Hints from Holmes

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.

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5 Responses to Hints from Holmes

  1. Robert James Long says:

    Controversial I know, but I actually prefer Elementary to Sherlock, the later show having got to my mind steadily worse as it has gone on. Elementary has also had a few episodes with Money laundering in it!

    I am more of a bowler hat fellow myself than a deer stalker

  2. Sue Shelley says:

    Great advice Sue! In my experience, and I know of others, attempts to instil this type of approach within a financial institution, are met with resistance by client facing personnel and even top executive management. And I kid you not, on the following grounds…..”where does it say we have to do this in the law or regulations” or “we can’t treat every client like a criminal” and my personal favourite….”we are not intelligence or police officers”. I truly believe that fundamental and common sense approaches, such as you suggest, will only be implemented when the internal culture within those banks changes….and only harsher sanctions that amount to more than a slap on the wrist with accountability for individuals will facilitate that culture. At the moment ‘punishments’ comprise only forfeiture of profits that are then accounted for by clawback of salaries of the lastest redundancy casualties ……

    • What mystifies me, Sue, is why people wouldn’t want to do this. It makes the work so much more interesting and satisfying, than simply ticking boxes and unthinkingly collecting bits of paper. Like you, I have often heard “But we’re not policemen”, and I reply, “Yes, and that’s why I never use the word ‘investigate@ in your training. What you are expected to do is make enquiries in a way and to a level that would be expected of a diligent professional in the regulated sector”. Harrumph!
      Best wishes from Susan

  3. I haven’t seen “Elementary”, Robert – I’ll get onto it! And I wonder why one needed a special style of hat to stalk deer rather than, say, pheasant or foxes?

    • Robert James Long says:

      Fox Stalker sounds a bit off for a hat!

      At the risk of cross-contaminating your Blogs, Enjoy Alderney! I stayed at Fort Clonque one new year and had a very happy time on the lovely if slightly mad Island

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