Wow, what a week it has been in the FPS team, we’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath! This week the news agenda has been much more serious – not like last week’s horsing around (sorry, couldn’t resist). Here are a couple of the things that have been keeping us busy and entertained over the past seven days
3. Newcomer advantage - The days of long, peaceful reflection and idle doodling in the university library may be long gone, but every now and again you spot a little something which suggests you did indeed learn something from the dusty text books.
Today’s FT reports how Asian banks are turning retail banking business models on their head, skipping branch models and heading straight for new mobile banking services. Oliver Wyman are quoted in the article with research indicating China already accounts for more than 40% of online banking customers.
By skipping years of slow banking evolution, relatively new banks in Asia are establishing themselves as leaders in mobile banking services. In the late nineteenth century, German industries skipped past their more established UK rivals with new production techniques and more modern factories. Ah, Economic History 101…
4. Bonus points – The European Union announced details this week of its plan to cap bankers’ bonuses at twice their salary. Whilst David Cameron was opposed to this, the FT’s Lex Column clearly adopted the “don’t get mad, get round it” philosophy.
5. #Twésumé – But for any banker who is considering a career change, getting a Twésumé sorted will be perhaps be essential. This week The Evening Standard reported that Twitter is playing an increasing role in recruitment with employers ditching the traditional CV in favour of a candidate’s Twitter profile. The Twésumé (as it has been so cleverly coined) appears two-fold:
The generous 140 character biography becomes your selling point. Writing “I love cats and beer” is unlikely to win you any fans (except of course other like-minded individuals)
Your Twitter feed must be regular, interesting and offer your opinions on topics rather than just pinching other people’s funnies
Unfortunately, in mine there is little room for anything else beyond Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
That’s all for this week folks. Thanks to Jonathan Henderson and Linzi Goldthorpe for their contributions. Have a great weekend!
After several weeks of speculation, the government of Spain this weekend confirmed that money would be accepted to help support the country’s banking system.
Spain’s politicians have been at pains to point out that this is not a bailout of the kind witnessed in countries such as Greece and Ireland where outside officials will effectively be making decisions about the countries’ public finances.
Spanish minsters have clearly been briefed to communicate the distinction as the following quotes from Mr de Guindos, the economy minister, in the initial Financial Times article indicate:
“What is being requested is financial assistance. It has nothing to do with a rescue”
“The conditions will be applied to the banks, not Spanish society”
I’d argue that Spanish ministers have effectively made their point but in a situation which continues to develop at pace, and where details are easily forgotten, they may well be lumped together with those who have requested funds before as the dust begins to settle on the decision. As a collegue pointed out, it could well be seen as an exercise in putting lipstick on PIGS…
1. Just when we thought Granny tax ruled the “Best _______ tax” name, this week the press (and Twitter) had a field day with the pasty tax saga. The surprise budget announcement sparked a threat of a bakers’ march led by the head of bakery at Greggs. According to the Guardian, an online petition has already been set up on Downing Street’s scheme by bakers’ trade associations. Sign up here.
2. Not content with scoring the own goals that were pasty-gate, grannytax and the donor-row, the Government proceeded to exacerbate their worst week ever and add fuel to the flames of a pending petrol crisis that never materialised, despite Francis Maude’s best efforts.
3. The question on everyone’s lips is “Are we back in recession?” The answer is it depends on who you’re speaking to. Latest OECD figures reveal that the economy has shrunk for the second quarter, but according to predictions from Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK will avoid a recession with the economy growing by just 0.8 per cent over the course of 2012.
4. A giant step for the Eurozone but a small step for the global economy as the European Union confirmed the extension of the European bailout fund. The total funds available has now reached €700bn.
5. And on that note, I leave you with this video from the OECD with its latest Interim Economic Assessment on the global economy
Following the second €130bn bailout for Greece, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Eurozone crisis might finally be abating. However, the increasing tensions between Iran, Israel and the West pose a significant threat to economic recovery.
As Gideon Rachman wrote this week, the threat of conflict with Iran is increasingly real. Israel’s Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has stepped up the rhetoric against Iran, recently calling for tighter nuclear sanctions, to the extent a pre-emptive missile attack by Israel no longer looks out of the question. Similarly, whilst the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, explicitly said the Government are not advocating military action against Iran, Mr Hague would not support a backbench motion calling for the unilateral ruling out of it.
Added to this is the escalation of conflict in Syria. Despite the veto by Russia of a recent UN resolution that sought to put an end to Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime, increased media attention of al-Assad’s crackdown, heightened by Marie Colvin’s untimely death this week, means some form of military intervention from external sources also looks more likely than previously believed. Such intervention is likely to provoke a response from Iran, a fierce ally of al-Assad, which could draw in other regional players, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Whilst such a scenario currently seems a long way off, as events across the Middle East have shown us in the last 14 months, anything is possible.
It’s 2012, another year in which I can gorge upon a feast of world class sport. The Olympics, the Paralympics, the European Championships and god forbid another failed attempt by Andy Murray to win Wimbledon. The UK may be nearing a ratings agency downgrade but it’s not all bad and a glorious summer awaits.
“First, we find strong evidence of decreased activity in stock markets during soccer matches at the 2010 World Cup. Trading activity dropped markedly, especially if the national team was one of the competitors. Compared to normal market circumstances, the median number of trades dropped by 45% if the national team was playing, while the volume dropped by around 55%.”
Another week, another Friday and that means another edition of our team’s Friday Fiver. This week, we have money-printing banks, Twitter-banning broadcasters, Newsnight-debriefing and Good week/Bad week. Thanks to our contributors DC, EJ, Hendog, and Josh-ua. Enjoy!
RUNNING OUT OF PAPER… It’s becoming increasingly hard for the Bank of England to convince people of the value of QE. As Fraser Nelson argued in the Telegraph, the Bank has gone a little quiet on their original reasons for launching QE which isn’t helping – nor is the fact that the links between QE and growth aren’t being articulated clearly, if it all. Yet at the same time, IHS’ Howard Archer is already predicting QE4 for May.
There's more of this in the games room
Source: Creative Commons/mtsofan
What the bank faces then is a PR challenge (as well as the frankly odd problem that they may run out of govt bonds to buy). If they believe QE4 is needed, then they’ve got 3 months to convince a sceptical media and public why it’s needed – expect Mervyn King’s quarterly inflation report next week to begin that process.
In the meantime, hats off to Stephanie Flanders last night for managing to explain what QE actually is and does – that may well be a first
SKY’S SOCIAL MEDIA COMMANDMENTS…
Thou shalt not repost non-company tweets
Thou shalt not re-tweet rival journalist or people on Twitter
Thou shalt not tweet someone else’ beat other than your own
Thou shalt pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting them on social media networks…
The Guardian reported that the greater powers at the broadcast station stamped down their feet, and banned journalists from reposting tweets not relating to the company. Contentious guidelines even include the warning to Sky News employees not to retweet rival reporters.
The latest development raises once again, the debate on ownership of Twitter accounts, corporate or otherwise and how a brand can be represented and equally, mis-represented on social media through its employees.
The interesting question here is whether the guidelines will be applied to other parts of News Corp’s network, and more importantly Murdoch’s own account.
NEWSNIGHT DE-BRIEF…On Wednesday, members of the FPS team attended a Gorkana event with Newsnight’s deputy editor Shaminder Nahal and planning producer Samantha McAlister to hear how the show is put together and what the team are looking for when it comes to content and guests.
For those of you with a Gorkana PR log-in, there’s a detailed summary of the event here.
Looking through our notes from the event, a number of points jump out:
The show has an average audience of 800,000 but this can jump significantly in a big news week. For example, at the height of the phone hacking scandal, 1.7 million people were tuning in
Those involved in the production of the show, are incredibly passionate about their work
Jeremy Paxman is apparently a joy to work with, although perhaps unsurprisingly, he is very challenging and demands a lot from those he works with
Source: Creative Commons/Ric_James
It’s a trend we have noted before, but was one that was reiterated at the event – business and economics news has become “sexy”. Newsnight’s producers are always on the lookout for people from the City who can explain the world of finance and its wider importance to the viewer.
The show’s producers left us with the thought that Newsnight is an opportunity to set the record straight or to put across a new or important view to the nation’s opinion formers. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing to take on a challenge, there are a few more prominent slots.
On the subject of setting the record straight and BBC flagships… The embattled chief executive of RBS, Stephen Hester, addressed his critics this week and the interview is a must listen.
GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…Credit where credit’s due, Ed Miliband has had a very good week. To be precise, Ed Miliband had an excellent PMQs. Yes, David Cameron had a very bad PMQs. His aggressive, impatient responses to Miliband’s patient line of questioning confirmed the accuracy of his likeness to Flashman ‘literature’s most famous bully’. Public bullies don’t tend to make popular Prime Minister’s. Just look at what happened to Gordon Brown:
Miliband on the other had a bit of an open goal when it came to the NHS. Even the influential ConHome has urged Cameron to #dropthebill, so to speak. The softly, softly approach worked well for Miliband though and importantly, his line of inquiry on the NHS was consistent. Cameron’s increasing frustration at having to give the same weak lines and limp backing to his struggling Health Secretary, amplified Miliband’s taunt of ‘calm down dear.’ It was typical of the bad luck Mili E has suffered with broadcasters that the news of Harry Redknapp’s court case emerged at the same time as PMQs, therefore minimising the impact of this little victory. Cameron’s an incredibly savvy dispatch box performer and will be increasingly wise to it, but if Miliband can continue to draw out Flashman Cameron he may enjoy more success in the opinion polls.
MORE BAD NEWS…Headlines have been dominated by the arrest and trial of ‘rogue’ trader Kweku Adoboli who is accused of unauthorised trading which cost his employer – Swiss bank UBS – about £1.5bn. However, a potentially more interesting story that has come to light in recent days is the sheer scale international investigation into manipulation of Libor – the interest rate used for inter-bank lending. Regulators in Japan, the UK, the US and Europe have been investigating the scheme since at least March 2011, and have now implicated employees at a number of major financial institutions. Analysts had long been suspicious that financial institutions were covering up the size of their borrowing costs during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.
The increase in intranational prosecutions and international regulatory collaboration has also highlighted differing standards about what constitutes corporate crime. Many American investors were surprised at the British Financial Service’s Authority decision to fine hedge fund manager David Einhorn for insider trading because his actions would not have been considered unlawful in the US. British authorities generally cast a much wider net when investigating white-collar crime but are perceived to have a miserable record when it comes to prosecutions. By contrast, their American counterparts have a narrower definition but pursue cases with vigour, even if that means crossing international boundaries to do so.
It seems likely that more cases of this nature will emerge in the coming months, especially if Eurozone crisis continues to destabilise international markets.
Sadly, there isn’t actually a whole amount of Christmas cheer around at the moment, particularly not if you live in Europe, or indeed the US, as Ross blogged on yesterday. With that in mind this week’s Friday Fiver covers off the continuing economic situation, as well as changes for UK bank customers, and two of the biggest video games of all time. Enjoy, and happy weekend.
BYE BYE FREE MONEY…..When is a free bank account not free? Pretty much always in the opinion of the Financial Services Authority. According to this morning’s Financial Times, the financial regulator is of the belief that free current bank accounts have “distorted the landscape and led to damaging decisions about what products are available”. In other words, the costs of providing free current accounts have been made up elsewhere by retail banks charging higher fees for other services (and by selling occasionally dubious products such as PPI).
The result of all this? The FSA believes that customers should be charged for their current account to negate this problem. It may appear a controversial idea, but the UK is something of an anomaly on bank accounts in the West – lots of other countries charge for this service, albeit at a low level, so we shouldn’t really be surprised that charging may happen here too. That would certainly make starting a retail bank far easier, something Metro and Virgin would probably welcome. Any move is likely to require concerted action though – as the FT also noted, if one bank were to unilaterally start charging, customers would simply get up and walk down the road to a ‘free’ competitor.
So it’s been a while since I penned anything on here and Dave Chambers the man who is not afraid to request a ‘Sav and a wedge’ should he feel the need, has MANFULLY held the fort. It has been a monumental week to say the least. As ever, we try not to focus on the obvious, but sometimes, particularly at the moment, there’s just no getting away from the travails of the modern economy and what Dr Doom would never call the ‘current economic climate.’ So here it is, our take on the week’s events, in 5 bite size chunks. Bon appetit!
Everything that could go wrong in the Eurozone pretty much has. It seems that since the first falling domino of Greece announcing it needed to be bailed out back in April 2010 through to Italy teetering on the edge this week there has been an air of predictability and certainty about which domino will topple next. So why is it that this destructive process has been seemingly allowed to go on when pretty much every falling domino has been widely predicted? In Ross’ view the primary reason has been short sighted politicians.
Naturally, politicians want to hold on to power once they have been granted it. Given that politicians are subject to frequent votes every few years in order to grant them a continued mandate they often fail to think more long term and strategically. Instead they look for quick wins. This breeds a culture of politicians not telling their electorate what they don’t want to hear which leads to many difficult decisions being overlooked. The Eurozone crisis being no exception.
Look at Angela Merkel. Unwilling to take the required step of committing Germany to underwrite Eurozone debt through fear of alienating voters who don’t want to support distant countries like Greece. George Papendreou’s craving for short term political support when calling for a referendum shattered any illusion that Merkozy had solved the Eurozone’s woes. The EU’s politicians need to address the bigger long term picture of Europe rather than bowing to domestic politics. Failure to do so will certainly result in more dominos falling.
Whilst the UK is surely towards the end of the domino line up, the fact those ahead of it keep falling should serve as a stark warning. We certainly won’t be able to say we didn’t see it coming.
How the Bond market works
This excellent graphic featured in the Times is not only a marvellous demonstration of what Ross was going on about above, it also does exactly what it says on the tin (click on it to see a larger version) and is well worth a read.
Life on the slow (Metro) train
Last year Metro Bank launched to something of a fanfare. They proudly proclaimed they would take on the big traditional high street banks and lure customers into their doors with the promise of consumer-friendly opening hours, smiling staff, instant setup accounts and a personalised touch. The PR they got was very good in most cases, and the bank has continued with its branch opening programme to the extent that the blue and red branding is now a common theme on London’s streets.
All very well and good. But only if you then proceed to sell something, and as the FT reports today, this is proving tricky – there is a startling lack of mortgage sales going on, primarily because Metro can’t offer competitive rates owing to its small size and the cost of all those customer extras it offers. On a more positive note, the paper also revealed that Metro has signed up over 40,000 current and saving account holders. The message is clear then – when it comes to everyday money, many consumers will go for the brand. When it comes to big money however, a percentage figure still rules.
Financial & Professional Services meets Alexandra Burke…
And in other news, one of our highlights this week was working with Alexandra Burke to launch the Street Dance for Change campaign with our client Aviva and Railway Children. The team delivered some outstanding results and our colleague Sam Lythgoe has written up a lovely little synopsis here.
Happy Friday afternoon everyone. The clocks have gone back, it’s dark outside, and the eurozone still doesn’t look any closer to salvation. Light relief does at least come however with the prospect of a good fireworks show this weekend. Before you get out the sparklers though, take a look at the Financial and Professional Services Friday Fiver below, which this week takes in a wide range of topics on everything from Bob Diamond to celebrity marriages. We hope you enjoy!
But here’s the bad news though – the effect may not last for two reasons. Firstly, some of the rebound in growth is being attributed to the disruption in Q2 owing to that dress and the ensuing two week holiday that most people took to get over it. And secondly, the forecast ahead looks dire – the latest purchasing manager indices, released by our client, CIPS, nosedived this week, suggesting order books are drying up. Still, let’s enjoy a bit of growth while we can shall we?
SING SONG TO AN ATHENIAN RHAPSODY…..We’re viewing Europe’s sovereign debt issues through a musical prism this week. The debt odyssey has taken a number of twists and turns, the most unexpected of which was Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s call for a referendum on the latest bailout package. The brinksmanship proved a step too far and was quickly called off.
Hello All! We’re a little late this week, though happily the ever entertaining Matt Muir provided yet another great Web Curios which has probably kept H&K blog readers’ attentions for most of the afternoon. However, we’re still committed to bringing you a round-up of this week’s news from the world of financial and professional services (and yet again it’s been a week not to miss). It’s a little shorter this week, but we hope you enjoy it as always. Thanks to Ed Jones and Jonny H as always.
The medicine is nothing if not severe though – a 50% writedown on Greek debt held by private institutions (i.e. banks) and £100bn which needs to be found in order to recapitalise banks and prevent them from falling into the abyss (sound familiar from about 3 years ago?).