Murphy’s Musings: Inclusivity issues in an increasingly cashless society

Following his recent trip to Sweden and Finland, Jon Murphy, one of our Non-Executive Directors shared the second in a series of blogs, titled ‘Murphy’s Musings’. In this entry, Jon delves into the inclusivity issues in an increasingly cashless society.

Finland has some great food traditions; crayfish parties in August, consuming vast quantities of salmon soup, having a table heaving with all sorts of pickled herrings, the amazing Skagen and eating smoked reindeer and smoked elk (I have had both on a pizza in Finland).

Out of all these, my favourite is the great summer tradition of eating fresh peas from the pod, or Herneenpalkoja, as my daughter-in-law Jenni tells me it’s called in Finland. You can buy them in any market, shopping mall, train station, anywhere.

However, when buying some at a market in Tampere I was stunned when the stall holder asked me for cash. Cash? WHAT THE FINN?

It was the only time on my recent trip, in either Sweden or Finland, I was asked for cash. Fortunately, I had some “walking-about” euros on me.

The next day I sat in a bar with my son in the same town, where we ordered beers and the transaction was contactless, nothing new there; but in this Tampere bar cash isn’t accepted at all, its forbidden, or “Kielletty” as they say in Finland.

In the bar, using Google, we research cash usage in Europe and find that in Finland cash is used for 10% of transactions (seems a bit high from personal observation), in neighbouring Sweden cash usage is 8%, Iceland 8% and Norway is the lowest global cash user at 4%. All of these are decreasing.

Southern European numbers for cash usage are higher with Spain at 45%, Italy 30% and the UK around 35% and decreasing.

So, cash is dying? To many that’s inevitable but to me that raises a big question around inclusivity.

There are lots of comment across all forms of media about the ‘end of cash’ with retailers of all types driving towards cashless trading. I understand that of course. Why would retailers want cash? It’s horrible dirty stuff, and there’s a cost to handing it since banks won’t take cash from retailers without charging to process it. So, it makes sense that card or alternate payments methods are taking over.

However, Nick Green, journalist for warns: “The UK is at risk of ‘sleepwalking into a cashless society before it is ready” and “alternative payment methods may make cash obsolete by 2026 – but millions of people remain reliant on cash for everyday payments”.

In February 2022, the average fall in cash withdrawals across the UK was around 40 percent. By contrast, in some of the most deprived areas, the figure was half of this, at 20 percent… one can therefore conclude that there’s a connection between changes in cash use and areas of deprivation. An example is Liverpool Walton where the fall in cash was only 16 percent and this is ranked as the most deprived constituency in England in terms of health deprivation and disability and employment and is second in terms of income.

So, this question of inclusiveness, supposing individuals want to use cash? They want to use cash because it’s their preference and/or they will have more control over their budgeting and spending using cash. A huge issue today.

The Post Office’s banking director Martin Kearsley says recent data is showing that Britain is anything but a cashless society. He states, “We’re seeing more and more people increasingly reliant on cash as the tried and tested way to manage a budget.” Many people are resorting to “cash stuffing” having envelopes allocated to differing budgets; food, travel etc. So, cash is far from dead and will have a life for the foreseeable.

I don’t use cash anymore (although I always have some just in case), I don’t go to branches (remember those?) and thankfully I am not on any benefits. But millions of people in British society are and it’s clear that in those cases and others, cash is still a major factor; Nick states that 8m people in the UK (17% of the population) still, and will for some time, use cash to make most of their payments. I expect that number will increase.

Unfortunately, if some of them come to Finland or Sweden they won’t be able to get a pint in.

Jon Murphy, Non-executive Director, ea Change

Ea Change non-executive director celebrated for commitment to diversity

Non-executive director and original founder of change management specialist ea Change has been recognised by ITV’s prestigious National Diversity Awards 2022.

Cheryl Robson, who co-founded ea Change with her husband Steve in 1998, has been shortlisted in the Entrepreneur of the Year category at the annual awards, which celebrate charities, campaigners and activists, who work tirelessly to combat injustice and discrimination. The awards take place on 16th September in Liverpool.

Cheryl has spent a lifetime championing equality and diversity through the arts. Over the years she has worked as a writer, producer and director, established her own theatre company, and run her own independent and inclusive publishing company Aurora Metro and Supernova Books.

In addition, Cheryl has trained numerous young people of colour, helping them to find jobs in the publishing industry and committing to make it more diverse. She is currently leading a campaign for a statue of Virginia Woolf in Richmond which has raised 90% of the £50,000 target.

Cheryl was previously a finalist in the Lifetime Achievement category of the ITV National Diversity Awards in 2019.

Cheryl Robson said: “I’m honoured to be among such an incredible group of people who are determined to make the UK a more equitable, diverse and inclusive place to live and work.”

Ea Change Managing Director Andrew Oliver said: “Cheryl’s ethos and dedication to championing equality and diversity is inspiring and forms the backbone of all our work at ea Change. It isn’t enough to pay lip service to wanting to see a change, people and businesses need to make change happen in order for there to be any sort of improvement.

“From all the team at ea Change we would like to wish Cheryl the best of luck at the awards in September.”

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the National Diversity Awards continue to gain endorsements from high profile figures such as Sir Lenny Henry CBE and Graham Norton. Activist Katie Piper, Emmerdale star Ash Palmisciano and Paralympic Gold Medallist Danny Creates were on this year’s judging panel, dedicating their time to help choose the highly anticipated shortlist.

Since going through a management buyout in 2021, ea Change’s company’s directors have placed an ever-increasing emphasis on being ethical and inclusive in their approach to business. To date, they have worked hard to eliminate unconscious bias from their recruitment process, leading to a 50:50 gender split within the company, increased employment of people from a variety of backgrounds and have created more opportunities for young people at the beginning of their careers.


Murphy’s Musings: Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, key master of the internet

Following his recent trip to Sweden and Finland, Jon Murphy, one of our Non-Executive Directors has written the first in a series of blogs, titled ‘Murphy’s Musings’. In this first entry, Jon delves in to the role of Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, key master of the internet.

I was in Stockholm recently and after doing 17,500 steps exploring and traipsing the streets of Gamla Stan, I stopped in a bar to treat myself to a good local beer.

I was soon chatting to a man about Stockholm, it’s history (surprisingly very little connection to Vikings) and some local luminaries of the city, including ABBA, Bjorn Borg, and the two Gretas (Garbo & Thunberg). He also mentioned a local woman who is the key-master of the internet. The only key-master I had heard of was the one in Ghostbusters, so I was hooked.

This key master is Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, she lives on the island of Rindö in the Stockholm Archipelago, and having sailed through it, I can testify that it is a stunningly beautiful place, seemingly perfect for a key master.

Anne-Marie is a representative of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). She has also been a member of the Internet Hall of Fame since 2013, indeed the only female Crypto Officer to have been inducted into the HoF. Tim Berners-Lee is a member of the Hall of Fame, and so is Al Gore!

Twice a year Anne-Marie travels to a place called Culpeper in Virginia, USA with some fellow crypto-folk (if anyone knows the significance of Culpeper please share) and conducts the Key Signing Ceremony, a ritual to help ensure the security of the Internet.

After my new mate left, I did some research and it turns out that the “key” that Anna-Marie is master of, is a physical key. It’s 5cm in length, made of metal and it opens a vault contains smart cards.

The key ceremony is a process in which the cryptographic keys that protect the Domain Name System (DNS) are renewed. As a result, the process makes it extremely hard to manipulate the DNS, maintaining the correct IP addresses being sent back and not dodgy ones which can take us to all sorts of dark places. The DNS would be less secure without the key ceremonies. Good to know!

The security put in place around the process is considerable. It takes two hours and has hundreds of stages to complete, all in the right order and the key must be within specific temperate tolerances, too hot or to hold and it won’t work, if damaged or has been tampered with, it won’t work. The entire process is videoed, requires eye scans and the like; again, good to know the security is tight.

Only 14 people on the planet hold these keys and not surprisingly these other key masters are predominantly male (shock!) and when Anne-Marie hands her key back in November this year (after being the internet’s key master since 2010) it’s likely a male will take over from her rather than a woman (again, shock!!) so rumours that all things internet are run by men are true then… sort yourselves out Internet folks, select a woman.

Thank you, Anne-Marie, for playing your part in keeping us safe for last 12 years.

Jon Murphy, Non-Executive Director, ea Change

New appointments for change management specialist

Change management specialist ea Change has made a series of new appointments as it continues its trajectory of growth following a successful management buyout in 2021.

The company has welcomed Naomi Pudney as Compliance Consultant and Tamarah Zammimba as Finance Administrator. The two new recruits will help strengthen the existing team, bringing new skills and a fresh perspective to ea Change.

Naomi, who joins the firm from a previous role in office management said: “I was looking for a new challenge and jumped at the chance to be part of such an exciting, thriving company. Although it’s a well-established, well-respected business, in some ways it’s a start-up mentality which is really exciting. I’m really looking forward to building my career here among a team of talented, passionate professionals.”

Tamarah joins the finance team after graduating with a degree in international law from Nottingham Trent University. Tamarah said: “This is a completely new challenge for me and I’m keen to get stuck in and put the skills I learnt in university to the test. There is a lot of experience in the finance team and I’m keen to learn as much as I can from people who’ve been working in the industry for longer than I have.”

On the new appointments, Managing Director James McNicol said: “We’re delighted to welcome both Naomi and Tamarah to the team and are keen to benefit from the skills they will each bring to their roles.

“It’s really important to us that each new team member has not just the expertise, but the right personality and enthusiasm to fit in with our talented group. This is a company where hard work and ambition are rewarded and I’m confident that both Naomi and Tamarah will fit in very well and play their part in helping us achieve our expansion goals moving forward.”


Significant growth on the agenda for ea Change

A year on from a management buyout, change management specialist ea Change is going from strength-to-strength.

In just over 12 months, the business has doubled the size of its team, trebled its interim numbers and significantly increased turnover, with monthly revenue increasing by 135 percent.

Despite taking over the business in the midst of a global pandemic, owners James McNicol and Andrew Oliver were confident from the outset that the business was prime for success and have stuck with their ambitious growth plans, building on the company’s already strong reputation.

James said: “There was a period, not so long ago, when business seemed to stop spending in any meaningful way. Brexit uncertainty coupled with the impact of Covid led to a lot of hesitation but, touch wood, things seem to be moving in a much more positive direction with clients investing in a way we haven’t seen since 2018.

“It is incredible how quickly things can change and we wanted to make sure that we were in a prime position to take advantage of any shifts. After a period of uncertainly, we are finding that lots of people are moving jobs again, the market moved very quickly from being client to candidate led.”

James and Andrew have invested heavily in training, technology and a new CRM system to ensure that business systems are robust while the company itself is agile and able to adapt quickly to any changes in the market.

Andy said: “Even though ea Change is a well-established, well-respected name within the industry, since the takeover we have endeavoured to run it with a start-up mentality, making changes and ensuring that we’re agile and able to pivot as and when required.

“From the outset we’ve worked to build a positive culture for our business. Recruitment can be a challenging industry and we want to make sure that we nurture our talent, creating an exciting and supportive environment.

“Our team is at the heart of what we do. Of course, experience is important but so are enthusiasm, energy and drive – subsequently we employ people based solely on their talent and have a young, diverse, passionate team. We put a lot of effort into our people policies, ensuring that we reward and incentivise our staff for the work they put in.”