Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Weekend Away; Week Ten

Everything seems to be slowly winding down, but I'm still enjoying all the opportunities presented to me while I'm here. This week I got to witness the 501st annual Cart Marking at the Guildhall and also had the pleasure of taking a trip to Spain to spend some time with family.

When I left for the Cart Marking, I had no idea what I was walking into. Earlier that morning Michael just told us to swing by the Guildhall around 11 for an event that was going on, and that was all the context I received. When I arrived I was a bit shocked to see masses of nicely dressed people sitting and intently watching this process take place. I really had no clue as to what was going on at first. I was basically watching a vehicle (ranging from antique cars to horse & carriages) drive up to this tent where all the Alderman of the city were sitting, then one of them would brand a wooden plank on the vehicle and they would drive off. After the confusion faded and I made some sense of what was going I got more intrigued. It was interesting to see all these old vehicles drive through the Guildhall courtyard. I've included a few of my pictures below, but if you would like to see more then just click here to read about the tradition and learn more. 

The work assignments I received this week were nothing exciting so to avoid boredom I'm not going to bother writing about them. However, my week got much more exciting on Friday when I made my way off to Stansted airport for a flight to Barcelona, Spain. The family I'm staying with while I'm in London has a vacation home in a coastal town just outside of Barcelona so they graciously invited me for the weekend. Spain has such a relaxed culture so this has been a lovely weekend here. The cultural differences between the UK and Spain are very noticeable. It's nice to escape from what I've become used to and spend a few days in a beautiful country with a completely different feel to it. The relaxed culture has inspired me to make this an incredibly short post, so hopefully, these photos I've provided below make up for the mediocre length of this post.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Not An Average Week at Work; Week 9

My ninth week was full of some very authentic English experiences. This past week I had the privilege of visiting the House of Lords, attending a seminar to take notes for Z/Yen, and then spent the weekend relaxing at my grandparent's house in the countryside.

This past Monday was my least normal day of work so far. As mentioned in my last post, I was invited to have lunch at the House of Lords by Sue Garden. We arrived at the House of Lords around 12:30 where we were then escorted through the initial security check and then into the coat room. Sue then gave us a brief tour of the House of Lords while she lectured us on the history of each room. The architectural detail inside was astonishing. There were an incredible amount of tiny details that made the building truly unique. I would've taken loads of pictures, but photography wasn't allowed in most of the rooms. The feeling of walking through a building with hundreds of years of political history was such a surreal feeling.

Sue then treated us to an excellent lunch in the dining room of the House of Lords where we all shared some great conversations. After lunch, we rushed to the Chamber to sit in on the day's session from the diplomatic gallery. The sessions began with the ceremonial introduction of three new peers into the House of Lords, then followed by some debate on some various bits of legislation. Most of the legislation that was being debated was in regards to local jurisdictions and their on-going infrastructure projects. The most interesting bit of debate was a debate about Brexit and what the plans of Theresa May will be now that people "leading" the left campaign seem to be dropping like flies. Brexit Secretary David Davies had resigned the night before, and then we learned of Boris Johnson's resignation in real time during the Chamber session. That was quite shocking to hear about that before any news networks broke that story, even though it was a bit predictable. The entire experience overall was fantastic and truly something I never for-saw myself having the opportunity of doing when I first arrived in the UK.

The next day was slightly more normal. It was a casual day at work, especially compared to the day prior. The only difference for this day was that I got to leave a bit early to attend a seminar at Norton Rose Fullbright, an international law firm based in London. The seminar was in relation to the research I'm doing for Z/Yen. The seminar consisted of 4 presentations which then followed by a panel discussion. The presenters consisted of a Professor of Computer Science at London King's College, two directors from Accenture, and a consultant from Norton Rose Fullbright. The seminar titled "DLT: Identity Use Cases and Privacy Implications" covered how digital identities may be extremely useful in easing the amount of work required for identity verification, but also the implications it may bring along with it. The presentations were good as well as the panel discussion, but didn't seem to provide anything extremely useful or insightful. It was more of a reiteration of information already available out there, much of which Z/Yen has written about. Regardless, I still enjoyed having the opportunity to attend a great venue.

On Wednesday I was invited to sit in on a Security Forward and Intelligence forum that was hosted by Z/Yen. The venue was on the top floor of a hotel overlooking London's iconic Tower Bridge. The forum had a presentation from Crispin Black who spoke about the implications of artificial intelligence and where it will provide usefulness, as well as where it may cause problems for society. The presentation was excellent and I've never seen anything quite like it. Crispin handed out a few sheets of paper with random pictures on them but was somehow able to make them all relevant to the presentation while tying them all together into a single narrative. It was very impressive to see a presentation of that caliber. That was then followed by a presentation of a similar caliber by Phil Cracknell, one of the top cybersecurity experts not only in Europe but in the world. I don't want to speak much about the content of his presentation since it was mainly proprietary information that people paid a pretty penny to hear, but it was an unforgettable experience.

The rest of the week was normal work for me. Aside from the on-going research I'm compiling, I was also tasked with a small project of putting together an information packet for a policymaker at the Bank of England. It was an interesting task to handpick the best research Z/Yen has produced that a policy maker would find useful. I also found it really neat that policymakers use the work produced by Z/Yen to help influence their decisions.

After work on Friday, I made a train ride out to my grandparents home in the countryside of England. As much as I love London, I was pleased to be escaping the city for a bit. When you stay in any city for too long you tend to develop a feeling of being stuck in a routine and even though London has many green spaces, I was eager to be in the middle of a relaxing environment with my two grandparents.

Ironically it has been incredibly dry the entire time I have been in the UK. In my memory, I've only seen it rain about three or four times the entire time I've been here and that is far from the norm. While many Brits are enjoying this unusual sunshine, many of the plants and grass are starting to turn brown from the lack of water. On the train ride out I noticed the fields of wheat were all much dryer looking than usual. Also, much of the grass around where my grandparents live is brown. It is odd to see it like this considering my memory of the area they live in is full of bright green vibrant plants and trees. Aside from all that, it has been a very relaxing weekend out in the countryside away from everything. I return to London later tonight and then everything should be back to normal for this coming work week.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Where a Conversation Can Take You; Week 8

   This week was full of incredible opportunities, insightful experiences, and two World Cup wins for England! I was able to attend a World Traders event with Michael and the other interns, Alderman's Court, and then Micheal hosted us on Sunday to watch England take on Sweden.

   You might've noticed above where I say the "interns", that was no typo. On Monday morning a new intern named Yini joined us! Yini is a Chinese national who grew up just outside of Shanghai but attended the Universtiy of California, Irvine. Besides Yini joining the Z/Yen team, Monday at work was fairly normal. Later on in the evening, Michael brought us to a World Traders networking event at the Little Ship Club. The event was lovely and I got to speak with many different people with backgrounds in various industries.

   I was speaking with a lady named Sue and we were having a political conversation about both Trump and Brexit and the controversy surrounding both. It was a nice conversation and she seemed especially politically savvy. I soon figured out why that was when I asked what her background was and she told me shes a member of the House of Lords. I was both embarrassed for not knowing who she was beforehand since it's more or less the UK's equivalence of a Senator, but I was also very surprised. A bit later she asked me if I had ever visited Parliment, and I told her regrettably no, to my surprise she then told me she would speak with Michael about arranging a possible tour. Anyways, long story short, I'm now having lunch at the House of Lords on Monday with the other Z/Yen interns! I'm usually pretty open to speaking to just about anyone, but this went to show how simple conversations can lead to incredible experiences and opportunities.

On Tuesday we attended the Court of Alderman at the Guildhall which is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. The Court of Aldermen is summoned and presided over by the Lord Mayor and consists of the 25 Aldermen, one for each ward of the City, and The Recorder of London. The actual process didn't last any longer than roughly 8 minutes. It was a short but interesting process to witness. Later that night England took on Colombia and came out victorious which seemed to give everyone an increased sense of morale.

   The next morning we hosted a research report launch on "Control Frameworks For Cryptocurrencies: An Initial Evaluation". It was a smooth report launch and you could tell everyone was still Buzzing from England's win the previous night. The report is written well and the authors' articulation of the key points were very clear and concise. The report itself is interesting and I suggest you read it if you any sort of interest on the subject.

   The week ended with a relaxing barbeque hosted at Micheal's home. It was nice to top off a busy week with a barbeque full of Chicken, Sausages, Steaks, and vegetables. Michael and his wife were extremely hospitable and friendly. England's convincing victory over Sweden was a great addition to the day. It was nice to sit back, relax, and share stories and memories with each other. It was a lovely week in all and I can't wait to see what next week has in store!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Listening to the Experts; Week Seven

This week was one of the most insightful weeks yet. I had the opportunity and privilege to hear from some experts around the world on various topics ranging insuring for catastrophic disasters to smart ledgers in cities. The fantastic discussions left me thinking and more curious than I was before.

On Tuesday, Michael invited Nish and I to a research report launch at Cass Business School. The report was titled "Between State and Market: Reducing the Protection Gap for Catastrophic Risk". The report highlighted how various disasters, both natural and unnatural, have caused over $1.3 trillion in damage over the past ten years, even when accounting for insured areas. The report was written by Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, of Cass Business School. She gave an excellent presentation on the key findings of the report, and that was then followed up with panel discussions full of CEOs from various insurance companies around the world. The topics included:
  • Disasters in Emerging Economies: Is Liquidity Enough?
  • What do we Really Want to Solve: Mandatory or Voluntary Insurance Cover?
  • Addressing new Protection Gaps: Evolving Remit or Mission Creep?
All the panel members were extremely qualified and they presented excellent arguments and ideas around the topics of discussion. The discussions raised some valid points and I think everyone walked away from that event knowing something they hadn't walking in.

The second event this past week was hosted by Z/Yen at Furniture Maker's Hall, and the topic was "Smart Ledger Cities: How Do We Rate And Rank Them?". The event was small with only roughly a dozen people there, but the caliber of people present was extremely high. The group included a CIO of an insurance giant based in the city, a highly regarded individual in the entrepreneurial arena, an academic from a top university, etc. I won't name the people or their companies directly to ensure their privacy, but the discussion and ideas that floated around the room were all excellent. 

The event kicked off with a briefing from Micheal on an introduction as to what Smart Ledgers are at the most simplistic level. Then the conversation moved to the facilitator, Greg Williams, who led a very insightful and engaging conversation. About the use cases for Smart Ledgers and how they're most likely going to reshape different areas of business. 

The final event I attended this week was another CSFI panel discussion on 
"FinTech and financial inclusion – a global perspective". The panel included Simon Long from the Economist, Matthew Saal of the World Bank, and Kelly Bewers of Accenture. The name that really caught my eye was Simon Long. Simon is an excellent writer and I've been reading his articles in The Economist for the past several years so it was nice to see and hear him speak in person. The event started off with Simon giving an overview of a report he wrote surrounding the topic of FinTech and all it may or may not bring along with it. That was then followed by Matthew Saal's remarks on the general state of the industry and some of his personal opinions. It ended with Kelly's remarks and then some general Q&A for the audience. 

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures at the venue, but it was at Armourers' Hall which you can see a photo of in my week four post. This was a jam-packed week and I enjoyed every minute of it. To cap everything off I get to watch World Cup football every night which is great to come home to. The weather is heating up here and it's starting to remind me of Georgia summers, minus the humidity of course. I know this coming week doesn't have nearly as many events in store, but I'm sure I'll be kept busy one way or another.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

World Cup Wins; Week Six

I've just finished up my sixth week and it seems like everything is just flying by. This week I was tasked with more of the same work I've been doing in the past weeks. This includes market research, website fixes, and other little jobs that need to be completed.

Aside from the regular tasks I was given this week, I was also able to attend a committee meeting for the World Traders, which Michael is master of this year. This meeting was a sub-committee that dealt with allocating funds for charitable & educational experiences. The meeting took place at the Guildhall which is a classic English building with more than 800 years of history. During the meeting, there were debates as to whether or not funds should go to various applicants and their projects. I had no personal opinion on the applicants since I hadn't read over the applications like the committee members had before-hand, but I still enjoyed observing the style of civil debate and hearing their reasoning. You can see a picture of the Guildhall courtyard below.

On Sunday England played in their second world cup match, this one being against Panama. After a late winner against Tunisia in their first one, the team needed a convincing win in order to carry their momentum and confidence into their last match which will be against Belgium.

Both of my cousins are back from university for the weekend. One just graduated from Cambridge, and the other has just finished up his first year at Oxford. They hosted a small viewing party with some of their friends, complete with food and drink of course. England played an excellent match and ended up winning 6-1. It's been incredible being in the UK, and London specifically for the World Cup. Everyone is always watching the football while its on and the passion for the game here is incredible. I have a bit more going on next week than I did this week, so I'll have more to write about. Until then, enjoy this picture of my cousin with his subtle England attire for the match. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Back To Work; Week Five

   Last week makes this week seem very dull, but only in comparison. I've yet to experience a dull moment here in London. There is always so much going on in the city, and there is a constant sense of energy present. I didn't attend any events this week, but I had a very productive week at work which is always a satisfying feeling. To cap off the week all the interns had a gathering at "Beckenham Palace", the esteemed residence of Luke, Kat, and Dalton.

   After a long, relaxing weekend, I was ready to get back to work at Z/Yen. I spent this week performing a mix of tasks including market research for a project I can't go into depth about, but all I can say is that it's VERY exciting to work on a project of this scale. I got to present what research materials I had gathered thus far to the person I'm working under and I received positive feedback with a splash of criticism that will help me improve.

   The new website has been coming along nicely and the end of that project is finally in sight. There have been some radical design changes for the better and I'm excited to see what the final product will look like. I spent a bit of my week fixing some issues we're running into with the website transition, which is just as fun as it sounds. Overall this week seemed to fly by, but I imagine this is mainly because I was always doing something. 

   Once Saturday arrived I made the trip to Beckenham on the national rail. South London is an interesting place that seemed to have a much different feel than the two parts of London I've become accustomed to (West and Central). This is probably because most of Southern London is cut off from the Underground. Luke lives in a lovely home right next to a massive park full of open fields and hills. I wish I would've taken more pictures of the park, but I was trying to conserve my phone battery to make sure it would last until I made it home later in the night. Hopefully, the pictures below gives you a good enough taste as to how the rest of the place looked. 

   I spent my Sunday relaxing and getting some errands taken care of. I did all my grocery shopping for the week and picked up some fresh fruit from a local produce market for next to nothing. I'm going to miss how fresh all the produce here tastes when I get back to America. All the fruits and vegetables are considerably smaller but full of much more actual flavor.  I wish I would've taken some more pictures this week because now this post looks a bit boring.

   I'll be sure to add more pictures next week for week 6, for whatever that may have in store.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Action All Around; Week Four

This past week was easily the most exciting week I’ve had thus far. Z/Yen hosted a report launch, we attended another CSFI event, got to enjoy a night on a yacht, and then I got to travel to the Netherlands.

The report launch took place at Gresham College (put exact address) and wasn’t the most exciting presentation since I had already proof read through the report and helped finalize the end product, but I met some interesting people. I met the man who is currently founding Bitcoin Embassy London which is "is a place for the general public, connoisseurs, enthusiasts, developers and entrepreneurs that make up the bitcoin ecosystem in its various categories, to share and feel part of the community, strengthening the identity and image of bitcoin technology and making it grow to reach every day more people and expand their benefits to each corner of the country and the region." It's a bit ironic how a "decentralized" currency has a centralized organization that makes things like these possible, and I think it shows we have a long way to go before we truly live in any decentralized way.

Later that same day I had the privilege to attend another CSFI event where Kay Swineburn (MEP) spoke about Brexit and the implications of it for financial services. Her constituents reside in Wales, but she was able to easily field questions from London business people & domestic politicians eager to hear the state of discussion for what Britain’s future may hold. It was an interesting time to have the conversation since it correlated with political unrest in Spain & Italy as Euro skeptics are seeming to creep closer to power. The venue was Armourers' Hall which was incredible (pictured below).

Luke was kind enough to invite a few interns including myself aboard a party hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of promoting Atlanta as a business hub and convincing companies to expand or relocate to Atlanta. I had an incredible time getting to speak with some influential people from both London and Atlanta over food and drink.

The next morning I was off to Amsterdam, flying out of the very inconvenient Luton airport in “London”. I landed very tired with just about no sleep but Nish and I managed to walk around a large chunk of the city to see what it had to offer. The city was covered in bike paths and the bike traffic easily outweighed the car traffic. There are actually 250 miles of bike paths in the city itself and over 2 million miles are biked everyday by city locals.


We finally made it to our Airbnb later in the day which was in a coastal town called Wijk aan Zee. Wijk aan Zee was an awesome place to stay since it showed you what the Netherlands is actually like, as opposed to Amsterdam which in my opinion seemed far too touristy. Our Airbnb was in the basement of this Dutch couple’s villa and they were incredibly helpful & sweet. Their house is a 5 minute stroll from the beach and the weather was lovely on the last day so we spent our entire day in the village exploring what it had to offer.

I know this past week was probably one of the most enjoyable weeks I’ll have here while I’m abroad, so I’m doing my best to soak it all in, but ready to get back to work this week.

A Weekend Away; Week Ten

Everything seems to be slowly winding down, but I'm still enjoying all the opportunities presented to me while I'm here. This week I...