Budgeting Overview

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Interpret numbers with care

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Personal Insight

Almost everything involves a number with a distribution. So, there's an average, there's a measure of risk about the number and almost all things we deal with are constructs. The bottom line of a company's balance sheet doesn't actually mean very much: you could produce six other balance sheets which mean every bit as much—six other versions of profit.

It doesn't matter what one says about numbers, you can't do without them; but what you can do is find out about the surrounding circumstances, which tell you about the risks attached to the numbers and you can do quite a lot that way.

Never fall for averages; it doesn't matter what average you choose—there are half a dozen different averages you can use—they are all misleading. What you need to know is the range of risk above the average; it's a difficult thing to do.

One thing you can always do is ask: "Well, how would this number look if things were really different?" So, you subject the thing to stress and with key numbers—even if you do it informally—you should always do that.

Almost everything you do depends on understanding numbers, and all numbers can be difficult to understand. So interpret numbers with care, as they all have a certain risk attached to them, and should be treated with the proper respect.

Sir Peter Middleton

Barclays Group

Sir Peter Middleton enjoyed a long and distinguished career in HM Treasury spanning 30 years, ultimately ascending to become Permanent Secretary from 1983 to 1991.

He spent the next 13 years with Barclays as Group Deputy Chairman and Executive Chairman of its investment bank, BZW. In 1997 he became Chairman of Barclays Capital.

In May 1998 he relinquished his executive responsibilities, but remained a Non-Executive Director of Barclays and Barclays Bank. Later that year he resumed the helm following the unexpected resignation of the Chief Executive.

He was then appointed Group Chairman in April 1999, and in October stepped down as Group Chief Executive following the appointment of Matthew Barrett. He left Barclays in late 2004.

Sir Peter Middleton took on the Chairmanship of Camelot, the operator of The National Lottery, in September 2004.

He is also Deputy Chairman of United Utilities, and is on the Board of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.


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