One of the anticipated highlights of my Christmas telly viewing was the new episode of “Sherlock”. As it turns out, it was a huge disappointment – with all the time-travelling, I had no idea what was going on and soon, quite literally, lost the plot – but it was a handy reminder for me of what I had so loved about the earlier episodes of the “new” Sherlock, with Cumberbatch and Freeman. And no, it’s not Benedict, in case you’re wondering. Rather, I love the way he highlights the power of simple observation. People tend to think that he is supremely educated, but actually he is supremely observant: he sees things and interprets their meaning. Here’s one example of how he knows that someone is left-handed. And here’s how he gets the measure of Watson at their first meeting. (If you’re at work, you may want to turn down the volume for the whipping scene…)
Welcome back – aren’t they terrific? Anyway, they remind us of the importance of looking and of paying attention to what you see (and hear). Too often when doing due diligence checks, or meeting clients, we go onto auto-pilot and stop paying close attention. But the information to be gleaned from close observation is invaluable. At a basic level, does your client’s appearance match his age as given in documentation? Does her accent match her name? Is her smartness or otherwise of dress what you would expect from what you know about her – her occupation, salary and so on? Does he respond easily when you ask questions (think how easy it is for you to spell out your name for someone, or give your postcode – now try it for someone else’s, and you slow right down)? If he gives you his date of birth, perhaps ask his age as confirmation – if he has to work it out, it might not be true. Look at any forms she has filled in: does the signature flow easily, or is it more forced, and so perhaps copied? Do numbers – other account numbers, passport numbers, phone numbers – seem credible, or are they rounded or consecutive?
None of this requires special training or skills, beyond opening the eyes and ears and paying attention. And do wear a deerstalker if it helps.