August 2016

It’s a dog’s life…

Published on: 26 Aug 2016

Greece has had a bad time of it over the last couple of years in terms of their finances but a recent announcement by their Finance Ministry may result in animals coming to the rescue.

When I say animals, I should be more specific and say that dogs will be helping out and not just any dogs but dogs who can sniff out money.

Let me explain a bit.

It’s been well documented that Greece has had a few financial problems. There were fears that they would crash out of the euro. Capital controls followed and there was a new international bailout for the country.

As a result, a lot of the Greek population perhaps understandably didn’t feel that confident in trusting the banks to look after their cash and a significant amount of money is being held outside of banks.

From November 2014 to July 2015 over 50 billion euros was withdrawn from the banks and It’s been estimated that between 15 to 20 billion euros is still being held by Greeks outside of the banking system.

That’s a lot of mattresses to be storing cash under and people are looking at avoiding capital controls and instead take the money out of the country without the authorities knowing.

Taking a suitcase of cash out of the country is seen as a safe option for a lot of people.

So, where do the dogs come in?

Well, a recent posting on a government website said that a team would be put together to assess tenders for the provision of dogs whose job is to detect cash. The dogs would be in place to sniff out significant amounts of cash being taken out of the country at border points.

Given all the money problems in Greece, one big advantage of this plan is that the dogs won’t be paid in cash. Instead, they will be more than happy to be rewarded with a biscuit or two…

How to impress over a business lunch…

Published on: 05 Aug 2016

Picture the scene. You’ve got an important business lunch coming up. You want to make a good impression on the person you are meeting with. What should you eat for lunch?

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology has some interesting findings which indicate that if you have an important business lunch, there are various benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress.

Scientists from the University of Chicago studied nearly 500 people to identify whether eating the same food helped them agree in negotiations.

The researcher’s conclusion was that people who are served the same food are more likely to trust each other, smooth out problems and make deals.

As part of the study, participants in the research were told to imagine they were “investors” who had to decide whether to invest in funds operated by their “fund manager” eating partners. The researchers found that those people who were served similar food invested more money.

Another interesting finding in the study was the link between food consumption and the effectiveness of advertising. The authors said that “consumers are more trusting of information about non-food products – e.g. a software product – when the advertiser in the product testimonial eats similar food to them”.

Back to the business lunch though and although the research found that there are benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress, I’m not sure that if you’re wearing a nice clean white shirt to the lunch meeting you should necessarily follow the other person in ordering that “tricky to eat tidily spaghetti with the sloppy tomato sauce”…

French Connection not quite connecting…

Published on: 01 Aug 2016

Ted Baker, SuperGroup and French Connection are all well-known fashion brands. It appears though that some shareholders in French Connection aren’t too happy at the moment and feel the company has fallen behind the other leading fashion brands.

French connection was established in the early 1970s, owns the famous FCUK logo and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Gatemore Capital Management, an American fund holds an 8% stake in French Connection and last week they wrote to the board of French Connection and criticised the company’s “disappointing” performance over recent years. Their comments raise some interesting examples for anyone studying a professional qualification with a corporate governance element to it (e.g. ACCA P1 or CIMA E1).

In their letter to the board, the fund urged the founder of French Connection, Stephen Marks to split his roles as chairman and chief executive. Best practice in UK corporate governance encourages the chairman and chief executive roles to be held by different people so as to avoid too much power being in the hands of one person. Mr Marks though holds both roles.

The fund also wanted the replacement of 2 of the non-executive directors. They highlighted that Dean Murray and Claire Kent would both “soon be losing their status as independent” as they had been on the board for 8 years. A key feature of non-executive directors, or NEDs as they are often referred to, is that they should be independent so that they can for example challenge the strategy put forward by the executive directors. NEDs shouldn’t be on the board of the same company for more than 9 years.

The financial performance of French Connection since the 2008 financial crisis hasn’t been particularly impressive. The share price has fallen from 100p to 40p since then and Gatemore felt that the company could catch up on its rivals by reducing the size of their product ranges and speeding up the closure of loss-making stores.

One interesting observation they had was that they wanted the company to drop the FCUK logo as it was no longer felt to be “aspirational”. Are we about to see the end of the famous logo?

The ExP Group