May 2012

It doesn’t matter how good your answer is, if the markers can’t……

Published on: 28 May 2012

It doesn’t matter how good your answer is, if the markers can’t read your handwriting you won’t get the marks. It’s as simple as that.

As well as having the requisite technical knowledge students must have the necessary exam technique to ensure a pass. One of the more common complaints from markers is that sometimes the handwriting on exam scripts is so bad that they simply cannot read the answers. If they cannot read the answers then they cannot give you any marks.

Whilst it’s probably a bit late now to radically change your handwriting style, there are some simple steps you can take to make your script more readable. An easy one is to leave a gap between each paragraph. This breaks up the text on the page so that it doesn’t look too cluttered and will be easier for the marker to read.

Another point is to practice writing answers under exam conditions. Some of the papers are “written style” papers rather than a numerical one so you must get used to writing under exam conditions. The last time you probably wrote for 3 hours was at the last exam session! Everybody tends to use computers more and more these days and it’s relatively unusual to be writing significant amounts by hand. Practice writing answers under exam conditions and then give your answer to a friend or family member and see if they can understand it!

This was brought home to me the other day when I was talking to my niece. When I mentioned that as a child I used to write notes to fellow students and pass them around the class, she looked at me as though I was a dinosaur. Nowadays they don’t handwrite them but instead send phone text messages to their fellow students. Writing by hand will soon become a thing of the past…

Should you stop being an accountant?

Published on: 24 May 2012

So, you’re working hard to get a professional qualification. But is finance and business the area you should be in? Will there still be a need for finance professionals in the future?

These are all good questions but my personal view is that I think there will be a need for finance professionals going forward. Individuals will always be needed to analyse, interpret and advise on financial areas.

What about other occupations? What about taxi drivers for example?

Taxi drivers have been around for many years. Starting with the horse and carriage and now moving up to date with the latest cars and limousines, taxi drivers are a common sight in most towns and cities.

The drive in a London black cab for example is in my opinion a mixture between a personal “Disney style ride” through the sights of London combined with having a driver who knows more about everything than all the websites on the Internet (at least if the driver of the taxi I was in this morning is anything to go by…).

Had I had the opportunity this morning to get a word in edgeways there would have been an interesting discussion about whether taxi drivers will be needed in the future though.

The state of Nevada in America has just approved America’s first self driven vehicle licence. Wow, let’s just slow down a moment and review that last comment.

Yes, Nevada changed its laws to allow self-driven cars in March and Google have been testing a Toyota Prius which has been modified to enable it to be driven without a driver.

This is not science fiction, this is reality.

The car has already driven nearly 150,000 miles by itself but during these journeys it did have a driver sat ready to take action if needed.

However, Nevada is the first state in America to register cars that can drive without a driver and the first driverless journey has now actually taken place.

The car uses video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to find its way around.

This is all clever stuff and as a result if you are just starting out in your career and are planning to be a taxi or limousine driver, will you actually be needed in 10, 20 or 30 years?

That’s a good question but one thing is for sure and that is in the back of your driverless taxi in 10, 20 or 30 years I’m sure there will be an accountant on his way to a meeting…

Exam tips released but don’t crash like this guy…

Published on: 16 May 2012

Obtaining a professional qualification is a tough but ultimately rewarding journey.

It’s important to appreciate that whilst your studying before the exam is the key part of your journey, it’s also vital that you keep calm during the exam and focus on good exam technique.

We’ve just released our CIMA exam tips (the ACCA tips will follow at the end of this month) and whilst only the examiner knows what’s in the exams, our tips highlight areas that we would pay close attention to if we were sitting the exams.

One individual though who no doubt had prepared for his moment in some depth unfortunately lost control at a key moment and the result is shown in the video below.

The person involved was no doubt feeling confident sat in his £150,000 Lamborghinis Gallardo sports car but at the crucial moment he blew it big time.

Nobody was hurt in the incident apart from the driver’s pride and using the exam analogy, remember to stay calm and focussed during the exam no matter how exciting your journey to the exam has been. You don’t want to end up feeling like the guy in the video.

Here are our CIMA exam tips (follow the link to the paper you’re interested in and the exam tips are at the bottom right of the page).

Are Manchester City just copying Manchester United?

Published on: 14 May 2012

Manchester City may have won the Premier league yesterday and beaten Manchester United into second place but are they simply copying the red team of Manchester?

Manchester United shirts are currently made by Nike whilst Manchester City shirts are made by Umbro.

Umbro also sponsored the England kit and the brand has been around for many years. In fact its first major football kit was made for Manchester City back in 1934.

Manchester City though recently announced that next season their shirts would be Nike shirts rather than Umbro shirts. Was this a case of Nike paying lots of money to take the shirt deal away from Umbro?

No, in fact it was a clever strategic move by Nike as Nike in fact own Umbro.

The Umbro company (and brand) was purchased by Nike in 2008 so why the change from Umbro to Nike next season?

Well, Umbro is well known in the UK but doesn’t have the global recognition that Nike does. Now that Manchester City are becoming more globally attractive (i.e. because they are now winning trophies) Nike has decided to roll out the big Nike brand and its associated global footprint. As a result from next season the globally recognised football club will have their kit made by the globally recognised sportswear brand. A nice fit in more ways than one.

So, both Manchester clubs are now wearing Nike shirts. Is this a sign of things to come and will we see a combined Manchester team which is managed by Sir Alex Mancini and the games take place at the City of Trafford Stadium?

Somehow, I just don’t think that’s going to happen…

Apple users are (probably) liars…

Published on: 09 May 2012

Earlier this year we blogged about the CEO of Yahoo telling a lie on his CV. Whilst a number of you no doubt thought this was very bad, here’s a nice ethical question for you – have you lied recently?

My guess is that you have. Now before you get all righteous about it I think that you probably did it without even thinking.

Wow, this is pretty worrying isn’t it? A lot of you are studying for professional exams and if I’m here saying that you have lied without thinking about it then what does that mean for your profession going forward?

Terms and conditions (or T&Cs) are essential for companies which are operating on the Internet. For example, they clarify the relationship between the user and the supplier and make it clear what it provided. In reality, the chances are that they also limit the liability of the provider!

As well as having some great products, Apple also has a pretty significant set of T&Cs.

The consumer watchdog organisation “Which”, has recently released a report which criticises the length of some T&Cs.

For any of you that have loaded the Apple iTunes software onto your computer then in theory you should have read their terms and conditions. After all, you had to tick that you agreed with them.

The T&Cs of Apple iTunes reaches a staggering 19,972 words. To put this into perspective, there are more words in the Apple iTunes Terms & Conditions than there are in Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth (if you’re interested, a mere 18,110 words).

For those of you that are fans of Shakespeare you may prefer Hamlet to Macbeth. If you’re interested, Hamlet has a total word count of 30,066.

If you’ve ever used PayPal then you would have agreed with their terms and conditions. If you had in fact read their terms and conditions then it would have taken you more time than it would have taken you to read Hamlet as the PayPal T&Cs have a phenomenal 36,275 words – 6,209 words more than Hamlet…

Is it embarrassing to be an accountant?

Published on: 07 May 2012

What’s your CV like? Now I’m not talking about what you’ve actually done. No, I’m talking about a more basic issue here.

Namely, is it factually correct?

We’ve all stretched the truth a little bit on our CV’s (or to put a more positive spin on it, we all tend to emphasise our strong points).

If you’re the CEO of the powerhouse that is Yahoo, what do you think your CV looks like?

According to Yahoo investor Dan Loeb there is a pretty major error in the CV of Scott Thompson, Yahoo’s CEO.

Mr Loeb pointed out that Mr Thompson’s official company biography and the filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission noted that he held degrees in both accounting and computer science.

After a pretty “rudimentary Google search” Mr Loeb pointed out that the computer science degree was pure fiction and Yahoo’s CEO did not in fact have a computer science degree.

As at the time of writing this blog entry, Mr Thompson has apologised for the false CV but has not made any explanation as to why he lied. He also still has his job as CEO of Yahoo.

This raises some interesting questions.

For example, was it just a simple case of him being embarrassed that he held an accounting degree and the only reason he said he had a computer science degree was to hide this embarrassment?

Perhaps a more serious question to ask though is whether an individual who has lied on his CV is suitable to lead such a prestigious quoted company such as Yahoo?

It’s not clear at this stage whether Mr Thompson will retain his job as CEO of Yahoo. My view though is that even if he loses his job his up to date CV will say that he left Yahoo as he had “grown out of the position and wanted new challenges”…

What would you prefer – cheap drugs or new drugs?

Published on: 04 May 2012

Whilst the answer would to a certain extent depend on your personal situation, it’s one of the challenges currently facing the pharmaceutical industry.

The major pharmaceutical companies all have significant research and development (R&D) expenses. It’s been estimated that to get a new medicine onto the market from scratch it costs over £1 billion on average.

That’s a lot of R&D and importantly for the drugs companies, it’s a lot of expenses that need to be recovered.

So how do they recover their R&D expenses?

Well, their hope is that they have various “blockbuster drugs” that will treat or cure some of the more common medical problems and will generate significant amounts of revenue.

The challenge for these drug companies though is that if they spend a significant amount on R&D to discover a drug which is going to enable them to recover these R&D expenses (plus generate a profit), they will be a bit disappointed if other drug companies develop cheap versions of these drugs once they’ve been discovered.

In other words, these other companies won’t have the significant R&D expenses and instead will just copy the newly discovered drugs and get the revenue in.

The pharmaceutical industry tries to get around this problem by providing a 10 to 15 year “patent period” after discovery of the drug whereby other companies cannot copy it.

The giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer has a blockbuster drug called Lipitor (it helps reduce cholesterol) and this is about to come out of its patented protection. The drug was first invented in the 1980s and since then it has reportedly generated more than $125 billion of revenue for Pfizer.

Whilst this has been an extremely successful drug for Pfizer (it accounted for 15% of their revenue last year) things are going to change dramatically in the near future.

As soon as the patent protection period ends next week for the drug, other drug companies will make cheap (but still effective) copies of the drug and it is estimated that the price will fall by 85%.

This in itself highlights an interesting ethical discussion surrounding pharmaceutical companies.

Namely, should they be able to enjoy the benefit of a patent protection to enable them to keep prices high so that they can put money back into R&D or are they making significant profits by pricing the drugs out of the reach of a lot of people around the world?

The ExP Group