management role in the three employments below were to effect business turnaround, transformation and change.
Burton Group (4 years)
Roles: From scratch developing a new chain of “pop up” stores, Scott and Scott, to dispose of stock surpluses, absorb excess outerwear manufacturing and develop an export trade, 15 stores developed – division accepted as a training academy for graduate trainees. Developed an export trade selling to the Far East!
Cavenham Group (2 years)
Roles: Divisional Operations Manager of 32 stores spread across S.E. England, each with different identities serving different socio-economic groups. The purpose was to make dead assets “sweat”, learned from Sir James Goldsmith, instigating “just in time” planning for stock and personnel, so all assets are in play.
United Drapery Stores (5 years)
- rising from Trainee to Buying and Merchandising Controller, Food Division, increasing the turnover of the flagship store, Whiteleys of Queensway, by 20% in a year.
- switching to men’s outerwear, Alexandre the Tailor - menswear multiple shops, running largest multi-floor store in Oxford Street, London, W1
Always being a polymath workaholic, simultaneously working as a Youth Leader for
London Borough of Brent (2 years)
Roles: Boys Club, Activity Leader, as well as a volunteer with other youth organisations
Safeways Food Stores (2 years) now Morrisons
Roles: Trainee Supermarket Manager acquired craft skills in fishmongery, delicatessen and fine foods produce, provisions, dry grocery, household, hardware, wines and spirits
- Mentoring on Credit Union Development Education Courses in Bangkok, Thailand
- Writing articles for SWIFT and CCR Magazines
- Writing customised Credit Union Rule Books, Policies and Procedures Manuals
- Counselling peers
- Co-Trustee of the International Credit Union Leadership & Development Foundation
- Student of history, politics, economics and business