Macro Macchiato 08/04/19: There’s No Such Thing As A Good Forecast
After 25 years as a professional forecaster, IMO 2020 shows me that a lesson I learned very early on still applies…
In 1999 I completed my MSc in Operational Research, having gone back to college part time because, with a BA and MA in Literature with Linguistics and an as yet unexamined PhD studying the literary output of Huguenot refugees in England in the first half of the eighteenth century, I had few hard skills for the world of work. Still, that was the nice thing about the English educational system before fees: one could spend several years enjoying higher learning and then go off and learn a trade. At my 30th anniversary dinner in Oxford recently, I was told by the college barman that today’s students rarely drink, join societies or participate in the college community because they want a first-class degree to get their money’s worth.
My MSc was sponsored by MRC Business Information Services Ltd, the Oxford-based credit reporting agency that focused on the marine fuels business. The board there wanted to forecast demand for their credit reports in order to hire people at the right time so that they could be trained up in time to meet demand. Led by Stuart Kenner, MRC was a forward-thinking (literally and philosophically) business and a wonderful place for me to transition from academia to commerce. There I learned to apply the logical thinking that was drummed into me at Oxford University and to project outcomes based on that logic and real world data. I have made a career out of doing this. How ironic that I didn’t forecast that back in the mid-1990s.
MRC was acquired by Lloyds of London Press (now Informa PLC) which led to a diaspora of talent starting up firms like Bunkerworld, Gray Page, Infospectrum, Ocean Intelligence, Petrospot and, after some delay, Shipping Strategy Ltd. Apologies to any I missed! All of those companies carry a piece of MRC’s DNA in them – that belief that information is power. These days we tend to refer to data rather than information, but I suppose that data is just… click here to read the rest of this week’s Macro Macchiato