Shocks & Stares » Happiness http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/12/friday-fiver-3/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/12/friday-fiver-3/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2011 16:43:35 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=453 It’s been a big ol’ week in the land of FPS, what with the Autumn Statement, Public Sector strikes, another round of downgrades for Europe’s banks and the beginning of Yuletide. Here’s our take on the week that was.

The Autumn Statement

After declaring the Pre-Budget Report dead, the Government this week delivered their Pre-Budget Report Autumn Statement. It was depressing news, but we all knew it was going to be and it looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. The headlines are lower growth, increased borrowing, a squeezed public sector and more measures to help small businesses, a 0.088% increase in the bank levy and a promise to further reduce corporation tax.

Picture: Reuters UK

What really caught our eye(s) however, were the measures to help mid-size businesses; a theme championed by John Cridland at the CBI, the forgotten army of mid-size businesses have suddenly been remembered. In an attempt to create the UK equivalent of Germany’s Mittelstand, tucked away on page 64 of the Autumn Statement are a host of measures to help mid-size firms achieve their potential and export more proactively. After all, where else is growth going to come from?  

Going down, down, down…..

There’s been so much grim news on the economic front this week that it’s a little hard to pick out the ‘highlights’. To recap quickly – China’s domestic consumption appears to be slowing, as does its manufacturing production; the UK is going to grow very little in 2011, and even less in 2012; Italy continues to have to pay a fortune to borrow money; business confidence that the eurozone will survive is ebbing away; and several stars of The Only Way is Essex are about to be booted off.

Amongst the carnage, two (possibly linked) events stood out. On Tuesday evening, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded its investment rating on a string of high-profile banks including HSBC, Barclays and Goldman Sachs. The markets, predictably, took a grim view as the FTSE and other indices headed south yet again. It’s possible, though unproven, that regulators took a grim view as well. On Wednesday afternoon, as most of the UK’s economic journalists were huddling down for some post-Autumn statement analysis at the IFS, the Bank of England and several other central banks released a statement detailing co-ordinated action to lower the cost of borrowing in dollars for banks and other financial institutions. The markets, predictably, took a decidedly less grim view of this and promptly shot up north, yet again. Conclusions? That the global forces buffeting the global economy have become so strong that every announcement either way is now being leapt upon like a cure for cancer – stand by for next week…

Happiness is… a cigar called Hamlet

Who would believe it? Despite being in the depths of one of the worst economic cycles in recent history, the people of Britain consider themselves, for the most part, to be pretty damn happy! In a survey commissioned by David Cameron to gauge how happy the UK is, three quarters of us place ourselves at seven out of ten or higher on a scale of wellbeing.

With unemployment scaling 8% and inflation pushing 5%, you would be forgiven for thinking that the good people of Britain would be pretty miserable. But that good old stiff upper lip and Blitz spirit appears to be in abundance. People claim that their children’s well-being, personal relationships and mental well–being are the things they are most satisfied with. Which basically means that those things that money can’t buy, make us happy and we value them most.

Now isn’t that something to smile about?

Smile! Image Source Page: http://dzzle.com/videos/yogurt+advert

The ultimate compliment

This week we were reading about Warren Buffett’s latest investment, the acquisition of his local newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald Company.

Whilst reading the FT’s report on the subject, we were struck by a realisation of profound significance. Warren Buffett is the spitting image of Carl Fredricksen from Disney/Pixar’s 2009 film Up.

Carl has much in common [full plot here] with Buffett who is known for his kind nature and is a renowned philanthropist. Perhaps Disney/Pixar were paying him a compliment.

The Fiver team were dissapointed to subsequently find via Google that others have spotted the resemblance but we are still claiming this one for industry event small talk.

Carl Fredricksen from Pixar smash Up (Pic: Bloomberg News via The Telegraph)

Warren Buffett (Picture: Disney/Pixar)

Good Week/Bad Week…..

Leaping up the charts this week, it’s tall, thin and very clever economist, Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility. As we noted above, the OBR released decidedly grim numbers on the future of the UK economy on Tuesday, so you might not think Mr Chote would be a particularly happy bunny. He picks up our award however, because as one media commentator put it, Mr Chote is now effectively chief policy officer for the UK economy – based on his numbers, the Chancellor (and probably the Bank of England) have to react.

Hurtling down the charts sadly is former Italian footballer, Damiano Tommasi. The follically-blessed former Roma man came up with a novel solution to Italy’s debt problems this week when he called on his fellow footballers to use their sizeable wage packets to buy Italian bonds at a discounted rate – hence saving the government from having to agree to interest rates of over 7% every time they were looking to top-up the cash register. Sadly, the idea bombed, seemingly never to return.

So there you have it. Thanks to Clare Coffey, Jonathan Henderson and Dave Chambers for their contributions.

]]>
http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/12/friday-fiver-3/feed/ 0
FPS’ Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/fps-friday-fiver-5/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/fps-friday-fiver-5/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 19:49:23 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=145 In case you missed it, President Obama was in the UK this week to talk essential relationships, cyber crime and have a barbeque in the Number 10 Rose Garden. In honour, of his visit this weeks’ fiver looks at the visit and the UK’s special essential relationship with the US.  Thanks to Dave, Clare, Rachel and Melanie for contributions.

Essentially …

Whilst Foreign Policy and the six point plan, were the main items on the agenda, surely the most interesting aspect of Obama’s visit was the upgrading of the UK’s ‘Special Relationship’ with America to an ‘Essential Relationship.’ Essential. Never mind our credit rating, we have an essential relationship with America! As Matthew D’Ancona pointed out earlier this week, it has a certain ring of indispensability to it. I’m less sure Obama’s deficit reduction plan can be described as Osbornian, as D’Ancona suggested, but you have to hand it to Cameron he pulled the rabbit out of the hat with that one.

Deficit indifference

Governments should “live within their means” but also sustain growth by investing in education, and the pace of deficit reduction “may end up being different”. Uncritical certainly from the President, but hardly the ringing endorsement David Cameron and George Osborne were hoping for with regards to their economic strategy.

They were probably also hoping for better revised Q1 GDP figures from the ONS than the ones that materialised this week at roughly the same time as the meat was cooking on the barbie. Traditionally, the revised figures show an increase in GDP for the quarter over the first, partial set of figures released. That didn’t happen this time, with growth remaining at 0.5%. More worryingly, household spending contracted 0.6% and business investment practically hid in the corner shivering, as it shrank 7.1%.

The Government remains committed to cutting hard and fast in order to shrink the deficit and get the country back on track without a large credit card bill hanging over it. Judging by the economic data and reaction to it, the jury is still out on whether this will work or not – which is perhaps why the President hedged his words to such effect.

Inspiring relationships

Michelle Obama re-affirmed her own ‘essential relationship’ with old friends during the visit when she was re-acquainted with girls from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School. The EGA girls were visiting Oxford University as part of a programme to encourage them to aim high. Mrs Obama, herself a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, encouraged them to not “be afraid to take risks, ask questions, ask stupid questions, don’t be afraid to trip, fall and don’t be afraid to get back up.”

Wise words indeed from the First Lady and something all of us can take heart from. Media coverage of the meeting praised her as an inspiring role model for these young girls. But do our young people need to wait for a visit from a foreign leader’s wife to feel inspired? It strikes me that inspiration comes in all sorts of guises from dignitaries to teachers, to a school system and society that encourages successes achieved on merit. I cannot help thinking that more of our young girls would be inspired if the education system were fairer and society willed them on.

However, today’s announcement that under radical changes to admissions, some secondary schools will be able to select pupils on the basis of family income fills me with dread. If we want to inspire our young people, there has to be a better way than judging them on their parents’ finances.

Right all along?

Photo: Jacob Whittaker

There was a time when being British was all about keeping a stiff upper lip through adversity.  We were a bit stuffy, grumpy, and proud of it (with the exception of Ken Dodd). But if this week’s stats from the OECD are to be believed the old stereotype has been blown out of the water – we’re actually much happier than most of our European neighbours, including those where the weather is supposedly much nicer.

Of course our BFFs across the pond are way ahead, with the ‘pursuit of happiness’ in their constitution, but recent events have given them a run for their money (Will & Kate, less than a year to go to the Olympics, plus some cracking Aviva (client) sponsored ITV dramas on the telly).  Even Obama seemed to be using his visit to the UK to give a PR boost to the start of his election campaign, after all the yanks did seem to love the Royal Wedding more than we did.

Cheeriness is starting to look like part of a new national character, even a driver of government policy with the government launch of a new way of measuring it earlier this year.  Yet whilst the OECD’s figures do seem to suggest that money doesn’t necessarily make you happy, it will be interesting to see whether the next GDP figures show it can work the other way around.

Obama and the ostrich generation

When all the fanfare and noise from the military 41 gun salute to welcome Obama’s visit abates, we hope that the two leading western premiers might spare a thought for the lot of their respective domestic pensioners. They don’t need to look hard or delve deeply to find incontrovertible evidence of the pensions malaise and bleak future that faces many prospective pensioners in the UK and US and indeed across most Western economies.

The worrying statistics roll in on an almost daily basis. According to an international survey released by HSBC this week six in ten Britons have no financial plan for their retirement – due to a “cycle of dependency” and suffer from an equally self-deluded belief that they will enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Across the Atlantic, prospects are equally stark in the US. New findings from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) latest public policy institute report reveals that many older Americans, employed and unemployed, may never recover financially from this latest recession, although here, half of them do actually realise that they won’t have enough money to live on in retirement.

This dearth of planning contrasts with upcoming economies in the East, where a class of “prosperous pensioners” is merging. The respective expectations on annual growth showing  further downward revision for the UK economy (now a paltry 1.4%, with the US at only 2.6), is in stark contrast to buoyant growth rates in Asia’s flagship economies – China 9.2%, India 8.5%.

Worrying indeed.

]]>
http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/fps-friday-fiver-5/feed/ 0