Can I have a skinny latte, a blueberry muffin and a corporate loan please?

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One of the real challenges facing a lot of companies at the moment is access to funds.

The economic turmoil over recent years has led to the loan markets largely drying up and without access to suitable cash reserves a number of firms have hit cashflow problems and have gone out of business.

Similarly, a lot of businesses that have wanted to start up in the recession haven’t had access to loan funds to enable them to do so.

The end result is that jobs have been lost.

The global coffee chain Starbucks though think that they may have an answer to some of the funding problems.

They have just launched a campaign to try to stimulate job growth in America by launching a “Create Jobs for the USA” initiative.

They are partnering in this initiative with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a group of private financial institutions that provide affordable loans to certain parts of the American population including low-income people and communities.

As well as donating $5 million to get the project off the ground Starbucks are also covering the admin expenses of OFN as well as paying for the manufacture of wristbands which will be given to any of their customers who donate $5 in one of their coffee shops.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said “Small businesses are…employing more than half of all private sector workers – but this critical jobs engine has stalled. We’ve got to thaw the channels of credit so that community businesses can start hiring again.”

100% of the donations made will go to OFN to help fund loans to community businesses including small businesses, microenterprises and nonprofit organizations.

Starbucks themselves though have also been a victim of the recession with several hundred stores being closed in the US alone in recent years and some sceptics may argue that this is just a PR initiate by them.

My personal view though is that if this initiative helps to create jobs then it can only be a good thing.

What would you do if your credit card balance was this big?

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Sometimes it’s difficult to get a feel for economics and the concepts and amounts involved.

A friend sent me an email that’s doing the rounds on the internet and it emphasises rather nicely the issues behind the financial problems that the US currently faces.

It moves away from “grown up economic terms” to instead use an example about the US financial problems which people will find easy to understand.

They may also however find it a bit shocking.

The US financial position can be succinctly stated as:

1.    US Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
2.    Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
3.    New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
4.    National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
5.    Recent budget cuts: $38,500,000,000

Now, if you simply remove 8 zeros and imagine it is a household budget you’ll get the following:

1.    Annual family income: $21,700
2.    Money the family spent: $38,200
3.    New debt on credit card: $16,500
4.    Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
5.    Total budget cuts: $385

There. It’s easy. Who said economics was difficult?

Now, how do we go about extending the credit card limit again?

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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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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Should you get married if you’re a finance person?

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Marriage – that traditional bond between man and woman where they share their journey through life. Joining in together with the good times and the bad times but above all being a symbol of ultimate love between a man and a woman.

That’s all very nice but forget about all that romantic stuff, if you’re a finance person is now the right time to get married?

One of the cornerstones of a marriage is the gold wedding ring and they are likely to be getting more expensive in the near future as yesterday the price of gold hit a new all time high record price of $1,610 an ounce.

Why has the price suddenly shot up? Is it because the world has suddenly got all romantic and there has been a surge in demand for gold wedding rings?

The answer has nothing to do with weddings but rather the case that gold is seen as a “safe haven” for investments during times of global economic uncertainly.

With the current economic problems in Greece and thoughts that high debt countries such as Italy and Spain may get drawn into the crisis, investors are avoiding shares and government bonds and instead investing in gold.

So, looking on the bright side for those of you that are about to get married, although your wedding ring is likely to become more expensive to buy, not only will your “emotional wealth” hopefully grow after you get married but so will the value of the gold investment on your finger.

Then again, whether you’ll ever be looking to sell your wedding ring at any stage in the future is another discussion altogether…

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Would you go to the gym and post this video on YouTube to get a job?

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Despite most economies around the world looking like they are coming out of the recession, it’s still a tough job market out there and there are challenges in getting the perfect job.

Owen Hargreaves, the former Manchester United player has been plagued by injury during his career. He has played at the very top of the game though having represented England but is currently looking for a job.

He’s no doubt got the skills to play for a leading club and at 30 is still very much at his peak in terms of age.

But what about his fitness levels. Are other top clubs going to pay serious money to employ somebody who may not be able to play if injury hits again?

The corporate equivalent would be asking whether you would pay a significant golden hello and high salary to an employee who may well not be able to work for you shortly after joining you.

“Hats off” to Owen though as he’s taken the unusual step of posting a series of workout videos on YouTube showing him undertaking strenuous exercise. This will hopefully convince prospective employers that he is fit enough to play football again at the top level.

There is one particularly impressive video of him shown below and that is of him undertaking what can only be described as freestyle aerobics on a treadmill.

Personally, I don’t think I’ll try this at the gym tonight though as somehow I feel I’d be unconscious at the back of the treadmill with the treadmill belt spinning around my head within a few seconds of trying to run backwards…

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Do auditors have friends and can they sing?

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“I’m an auditor so I really don’t have that many friends”.

This was one of the quotes from Steve Beguhn in the short movie below.

In case you haven’t heard of Steve he works for (or after the performance below it may now be “worked for”) pwc in America.

I’ll keep this blog entry short as the question is whether the Big 4 auditor did well or embarrassed himself during his recent performance on the reality TV show “American Idol”.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide but one thing for sure is that he’s a better singer than I am!

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