April 2011

If Prince William and Kate Middleton were accountants then surely they…

Published on: 29 Apr 2011

I’ve just finished watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and I have to say that it was a very moving and impressive event.

Very many congratulations to the happy couple.

From a slightly less romantic angle though there should also be congratulations to the project managers that were involved in organising the wedding as everything seemed to go extremely smoothly.

Westminster Abbey was looking splendid and has to be one of the best locations for a wedding but I wonder whether the organisers maybe should have considered holding the wedding at One Moorgate Place instead?

As shown at their website, One Moorgate Place is a “beautiful, romantic venue for your wedding reception”. The location offers:

•    Elegant rooms with stunning architectural details and decorative features

•    Beautiful and unique backdrops for photography

•    Exquisite menus designed to your specification

•    An experienced wedding planner assigned to your event

•    Central location in the City of London

This all sounds very nice indeed but if you’re an accountant in the UK then the name of the location may itself also sound very familiar.

One Moorgate Place is the home to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

As well as being called One Moorgate Place, the location is also known as Chartered Accountants’ Hall and is headquarters to ICAEW. The building is rather nice and was designed by Victorian architect Sir John Belcher RA and built in 1890.

So, although William and Kate are not accountants, if you happen to be an accountant who is thinking of getting married to another accountant then what better place to tie the knot than at the home of the ICAEW?

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I trust the Sugar trader but not the salt trader…

Published on: 20 Apr 2011

At the core of many businesses is the relatively straightforward concept of “trading”. In simple terms you buy an item for a certain price and then sell it for a higher price.

A slightly more complex version is where you buy individual components, get them assembled into a new item and then sell the newly constructed item for a higher amount than the sum of the individual parts.

I’ve just finished reading the autobiography of Alan Sugar, or Lord Alan Sugar to give him his full title.

It’s an excellent and inspirational read.

For any of you outside of the UK that haven’t heard of Lord Sugar he’s a “rags to riches person” who through a combination of hard work and good ideas created various very successful business empires. He’s also the star of the hit TV show “The Apprentice”.

I personally feel that Lord Sugar is a role model for business men and women around the world and people can learn a lot from him.

At the other end of the spectrum though is Mr Guo from Wuhan in China.

Unlike Lord Sugar, Mr Guo showed a complete lack of ethics, research and business acumen. Following the terrible tragedy of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Mr Guo decided to purchase 6.5 tonnes of salt.

His purchase decision was made on the basis of rumours that were spreading in China that the iodine in salt would help prevent any radiation sickness from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. He was expecting the price of salt to increase so arranged for 3 truckloads of salt to be delivered to his apartment in the expectation of selling it at a high price to people that were desperate to avoid radiation sickness.

Alas for Mr Guo the Chinese authorities announced that Chinese residents would not be affected by any radiation from Japan and the salt wouldn’t help.

The end result was that salt prices didn’t increase.

It gets worse for Mr Guo though.

Apart from the salt prices stabilising, he has been told that it will be illegal for him to sell the salt as he doesn’t have a receipt for the purchase.

The end result is that the unsuccessful trader is currently sat in his apartment accompanied by 6.5 tonnes of salt.

Perhaps Mr Guo should buy a copy of Lord Sugar’s book?

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The story of the President and the magical disappearing pen…

Published on: 18 Apr 2011

Have you ever borrowed a pen or some other item of stationery from the office?

My guess is that most of us probably have the odd pen at home that was originally at one stage or another in the office stationery cupboard.

In your defence you would probably argue that you were using that pen to do some work at home.

But would you have taken that pen from work if you were a president of a major European country and were in front of the world’s media with all their cameras filming.

Vaclav Klaus, Czech Republic’s president, who following his swift hand movement is no doubt now favourite to replace Tom Cruise in the next Mission Impossible movie was this week filmed pocketing a ceremonial pen which was encrusted with semi-precious stones.

President Klaus was on a tour of Latin America. At a joint press conference with Sebastian Pinera, the Chilean president, the ceremonial pen is neatly manoeuvred from the table to his pocket.

Whilst the Chilean President is seen welcoming Klaus, the Czech president picks up the pen, looks at it carefully, puts his hands under the table, slips the pen in his pocket and then brings his hands back on the table without the pen.

The video below shows the Czech President’s manoeuvres.

The two flags that were on the table were understood to have been fixed to the table.

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Does your mum know about Procter & Gamble and does she trust them?

Published on: 13 Apr 2011

Procter & Gamble is one of the world’s biggest advertisers but it was only last month that they started promoting their own corporate brand in the UK.

P&G is the company behind numerous household brands including well known names such as Ariel, Duracell, Gillette, Pampers and Olay. Last year it reportedly spent nearly £190 million in the UK alone on advertising these brands.

Interestingly however, they didn’t advertise their corporate brand of P&G in the UK.

This changed last month though when they started their “proud sponsor of mums” advertising campaign on Mother’s Day Weekend.

The TV and print campaign saw P&G communicating for the first time that it is the company behind all those famous brands.

P&G is a truly global company with worldwide sales in 2010 of $79 billion. Over 4 billion people in more than 180 countries around the world use their products.

So why the change to highlight the corporate brand of P&G rather than stick to advertising the household product brands?

It’s a clever move and is tied in with P&G’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics as well as subsequent Olympics up to 2020.

The aim is to create awareness of the brands owned by P&G in the hope of spreading consumer trust across all their brands. The idea is that if a consumer trusts and values one particular brand, once they realise that another product is a “sister P&G brand” they will hopefully be more likely to buy that other product.

In simple terms, the hope for P&G is that this increased trust of the brands under the corporate umbrella brand of P&G will result in increased sales of all their products.

P&G’s first advert in the UK for their corporate brand is shown below and is really rather nice. It seems to go for the emotional angle and in fact may be so emotional that some people will be reaching for their Kleenex tissues to wipe the tears away.

In fact, it’s probably best not to reach for the Kleenex tissues though as I think they are a brand of Kimberly-Clarke as opposed to P&G.

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Would you spend $1,000 on a pair of shoes if they didn’t have red soles?

Published on: 11 Apr 2011

If you look down at your shoes and see that you’ve got red coloured soles there could be a number of reasons.

The more unfortunate option is that you’ve stood in some red paint whilst the more glamorous possibility is that you are wearing a very expensive pair of Louboutin designer shoes.

A third possibility is now present. Namely, that you could be wearing a pair of shoes that could be breaching a trademark.

One of the world’s leading designers, Paris based Christian Louboutin, whose shoes can cost in excess of $1,000 and have graced the feet of celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow has just submitted a trademark infringement lawsuit in Manhattan federal court.

Organisations rightly defend their trademarks and copyrights but this particular case raises an interesting debate as to whether it really is possible to trademark the colour of a part of a shoe as being integral to the actual design of the shoe.

Louboutin founded his first boutique in 1991 in Paris and was the first designer to have red-lacquered soles.

Louboutin had trademarked the design in the United States in 2008 but now it seems that fashion rival Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), a subsidiary of the Gucci Group, has started selling shoes with a red sole.

The lawsuit filed by Louboutin has asked for $1 million in damages and for an order to stop YSL producing shoes with red soles.

The slight twist here though is that the red soled YSL shoes are part of their spring 2011 collection and feature a pair of red suede shoes with matching red soles. The collection does however also feature navy soles with navy shoes, green soles with green shoes and purple soles with purple shoes.

Despite all these different colours it’s the red ones that are causing all the legal excitement.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case and may well bring a new meaning to the phrase “being red with envy”.

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What’s the link between the London Metal Exchange, a little old lady and Armenia?

Published on: 06 Apr 2011

If you have some friends that are normal in most ways apart from a strange interest in different types of metals then head over to the website of the London Metal Exchange (LME) to get hold of some information to impress them.

The LME was established over 130 years ago and is the world’s premier non-ferrous metals market offering a range of futures and options contracts for metals.

Dig a bit deeper into the site and you’ll find some background on copper.

According to the LME, copper was first traded on the Exchange back in 1877 and was “the first mineral that man extracted from the earth and along with tin gave rise to the Bronze Age. As the ages and technology progressed the uses for copper increased.

Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity, as such one of its main industrial usage is for the production of cable, wire and electrical products for both the electrical and building industries. The construction industry also accounts for copper’s second largest usage in such areas as pipes for plumbing, heating and ventilating as well as building wire and sheet metal facings.”

I’m not sure any of this was on an elderly Georgian Lady’s mind this week when she was digging in the ground for copper to sell for scrap.

The 75 year old had been digging near the capital of Tbilisi when her spade damaged a fibre-optic cable. This cable was quite an important cable as it in effect provided 90% of the internet access for Georgia’s neighbouring country of Armenia.

The end result of this 75 year old lady’s action was that 90% of the web users in Armenia’s 3.2 million population were unable to access the internet for 5 hours. This Grandmother’s spade had cut through the cable and in essence, internet connectivity for a whole country was lost for the majority of the working day.

On Friday, copper prices were up 2% and the three-month copper prices on the LME closed at $9,875 per tonne, its highest in more than a month.

This spike in prices is reportedly nothing to do with a shortage of copper due to the little old lady being arrested and taking a break from her copper digging…

If you work for pwc will you end up smelling like a bag of fish & chips?

Published on: 04 Apr 2011

pwc are moving to a new state of the art office. They will also be accompanied by over 45,000 litres of cooking oil each month.

Does this mean that these Big 4 accountants will be dining on deep fried food in their London offices every day?

Does this mean that they are cutting back on auditing and consultancy and instead expanding into a new business venture to take on McDonalds or KFC?

The answer to both of these questions is “no”.

The reason pwc will have over 45,000 litres of cooking oil in their offices each month is that they will be using recycled cooking oil to generate low carbon energy for their new headquarters in London.

According to pwc, the recycled cooking oil used each month will be “equivalent to the oil needed to fill 9,000 average domestic deep fat fryers. The tri-generation facility will use 100% biofuel, and is the largest installation of its type in a commercial office building in the UK. The oil will be used to fire two large generators creating 25% of the electricity needed for the building, as well as 20% of its heating and cooling. Overall, 25% of the energy needed in the building will be generated on site.”

This is impressive and it’s nice to see a Big 4 company taking the lead in providing an environmentally friendly work location.

For any pwc employees though that were hoping to be served fish and chips each day at their offices then unfortunately for them this isn’t gong to happen so there’s no need to bring in some salt and vinegar to the office.

Is it right for a CEO to shoot and kill an elephant?

Published on: 01 Apr 2011

When we go on holiday we all tend to take photos and maybe even some videos. Most of the time we will keep them to ourselves or possibly share them with friends on Facebook.

Bob Parsons, the CEO of GoDaddy.com (one of the biggest internet-hosting firms) took a holiday video and last week posted it online.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a nice view as it showed him shooting and killing an elephant whilst he was on holiday in Zimbabwe.

Aside from the discussion as to the rights and wrongs of killing animals for sport it raises a question as to what responsibility a senior executive has for ensuring that he or she doesn’t damage the image or reputation of the company they represent.

Mr Parsons appears to be quite happy about the publicity. He defended his actions by saying that he was doing the local villagers a favour as the elephant was a “problem elephant” that had destroyed local crops.

PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 2 million members and supporters responded to Mr Parsons by saying that he was “hiding behind the lame claim that killing elephants help farmers in Africa whose crops are damaged by the animals. In fact, there are ample effective and nonlethal methods to deter elephants from crops, including using chilli-infused string and beehives on poles to create low-cost fences. Instead of coming up with flimsy excuses for killing these highly intelligent and social animals, Parsons should use his wealth to fund humane solutions to human/elephant conflicts”.

PETA have understandably also taken their account away from GoDaddy and have created a special award for Mr Parsons. He is now the proud holder of the “Scummiest CEO of the year award”.

In a very quick move one of GoDaddy’s competitors, namecheap, has launched a domain transfer scheme for GoDaddy customers to switch their domain hosting to namecheap for a pretty low price of $4.99. Namecheap will also donate £1 for each transfer to the elephant charity www.savetheelephants.org.

In a nice touch the code needed to sign up for the low price hosting on namecheap is “BYEBYEGD”.

The ExP Group