Shocks & Stares » The Times H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 en hourly 1 Cameron needs to communicate a vision to leave a legacy Mon, 23 Apr 2012 09:38:24 +0000 Edward Jones The Government, well, Number 10 actually, is in a quandary. On the one hand, there is a need for quick wins to move on from what has memorably been described, in the words of Malcolm Tucker, as an omni-shambles. On the other, the Prime Minister is presiding over a period of austerity. The two, unfortunately, are not compatible.

At first austerity measures were seen as essential to return to economic growth, but the implications of this are now starting to bite. The quick wins on their own are not sufficient to change perceptions. If Number 10 is to change perceptions, a coherent narrative, with stories that constantly reinforce what David Cameron is trying to do is required.

As Oliver Wright and Andrew Grice write in The Independent, Number 10 has been looking for good news stories across Government for Cameron to be personally associated with. The hope is that any good news story will move the agenda on from the current post-budget malaise. The problem with this approach is these stories, good though they might seem, fail to form part of a coherent narrative. They do nothing to alter the perception of the Government as overseeing economic hardship. 

The prospects for the average voter look bleak. Less money. More tax. Later retirement. That’s before you put it in the context of a class war. Philip Collins notes in his excellent article in The Times that Number 10 needs to communicate that all this pain is not for nothing. Collins should know the merits of communicating a long term ambition, having been present as Tony Blair struggled to come to terms with what his legacy ought to be. Cameron is now at this same juncture. Collins has written the basis of what Cameron’s narrative might look like:

“The first [pledge] is that we will restore this country to economic health. We will clear the horrible mess in the public finances that was left once the other side had finished its irresponsible partying. We will get Britain moving.

“The second commitment I can make is that the burden of austerity will be shared out fairly. By the end of this Parliament, it will be clear that those with the broadest shoulders will have taken most of the weight. We all have to make a contribution in accordance with our means. That is only fair.

“That leads to my third pledge. When prosperity returns to Britain, which it will, the hard-working families, those who are digging us out of a hole they were thrown into, will see the benefit.”

It is fair to say that the first point is well understood and well communicated. Credit where credit is due, the messages on this point were relentless and the Conservatives and George Osborne in particular should take credit for successfully undermining Gordon Brown’s economic record and mentally preparing voters for economic hardship.

Number 10 and the Treasury have acknowledged that the second point above is important, but they have been unconvincing in their attempts to convince the electorate that the burden is being shared equally.

The third element, which promises light at the end of the tunnel or, put another way, hope, has been non-existent.

Number 10’s communications can’t simply be seen through the prism of points one and two. Moreover, the economic legacy that this Prime Minister will leave behind will belong to George Osborne. The promise of a better future however is absolutely critical and has thus far been forgotten. If Cameron is to leave a legacy of his own, then he has to convince voters that under his stewardship a better future lies ahead.

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The Best of the Budget Fri, 23 Mar 2012 18:04:33 +0000 Edward Jones Rather than the usual Friday Fiver, this week we have decided to look at the Budget. Shock horror. Rather than add to the millions of words of analysis already published on that topic, we thought we’d make your lives easier and point you to the most memorable elements of this week’s main event.

Best Analysis

The IFS’ Budget 2012 briefing yesterday cut through the hyperbole to deliver a sober assessment of the red book. Their analysis of the implications of the 50p tax rate, suggested that contrary to the mooted 300,000 extra taxpayers roped into the lower 40p tax rate threshold, this figure could actually be closer to a million by 2014, adding fuel to the flames that were already raging, particularly among the usually supportive right wing media. 

A mention should also go to the Economist’s analysis. Highlighting Britain’s expertise in high-value services and the need to attract the world’s brightest, the Economist applauded Osbourne’s efforts to signal, “about as clearly as a man with no money to spare can, that Britain is open for business”.

Best gag

Sending the Government bench into raptures and consequently, Lindsay Hoyle, the Deputy Speaker, into apoplexy, Osbourne, when announcing tax breaks for the animation and video game industry in reference to this well know cartoon sketch said: “It is this Government’s determined policy that we keep Wallace and Gromit exactly where they are“. BOOM!

Best Headline

The Sun could’ve won this thrice with some absolute beauties including: “HE’S TAKING US FOR FUELS” and “GRAN THEFT OSBO.” The best ones are captured in this image courtesy of Conservative Home’s @TimMontgomerie

Best Post Budget Admission

‘We hid the papers.’ The Prime Minister’s aide unveils to the Times, Number 10’s response to the negative headlines on Thursday.

Best Punch

Miliband’s 50p tax gibe at the Government. With one question – ‘Who on the front bench would benefit personally from the 50p tax cut?’ Ed stunned the Cabinet and made his point effortlessly; we are no longer all in this together. Very clever.  

Best PR

The anti-war protesters – who employed a very, very long handle on their ‘stop the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan’ sign, which meant every interview Jon Sopel gave on College Green featured that banner in the background.

Best ‘_______ tax’ name

Whilst the half-baked pasty tax made a valiant effort, the Granny tax is set to be the classic. As a closing gambit, we quite like this spin on the Granny tax from the daily mash.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver Fri, 26 Aug 2011 16:21:25 +0000 Edward Jones Friday Fiver

Good afternoon and welcome to this week’s Friday Fiver. Thanks to Clare, Sallie, Dave and Jo for contributions. Conscious of your likely yearning to get out of the office and enjoy your Bank Holiday, we’ve tried to keep this one brief.


Up for the Jobs?


Waking up to the 6am news on the Today programme yesterday to hear that Steve Jobs had resigned as CEO from the company he founded, I was struck by the fact that one man’s resignation could make global news. It made me wonder how many other resignations – aside from those that take place in the political world – would garner so much interest. My conclusion was: not many! It then got me thinking about how many CEOs I could name from other technology companies. And the answer was none. So what is it about Steve Jobs that helped him capture the world’s imagination?

Like the rest of the world, I have fallen under the spell of a range of products that have not only made my life easier (I do not know what I would do without my iPhone) but products that enhance it because, to be frank, I think they are beautiful. It strikes me that this is the genius at the core of Steve Jobs and the company that he built in his own image.

Apple’s share price has remained largely stable after an initial blip following Job’s announcement. Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, now has the unenviable task of keeping the share price where it is (if not higher) whilst fusing beauty and simple functionality for high spec new technologies that the world awaits with baited breathe.

It makes me wonder whether Tim Cook has the best job in the world – or the worst?

More good news…

Picture: The Times

Two surveys featured in the Times this week have blown out of the water hopes of an export led recovery. The first is Barclays Corporate’s survey of 664 UK based business leaders which suggests a lack of ambition to export, particularly among small businesses. The same survey reveals that 79 per cent surveyed expect foreign ownership of British assets to soar in the next decade.

The ippr think tank have published a second survey suggesting the UK now accounts for 3 per cent of global exports and of those exports only 7 per cent are going to the BRIC countries.

Social Impact Bonds

The Government this week launched a new pilot scheme to encourage investors to fund Social Impact Bonds. The Government believes up to £40million could be raised for the four pilots in Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, Birmingham and Leicestershire. The money raised will go towards tackling family problems. If successful, meaning families are taken out of deprivation and crucially, off state dependence, investors will be rewarded by the state ‘with a decent return.’

It seems another bold move for the ever elusive big society agenda, but one which we will reserve judgement on for the time being.

Good Week/Bad Week…..

At the moment, if you’re involved in the commodities world, you’re generally not doing too bad, especially if your involved in gold – despite a slight drop off, it’s still trading at a premium price. If you’re involved in commodities and you work for Glencore, chances are you’re doing even better. This week the company announced its first results since being floated earlier this year. First-half revenues were up a third, meaning bumper share dividend payouts for workers holding shares following the float.

If on the other hand, you used to be involved in the banking world and have now moved into architecture, it was a less good week. Sir Fred Goodwin’s had a fair kicking over the past three years, and this week it got even worse. A new book (with the rather witty title ‘Masters of Nothing’) reveals how ‘Fred the Shred’ terrified staff with angry rants over the colour of his favourite commodity – biscuits (pink as opposed to a dour Scottish blue he hungered for I suspect). Our advice to Sir Fred – go for the trusty bourbon. It never fails.

Who said training had to be dull?

Having spent a weekend in the beautiful town in the province of North Holland known as Bergen (and I wouldn’t even bother trying to pronounce this unless you are a native Dutch speaker, like Jo ;) my faith has certainly been restored  into what I’m sure many of us find a necessity when working for a major cooperation.

In 72 hours,  I slept for about 10,  met over 30 likeminded and brilliant people from all across Europe, watched a comedy show on social media (Boom Chicago in case you are now interested), visited the most beautiful beach I have ever been to…in the North of Europe, used The Dutch main transport system, aka a bike, by cycling 10km in the dark, learnt what Pecha Kucha (I wouldn’t try and pronouncing this either) means and within 2 hours was using this exact technique to pitch to a panel of directors. I learnt more in these 72 hours than I did during my three years at university and  finally challenged and motivated myself more than I ever thought possible. All at H&K Europe’s Summer School 2011!

And finally, what if…

…You had the option to send a hologram to work instead of yourself? Would you do it? What if it could predict how you might react in certain situations? What you might say? What if its behaviour was purely based on your online life? Your YouTube likes, Facebook comments or Twitter posts? All of this is not so far away… so watch what you say online now as it might become the basis of a future you! And then, watch this 5 minute video to find out more.

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Our Top 5 Business Columnists Tue, 19 Apr 2011 12:45:03 +0000 David Chambers As you might expect, our Financial & Professional Services team consume a truckload of traditional and new media every day on all things money. Despite the never-ending torrent, one thing we always make time for is to read the many excellent business columnists and commentators that try to make sense of everything going on.

We read a lot of these, and websites too, but which are our favourite business columnists?

With that in mind, here’s a list (in no particular order) of five of our favourites who appear in the business pages each week. This is by no means definitive, and indeed there are many others who we love to read as well – we’d welcome thoughts on your favourites too:

Anthony Hilton - one of our absolute must reads (Image from

1. Anthony Hilton, Evening Standard – A consistent hit in our team, Hilton has been providing commentary on the City for several decades. Never afraid to pull punches when it comes to analysing an issue, he always presents clear, concise, logic behind his arguments. Simply put, a must-read for us and thousands of others involved in financial services.

2. John Authers, Financial Times – Authers used to write the daily ‘Short View’ column analysing the markets but recently moved to head up the ever-excellent Lex Column. A shrewd commentator, he has the gift of making complex financial and economic jargon sound relatively simple and easy to understand for the general reader – ably demonstrated by his regular Friday ‘Long View’ column. Mentions to Gillian Tett and Martin Wolf as well here.

3. Ian King, The Times – King took over the Business Editor’s desk at The Times late last year. Before him, David Wighton also provided a concise viewpoint on the business stories of the day. King has continued in that vain, injecting a touch of humour into his column alongside strong but fair viewpoints, and cutting-edge analysis. For his part, Wighton now writes a regular Saturday business column amongst other things.

4. Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph – Formerly the Independent’s star Business Editor, we love to read Warner’s twice-weekly column in the Telegraph for its more in-depth look at key business and economic issues. He’s not afraid to take a swipe at those he disagrees with either, as his little dig at the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee earlier this month showed. He’s also a prolific tweeter.

5. Pauline Skypala, FTfm – More specialised than the others in this list, but we include Skypala because of her talent for probing the inner workings of the fund management industry and asking tough questions of it as a result.  An excellent way to start off the week with a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. Another good tweeter to follow as well.

6. Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times – Ok, so this makes six, but we like to enjoy the lighter side of business commentary as well, and Kellaway’s ‘On Work’ column on a Monday certainly provides that. I may not always agree with what she writes, but for examining office-based issues that affect us all in a humourous way, there are few better. You can look for her latest column on Twitter too.

Lucy Kellaway - Perfect Monday morning reading

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