When virtue is lost, benevolence appears; when benevolence is lost, right conduct appears; when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder. —Lao Tzu
Amid the enormity of information and the need to process them to achieve multifarious tasks/outputs, the use of technology and its endless evolution represent the reality of the workplace. I summarize below three recalls of situations to highlight this reality.
Five decades ago, taking the licensure examinations for certified public accountants required the use of fountain pens and computations were done “long hand” without the use of calculators for these were unheard of. The examinations had queries requiring written narratives as answers. It took almost a year before the results of the examinations were officially known.
Fast-forward 25 years later, the licensure examinations are “fully computerized”, meaning all the questions are in multiple-choice format—there is no need for presenting computations and no questions requiring explanations or presenting narrative replies. The examinees’ answers to the questions are registered by using ball pens to identify the correct letter corresponding to the answer.
The official results of the examinations are released a couple of days or so after the last examination day.
Before the 1980s, the “fastest “written communication” was through telegrams, for domestic transmittals coursed through the post office. Overseas communication, were through cable. Everything was in paper.
In the 1980s, the World Wide Web came into being. It was only in the mid-1990s that the Internet had significant global impact in culture, business and technology. Thus, mails came about. Subsequent developments led to other configurations, like instant messaging and social networking.
Now, everything is a click away and on real time.
In 1987 the Dunbar Armored Robbery happened in Los Angeles, California. The largest cash robbed in the US involving $18.9 million was an inside job. The mastermind was a regional safety inspector for Dunbar who recruited five of his childhood friends to ambush the guards at a stocked cash drop vault on a Friday night. Once they gained access to the loot, they loaded up a U-Haul and escaped, nearly getting away with the whole thing until one of the perpetrators got sloppy and eventually confessed. However, more than half of the money remained unaccounted for.
Fast-forward, 29 years later, the much-talked-about Bangladeshi Central Bank heist happened. A Bangladeshi central bank’s system was attacked to make payments via SWIFT. The perpetrators sent fraudulent messages, ostensibly from the central bank in Dhaka, on the SWIFT system, to the New York Federal Reserve seeking to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account there. Most of the transfers were blocked but about $81 million had been sent to a bank in the Philippines. It was moved to casinos and casino agents, and much of it has been missing (adopted from press releases).
In the three situations cited above, the efficient use of resources and expedient completion of tasks were achieved through the use of technology. The efficient use of expediency provides competitive edge, but its mis-use can have devastating consequences.
The distinct differences of the now and then would make present-day students of business wonder how “Jurassic” life was not too long ago. How could things be 25 years hence?
Dr. Conchita L. Manabat is the president of the Development Center for Finance and a trustee of the Finex Development & Research Foundation. A past chairman of the International Association of Financial Executives Institutes (IAFEI), she now serves as the chairman of the Advisory Council of the said organization.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org