2021: A year in
review

With the end of the year approaching, leaders from across BAE Systems Applied Intelligence set out their reflections on the past 12 months
2021 A Year in Review icon
 
It’s been another challenging year in many ways. A year where the cascading consequences of the pandemic continue to reshape our world; a year where geopolitical shifts play out across borders; a year where climate change and the environment have topped the agenda; and a year which ends in some uncertainty as nations grapple with the arrival of the Omicron variant.
 
We’ve sat down with a selection of leaders from across BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to hear their thoughts on the past 12 months. Here’s their take on the year gone by…
 
 

Dirk Noordewier is General Manager, Australia 


2021 A Year in Review AUS icon 2021 has been a pretty challenging year for the Applied Intelligence team in Australia.
 
Like the rest of the world, we have endured rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions due to the pandemic: the Sydney office was closed for 107 days, Canberra’s for 64 and Melbourne took its title as the ‘Global Sporting Capital’ seriously by managing to be the most locked down city in the world with its 127 days – thankfully, well short of its 2020 record of 154 days.
 
Although intra-state travel continued in most regions, inter-state travel effectively stopped and made client engagement difficult and on-site delivery impossible. This also negatively impacted our key financial metrics, particularly in the second half of the year.
 
Notwithstanding these challenges, the team pulled together and continued to deliver to a high standard as evidenced by our nomination in three separate categories for the 2021 Defence Connect Australian Defence Industry Awards.
 
Delayed due to the pandemic, these awards are now scheduled for December 14 and the ‘Cyberworthiness Team’ are all travelling to Sydney to dress in Black Tie & Ball Gowns to celebrate our nominations and potential wins.
 
One of the more encouraging outcomes of the pandemic has been an increased sense of community within the Australian business. There has been significant concern and genuine assistance for those struggling with the psychological aspects of lockdown and people are simply looking out for each other and asking – ‘are you OK?’
 
Not a bad way to finish a pretty tough year. Best wishes for Christmas.
 
 

Annabel Snaith, Home Office Account Director


At this time last year I believed 2021 would be the year of transitioning to hybrid working and I was looking forward to embracing and shaping that change to our culture. However, in reality the world and us with it have stayed stuck in pandemic working, and as we head towards Christmas and hear talks of restrictions there is a feeling of déjà vu.
 
As one of our wise colleagues (Jo Massey) noted about working from home – you are also living at work. And I think this triggered quite a few life-shaping decisions last year which we have seen people (colleagues and clients) begin to act upon this year. These changes, the new relationships and job roles, create interesting opportunities for us next year, and also means we can no longer rely on pre-pandemic relationships to underpin our business. As such, culture and people are my watch-words for 2022.
 
I’m proud of the work we have delivered work in 2021, we have strengthened our client relationships and they have trusted us more than ever to support their mission-critical work; as a result our business has grown. For me, this year has demonstrated even more than 2020 that the people in our business are outcome focussed and often self-less in their commitment to positive change. These are unique qualities that you don’t find in many of our competitors and it’s what makes AI special.
 
Pandemic uncertainty has settled into a long-term background anxiety for us and although that feels less and less in our control, our mission to protect and deliver an advantage to the UK and its people has never felt more focussed. Tragedies and injustices like the recent deaths in the channel, and the recent death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, create an acute anger and renewed energy to advance our policing, justice, immigration systems and child protection, all of which BAE Systems Applied Intelligence plays a role in improving. The world has never needed us more; let’s make 2022 better.
 

Andy Lethbridge, Head of Central Government Consulting


2021 A Year in Review resilience icon This year feels like one of adaptation to a new normal, or normal, and how our teams have done that has been nothing short of amazing.
 
Resilience, persistence and determination are my key words of 2021 – I’m not sure what Countdown presenter Suzy Dent would make of this selection but they are definitely mine. The work we are doing, which remains incredibly important, is driven ever more by data – how to get it, how to make sure it’s accurate, how to analyse it faster, how to link and how to get more of it.  
 
With this trend looking poised to continue, the relentless hunger to do more with data feels almost all-consuming, and helping our clients navigate through the technical, operational and organisational implications of this certainly feels like a focus for next year.
 

Mivy James, Digital Transformation Director


As 2021 draws to a close and I find myself writing annual appraisals, I reflect on my own year.
 
Firstly, the pandemic continues to dictate how and where we work. The good working from home habits that I enjoyed in 2020 have completely fallen down – I no longer manage a lunch time walk and have all too often slipped into 9+ hours a day glued to my green velvet office chair at home.
 
There have, however, been some weeks where I have been out and about for work – I have never enjoyed a train commute into London so much, despite the wearing of masks! We all still have quite a lot to learn to get hybrid working right – “A world without email” has just been added to my personal development reading list.
 
On a technical note, almost every organisation continues to be curious and optimistic about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). I’m excited about it too but I’m also nervous as I don’t think many organisations really understand their data holdings yet, let alone the other data sets that are need to power AI fairly. This is an area that perhaps isn’t getting the right level of investment – with the more tangible technical areas of cloud and data tools / platforms overshadowing the less glamourous activities of data management and engineering.
 
What do I think 2022 holds for us? Well, we already know the pandemic is going to continue into next year – as if we haven’t had enough of it already. Maybe this will force us to get hybrid working and digital collaboration right.
 
Reading about various corporate responses which vary from “work wherever and whenever you please” to a prescriptive back in the office for a set number of days a week is interesting, I would like to see the results of this forced large-scale social experiment next year. Perhaps a great opportunity for applying some nifty data science to discover what’s really going on, what works well and whether there are any patterns that employers and employees can use alike to maximise productivity.
 
 

Charmian Simmons, Financial Crime and Compliance Expert


2021 A Year in Review COVID icon 2021 has been the year of ‘living the new-Covid-normal’!
 
We have all grown to love the hybrid work setup, spending more time with family/friends/pets and fixing up our homes/gardens to balance our new lifestyles. Equally, we’ve watched our customers and other organisations embark on transformation journeys to improve their systems, practices and control environments.
 
But others have been busy, too – criminals, fraudsters, hackers and the like, have reimagined their operations and demonstrated they are truly agile! This has resulted in a new-wave of crime sophistication, specialisms, scams and money laundering methods that will surely keep fraud and compliance professionals as well as IT/Infosec teams on their toes as 2022 rolls on.
 
For now, we should celebrate and appreciate our health, wealth, family, friends, memories and laughter-filled moments – as these are the things that make us happy, loved, unique, and appreciated. Looking forward to the new year ahead.
 

Jo Massey, Account Director, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office


I’m sure the main challenge we have faced amongst our FCDO team is the same as those faced in many other accounts: just not being together. Not with the client, and not with each other.

Establishing a form of togetherness in a virtual way was really the work of 2020, but we had not intended our makeshift virtual togetherness to have to last a whole additional year. But a couple of things we have done this year have gone some way towards bringing us together in a really powerful way.

The first is the creation of the Sounding Board: a group of six early career individuals in the account who act as a shadow leadership board, both listening to and learning from how we drive the account, and advising the leadership team on the needs and priorities of our rather large wider account team.

The second is the continuation and ongoing success of our Inclusion Sessions. These are carefully facilitated Friday morning discussions, held every other month, on topics such as race, white privilege, cognitive diversity, to name a few.

With about 50 people joining for each session, the mutual respect and enthusiastic engagement confirms that a virtual shared environment really can function as a psychological safe space. They have also enabled us to see and hear each other in a way we could not otherwise have achieved – possibly not even had we been face to face.

 

Enda Shirley, Compliance Product Management Lead


2021 A Year in Review global FS icon Resilience in a connected world and the ability to generate forward momentum on a bumpy road sums up my 2021. 
 
Since financial crime didn’t taken a convenient break for Covid, which would have enabled us all to re-group, we have had to remain focused on solving new and old challenges from a predominantly remote setting and were able to do so with good results.
 
The financial sector is now pushing beyond what must be done to achieve basic output in a new setting to now re-focusing on how best to jointly tackle global financial crime and it has been fantastic to see this evolve over 2021. For example, Europe is seeking to push ahead with strong levels of collaboration in anti-money laundering.

This year saw the release of our second consecutive global report on anti-money laundering, surveying the industry to assess their AML challenges. Everyone is passionate about detecting financial crime but also concerned that industry could be doing more.
 
This served to reinforce our mission to realise a world where the global financial services network runs effectively and efficiently, free of the impacts and disruptions of financial crime and strategy to drive compliance optimisation.
 
Personally speaking, I managed to see some colleagues face-to-face briefly towards the end of the year and that was an immediate highlight. Who knew we’d miss white boards so much!
 

Nicola Eschenburg, FTS Venture Lead, Futures


I can’t quite decide whether 2021 is a year to remember or a year to forget… Either way, it’s been a year of ups and downs as we fully embraced hybrid working and found ways to make our lives a bit more balanced – and realised quite how exciting a trip into the office could be! Seeing family this Christmas (fingers crossed!) after two long years, though, has to be the highlight for me. So I guess you could say that if nothing else, 2021 has taught me to appreciate what really matters.
 
And that lesson has unsurprisingly bled over into the work area. While the world may have benefitted from the chance to slow down and smell the roses, it’s not an opportunity that was taken by the world of organised crime. It’s been fascinating seeing how criminal operations evolved due to pandemic restrictions, and then reverted back to the tried and tested methods when those constraints were removed. 
 
The lesson here for me is that if we want to disrupt financial and economic crime, we need to understand exactly how it’s conducted. Our adversaries adjust and evolve their methods and we need to do the same; we can’t continue doing the same thing we’ve always done and expect the results to change. Whether it’s work or life – focus on what matters and the rest will fall into place.
 
 

Paul Spedding, Head of Pre-Sales, Defence


2021 A Year in Review defence tech icon We have all had to adapt our lifestyles as we’ve endured another year of the pandemic. This time around it seems more of our team have been hit, as have more friends and relatives. We have a lot to be thankful for with the vaccination programme.
 
Personally, I’ve found the opportunity to come back into the office a refreshing one. The threat of Covid always pervades but the importance of human contact in team building and to wellbeing, in enabling inventive thinking and problem solving, and in instilling a sense of common purpose and commitment to the company, shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s very human.
 
2021 has been a good year for Applied Intelligence in Defence. We’ve continued to grow and improve our profitability and we’ve managed to cement some burgeoning relationships with important senior stakeholders. We’ve also gone large on our Space intent and have built on the Land and Expand model in Defence Digital in Strategic Command.
 
We have some great technology work underway too, setting our sights on enabling future multi-domain operations. It was a year in which the transformations aspired to by the Ministry of Defence were put into action and clear intent made visible to bring it into a closer working relationship with intelligence community and wider government.
 
The digital transformation is real and the message is clear to all. We are seeing a lot of change and a lot of new people entering or growing in the defence market. We still have much more to do to lay claim to our potential and next year will test our ability to harness the skills we have across Applied Intelligence and wider BAE Systems. But we’re on the case.
 
Merry Christmas to all.
 

Theresa Palmer, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion


Often when I’m working out or on a run I think of something my uncle told me when I was a young athlete, “it is when you think that you can’t go any further that you are building endurance.”  I say it out loud…a lot! 
 
On reflection, I think many people found themselves opening up the year with a great deal of the same challenges that 2020 presented, with many wondering if there was endurance to continue, and many more probably believing there wasn’t. 
 
What I found amongst friends, family and colleagues throughout the year though was not just endurance but, fortitude. I was proud to work alongside so many people that carried the D&I baton with me this year. Our company became alive not just on topics of diversity but a true and genuine desire to be inclusive and to creating and fostering a better workplace for everyone around us. 
 
I began to realise that 2021 was not going to be about endurance at all but triumph.  So many initiatives this year soared. So many people found success, more often, not through realisation of their own goals but through the teamwork and enjoyment of someone else’s achievements. 
 
I could list so many of the D&I strategic wins from this year, its evolution, and why I’m even more sure now that the bold five-year objectives laid out at the start of the year about how we are going to change this business are going to do just that – but none of those individual wins are what is important. There is only one thing worth noting. 
 
We did it this year together and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it all. 
 
 

Martin Barber, People and Capabilities Director


2021 A Year in Review rollercoaster icon The word that comes immediately to my mind when I try to describe 2021 is rollercoaster. There have been personal and professional highs and lows.
 
The former being defined by the marriage of my younger son, the event having been cancelled from December 2020 due to Covid. This was a very happy day with family and friends coming together for the first time for a very long time, yet slightly coloured by my mother not being present, having passed away during the year.
 
From a BAE Systems perspective, the ups of the year very much relate to our really strong business performance whilst the downs have been very heavily driven by the pandemic, with our people often having to work as hard as they have done in trying personal circumstances in delivering that great performance. Witnessing that dedication and commitment has been hugely impressive and often quite humbling.
 
Throughout the year, almost irrespective of where in the world we live, we have had the promise of vaccines and the optimism of reducing restrictions ebbing and flowing in positive and negative directions as the year has unfolded.
 
These fluctuations have tested us all and I am sure have made many of us, myself included think hard about and perhaps adjust our views on what is really important in life – our health, our families, our friends, really enjoying our work, our quality of life.
 
I am sure that ensuring more balance across such things has become much more prominent in our minds and less taken for granted than they may have been only a couple of years ago. I hope that some of this “rebalancing” of personal priorities remains for the longer term for many people, I know that whilst I will continue to give my utmost to all elements of my life, I am going to try equally hard to ensure that this is the case for me.
 

Mark Rayner, Financial Services Head of Consulting and Head of Delivery Management


2021 was a busy one for those protecting the financial system from crime.
 
The EU’s 6th AML Directive introduced a raft of key changes, most notably harmonising 22 predicate offences, extending criminal liability to legal persons and requiring greater cooperation between countries. 2021 also saw NatWest plead guilty to breaches of AML regulations in October (the first time a financial institution has faced criminal prosecution under AML laws in the UK) and the release of the Pandora Papers – the biggest ever leak and making the mainstream news.
 
Alongside these regulatory changes, the FS market continued to develop at pace particularly in terms of cryptocurrency and digital assets. The Bank of England and HM Treasury setup a taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a central bank digital currency, El Salvador became the first country in the world to account Bitcoin as legal tender and the NFT market reported as growing to $7bn-$13.2 billion. However, it wasn’t all good news for crypto with the FCA issuing a Consumer Warning against Binance Markets Limited, China declaring all crypto-currency transactions illegal and $613 million being stolen from Poly Network.
 
As these developments show, financial institutions face a complex and rapidly evolving threat landscape – but the need for effective, efficient and responsive controls could not be greater.
 
 

Sam Neath, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, BAE Systems


2021 A Year in Review LGBTQ icon This seems a bit déjà vu… another year of Covid taking over our lives and another new variant for Christmas threatening more restrictions.

However, one group in particular that I can’t help but mention is our trans community (those members of our society for whom their gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth.) Social media and news outlets have perpetuated inaccurate, transphobic opinions – spreading lies and fuelling hate – and the LGBTQ+ charity, Stonewall, has been attacked because of their stance on trans inclusion. It’s so hard for me to see the negativity towards such an incredible organisation.

Earlier this year, I lost a good friend to suicide. He was a gay man who took his own life following a homophobic attack in his home town. He was a fierce trans ally and dedicated his spare time to creating a better world for LGBTQ+ and trans people. It’s such a loss for me personally and for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. In his honour, I am going to do my best to keep his work alive by spreading the truth and hopefully educating others.

 
 

 

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