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The Irregular Newsletter of Z/Yen Group Limited

Catch up with current projects, new ventures and see some very bad puns (Editor: bad metaphor) via Z/Yen's blog or the eagerly awaited newsletter.

To receive your copy electronically, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Security Forward-Risk and Intelligence Forum’s first meeting of our year was held at Furniture Makers Hall in the City of London on 13 July 2017. Our first guest speaker was Victor Madeira, who is a Senior Fellow at The Institute for Statecraft and focuses on the historical roots of Russian deception and subversion. His talk was entitled ‘Russian Subversion: How Did We Get Here & Where Are  We Headed?’ Of particular interest was Victor’s analysis and description of national approaches to behavioural and cultural conflict and how Russia has been deeply influenced by history and the geopolitics of both the Eurasian and Western Hemisphere. The cultural psychology of Russia needs to be understood and taken into account when dealing with the ‘Bear’. Indeed Victor’s latest work is entitled ‘Britannia and the Bear: The Anglo Russian Intelligence Wars’ and a copy of his book was given to all participants, as is our usual practice. Following his presentation there was an extended discussion and debate as this was a very interactive group of attendees.

Our second speaker was Brigadier John Deverell  CBE, MPhil who is a former British Officer and spent most of his career very much at the sharp end of the action. In the British Army he was responsible as a senior commander for a third of all personnel across the Army. Earlier in his career he operated in the jungle, the desert, tanks, infantry, submarines and in Special Forces. John’s talk was entitled ‘Providing livelihoods in support of security’ and was an extremely thoughtful and perceptive discussion. John spent some time in Palestine reporting to an American General and was most informative as to the challenges faced in that part of the world. There was an informed discussion about Libya at the end of his talk as we had much expertise around the table. John was unable to join us for dinner as he was on an early flight out to Mogadishu the next morning. We were extremely lucky to have such a knowledgeable and informed speaker.

Our final speaker of the day was our own ‘In House Resident Speaker’ Lt Colonel Crispin Black MBE, MPhil who delivered his talk in two parts as we had such a full programme.  Crispin gave a presentation, "Military - Civilian: Where is the front line now?"  He argued that the distinction between soldiers and civilians is a recent invention more honoured in the breach than the observance.  In ancient times, and even in the early modern Europe of the 17th Century,  few acknowledged the difference.  By the time of the Second World War and the era of massive air attacks directed primarily at civilians the distinction was dead.  It has become of concern once again in the aftermath of Islamist terror attacks in Europe and elsewhere which appear indiscriminate - but which are often, pradoxically, precisely targeted at concentrations of so-called 'infidels'.  In any case, the casualties from terrorism in Europe have been low.  More importantly, the front line for those seeking to inflict serious harm on Western countries seems to be moving towards the cyber sphere.  Equally, the front line in counter-terror seems to be moving away from the days of 'kill or capture the terrorist' to a more long-term approach combining legal action, border control and attempts at re-education. 

Following drinks we dined at The Furniture Makers Hall  and having quite a few new attendees resulted in the usual networking opportunities and exchanging of cards. I was pleased to receive one email thanking me for the meeting which stated that it was 'quite a while since the participant had heard such an in depth account of strategic security issues given by people so well informed'.

Future Meetings are scheduled for 9 October 2017, 11 January 2018 and 22 March 2018.

“We’ve had the Sumaritans with clay tablets, papyri, tally sticks of wood, ledger books, and then we moved onto databases.  Distributed ledgers are just multi-organisational databases with a super audit trail. That’s what makes them a ledger.”

Thus said Professor Michael Mainelli to Paul Tanasyuk. A part of the latter’s “Talk” series with “blockchain experts”, this is a warm and passionate exploration of mutual distributed ledgers and their underlying technology, as well as their realistic potential applications and the restrictions they naturally face. Makes for interesting and, dare I say, fun viewing.

And talking of talking about MDLs, the latest Long Finance Conference titled “The Dark Side of the Chain? Governing and Auditing Mutual Distributed Ledger (aka blockchain) Systems” was a great success. In the grand surroundings of the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Great Hall, 100 delegates, speakers, and panellists came together for a lively discussion on the regulatory issues surrounding the technology du jour. If you did not manage to attend, you can check out our keynote speakers’ presentations here.

In other (non-MDL) news, Long Finance’s latest report Security And Sustainability In Defined Benefit Pension Schemes: A Response To The Department Of Work And Pensions Consultation", by Iain Clacher, Con Keating, and Andrew Slater, engages with a subject that should concern all of us. You can read a summary of the report’s principal recommendations here.

Security Forward, Risk & Intelligence Forum’s Spring Meeting was held at The Honourable Artillery Company Headquarters in the City of London on 22 March 2017. The meeting kicked-off with a presentation from our guest speaker, Stephen Jolly, Executive Director of World Services at M&C Saatchi’s global behavioural change operation. Stephen was previously the UK’s Director of Defence Communications (a two star appointment at the Ministry of Defence). His presentation was entitled "British Military Influence Operations: How Effective Are They?" Stephen gave a fascinating and extremely informative presentation covering the challenges faced by the UK and described what other countries are doing with regard to managing the media and Psychological Operations. Given his background at the centre of Government, Stephen was able to share some of his experiences with the group, who were themselves very knowledgeable. This led to a very good and informative discussion.  As we operate under the Chatham House Rule, Stephen was able to discuss his past experiences and warn of some of the possible dangers in the future. When he took questions there was a lively interactive session which extended well into the coffee break.

We then moved on to our usual ‘round robin’ session to identify key issues in the ‘in tray’ at present. As always this gave each of the participants an opportunity to highlight their most pressing issues and to alert other members to latest developments.

We then gave the floor to our ‘Speaker in Residence’ Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL, who is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security. His presentation was entitled "The Limits Of Forecasting - A Step Forward, But Then???"  Crispin argued that one of the reasons political and economic forecasters have failed to predict or even partially anticipate recent events like the financial crash of 2008 or Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections is that many of them are working from a set of assumptions or mental maps that are now out of date. For example, the late Harvard historian, Samuel P Huntington, held a view that cultural differences between civilisations and religions are deep and persistent, his "Clash of Civilizations".  Huntington was routinely derided as madcap, if not racist, during the 1990s. With the rise of Islamist non-integration and violence in the West and elsewhere, his views are looking to some like common sense.

Huntington’s one time student, Francis Fukuyama, propagated the 'End of History' view, just after the demise of the Soviet Union, that the battle of ideas across the world had ended.  Western style democracies sustained by globalised capitalism would eventually come to occupy most of the planet. Unlike his former supervisor, Fukuyama’s arguments now look outdated or naïve to some. Men and women, even within the comfortable embrace of Western civilisation, have very different views of how their countries and economies should be organised.  Many of those who set standards for public debate in the West- the political and broadcasting elites - live a separate existence from the bulk of their fellow citizens.  Crispin suggested that specialised castes might be evolving, unable to understand the concerns and aspirations of ordinary people.

Following the meeting we had drinks in the Museum of the HAC.  Perhaps influenced by Crispin's talk about the end of history, we repeated our traditional cocktail custom, but for the first time repeated the cocktail.  The drink of honour was a French 75 (Soixante Quinze) commemorating the powerful French 75mm field gun, which had also drunk in 2015.

Our dinner speaker was Lt Gen Jonathon Riley, who served in the British Army for forty years and had a full and varied career.  Mostly abroad on active service, he held commands on operations at every level from platoon to a Corps, in Northern Ireland, Central America, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan. He was awarded a DSO for bravery and distinguished conduct in 1995 and the NATO Meritorious Service Medal in 2008. He was made an Officer of The Legion of Merit in 2004 and a Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Bath in 2008. He has a PhD in Modern History and has to date published 18 books of biography and military history. He is a Visiting Professor in War Studies at King’s College London. He gave a wonderful talk about his latest book, "'Oft in Danger': The Life and Campaigns of General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley", and then answered questions, of which there were many. It was a great treat to listen to one General  discussing another. All those at the dinner were given a hardback copy of the book.

As always, the networking opportunities resulted in the usual exchanging of cards.  We know that many of our Members are in regular contact with each other which adds value to their Security function. Future meetings are scheduled for 13 July 2017, 9 October 2017, 4 December 2017, and 22 March 2018.

Z/Yen is a fluid place (no we're not talking about Michael Mainelli's ginger beer intake) but this spring/summer sees an especially large number of new faces.


We're calling them The Famous Five, in honour of the quirky books and the "lashings of ginger beer" that we traditionally get through in the summer months at Z/Yen.

Two of our newbies are top notch placement postgrads from Royal Holloway, University of London, Bikash Kharel and Shevangee Gupta. They bring freshly-minted mutually distributed ledger and predictive analytics advanced skills to Z/Yen's burgeoning teams in those areas.  

Alexandra Karathodorou joins the core Z/Yen team to bring her strong project management skills to our events, web presence and general frenetic Z/Yen activities.  She has got off to a flying start.

Luke Owens has just joined us for the summer from Georgia State University - Z/Yen has a long and successful record of taking placement students from that institution.

Last but not least is Hector Leitch, son of Matthew Leitch, the latter of whom has been doing a great deal of associate work with us this year and with whom we have worked, on and off, for more years than any of us care to remember. This will be Hector's second summer internship with Z/Yen - which tells you that he is very good indeed.

Lovers of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books might recall that the five comprised two boys, two girls and a dog. Now and Z/Yen has no intention of assigning specific Famous Five characters to individual Z/Yen folk, but...

...unfortunately for Hector...

...readers (and writers) of a certain age who, for example, remember The Famous Five, will probably also remember Hector's House, a rather whimsical puppet show about a dog and his house/garden.

But if it makes all of Z/Yen's new Famous Five feel any better, Z/Yen people were, at one time, all allocated cartoon characters.

Ian Harris is Wile E. Coyote and Michael Mainelli is the Tasmanian Devil.