From the repeated lies of Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce during trial, to the sub storyline of Huhne’s fractured relationship with his son, this car crash of a soap opera-like story has been played out in full fanfare under the media spotlight. No one likes to air their dirty laundry in public. Perhaps the eight months sentence the pair faces, will draw an end to this thoroughly modern-day Shakespearean saga. Alternatively perhaps they will use the publicity to secure book deals.
The fizz has officially fallen flat as Champagne has been cut from the basket of goods, alongside Freeview boxes and round lettuces. According to Mintel figures, sales of the bubbly have fallen by more than 30% since the hey-days of 2007, from £1billion to an estimated £690million. Trading in bottles of Champagne, typically around £40, are bottles of white rum which can be bought for a fraction of the price.
On Wednesday, for the first time in 1,300 years, a non-European Pope was elected as head of the Roman Catholic Church. A sea of faces welcomed Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as he stepped onto the balcony to rapturous applause. Bergoglio will now live as Pope Francis and take up residence in the Vatican. A far cry from his one bedroom flat in Buenos Aires…
5. Can women have it all?
An interesting commentary piece in the New York Times written by former CFO of Lehman Brothers, Erin Callan on wanting to “have it all” and failing. This was in response to a heated debate sparked by the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean in” – and much of our conversations here in the team as well.
Can women strike the perfect work/life balance and really “have it all” or is it simply about “having enough” and being happy with it? What do you think? Leave us a comment below.
Thanks to @goldtorpedo for contributing to this week’s Friday Fiver
To my mind, this year’s crop have been less exciting and able than previous vintages, but that didn’t stop me from tuning in for the final last weekend. What I saw though was deeply disappointing.
The Apprentice claims that it aims to find an entrepreneur to “kickstart a company”, backed by the “nation’s most demanding investor” who is “willing to bankroll new business in tough times”.
For the Government, intent on job creation, actively promoting the entrepreneurial spirit and keen on encouraging the “industries of the future” that sounds like manna from heaven – what better shop window for the nation’s entrepreneurial talent than primetime television? Yet once the candidates revealed their ideas and business plans I noticed a distinct trend – for reference their ideas were as follows:
Ricky – a specialist recruitment agency for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries
Jade – a call centre aimed at securing and selling customer leads on specific product lines
Nick – an online website for ordering recipe lists direct from supermarkets
My disappointment came when I realised two things – firstly, that with the exception of Nick, all the ideas were copycat businesses based on the jobs they already worked in (for example, Ricky is a recruitment consultant). And secondly, that all four of them are essentially service-based companies (again, with the possible exception of Nick).
Nothing wrong with that you say – the UK economy is built on services after all. Yes, that’s very true and services will continue to be the bedrock of the UK’s economy, because, well, we’re very good at it. But considering the Apprentice likely attracted over 7 million viewers on Sunday, surely the public and especially the Government (with its desire to reinvigorate manufacturing and high-tech industries) deserved better than to see a services clean sweep?
Here’s your five for the weekend everyone – short, sharp and to the point:
1. We’re 12 days away from this year’s Budget and the noise has started already. This week’s focus has been all about the question of taxation – in particular, the proposed mansion tax, child benefit levels and how much relief on tax people paying into pensions should qualify for. Next week kicks off with the British Chambers of Commerce submitting their Budget wishlist – expect the hard economic debate from Mr Balls etc to follow.
2. Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies provided plenty of ammunition for Labour with its latest figures on household spending which claimed to show that households are set to lose £370 from tax and benefits changes already in place.
4. Wrapping up the week, today finally saw the disclosure ofpay figures for Barclays’ senior figures, including Bob Diamond. Suffice to say, the reaction has been predictable, decrying the vast sums while others have questioned the payout based on the company’s declining performance. Perhaps not such a bad day for Lloyds and RBS to reveal their figures at the same time then…
5. Finally, tonight sees the inaugural Financial & Professional Services ‘Cheese & Wine night’ – expect plenty of sore heads and full stomachs tomorrow!
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.
Hello All, and apologies for a late night Fiver – it’s been one of those weeks in financial and professional services. Still, below we have a trip through the week’s news highlights (sadly not including Tom Watson’s intern) as you head into the weekend. Thanks to Ed, Jonathan, Ross and our latest contributor, Josh Glendinning. Have a great weekend all.
UK VS THE WORLD…..While UK GDP figures dominated the headlines on Wednesday, members of the FPS team were given an insight into what lies ahead for global growth in 2012. At an event put on by British American Business we heard from, Alexis Karklins-Marchay of Ernst & Young that despite the woes of the Eurozone, the global economy can still expect growth of over 5% this year.
Much of this output will come from what Ernst & Young term Rapid-growth markets (RGMs), a set of 25 countries they expect will account for nearly half of global growth in the next ten years. Their report on RGMs and its micro-site are an excellent resource for anyone looking for facts and figures on the future shape of the world’s economy.
As an aside, one of the panellists, Stephen Castle of the International Herald Tribune, offered an anecdote from his time in the Brussels press corps. An unnamed member of the German press, brought up in the same region of the former East Germany as Angela Merkel offered Stephen an insight on Merkel’s approach to the Eurozone crisis. In the GDR, cars and appliances were never reliable, and the parts required to fix them were never available. As a result, citizens took to patching things up and making do until they broke again. The German journalist had decided Merkel was taking the same approach to the crisis…
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 seem to say this every week, but yet again it’s been a very busy and news heavy 7 days in the world of professional and financial services. This week’s Friday Fiver has a distinct air of gloom about it I’m afraid, though we do find room for a spot or two of humour as always. Thanks as ever to Ed, and Jonathan for their contributions.
CHART OF THE WEEK – GREECE: IN A NUTSHELL…..Stephen Hawking’s follow-up to his immensely successful 1988 book on the cosmos was labelled ‘The Universe in a Nutshell‘. As anyone with a passing interest in physics knows, it would take a forest of nutshells to even begin explaining the wonders of our universe. At times, the complex, ever-changing state of the Greek and wider eurozone crisis can feel pretty similar.
Help is at hand though, thanks to a handy chart unveiled by The Spectator this week. Sadly, upon reviewing it, only the most optimistic person would conclude that the eurozone is heading for anything other than very troubled waters.
The options (or not) for Greece (Chart: The Spectator)
Firstly, China reported another slowdown in its growth. This is likely to send shivers down chief executives’ spines, as the global economy continues to cling onto China as its last great hope for growth. Then again, the word ’slowdown’ still masks the impressive statistic that China continues to grow at nearly 10% a year. Inflation is coming down too, and a ’soft landing’ seems more likely than a hard bump.
It seems the heart of the City has finally embraced social media, as word spread this morning of the Bank of England’s new Twitter feed. One can only picture Governor Mervyn King typing away at his desk, or perhaps on his smartphone providing updates on the latest data coming out of the Bank’s finest economic minds.
Or perhaps not, given that the Governor probably has his mind on other things, what with announcing that the printing presses will be whirring into action to the tune of £75bn of quantitative easing.
With today’s decision likely to dominate the domestic agenda for the next couple of days, here are 9 journalists worth following on Twitter to get your daily economic dose: