rowland manthorpe's website

what is britain best at?

Financial services, according to this report:















Left to right shows what we’re good at (i.e. financial services) and top to bottom shows what the next-big-thing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China want to buy from us (i.e. financial services). In one sense, therefore, this could be taken as support for the argument that if we’re going to compete in the future we need to carry on doing what we’re good at and accept what goes along with that (i.e. financial services), whether that’s bonuses or income inequality or whatever.

But as John Lanchester points out in his brilliant book Whoops!, we didn’t get where we are by magic:

There are four sectors in which Britain is world-class: finance, arms manufacturing, the creative arts and higher education. Of these, the first receives strong government support, the second lavish investment and strong support, the third is largely left to mind its own business and the fourth has been gradually run down, with three decades of consistent discouragement and underfunding.

If we’re not going to do anything differently this time we need a better reason than, “We can’t, because if we could, we would have, and anyway it’s too late.”

More on the report – including a breakdown of the best-performing British companies by sector – at Motley Fool.

what warren did

In an increasingly distracting world, it’s plausibly argued that the ability to concentrate is the factor that makes the difference between success and failure. The career of Warren Buffett, whose standing as the sanest man in finance received another boost in Tuesday’s State of the Union, shows that this has always been the case.

In her biography of Buffett Alice Schroeder quotes him describing his first meeting with that other hugely-respected billionaire, Bill Gates:

Then, at dinner, Bill Gates Sr. posed the question to the table: What factor did people feel was the most important in getting to where they’d gotten in life? And I said, “Focus”. And Bill said the same thing.

Schroder had incredible access, and her book is the best biography of a living figure I’ve ever read. Read more about it here.


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