February 2012

CIMA and AICPA. Who made the first move?

Published on: 29 Feb 2012

Life can be difficult if you’re a man. You fall in love and decide to get married. The challenge is that you have to ask the love of your life to get married and what happens if she says no?

It’s a leap year this year and today is the 29th February. This means that today is the day where tradition says that ladies can ask men if they would marry them.

Ignoring jokes about there being no men on the streets today as they are all hiding, what has all this got to do with the world of finance?

Well, what about CIMA and AICPA?

They have recently announced a joint venture or if we’re feeling romantic let’s call it a marriage.

They have launched the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation and I have to say that I think it makes a great joint venture marriage. They are both leading professional bodies and the marriage will increase the recognition of management accounting worldwide.

Further details of the marriage can be found at the CGMA website but with all this talk of wedding proposals it got me thinking about who made the first move in the relationship between CIMA and AICPA?

Who proposed to whom? Was it love at first sight? Was it a case of “I like you, do you like me?”

Whatever was the story behind the first signs of romance between the two bodies it was certainly more successful than the poor guy below.

Now, let me think. What can be more romantic than proposing in a shopping mall with your friend strumming away on his guitar…

Has pwc just made a huge mistake?

Published on: 27 Feb 2012

The 84th Academy Awards ceremony (the Oscars) took place last night in Los Angeles.

Pwc have looked after the balloting process of the Oscars for 78 years and since they have been involved they have counted in excess of 450,000 ballots and filled over 2,600 envelopes with the winning names.

According to pwc there has never been a single security breach but if I’m honest, I’m not so sure.

Whilst the French silent movie The Artist won best picture award, some would argue that there must have been an error by pwc when it came to counting the votes.

The US “Center for Audit Quality” organisation recently released a film which tells the 3 minute story of “Mr Ledger Lines”, a dashing external auditor and surely this should have won the best picture Oscar??

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the short film below, which aims to provide a brief overview of what an external auditor does, was worthy of an Oscar or not…

Underwear: should you wear them or name yourself after them?

Published on: 22 Feb 2012

Tonga is a beautiful island in the South Pacific. They have great beaches and lovely weather but what they don’t have are a lot of are icy mountains with toboggan runs.

That hasn’t stopped Tongan Bruno Banani from becoming a pretty successful luger and he recently entered the luge World Championships in Altenberg, Germany.

The interesting twist to this story though is that Bruno was born Fuahea Semi but then changed his name to Bruno Banini.

So why did he change his name?

Well it just so happens that Bruno Banini is also the name of a leading men’s underwear company in Germany and they sponsor Bruno (or Fuahea as he was originally known).

A classic guerrilla or ambush marketing stunt.

Change your name to that of your sponsor so that Bruno Banini (the underwear company) doesn’t have to pay for official sponsorship at events as they are hoping that Bruno Banini (the individual) will do well at an event and get lots of mentions in the press.

Bruno, or “Pants” as he’s probably known to his friends, is hoping to enter the 2014 winter Olympics in Russia and it raises some interesting challenges for the Olympic authorities as they want to avoid any ambush marketing.

Olympic Committee Vice President Thomas Bach was asked about Pants changing his name from Fuahea Semi to Bruno Banini and called it a “perverse marketing idea.”

An interesting challenge for the Olympics as if he has legally changed his name it will be difficult for them to block it.

On a different subject though I should mention that if anyone from Ferrari is reading this I am prepared to change my name to Red Ferrari…

McDonalds: “I’m loving it” or “I’d rather eat my own diarrhea”?

Published on: 17 Feb 2012

So, it’s good and bad news for the fast food giant McDonalds.

They recently released their latest annual results and things are looking good for them.

Global comparable sales increased 5.6% and consolidated operating income increased by 14%. The split in individual geographic regions showed the US up 6%, Europe up 15% and APMEA (Asia Pacific/Middle East/Africa) up 27%.

McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said that they are planning on opening 1,300 new restaurants this year.

Interestingly two of the reasons that McDonalds appears to be doing well despite there being a recession on in lots of countries is that firstly families are trading down from going to the more expensive pizza restaurants such as Pizza Hut and Pizza Express and secondly people are buying McDonalds coffee instead of the more expensive Starbucks and Costa Coffee.

The financials are looking good and that’s the good news.

The bad news is that McDonalds don’t seem to have quite mastered the art of using the social media site, Twitter.

They launched a 24 hour promotional campaign on Twitter whereby they paid for promoted tweets to be inserted into the streams of Twitter users.

The campaign was designed to highlight happy farmer stories and they used two hashtags (for non Twitter users hashtags highlight key words in a tweet).

One of the hashtags used was #McDStories and it was hoped that this would generate lots of positive stories from McDonalds fans.

The hashtag though was hijacked by critics of McDonalds who bombarded the site with negative tweets about McDonalds.

Put it this way. The vast majority of the tweets with the #McDStories hashag in it are extremely unlikely to be seen in any future McDonalds publicity drive.

Some of the tweets that won’t be featuring in the next McDonalds advertising campaign include:

@Memphidelity: “McDialysis? I’m loving it!”

@flatfootphil: “A nice juicy Fillet o’fish. With added worm. Still alive. Nice. Never again.”

@Alice_2112: “Hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonalds in 1989. Never ate there again and became a Vegetarian. Should have sued.”

@MuzzaFuzza: “I haven’t been to McDonalds in years, because I’d rather eat my own diarrhea.”

The bigger they are the harder they fall?

Published on: 15 Feb 2012

What have tall buildings and financial crashes got in common?

Well according to a report by Barclays Capital, there is an “unhealthy” link between the building of skyscrapers and impending financial collapse

Their Skyscraper Index shows an unhealthy correlation between construction of the next world’s tallest building and an impending financial crisis.

They pointed out that the world’s first skyscraper, the Equitable Life Building which was completed in 1873 was followed by a 5 year recession. The Empire State Building was built just as the Great Depression started. Malaysia’s Petronas Towers was built in 1997 which coincided with the Asian financial crisis. The current tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa was finished in 2010 and heralded the crisis in Dubai.

According to Barclays, “the world’s tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting a widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction”.

They then go on to point out that “Investors should therefore pay particular attention to China – today’s biggest bubble builder with 53% of all the world’s skyscrapers under construction – and
India – which with just two completed skyscrapers, now has 14 skyscrapers under construction”.

Now whilst this may be worrying for people who have invested in the yet to be built skyscrapers there appears to be some reasoning behind this link.

Building a skyscraper takes a huge amount of capital and confidence. Both of these are only really going to be present in a boom time.

It takes several years to construct the buildings so by the time they are complete there is a pretty good chance that the economic cycle will be in a trough rather than the peak when the project was signed off.

Is this a case of the bigger they are the harder they fall?

Liverpool win after an own goal by Adidas.

Published on: 13 Feb 2012

Forget about the rivalry on the pitch between Manchester United and Liverpool. Forget about Luis Suarez refusing to shake hands with Patrice Evra at the game on Saturday.

No, the key question is who has got the biggest kit sponsorship deal in the world.

Manchester United’s kit is sponsored by Nike and until recently it was the largest kit sponsorship deal in the world. Liverpool however has just announced a new kit sponsorship deal which exceeds the Nike deal and makes it the biggest football shirt sponsorship deal in the world.

Liverpool’s kit used to be sponsored by Adidas but Adidas lost out in the new bid for sponsorship to American Sports Group Warrior Sports (who own the New Balance sports brand).

Adidas felt that Liverpool’s form over the last few years in the English Premier League hadn’t been that good and as a result didn’t bid as much for the sponsorship deal.

Warrior Sports though seem to have taken the view that Liverpool is a global brand as opposed to merely an English football club.

Liverpool FC has immense brand power overseas. Especially in Asia and the sales of their replica shirts are estimated to be nearly 900,000 a year.

There’s also an interesting observation in that their main sponsor of the shirt (as opposed to the kit supplier) is Standard Chartered.

The Standard Chartered bank isn’t present in the UK and therefore the bank’s sponsorship of the Liverpool shirt clearly isn’t aimed at the UK market but rather at the Asian, African and Middle Eastern markets where Liverpool have a strong following and Standard Chartered have a strong presence.

So, well done Warrior Sports for seeing the global appeal of the Liverpool brand.

As for Adidas, have they just kicked the ball into their own net?

Vodafone, bikini bed-baths and lingerie parties…

Published on: 10 Feb 2012

So what do Vodafone do?

Are they one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies or do they undertake studies about team building which highlight examples of activities such as bikini-clad bed-baths and lingerie parties?

The answer is both.

As well as running one of the top mobile phone networks, their UK operations have just released some findings into a study they undertook together with YouGov about what people think of team-building courses.

In summary, a lot of the people interviewed felt that some organised team building was a waste of time.

Now I’ve attended a few team building courses during my career. Some have been good and some have been not so good but none of them have included the following activities which were identified during the Vodafone research.

“The research among more than 1,000 British employees with colleagues uncovered some eye-popping examples of awkward and silly team-building activities, including enduring bikini-clad ‘bed baths’ and massages from colleagues, holding lingerie parties, and eating crickets as part of a ‘bush tucker trial’ style event.”

Now, let’s just pause there.

“Bed baths and massages from colleagues”!!

If you’re sat in the office then look around you now and think which one of your colleagues would you like to receive a massage from at a team building event and then perhaps more alarmingly think which person would really freak you out if they were asked to give you a massage as part of a team building activity.

The Vodafone survey also identified that the older people get, the more cynical (or wise??) they tend to be about team building.

Only 10% of people aged 55 or over thought that team building would help them work more effectively with their colleagues compared with 42% of 18 to 24 year olds. Whether this cynicism has anything to do with the thought of massage remains to be seen.

There were some positives in the research though with the most effective forms of team building being found to be “social events like going out for a drink or a meal, followed by volunteering and charity work.”

Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK, said that “Many genuine team-building activities can be valuable, but ultimately, to achieve better teamwork businesses need to get the basics right first. Employers need to focus on how their employees work day-to-day, and give staff the tools they need to be able to do their job best. Employees also want to be able to work smarter – and that means easy access to customers, colleagues and information wherever they are.”

So in conclusion, any of you working for Vodafone can look forward to your employer getting things right and giving you the tools you need to be able to do your job best.

There is no need for you to take any massage oil into the office.

What would you do if you had to count diamonds?

Published on: 08 Feb 2012

They say that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” but it seems as though it should be “Diamonds are a great investment in times of recession”.

The world’s largest diamond group has just released their latest results and they certainly sparkle.

Whilst a lot of companies around the world have struggled over recent years due to the global recession, the latest De Beers results make impressive reading.

Underlying profits were $968m in 2011. This was an increase of 62% on the prior year figure of £598m.

That’s not a bad performance in today’s economic times and a lot of the success was put down to strong demand in China where wealthy individuals were looking to purchase diamonds and diamond jewellery.

De Beers is 45% owned by the mining giant Anglo American who last November signed an agreement to increase their stake in De Beers by a further 40% by agreeing to purchase the Oppenheimer founding family’s stake. This deal is expected to happen this year and the remaining 15% shareholding will be held by the Botswana government.

De Beers are a leader in the diamond industry and they produce more than a third of the world’s rough diamonds. These come from mines in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Namibia) as well as Canada.

Importantly they also claim that all their diamonds are “conflict free” which in effect means they are mined ethically and with respect for both people and the environment. They are not involved in any of the “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamond” which are mined in war zones or sold to finance civil wars or terrorist activities.

At the start of my career when I was an audit junior I was involved in various year-end inventory counts which normally involved me being sent off to warehouses to count inventory by myself.

Somehow I’ve got a feeling that the year-end inventory count of the diamonds at De Beers was a slightly more glamorous event than the counts I attended.

Job vacancy. Accountants required to become spies…

Published on: 06 Feb 2012

So there I was sat down yesterday having a nice cup of coffee and reading the Sunday Times when I saw a full page advert on page 8 which was rather intriguing.

It was interesting as it wasn’t clear what it was advertising. There was no reference to a product or company.

It started with the heading “What are you waiting for?”

Further down the advert it says:

“You’re the … type of person we might be interested in: Dynamic, but patient. A team player that can work with complete autonomy. Someone who can form strong relationships, yet thrive it the isolation of a foreign country. Who is already in successful employment … with the sensitivity to seamlessly integrate into the day to day society of a different country.

By reading between the lines, you’ve probably guessed what we’re after… you’ll find out more about MI6 at www.sis.gov.uk/careers.”

Wow – it’s an advert for a job as a spy with the British government and look at this, it also says:

“Perhaps you’re thriving in the high-octane world of finance.”

So, they are looking for new spies and one of the attributes they highlight is experience in the high-octane world of finance.

Well move over James Bond as there’s a host of accountants about to apply.

All your hard work studying for the ACCA or CIMA exams is about to pay off with a deluge of fast cars, fast women and vodka martinis (shaken but not stirred of course).

I may well apply myself as although I’m unfit, a bit overweight and have never driven an Aston Martin I’ve got the complete box set of the James Bond movies so know what needs to be done.

Although not an official MI6 test, here’s a quick test to see if you have the mental dexterity to become a spy:

1. Sit at your desk in front of your computer, lift up your right foot off the floor and make large CLOCKWISE circles with your foot.

2. Now, whilst drawing the circles with your foot, draw the number “6” in the air with your right hand. If you’re a cool James Bond wannabe you’ll be able to draw the number “6” but if you’re not made out to be a spy your foot will change direction.

Good luck with your application…

Over 1 million people now have to…

Published on: 03 Feb 2012

What have 1.1 million people in the UK got in common as at 1 February 2012?

Well unfortunately for these people the answer is that they owe the UK tax authorities £100.

The deadline for submitting the individual tax return for the tax year ended 5 April 2011 was 31 January 2012 (in case you’re wondering, here’s why the tax year ends on 5th April).

1.1 million people missed the 31 January deadline and were late in submitting their tax return. As a result they will be fined £100 each. This means a rather nice £110 million in extra revenue for the government.

This year the penalty system was different for people that submitted their returns late.

In previous years the fine was £100 but this fine was in fact limited to the amount of tax that was owed. So if somebody had a zero tax liability then there was no real incentive to submit the tax return by 31 January as the fine was restricted to zero.

This year the fine is £100 even if the individual’s tax liability is less than £100.

The fine gets worse as well though with an additional fine of £10 per day being applied if the return is 3 months late. The maximum fine for late submission could be as high as £1,600.

If you are a UK tax resident that has to submit a return but have yet to do so then it’s looking like you’ll be £100 worse off unless you’ve got a reasonable excuse for not submitting your return on time.

There’s no set definition of what is meant by reasonable excuse but it generally includes such things as the death of a close relative (or even your own death but that does seem an extreme way to avoid a £100 penalty), serious illness, loss of documents due to fire, or lack of time to complete the return as you were playing around on facebook.

Finally, for those of you that didn’t spot the mistake in the previous paragraph and are about to attempt one of the UK tax exams then don’t hold your breath expecting a great result…

The ExP Group