Goodbye to a visionary and creative genius.

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Born to an unmarried interracial couple, adopted at a young age, dropped out of college and fired from him first major job. Steve Jobs went on to build two billion dollar businesses.

Unfortunately, the iconic face behind Apple lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Wednesday and the world lost one of the true business greats.

In terms of his impact on business as well as people’s everyday lives, his legacy will be right up there with the likes of other great visionaries who introduced “life changing technology” such as Henry Ford and the mass motor car.

Steve Jobs taught the world many things and whilst there have been, and no doubt will be, lots written on his business methodologies one particular approach of his stands out as far as I’m concerned.

His creations really encase the concept of providing great products but importantly offering real “value” for these great products.

By “value” I don’t mean that they are the cheapest. In fact, they are far from the cheapest but what Apple do provide are excellent products which customers will pay a premium for as they perceive that this additional value the products offer is worth paying for. In classic Michael Porter terminology this could be referred to as “differentiation”.

Steve Jobs had an uncanny ability to spot the next great thing that customers would want and then to develop a product which although relatively expensive would create such “value” that customers would purchase it instead of cheaper options.

If Apple had competed purely on price then there would always be another company which would come along and offer a similar product for a lower price.

As well as the innovative Apple products that have hit our shelves, Steve Jobs will also be associated with the black St. Croix Collection turtleneck sweater that he would wear at product launches.

Since his death there has been a run on people wanting to buy these sweaters and the company that manufactures them, US based Knitcraft Corp has reported a surge in orders in the last 24 hours. Despite a total order run of between 4,000 to 5,000 sweaters many St Croix stores have now run out of stock.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs.

Will the Big 4 firms be completely different next year?

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Michel Barnier, the European Union’s top financial services policymaker, has reportedly drafted a green paper which is expected to be presented to the European Parliament later this year.

If the proposals included within the paper are actually implemented it would mean a radical shake up of the Big 4 business models within the EU.

Mr Barnier has been quoted in the press this week as declaring that “auditors are the dog that did not bark during the crisis and their role has been put into question”.

His proposals are pretty significant and they include preventing the Big 4 from doing any non-audit services such as undertaking consulting work, providing legal advice, running training courses or performing bookkeeping services (or at least not providing these to their audit clients).

The argument behind this is that it would prevent potential conflicts of interest where for example, the auditors are reporting on some consulting work undertaken by their colleagues from their consulting division.

If the Big 4 were prevented from undertaking any non-audit work this would be pretty dramatic for them. It’s estimated that in the UK 67% of their revenue is from non-audit work with only 33% coming from audit work.

Mr Barnier’s proposals also include appointing two auditors for companies with balance sheets greater than €1 billion and at least one of these auditors would need to be a non-Big 4 company.

There is also a proposal to enforce a compulsory rotation of auditors if they have audited a company for a period of 9 years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Big 4 have rallied against the proposals (after all, “how many turkeys would vote for Christmas”) but there do appear to be some valid arguments against Mr Barnier’s proposals.

For example, having dual auditors would no doubt increase the cost of the audit significantly.

Whatever the outcome of the proposals when they are discussed at the European parliament later this year, this is a subject which will be debated for many years to come by people who hold opposing views on the matter.

Who earns the most out of a PwC or Deloitte partner and who’s suing Deloitte for $7.6bn?

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The Financial Times or FT as it is generally known, is a great newspaper.

First printed way back in 1888 by James Sheridan and Horatio Bottomley, the FT specialises in business and financial news.

You can find a lot of information in the FT.

Information ranging from share prices to the latest business activities can all be found within the paper’s famous light salmon coloured covers.

They have also recently highlighted some interesting figures about the average partner remuneration in the UK firms of PwC and Deloitte.

In the year to 30 June 2011 the average profit share for each PwC partner in the UK was a healthy £763,000.

In the previous year to 30 June 2010, Ian Powell, the Chairman of PwC, received £3.6 million. The latest figures show that he managed to increase this amount to £3.7 million in the year ended 30 June 2011.

But what about PwC’s fellow Big 4 partners from Deloitte?

Even though the Deloitte figures are not entirely comparable with PwC’s due to differences in the treatment of past pension obligations, the results are interesting and it’s not all good news for Deloitte partners in the UK.

This year saw their average profit share fall by 13%. They now have to scrape by with £758,000 per year compared to the £873,000 that they had the year before.

Whilst figures are available for the UK Deloitte partners they are not currently available for the Deloitte partners from over in the US.

My guess though is that the US Deloitte partner’s profit shares may well be reduced this year though as money may be held back for potential legal fees after it was announced today that Deloitte in the US are being sued for the princely sum of $7.6 billion.

They are accused of failing to detect fraud during their audits of a US mortgage firm which went out of business during the US housing crash.

A Deloitte spokesman was quoted in the press as saying the court claims were “utterly without merit”.

Was it really that easy to lose £1.3 billion?

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I tell you what. I don’t really have insurance against anything going wrong but if I put a tick in this box and pretend that I do nobody will notice and it will be ok. Won’t it?

Mr Kweku Adoboli, a 31 year old banker with UBS in London, was working in his office in the early hours of Thursday when he was arrested on suspicion of fraud and false accounting.

In simple terms he is alleged to be a “Rogue Trader“ who undertook illegal transactions which cost the bank a serious amount of money.

£1,300,000,000 to be precise.

That’s a fairly significant figure and would represent the largest single fraud that has ever taken place in the City of London.

Not whilst there is the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and Mr Adoboli hasn’t yet had an opportunity to defend himself, it’s not currently looking too good for him.

There are striking similarities to the case 3 years ago where trader Jerome Kerviel lost Societe Generale nearly €5bn through Rogue Trading activities.

A detailed investigation has just begun but the early reports indicate that the fraud involved setting up fictitious hedging transactions to trick the bank’s risk management systems into thinking that a trade or position had been hedged against to minimise risk and limit exposure.

A hedge is in effect a form of insurance to insure that if a particular trade goes wrong there is some offset present to mitigate the loss.

If setting up false hedging entries into the bank’s “computer risk system” turns out to be true then there will be some nervous (and possibly soon to be unemployed) people at the bank who were responsible for the risk management system.

Many thought that the days of individuals being able to lose significant amounts of money for banks through unauthorised transactions were a thing of the past. After all, banks have spent a considerable amount of time and money over recent years in ensuring their risk management systems were good enough.

Unfortunately for UBS though it looks suspiciously like their systems weren’t up to the job.

Do you know a male, aged 36 to 45 who works in a finance related function?

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Don’t panic whatever you do but by any chance do you work with a male who is 36 to 45 years old and whose job is in a finance related function?

If you do then look at him as discretely as you can.

Is he exhibiting any of the following characteristics?

– Volatility and being melodramatic, arrogant and confrontational, threatening or aggressive, when challenged.

– Performance or skills of new employees in their unit do not reflect past experiences detailed on resumes.

– Unreliability and prone to mistakes and poor performance, with a tendency to cut corners and/or bend the rules, but makes attempts to shift blame and responsibility for errors.

– Unhappy, apparently stressed and under pressure, while bullying and intimidating colleagues.

– Being surrounded by “favorites,” or people who do not challenge the fraudster, and micromanaging some employees, while keeping others at arm’s length.

– Vendors/suppliers will only deal with this individual, who also may accept generous gestures that are excessive or contrary to corporate rules.

– Persistent rumors or indications of personal bad habits, addictions or vices, possibly with a lifestyle that seems excessive for their income, or apparently personally over-extended in their finances.

– Self-interested and concerned with their own agenda, and who has opportunities to manipulate personal pay and rewards.

If he is then that may be a bit of a worry.

KPMG have announced that after an analysis of nearly 350 cases that they investigated for their clients across 69 countries from 2008 to 2010 a typical fraudster was a male, aged 36 to 45 who works in a finance related function and exhibits the above list of traits.

Now, strangely enough everyone in our office who is reading this is has now turned to look at me who just happens to be a male, aged 36 to 45 who works in a finance related function…

Your BlackBerry could save your life…

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Many of you will have a BlackBerry phone and a number of you may well be addicted to it. The red light flashes to tell you that you’ve got email and you’ll rush to check that all important message that comes in.

As well as emails they also have other uses and some photographs taken by this particular user on her BlackBerry possibly saved her life.

BlackBerry is commonly referred to in some countries as a “CrackBerry” on the basis that it is as addictive as Crack Cocaine but I’m sure that this lady will be carrying it with her where ever she goes from now on.

The unnamed lady was hiking in the picturesque mountainous Lake District region in the UK.

She was by herself and bad weather came in. She lost her bearings and didn’t know where she was.

The weather was worsening and on top of all of this it was starting to get dark.

The lady who was in her 50s contacted rescue services but they couldn’t initially get to her as she didn’t know where she was so couldn’t tell them her location.

They then remembered the camera that was built into the BlackBerry and the lady took some photos of the area where she was and sent them to the mountain rescuers phone.

The end result was that some of the rescuers recognised the location where the pictures were taken and went and found her and guided her to safety.

There was therefore a happy ending for this lady who no doubt cherishes her BlackBerry even more now.

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The exam results are out on Monday but what a cheek…

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It’s that time of year again when ACCA students are nervously waiting for their exam results and good luck to any of you that are getting them on Monday.

Exam results time is traditionally a time when recruitment companies start targeting newly qualified with tempting adverts to switch jobs and move on in their career.

Whilst newly qualified job offers are likely to be found in the more traditional advertising mediums a more unusual use of an advertising space has recently been announced by UK based betting firm Betfair.

They have reportedly paid a substantial five figure sum to advertise on the bikini bottoms of Britain’s female volleyball champions.

Betfair rather creatively hope that sports photographers will take photos of the ladies behinds and people will see the advert that is emblazoned on their bikinis.

I’m sure that most men watch women’s beach volleyball to appreciate the athleticism, skill levels and tactics of the ladies so they may well not even notice the adverts.

If they do notice the adverts however, they will have a Quick Response (QR) code on them which will take users with a smartphone to a website where more details about Betfair will be found.

Some people will think that advertising on bikini bottoms is a bit of a cheek but nobody can deny that the advertising industry certainly comes up with creative ideas.

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How much is your home worth? I guess it’s not as much as this one…

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There’s a new record in the UK. Britain’s most expensive home has just been sold for a rather nifty £140 million.

The average price of a house in the UK is £228,000 so that means that the anonymous Russian buyer that recently bought Park Place in the village of Remenham, near Henley-on-Thames, 35 miles outside of London could have instead bought over 600 “average homes”.

£140 million buys a lot of home though. The property is a 300 year old property in nearly 600 acres of land and includes stables and a boat house.

During the recent recession, the property development industry has taken a bit of a hammering.

Property developer Mike Spink however shows how it should be done.

He bought Park Place back in 2007 for a “mere” £42 million.

5 years later after reportedly spending several million on renovations he’s sold it for £98 million more than he paid for it. Not a bad return over 4 years.

Movie fans that saw the recent remake of the St. Trinians film would recognise the house as it was used as the school in the film.

Oh, and I forgot to mention but it’s also got its own golf course attached to it and a ghost by the name of Mary Blandy who was accused of poisoning her father in the 1700s is said to live there.

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The European Business Awards and our trumpet…

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We’re all feeling pretty pleased with ourselves here at ExP and apologies for “blowing our own trumpet” but we’ve just heard that the ExP Group were selected as a country representative in the 2011 European Business Awards, sponsored by HSBC.

This independent Awards programme is designed to recognise and promote excellence, best practice and innovation in the European business community.

The winners are selected by a 40 strong European Judging and Advisory Panel including leading politicians, academics, media owners and business luminaries.

The esteemed panel of judges were looking for organisations who exhibited innovation, business excellence and sustainability.

Thank you to the judges for selecting the ExP Group – we’re honoured (and very, very happy!)

John Casey, HSBC Head of Commercial Banking, Europe said “The European Business Awards provide a perfect opportunity to recognise the best of European business and their successes over the past twelve months. These companies have displayed an impressive ability to thrive despite challenging economic conditions, pursuing growth and creating prosperity. Their recognition is highly deserved, and through the European Business Awards their success – and the stories behind that – can be shared across the wider business community. We look forward to celebrating alongside these inspirational businesses.”

Petar Stoyanov, former President of Bulgaria, “This event inspires and stimulates European Business to reaching exacting criteria, where not only annual turnover and sales count, but also factors with high social importance – what we call business ethics.”

Many thanks to all our partners, clients, students as well as our wonderful team for their support in helping us to obtain such a prestigious achievement.

Now, where did we put that crate of champagne?

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You’ve heard of the iPhone but what about iMerica?

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$75,876,000,000 is a lot of cash. But who does it belong to?

We blogged recently about Apple’s latest set of successful results but if you look into the figures you’ll see a staggering amount of cash that they hold.

Cashflow is a key factor for most businesses but by anyone’s reckoning $76 billion of cash is a hefty amount that will cover most eventualities.

Apple are reportedly holding onto the money for potential big ticket acquisitions but if you look at the latest market capitalisations of some well known companies on the London Stock Exchange then you can see what Apple could buy with their cash of $76 billion (£47 billion).

For example, they could purchase ALL of the following household names with cash:

BSB (Sky TV) (market cap = £14.8bn)

Burberry (£6.2bn)

Sainsbury (£6.1bn)

Marks & Spencers (£5.7bn)

Ryan Air (£4.7bn)

Next (£4.2bn)

Pfizer (£4.1bn)

Easy Jet (£1.5bn)

So, without taking out any loans or raising any additional funds Apple could buy all of the above.

These are phenomenal amounts of cash that they are holding.

They even have so much cash that they currently have more cash at hand than the US government!

According to the US Treasury, the total operating balance (in effect the amount of money the US government can spend before it hits their debt ceiling) was $74 billion. This is $2 billion less than the cash that Apple has at hand.

So, Apple has more cash than the US government. Will we shortly be seeing a picture of Steve Jobs on the one dollar bill?

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