On the frontline of the recession

The UK’s 4.7m small and medium-sized enterprises are bearing the brunt of the recession – according to BDO Stoy Hayward, five will close their doors every hour for the rest of this year. I wrote the lead article for Insurance Times’ SME focus, speaking to struggling business owners, financial advisers and brokers to find out what was really going on in this hard-to-reach sector. On a cheerier note, I wrote a separate piece on the retail sector, and found that despite high-profile high-street failures, small local shops weren’t doing too badly…

Going underground

Among my more exciting assignments of late was a day spent undercover with a team of private investigators looking into insurance claims. I learned how to spot a a surveillance team, how not to be seen,  and how it’s slightly less glamorous than it looks on the telly. Oh, and how there’s much, much more of it than you’d think. Women make the best surveillance operatives I’m told – but you have to be prepared to sit still in the back of a white van for eight hours at a time. I’m not planning a career change.

Seminars in cyberspace

In November, as part of my events editing role at Building magazine, I devised, planned and presented four “webinars” as part of our Virtual Grad Fair – kind of a clunky version of Second Life but probably more useful… Half-conference call, half-Powerpoint presentation, the webinars were viewed by several hundred students over the course of the fair, and are now available on demand. If you can be bothered to create a user ID, you can hear about working abroad, graduate schemes, work placements and how women who didn’t study construction are getting into the industry anyway. And whatever happened to Second Life? I spent a week there back in February 2007 – the architecture wasn’t up to much and urban sprawl reigned