Which trends will alter the working world by 2020?

Tom Blower from Black Isle asks the question?

As the fourth industrial revolution kicks into gear and technology moves at an ever-faster pace, societal advancements will affect the future of work in many different ways.
Continuous developments in mobility, social media and cyber trends are impacting lifestyles and expectations in the workplace, requiring businesses to actively reflect on their processes and enact change to prepare for the future.

Which trends are on the radar to have substantial impacts on the workplace of 2020?

The growth in Enterprise Leadership

The phrase ‘enterprise leadership’ is already a boardroom buzzword. Businesses are moving away from a command and control structure to a more collaborative style in which common goals are chosen and staff are encouraged to join together to achieve them.

Research indicates that up to two-thirds of success in leadership is attributed to Emotional Intelligence (also known as Emotional Quotient or EQ), rather than IQ, with the implications of this shift being profound. As EQ becomes more important, the value we place on IQ will reduce. This is supported by recent research by the World Economic Forum[1] highlighting people management skills as being one of the most important skills for the next decade. Indeed, many organisations are already adapting their internal code – their purpose and values – to represent the need to be more human and empathetic towards employees and customers.

To embrace this development, employers must consider several issues such as mental health in the work environment and placing greater emphasis on ensuring the right personality types are hired. Considering how to attract younger workers – who instinctively understand emotional intelligence over their predecessors – is also key to future-proofing.

Gen Z

By 2020, over 36% of the workforce[2] will consist of individuals born after the baby boomer generation. In the coming years, employees are projected to stay in the workforce for longer than previously seen, equating to five generations of workers from diverse backgrounds interacting together in collaborative teams. Therefore, those team members with the best ‘soft skills’ will flourish over others.

There are behaviours of Gen Z which will work to their advantage in this environment and some which will hinder. Millennials are characterised by their collaborative approach to tasks, whilst Gen Z are observed as being more individual and competitive[3] and also being more likely to opt for face to face meetings over digital[4]. Having grown up as digital natives, Gen Z are excellent at multitasking[5], but their familiarity with being distracted by multiple notifications mean they have a shorter attention span than Millennials by an average of four seconds.[6]

Employers will need to harness these qualities via several methods, including introducing shorter meetings and giving Gen Z-ers their own development projects.

However, businesses will also need to keep in mind Gen Z’s reasons for work are largely driven by job security and pay rises, having seen the struggles their parents may have experienced during the recession. Keeping this cohort engaged, challenged and with a sense of job satisfaction will be crucial in ensuring they are utilised to their full capabilities.

Social media and transparency

Predicted to amass 2.9 billion users globally[7] by 2020, social media has seen an increase of two billion users in just ten years.

Reports show that 82% of employees[8] believe social media can improve work relationships, and employees who use social media at work are more productive and engaged. This has led some managers to encourage staff members to use social media as a collaborative platform, whilst some have gone so far as to use social media to recognise members of staff who are performing well.

The greater transparency offered by social media can be a force for good, but it can also open the gates to immediate reputational damage if social media is misused. To avoid employee slip-ups online, more companies are likely to adopt social media use policies for staff. Regardless of when it is published, one thoughtless tweet or post has the power to ruin a reputation, so adequate training regarding appropriate posts will also be important.

Increase in Social Enterprise

According to a study by Social Enterprise UK, British social enterprises are outperforming mainstream business in growth and innovation and reporting a 47% growth in turnover in comparison to 34% of SMEs. Big businesses are already taking social enterprise more seriously, with increased demand from both customers and a new generation of recruits[9] assessing the Net Promoter Score of their suppliers and future employers.

As a response, modern-day businesses must go beyond being a money-making vehicle and look at its place in society and within its local community. This must encompass more than CSR box-ticking, but cut to the heart of a company’s values and mission.

Preparing for roles that don’t exist

A recent study[10] by the World Economic Forum predicted that 65% of school children will, in future, be employed in jobs that don’t yet exist. Many of the most in-demand roles in today’s workforce did not even exist[11] five or ten years ago, highlighting the rapid pace of industrial change.

Leaders of the future need to begin preparing now to ensure access is available to a pool of talent who adapt well to an uncertain future. Nearly nine in 10 workers already anticipate having to learn new skills throughout their lifetimes in order to keep up with developments and managers should incorporate experiential learning[12] into workplace training programmes to ensure employees are constantly learning and adapting to new workplace requirements and skills.

Businesses should also prepare for the need to redeploy employees to new roles should their older role become obsolete, either through AI or otherwise. In fact, a whole new role of ‘Skills Mapping Manager’[13] may need to be created with the sole purpose of redistributing employees to stay on top of a rapidly changing workplace.

AI and Augmented Reality

Reports of automation and artificial intelligence and the possible impacts on the jobs market sends shivers down the spines of many. A variety of predictions[14] estimate the percentage of job roles at risk of being automated, with highs at 47% and lower estimates at 14% (though this still equates to 66 million job losses in OECD countries alone).

Further speculations predict that machines taking over mundane tasks should not lead to the assumption that job losses will take place. Instead, as less-skilled tasks are increasingly handled by AI[15], employers may expect more creative and complex tasks to be completed by their employees.

Augmented reality will also play a role in the workplace of the future, with wearables and other technology influencing how we interact with the office spaces around us. With 79% of businesses viewing wearables[16] as crucial to ongoing success, their increase seems inevitable. The effects these may have, ranging from predictions of increased productivity[17] to concerns of decreased employee privacy[18], should all be hot topics for consideration in any modern business.

Although the above list may at first appear daunting and vast, many of the developments impacting the workplace of the future can be combined. Encouraging enterprise leadership will take place naturally through Gen Z employees who possess instinctive emotional intelligence. Businesses can improve their reputations by becoming more socially conscious but will also need to protect reputations by addressing employee use of social media. By incorporating experiential learning into work development programmes organisations prepare their staff for redistribution into new roles as older ones become obsolete, and entirely new ones are created.

By looking at these developments in a holistic rather than fragmented manner, businesses can more easily future-proof themselves for the world of work in 2020 and beyond.


Gender Inequality: How To Say NO

Harriet Heneghan from Black Isle Group gives an interesting point on Gender Inequality:

In business, women are all too often stereotyped as being unassertive and not able to say no. On the other end of the scale, plenty of women are also happy to say no and do it bluntly and too often.
I would put these differences down to personality as much as gender and of course context. Either way, there are some top tips for getting the balance right whatever your natural tendencies.

As with a lot of personality theory I will talk extremes, remembering there are of course a myriad of different personalities in between. Most people will fall closer to one end or the other and so the advice should be adjusted accordingly to get the balance right.

For the less assertive type
No is a little word and yet so terribly powerful. If you are more of a cautious or reserved person, then even uttering the word no when you disagree with someone might be a struggle. There will, of course, be situations where you absolutely must be clear and just say no!

Practice saying “no” out loud in a firm voice and then afterwards back up your no with why you think this, e.g. no, that would have a disastrous effect on profits.

You don’t have to shout it or even make your voice louder as for some people they will then feel they are being inauthentic. The quiet “no” with a pause on either side can be equally, if not more, effective.

Another example of this is where people are overly accommodating and end up over promising. These types of people are often ultra-sensitive to other people’s needs and say yes to squeezing another person into the schedule or doing an extra bit of work etc. This is all well and good for the short term but leads to more problems down the line. So, a “No, I’m sorry that won’t be possible. What we can do is this….” would give a much clearer message.

For the ‘say one thing, do another’ type
These personalities are often harder to distinguish as they are hiding their real feelings. Often you see it when a pattern of behaviour emerges. If you are the sort of person that says yes you will do something but inside you are thinking “no I won’t!” then you need to evaluate the relationship with the person who has asked you. You are being passive aggressive, and you should consider why this is the case.

Why aren’t you able to say what you really mean? Typically, this would be because they have annoyed or irritated you e.g. you feel unappreciated, and so this is the real issue. A line like “I feel like I want to say no, because….” can help in a situation like this.

For the dominant or pessimist type
If you fall into the more outspoken or skeptical personality you should think about saying no less often. First, make sure the other side has felt heard – ask them questions and get them to explain more about their point of view. e.g. “tell me more”, “what else makes you think that?”. Simply having a feel for whether you have done more of the talking is an easy way of checking if you have dominated.

Then, if you still want to say no, use an alternative. This needs to be right for you and the situation, but some suggestions are: “The way I see it is this…”, “Have you ever thought of it like…”, “Yes, I see what you are saying and…….”, “let’s look at the implications of that”.

Being able to express our opinions and emotions whilst maintaining relationships is a vital skill for us all to have. All too often we know what we should say, but in the heat of the moment we say the wrong thing. Keep the mindset positive and prepare yourself well.

You need to actually practice saying the words out loud, which might not be easy if you are in an open plan office. A way to do this is simply to hold a phone to your ear so it looks like you are talking to someone. You could even leave yourself a voice message so you can play it back and hear how well you are doing.

Promoting Gender Diversity in World Oil & Gas 2018

We are very pleased and proud to present and support the Promoting Gender Diversity in World Oil & Gas 2018 hosted by the Global Women Petroleum & Energy Club in London.

During the event we have heard a number of inspiring personal stories, perspectives on the topic, and discussed examples of what companies are doing to support and develop gender diversity.

Our particular takeaways are that there is, without a doubt, behaviours that still exist which are simply not acceptable. But equally there are some great and innovative ideas being shared to support women at all stages of their career, whether graduate, mid-career or executive leadership.

No matter what gender, first and foremost, excelling at your chosen role and career has to be the message if you want to develop personally and professionally. There was a lot of

emphasis on mentoring and internal sponsorship, professional coaching and development. All are relevant but to get to the top, without drive and ultimately being better than other options available,this won’t be achieved.

There are very talented women and we should recognise, develop and promote them and support others whose destiny or ambition may not be CEO but whose contribution is equally valuable.


Increase Your Resilience – Change Your Highlight Reel

Tom Blower a member of the Black Isle Group posted this article on Resilience on Wednesday 28 February 2018

Superbowl’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ discusses failure
It was interesting listening to Nick Foles talk about failure earlier this month. He is the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, who had just won American Football’s Superbowl. Foles had just been voted the game’s most valuable player. A huge achievement for a back-up; someone considered as only a reserve player. Someone who had considered quitting the game only a couple of years before.

Foles said: “In our society today, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things. And then when you look at it, you think, wow. When you have a rough day, or when your life’s not as good as that, you’re failing.”

He went on to highlight how failure is a part of life, that as humans, we make mistakes, and that’s part of learning. That’s Foles’ approach to increasing resilience.

40,000 years on Facebook every day to judge successes and failures
His words ring true for us because we do spend so much time looking at other people’s highlights reels. Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are, in conjunction with our smartphones, designed to grab our attention, to look at other people’s highlights reels, with the inevitable consequence that you will reflect and judge your own successes and failures. In 2014 the New York Times conducted a study and concluded that collectively humanity spends nearly 40,000 years on Facebook, every single day. That’s an awful lot of highlight reels, a lot of judging ourselves on a current life and how it matches up.

The truth is our bias on how we see the world also reflects back on us. We carry forward the memories we choose into later life and use them to form our identity – how we see ourselves in the world. Almost all of us forget huge parts of our experiences. Almost all of us. Very few people have what is called highly superior autobiographical memory or HSAM. People with this condition remember most days of their lives like we would remember the recent past. But, rather than being a gift – a path to success via quiz shows or casinos HSAM is seen as a curse. Scientists understand the condition as people who are bad forgetters because they recognise that the memories we forget are an important part of our mental development.

What do we choose to remember, and what do we choose to forget?
Often, when I am working with people experiencing a tough time, we talk about elongating the time frame – taking the picture of today and putting it into part of life’s tape – the whole story. This requires them to look backwards at similar experiences and draw insights from how they solved a problem or overcame an obstacle. Furthermore, they must look forward and see past the current challenge that is occupying their thoughts so much. As a result, I sometimes feel they have been looking at the wrong highlights reel, and in taking a moment to change it, they see new possibilities and a path forward emerges.


Ways to increase resilience: How can you change your highlights reel?
Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, identify the source of these feelings, and notice where your thoughts are being continually drawn to. Ask why this seems to be?

Examine your highlights reel – when have you faced a similar situation before? How did you get past it? What help did you need? And especially, what beliefs about yourself do you need to challenge?

See past the problem. What could the paths ahead look like? What are the possibilities? What could you be willing to do differently? Will they still enable you to work towards your goals?

Move forward. Some people may say failure comes only when we quit. This isn’t true. Knowing what to stop and having the courage to say no are critical parts of our growth. We grow up believing that growth is just about adding more. It’s not. It’s about accepting and doing things differently. And that involves letting go.

Let us know how you get on when you change your highlights reel. Does your resilience increase?


Sarah Sweetman and Harriet Heneghan, Directors at Black Isle, will discuss these subjects, and more, at our next breakfast event on Wednesday 21st March. There are just a few places left so click here to register yours.

Unconscious Bias – The Survival Mechanism

Interesting perspective posted by Jasmine Gartner on Black Isle Group’s website:

I am a hopeless optimist. It’s one of the reasons I love delivering training on unconscious bias: it’s truly one area in life where if a majority of people made a few small changes to address it, the positive repercussions would be significant.

Unconscious bias, simply put, is an automatic mental shortcut that helps us wade through the millions of bits of information coming at us at any given time. If we had to think about everything every time, we would do nothing else. Unconscious bias tells us what to ignore (what the brain has learned to interpret as safe) and what to pay attention to (the unexpected that may be dangerous).

Where does unconscious bias come from?
I believe that unconscious bias helps us solve two problems: the first is our need to turn chaos into order. The second is to help us find where and to whom we belong. For example, recent research suggests that babies as young as three months old have a preference for faces from their own ethnic group (this is not true of newborns, indicating that this is a learned behaviour). So, unconscious bias – or looking for patterns and finding an in-group – is a survival mechanism so basic that it is below our conscious radar. As such, it usually shapes our decision-making without our being aware of it.

The problem is that these biases are only a guideline; they’re not always right. In fact, Daniel Kahneman, who has written extensively about bias, famously called the unconscious mind a machine for jumping to conclusions.

A recent example of unconscious bias in the workplace
An example of this is to be found in how we are incredibly good at coming up with very credible stories – the less information we have, the better. This is a bias called the narrative fallacy. A few months ago, I worked with a group who were going through a redundancy process. They told me about how their managers had, two years previously, handpicked a few of them for additional training. Now, in the present, they found that the selection criteria for redundancy included training. They were convinced that their managers had known this all those years ago, in order to rid themselves of the workers they considered dead wood. Obviously, this wasn’t the case at all, but it was certainly a believable story.

Forewarned, of course, is forearmed. In the workplace, there are a number of things we can do to slow down decision-making so that people don’t jump to conclusions, or at least not as much. Here are some of my tips:

Before meetings, have all attendees write down their views of the subjects that will be discussed. This prevents groupthink.
Listen to the stories that people tell – they indicate where there is a vacuum of information and can help you to provide the facts and information that will counter those stories with what is really happening.
Have each individual in a teamwork backwards from what they imagine is the worst case scenario for a business decision: have them detail what could have gone wrong to get there.

Engagement in the game changing workplace

An interesting insights article from our partners Black Isle Group.

Posted by Sarah Sweetman on Monday 5 February 2018

The workplace is affecting engagement in a multitude of ways. Increasing automation and technology is hijacking the agenda and diverting attention away from the fundamental needs of human beings. This, in turn, generates a proliferation of information and data at pace, all of which makes it harder to distil clear direction and priorities.

The environment that we work in leads to people being time poor as they work through mountains of information at a pace to satisfy an appetite for immediacy. The trap of more and more time invested in task-centric activity as opposed to people-centric activity is increased.

This kind of workplace affects business on two levels;

First is the impact on the employee day-to-day, trying to make sense of things, dealing with a permanent sense of vagueness and not quite knowing how one is doing against continually moving goalposts and demands.
Secondly, the impact on leaders who are having to learn new leadership skills to manage both the business and the team in this context, in turn, affects the wider workforce as well as the business itself.
Employees need focus and clarity. Even in turbulent times there is a need to keep people feeling focused, productive and plugged into a direction and purpose with meaning. Often managers and leaders in more senior roles who are struggling to make sense of the wider and complex picture project this ambiguity into their own teams by not feeling confident to set clear objectives and priorities. There is always a direction and there are always things to be done.

Employees who are active are more engaged than those who are not.

A compelling purpose is also important as employees can often feel a struggle as the senior leadership tear away from the comforts of what was and how it was to confront what is emerging. There is a natural tendency for nostalgia and longing for the security of the known which of course lives in the past. Employees need to turn and embrace what is emerging and make it their own so that there is a story for future opportunity and a purpose to share with the business.

Human attention is required. As human beings, we require connection with others, a sense of community and belonging.
Starving employees of time to focus on themselves and not their work is counterproductive to engagement.
Encouraging team effort is important and collective problem-solving.
Room to deliver is also important. When the context is vague it is easy to try to over control as one tries to bring oneself comfort that you know what is going on. This can lead to stifling people when greater accountability and autonomy is what drives engagement. Allowing for room to deliver is good for business as more than ever it needs peoples’ minds and their experience brought to the forefront to fathom and crunch through the complexity and ambiguity of matters.

More importantly than ever, we need great leaders who can help us navigate the game changing workplace


The Quiet Networker

Posted by Keith Fowler (Insights from Black Isle Group) on Wednesday 31 January 2018

One of the credos for business success that you will often hear is: network, network, network. For an extrovert, this advice is welcome – extroverts are naturally good at walking into a room, assessing the mood and shaking hands with as many potential contacts as possible.

However, for an introvert this advice can seem like a harbinger of doom. Introverts naturally prefer to keep to themselves when in large groups, feeling more comfortable exchanging ideas with a small clutch of individuals. The idea of approaching a group of strangers can be very intimidating indeed. So, if you’re an introvert, how are you supposed to make the most of your networking possibilities if you dread the very idea?

Well, our Networking for Introverts event last week aimed to tackle this very challenge.  As well as creating the perfect setting that appealed to an introverted professional it was the perfect opportunity to upskill and expand their networks.  As well as the key advice shared on the day here are a few extra tips to help you introverts embrace your inner networking genius.

1. Practice makes perfect – If you were in an improv comedy troupe, you would run through different scenarios hundreds (if not thousands) of times. Why should a networking event be any different? Think of the experience as a chance to become an improv master. You don’t know exactly what the other people will say or do, but by practicing many different scenarios you can gain confidence and feel more comfortable. Think of a few standard openers that you can use – “what brings you here today?” is always a good one.

2. Search out local meet ups and networking events – Now that you have some ‘go to’ openers and feel more confident mingling with strangers, you need somewhere to go! Hop onto Google and start searching for “Best Blockchain Meet-ups in BLANK city,” or “Local Networking for FinTech professionals” etc.

3. Work on your elevator pitch – Continuing on from your basic openers and practice sessions, it’s time to really make a difference – you need to work on your elevator pitch. If you don’t have a strong and concise pitch, you are likely to blow your one shot with a potential mentor, client or colleague. You should have a 30 second intro in mind that succinctly explains who you are, what you do and why you are at the event. Here is a great YouTube playlist about crafting the perfect elevator pitch.

4. Be reasonable about your limits and pace yourself – If you are a natural introvert, you might find it quite exhausting to attend networking events. Rather than trying to be ‘on’ for the entire event, remember to take a few minutes now and then in order to take a breather and relax. Similarly, don’t attend too many networking events in any one month – pace yourself and know your limits. You should also choose only the most suitable and strategic events on which to focus your attention.

5. Follow up! – It seems like an obvious point, but so many people attend networking events and then never follow up with the people that they connected with. This means that all of their hard work and practice was for nothing! While you are at the event, collect business cards from everyone whom you connect with and jot down some notes on the back so that you can remember your conversation.

Over the next few days, connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Then, take your annotated cards and send each person a personalised email.  “Hello, it was great to meet you at the BLANK EVENT. Your work/project sounds very interesting, and I would love to be involved in BLANK WAYS. Best regards, YOUR NAME.” Simple as that!

With these simple tips you can change your perspective about networking and start to leverage these events towards your success.


Is the CEO doomed?

Posted by Tom Blower (Insights from Black Isle Group) on Wednesday 24 January 2018

Is the CEO doomed?

Recent research shows there are two main challenges that organisations face. Changing their organisational design and coping with uncertainty. As technology and globalisation have a profound impact on the nature of work, organisations need to find new ways to respond to customer demands, and engage a workforce increasingly comprised of digital natives. Indeed, the World Economic Forum recently identified the top three skills required of workers as:

Complex problem solving
Critical thinking
This is far removed from traditional notions of leadership – the idea of one powerful person determining the destiny of others.

Leadership in future will become far more distributed, with self-organising teams working together to tackle problems and create innovative solutions in an era where constant change is the new norm. The role of the leader will be far more about creating clarity and drawing people towards a collective purpose. Certainly, there is an increasing weight of evidence that what we need from our leaders will be far different in future. Indeed, It’s likely that in an era that will be more machine led through AI and robotics, the human elements – the soft skills – will come more to the fore. The World Economic Forum’s recently released report also predicts the top required skills in 2020 would additionally include ‘people management’. Skills that necessarily involve working across teams and drawing upon the insights of others. It’s no surprise that the WEF ranks people management and emotional intelligence as numbers 5 and 6 on the list. Also, as organisations seek the benefits that come with having a more diverse workforce, the onus on the leader will be to demonstrate flexibility in how they are able to unlock the potential that lies in teams and people who bring different perspectives and ideas. The ability to create and articulate a vision, and demonstrate the humility that engenders trust, will be a key attribute.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the CEO will disappear completely. Organisations are collections of people, and history shows that wherever there are groups of people there will always be leaders. Individuals will still need to be held accountable for their actions – we are constantly reminded of the consequences when this doesn’t happen.


How Cripps Sears & Partners is Helping The Victims Of The Grenfell Tower Fire

Cripps Sears and Partners are committed to supporting others, both in our community and beyond. After the dreadful event of the Grenfell Tower Fire, the team are raising funds and donations, further to the contribution we as a company have already made, to go to those who have been affected by this tragic event.

Cripps Sears has a long standing relationship with The Phoenix Burns Trust in South Africa, a charity that supports children who have suffered burn injuries in township fires. We hold numerous fund raising events in this regard throughout the year e.g. our annual Hike and Bike down the Garden Route to Cape Town. We have seen first-hand, and know all too well the devastating effects fires and such events can have.

Our colleagues have been putting together donations of clothing, linens and other non-perishables to be delivered to St Leonards Church on Tuesday afternoon. Any items not suitable for donation are being listed for sale on an online auction to raise further funds for donation. If you are close to our London office (1 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1LF) and would like to make a donation to be delivered please feel free to bring it in to us before 12pm on Tuesday.

Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones, to those who have suffered burns and who are now having to rebuild their lives after this terrible tragedy.

Rise of Russia – open for business. With care.

Russia has been the focus of political news in the US recently, but it’s also making headlines for positive economic reasons. With the country having pulled itself out of its longest recession in twenty years and enjoying renewed stability, economists are pointing to broad macro recovery during 2017 and a likely resurgence in inward investment.

Buoyed further by the November 2016 OPEC agreement to cut output   ̶   the first such accord in eight years   ̶   and the resultant recovery in the oil price, Russia is looking strong. Sanctions and low oil prices have helped force the oil and gas sector to be efficient, and Russia even took Saudi Arabia’s place in December as the world’s largest producer of crude.

Russia is eager to put the word out. Aleksandr Novak, the energy minister, was bullish in Houston in early March, telling investors “Russia is open” to investment and collaboration. Novak also highlighted vast as-yet undiscovered oil and gas resources, coupled with some of the lowest development costs in the world. Novak reportedly met with “13 global funds interested in investing in Russian oil and gas”, although he did not name them.

The signs things may be easing and the increased stability mean lower political risk and that means lower asset prices for investors. The Financial Times reported in February that a third of the 15 best-performing funds in the world in 2016 were specialist funds investing in Russian equities.

So what now? Ironically, considering the political news in the US, President Donald Trump’s positive vibes towards Putin have helped to reduce the perceived risk in investing in Russia. After several years of retreating from Russian positions, investors have started to venture back in, encouraged not only by the apparent entente cordiale but by the stronger rouble and more robust oil price, and by the growing possibility of the end of sanctions, slapped on Russia in 2014 following its military manoeuvres in Ukraine and eventual annexing of Crimea.

Darren Woods, who took over as CEO of Exxon when former incumbent Rex Tillerson accepted Trump’s offer of the US secretary of state role, met with President Putin, Russia’s energy minister and the CEO of Russian energy giant Rosneft in Moscow in early March, when a Kremlin spokesman talked openly about “special treatment” for the US energy major. Exxon, and of course Tillerson, have extensive experience in Russia and could well prove to be an obliging bridge for US energy companies looking to invest or to strengthen their hand in Russia.

BP’s Bob Dudley has also spoken particularly positively towards Russia recently, while Shell further bolstered its own position in Russia last year with an agreement with Gazprom to develop a Baltic LNG port.

Despite the upbeat talk, all may not be as rosy as Russia would like it to appear. The much-trumpeted Euros10.2bn investment in Rosneft by the Switzerland-based trader Glencore and Qatar Investment Authority   ̶   announced by Putin and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin on live television in December 2016  ̶  has since taken on a veil of what can only be described as murky. Details of the actual structuring of the finance only emerged in January, revealing that the “investment” is investments plural, by several different players and including a number of Russian banks; so not the huge foreign direct investment originally claimed.

Interestingly, for a country so rich in oil and gas, Russia has not downplayed its potential for clean energy or the potential opportunities there for interested parties, with Putin commenting recently, on the country’s position vis-à-vis the Paris Agreement on climate change; “Environment has been and of course will be a key element of our work as part of our domestic policy … Russia, as it is known, took on rigorous commitments and I have no doubt that we will fulfil them.”

Russia is undoubtedly back on the cards for canny investors with cash to spare  ̶  but, as always, with a degree of prudence. Were sanctions to be lifted, the Russian economy would bounce further. There is much yet to unfold but, while global politics have a determined habit of producing surprising results, Russia’s resources are not going anywhere.