Mako’s commitment to inclusion recognises a need to open up our industry and be as transparent as possible about not just what we do but how we think as well. As part of my own commitment to this transparency, I thought I might share some of my end of year process in my role as CEO of Mako as for me, the change from one year to the next is a chance to reflect on moments from my recent history: my challenges, achievements, mistakes and ultimately the lessons that I have either learned or need to learn in order to become a better version of myself. This process is valuable as it allows me to compartmentalise the recent past and re-calibrate before turning my mind towards what lies ahead with fresh eyes and renewed determination.
Typically, when reflecting on the past, my vision tends to shy away from its dark spots, the areas of significant stress or challenge. Yet, these are the very areas I must examine deeply and objectively in order to learn, grow, change and develop.
So what has 2020 taught me?
That committing to change is powerful, but actually embedding it to create lasting transformation is even more difficult.
A commitment to significant change last year was necessary for us to realise our potential not only as a company, but also as individuals. This level of change is hard and it is easy to fall prey to believing that the commitment itself is the end of the ‘journey’, as I often do. Of course, the reality is much different. Initiating change is the beginning of a much longer journey, inevitably fraught with pitfalls and challenges that must be navigated carefully. At a company like Mako, where we have committed to constant evolution and iteration, the journey is never-ending.
That I learn the most from my biggest mistakes
There were points in 2020 where I faced some of the most difficult decisions and situations in my career to date, both as a risk manager and as the person who is ultimately responsible for Mako’s performance. There are things that, if I had the time again, I would do differently but one thing is for certain; that the magnitude of the decisions I made, both good and bad, over the course of this tumultuous year will help me going forward. The things I did well will give me confidence that I can perform under some of the most extreme market conditions we have ever seen, whilst the mistakes that I made have led me to deeply analyse how I make decisions. As a result, I believe the lessons I have drawn are clearer and will stay with me much longer.
That writing things down helps.
Trade recaps are common in our industry, writing things down, analysing good and bad decisions, understanding what might be done better next time. I have begun to do this myself on a weekly basis and it is has helped enormously, both in de-stressing my mind, creating clarity and focussing my attention – I recommend it to anyone in any field or discipline whether business or personal. It has been particularly helpful during lockdown where there is little to no segregation between work and home. Taking some time at the end of the week to write things down, and in doing so (hopefully) letting things go, is a good investment in well-being, mental health and relationships.
That working from home can be incredible.
I have spent more time with my family than any year previously. Bath and bedtimes gained. Hours wasted on a commute converted to efficiency. Energy levels transformed. Initially I focussed all this time straight back into work. But as the year developed and its stresses and strains became heavier, I realised how much I need time away from my desk at home to gain perspective and make better decisions. Will the workplace ever be the same again? I think not but….
That working from home can be terrible.
This is a bold statement, but I believe every major issue would have been better handled had we been in the office together. Whilst we are a trading and technology company, ultimately we are a firm made up of people and this means relationships will always be the foundation of our success. Solid frameworks of communication and online calls are excellent – but they cannot replace the passing conversations, human interactions, and even intuitive knowledge that someone is having a bad day that are gained from an office environment. As a company, it is imperative that we spend time together in the same space when we can, as soon as we can. It is equally important that this space draws people together in a way that facilitates as much collaboration as possible. While the time for desks and endless rows of cubicles has clearly passed, the office environment is important now more than ever. When the lockdowns lift, hitting the right balance will be a challenge in its own right.
That well-being, diversity and inclusion are at the core of Mako. We need to change so much to uphold and improve upon those values and behaviours.
This time last year, we began the process of a diversity and inclusion audit so that we could take an honest look at ourselves and determine how we can be better. Over the course of 2020, it’s been an incredibly humbling and insightful experience to look inwards at ourselves and understand what makes us who we are. This exercise has highlighted areas where we need to improve perspectives and practices to enhance employee well-being and address the stigmas and unconscious bias that are an unfortunate reality of our society. Part of this is actively fighting for a more diverse workplace in our firm and industry by questioning standard application requirements, as well as the behaviours and attitudes we hold. Diversity of thought is impossible without diversity of background. Race, culture and gender are just a few examples of where our firm, and indeed our industry, need to direct committed attention. We are only at the beginning of our journey to understand and eliminate the practices that aren’t supportive of diversity in our own workforce. These problems are of course complex and multifaceted but we are resolute in our ambition to explore them, understand possible solutions and take action.
That I am part of an incredible team that supports one another in such challenging conditions.
The Mako team has overcome so many unique and difficult challenges in 2020 and for their efforts, above all I want to say thank you. There will be many more complex challenges ahead but for the moment let’s continue to do what we are doing and we can have confidence that we will see incredible growth, just as we have this year.
I wish you all good health and happiness in the year ahead.