How much would you pay for an Olympic medal?

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It’s the Olympics next year and as well as being one of the world’s greatest sporting events it is also one of the world’s greatest marketing opportunities for organisations.

The 2012 Olympics offers 3 tiers of sponsorship level with companies such as British Airways, BMW and Adidas reportedly paying around £40 million to be tier 1 sponsors.

Tier 2 sponsors pay from £20 million and tier 3 sponsors £10 million.

Rio Tinto, the Anglo – Australian mining company though has struck an unusual deal to become a tier 3 London 2012 sponsor.

Rather than pay completely in cash for the honour of becoming a sponsor they have just announced that they will also supply the metals to make the Olympic medals that will be presented at the games.

The metals will come from their Bingham Canyon mine in the US and from the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.

In total there will be 4,700 medals awarded at the Olympics.

This is a significant number and although the design of the medals hasn’t been finalised yet they will certainly need a serious amount of precious metals.

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to most of you that the coveted gold medals contain gold (!). The price of gold has surged in recent months and is now approximately 65% higher than it was in 2008 during the last Olympics in Beijing.

Interestingly though, it’s silver which is the main metal used in the Olympic medals as it is also used in the gold and bronze medals. Whilst gold tends to get all the headlines in terms of the movement in price, silver has also been a sterling performer this year with it recently reaching a 31 year high price of nearly $42 an ounce.

So, compared to previous games the cost of the medals is going to be significantly higher due to the increase in price of the precious metals.

The price of the ribbon to which the medal is attached is thought to have stayed fairly constant.

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Would you have made this mistake?

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When did you last send an email?

I guess it was a few minutes or hours ago. Maybe at a stretch it was a couple of days ago.

What about when you last sent a letter?

My guess is that it may have been weeks or even months ago and therein lies one of the challenges faced by Post Offices around the world. Namely, more and more people are relying on emails, texts and phone calls to communicate as opposed to letters.

I must admit that if I decided to suddenly send a letter then it would be a bit of a hassle for me to go and buy a stamp. That in itself would put me off posting a letter.

I don’t want to sound lazy about this but after getting used to the convenience of emailing from my mobile device the thought of heading to a post office to buy a stamp and then posting the letter seems rather slow.

The Danish Post Office though has just launched a novel system to make it easier for people to send letters.

Instead of having to buy a stamp to put on the letter, people can send a text message from their phone to the post office and get back a unique code which they write on the envelope in the place of a stamp.

The cost of this is 8 DKK (£0.92p) and the charge for the code will be added to a mobile user’s phone bill.

This is a nice idea and it removes the hassle of having to go somewhere to buy a stamp.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, there was a bit confusion with the designers at the United States Postal Service.

They recently launched a new design of postage stamps which had an image of the world famous Statue of Liberty.

The design was finalised and 3 billion copies of the stamp were printed.

All was well with the stamp until one eagle eyed stamp collector noticed that the image of the Statue of Liberty was not that of the famous statue in New York harbour but instead was a picture of the fibreglass and foam half sized replica which can be found outside the New York – New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas and can be seen in the photo above.

The stamps show a close up of the face and crown of the statue and the US Postal Service has said that they will leave the stamps in circulation.

Meanwhile, the owners of New York – New York in Las Vegas are no doubt extremely pleased to be the first Las Vegas casino to be featured on a US postal stamp.

In fact, they are probably so pleased that they have texted all of their friends.

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You would have to be a really sick person to agree with this…

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According to pwc, the British do it twice as often as the Americans and Japanese.

Within the UK, if you happen to be a civil servant or state employee then the chances are that you will be doing it 20% more often than the average UK worker.

After polling over 2,000 firms and public sector employees around the world, pwc found that UK workers have an average of 10 days unscheduled absence from their jobs each year.

This is approximately twice the level that is found in the US (5.5 days) and Asia-Pacific (4.5 days), but roughly the same as Western Europe (9.7 days).

They estimated that the total sick days taken across the UK cost the economy in the region of £32 billion a year.

Richard Phelps, HR consulting partner at PwC, says that “absenteeism is a malaise for British business.

With sickness accounting for the lion’s share of absence, the question for employers is what can be done to improve health, morale and motivation. The line between ‘sickie’ and ‘sickness’ can be blurred, with disenchantment at work sometimes exacerbating medical conditions or preventing a speedy return”.

Whilst genuine sickness should be looked upon sympathetically there are no doubt a certain number of people who maybe take a day off due to “sickness” when in fact they aren’t really too ill to go to work but instead just fancy an extra day’s holiday or two.

Now, as a lot of you are members or students of professional bodies I’m sure you’re too ethical to throw a “sickie” and will only be out of the office on sick leave if it is a genuine illness.

Less scrupulous friends of yours though may have noticed that there are various sites on the internet that provide advice on how to take a “sickie” from the office.

One bit of advice is that when phoning up your boss to tell him or her that you are ill you should “make the phone call to your boss whilst lying on your back as you automatically sound groggy”.

This also means that you don’t even have to get out of bed to make the call…

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If Prince William and Kate Middleton were accountants then surely they…

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I’ve just finished watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and I have to say that it was a very moving and impressive event.

Very many congratulations to the happy couple.

From a slightly less romantic angle though there should also be congratulations to the project managers that were involved in organising the wedding as everything seemed to go extremely smoothly.

Westminster Abbey was looking splendid and has to be one of the best locations for a wedding but I wonder whether the organisers maybe should have considered holding the wedding at One Moorgate Place instead?

As shown at their website, One Moorgate Place is a “beautiful, romantic venue for your wedding reception”. The location offers:

•    Elegant rooms with stunning architectural details and decorative features

•    Beautiful and unique backdrops for photography

•    Exquisite menus designed to your specification

•    An experienced wedding planner assigned to your event

•    Central location in the City of London

This all sounds very nice indeed but if you’re an accountant in the UK then the name of the location may itself also sound very familiar.

One Moorgate Place is the home to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

As well as being called One Moorgate Place, the location is also known as Chartered Accountants’ Hall and is headquarters to ICAEW. The building is rather nice and was designed by Victorian architect Sir John Belcher RA and built in 1890.

So, although William and Kate are not accountants, if you happen to be an accountant who is thinking of getting married to another accountant then what better place to tie the knot than at the home of the ICAEW?

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What’s the link between the London Metal Exchange, a little old lady and Armenia?

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If you have some friends that are normal in most ways apart from a strange interest in different types of metals then head over to the website of the London Metal Exchange (LME) to get hold of some information to impress them.

The LME was established over 130 years ago and is the world’s premier non-ferrous metals market offering a range of futures and options contracts for metals.

Dig a bit deeper into the site and you’ll find some background on copper.

According to the LME, copper was first traded on the Exchange back in 1877 and was “the first mineral that man extracted from the earth and along with tin gave rise to the Bronze Age. As the ages and technology progressed the uses for copper increased.

Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity, as such one of its main industrial usage is for the production of cable, wire and electrical products for both the electrical and building industries. The construction industry also accounts for copper’s second largest usage in such areas as pipes for plumbing, heating and ventilating as well as building wire and sheet metal facings.”

I’m not sure any of this was on an elderly Georgian Lady’s mind this week when she was digging in the ground for copper to sell for scrap.

The 75 year old had been digging near the capital of Tbilisi when her spade damaged a fibre-optic cable. This cable was quite an important cable as it in effect provided 90% of the internet access for Georgia’s neighbouring country of Armenia.

The end result of this 75 year old lady’s action was that 90% of the web users in Armenia’s 3.2 million population were unable to access the internet for 5 hours. This Grandmother’s spade had cut through the cable and in essence, internet connectivity for a whole country was lost for the majority of the working day.

On Friday, copper prices were up 2% and the three-month copper prices on the LME closed at $9,875 per tonne, its highest in more than a month.

This spike in prices is reportedly nothing to do with a shortage of copper due to the little old lady being arrested and taking a break from her copper digging…

CIMA announces proposals to join up with the US AICPA accounting body…

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CIMA and AICPA (the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) announced yesterday that they were planning to launch a joint venture whereby the two Institutes would create a new not-for-profit venture called the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

CIMA members would be eligible to retain their designatory letters of FCMA or ACMA or alternatively use these together with the yet to be released designatory letters of the new entity.

The new venture would cover 550,000 students and members and the board would be split 50:50 between the two bodies although AICPA would own 60% of the organisation. The AICPA was founded in 1887 and has nearly 370,000 members in 128 countries whilst CIMA was founded in 1919 and has 183,000 members and students in 168 countries.

CIMA is strong in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East whilst AICPA is the dominant accounting body in the US so from a strategic geographical fit point of view the proposed joint venture works quite nicely.

George Glass, CIMA President, said: “This agreement would give CIMA and AICPA truly global reach. The new venture would have an unrivalled depth of resources to meet the needs of both organisations and their individual members around the world. We believe that the new qualification designation would prove hugely appealing in mature and emerging markets.”

According to AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlin, “We are delighted and fortunate to be able to work with CIMA as an established global partner that brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this exciting new proposal. If approved, this joint venture promises to create long-term strategic value for our members and the companies they work for.”

The joint venture is subject to approval by the governing bodies of both organisations and will be voted on separately by both the CIMA and AICPA Councils in May.

Which do you prefer – a big bank balance or a slim waist?

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Whilst the recent banking crisis has raised a lot of challenges for banks and reinforced the need for them to stick to the solid core foundations of the profession, there are still a number of innovative savings products out there.

Sprinting to the front in terms of pretty unique product offering is the South Korean bank, Hana Bank.

Hana Bank, the banking arm of Hana Financial Group offers a savings product called “S-Line” which is a Korean word that means hourglass figure.

The basic idea behind the product is that the more weight a person loses the higher the interest rate the individual gets on his or her savings. The highest interest rates are available for those investors that lose more than 5% of their weight within a year.

Hang on, I hear you say – “What about those investors that are already fit and have a healthy weight?”

The bank has thought of this and rather than encourage people who are a healthy weight to lose weight they also offer the highest rates if the individual holds a gym membership for a year.

Are people signing up for this savings product?

Well reportedly, nearly 50,000 customers have invested 400 billion won (approximately £220 million) in the programme so far.

It looks like a healthy result for the bank.

Is India about to join the European Union?

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At one stage or another as a business professional you’ll have to make a speech or presentation in front of a group of people. Sometimes it will be in front of a large group of people.

The chances are that you’ll probably feel a bit nervous as surveys consistently show that public speaking is one of the most feared aspects of business life.

Over my career I’ve been lucky enough to see some excellent presentations and have also seen some not so good presentations as well.

I’ve never seen a speech at the United Nations though but you would think that the speeches made at the UN, together with the delivery techniques of the speakers would be first rate.

Wouldn’t you?

India’s minister of external affairs did his country’s first speech since India recently began its 2 year term as a temporary member of the UN Security Council.

Mr Krishna, aged 78,  is a very experienced diplomat and delivered a speech on the subject of security and development.

He took his notes and got off to a confident start.

It all suddenly started going a bit wrong though when after a couple of minutes he read out the phrase, “I’d like to express my satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese-speaking countries”.

Further into the speech he then started stressing the importance of improved coordination between the UN and the European Union.

It was at this stage that a colleague interrupted him to advise him to stop reading as he had in fact mistakenly picked up the wrong speech and was reading the speech that had been prepared by the Portuguese representative.

So, the next time you are preparing a speech maybe it’s an idea to write your name in big capitals at the top of your notes.

Florida, the “sunshine state”. Or should that be the “frozen orange state”?

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One of my favourite drinks is orange juice. Especially if some ice and vodka have been mixed with it.

There’s a high chance though that the price of my drink will increase this year.

The orange juice commodity market on the ICE Futures US exchange is pretty volatile at the moment. The reason?

The Florida orange crop was badly hit last month by cold weather.

Florida is the world’s second largest producer of oranges and temperatures last month were the coldest December temperatures on record in Florida.

The end result was that the crops were badly damaged. With the supply of oranges being reduced and the demand staying consistent, basic economic theory means that prices will go up.

Indeed they already have. Orange juice prices are currently near a 4-year high and the expectation is that the prices will increase further.

So this will mean that when you buy your fresh oranges at the market they will cost more.

It’s not just the fresh fruit that will be impacted though. Coca-Cola have announced plans to increase the prices of their Simply Juice drinks by between 4% and 8% this year.

Luckily the price of vodka and ice has been unaffected by the cold weather.

They’ll know what pizza you ordered but what about that illegal activity…

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If you give investment advice in the UK and your employer provides you with a mobile phone the chances are that from next year all your calls will be monitored and recorded.

Fixed phone line calls involving financial business such as share purchases are already recorded but the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), recently announced that the recording of calls would be extended to recording conversations held on company provided mobiles.

In an attempt to crackdown on insider trading activities all calls on fixed line and company issued mobiles will be recorded and kept for 6 months.

Insider trading is the illegal activity of using information which isn’t in the public domain to make a personal gain or avoid a personal loss.

For example, if you’re working with a client that is about to make a takeover bid for another company and you purchase shares in the target company before the takeover attempt becomes public knowledge, the chances are that the share price will increase and you’ll make a nice but illegal profit.

By recording mobile phone calls the FSA feel that that the incidence of insider trading will decrease.

Some of the banks have a number of concerns about the new scheme.

One global investment bank has estimated that it will cost £2.6 million per annum to record all the calls made per year on company issued BlackBerry devices.

The interesting thing is that the recording requirement only refers to company issued mobile phones.

Therefore, if you order a take away pizza from your company mobile your menu chioce will be recorded.

My guess is though that any financial advisor currently considering undertaking illegal insider dealing activities has no doubt worked out that they could buy a personal anonymous pay-as-you-go phone from one of the mobile phone providers for as little as £4.95.