FPS’ Friday Fiver

Hello All, and welcome to a surprisingly sunny Friday in central London. There’s certainly not been a shortage of financial services and politics related stories this week, and we’ve tried to give you a flavour of some of our favourites below. Thanks as ever to Ed Jones and Jonny H for their contributions.

TAXING TIMES…..Barely a week goes by without the EU sparking controversy on our idyllic isle. Among other things it was the EU’s proposed financial transaction tax causing consternation. As noted by the Telegraph this week, John Cridland said: “The likely effect of many of Brussels’ current proposals will be to damage the UK’s prospects for growth. Nowhere is this more acutely the case than for professional and financial services, which are being bombarded with unwarranted regulation.” He went on to describe the proposals as “a Brussels revenue-raising exercise, and one that will hit London disproportionately hard”. He didn’t stop there though, also slamming Brussels’ plans for Solvency II…

Cridland’s point was very clear - this will lead to the demise of London as a financial centre, to be overtaken by the perennial competitors New York, Singapore and Hong Kong. Sad times.

A TOUGH WEEK FOR GOLDMAN…..A lot of people like to have a dig at Goldman Sachs, but the first time in a while investors now have a reason to complain as well. It’s been a grim week for the world’s premier investment bank. Having their name dragged back into the mud following Raj Rajaratnam’s sentencing to 11 years in prison for insider trading didn’t help. Being accused of dodging a large UK tax bill didn’t exactly add to the party mood either.

These are tricky issues for Goldman, but the real concern for them is their bottom line performance. Ahead of their quarterly results next week, some analysts are suggesting the bank may be headed for an (almost) unprecedented loss. To put this into context, the bank has made precisely one quarterly loss in the past 12 years – right in the heart of the financial crisis. To be fair, it’s not just Goldman. Other investment banks are struggling as well. But when the leader of the pack is looking down at their shoes, you know something is definitely up.

IT’S OH SO QUIET…Shhhhh…..It’s not been a great week for Blackberry users. The company avoided the Friday Fiver’s Bad Week slot but owing to a loose wire or something of that ilk, services across the globe went down and messages piled up in the virtual post-room.

As Alice Ross of the FT observed on Twitter, the business community did not know what to do with themselves. People were forced to talk to each other and instead of shuffling head down, thumb scrolling their way on to the tube, take in their surroundings. Email can become fatiguing and we’re sure this week’s enforced rest will not have done anyone any long-term harm.

APPS FOR FINANCE…..The tweet below caught our eye this week from Hargreaves Lansdowne’s Tom McPhail, signalling an interesting development in the way that people manage their investments.

GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…..It remains pretty hard to find people or companies enjoying good weeks at the moment, but the FT’s Claer Barrett managed to find two on Friday. As she noted, both Harrod’s and Poundland posted strong trading results this week. Regardless of which end of the retail spectrum you’re at, the message is clear – if you’re a market leader, there is still room for growth. It’s mainly those in the chasing pack that are struggling at present.

As for bad weeks, Goldman above qualifies for one definitely, but we’re plumping for BNP Paribas. It’s tough enough being an investment bank at present anyway. But what you really don’t need to add to your woes is one of Germany’s leading business newspapers losing its rag with you and publishing a quite unique interview, minus any of the words uttered by the bank’s chief executive (you can see the worded version here). PR’s a tough game sometimes….

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