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Gentlemen, you’ve got 55 seconds to beat your best…

Published on: 22 Jun 2017

One of life’s great mysteries for men when they are at a bar or club is why women always seem to go to the ladies “powder room” in groups.

There could soon be an equally mysterious occurrence that women will puzzle over and that is why men will soon disappear to the “gents” together during a social evening out.

Well, it won’t be to adjust their makeup or to catch up on the local gossip.

No, if UK company Captive Media has anything to do with it the visits to the toilet by men could soon be a great marketing opportunity.

It’s been estimated that on a night out a man spends on average 55 seconds relieving himself each time he visits the urinals in the gents (if you ever saw a person with a clipboard and a stopwatch behind you at the urinals now you know why…)

In the eyes of Captive Media this represents a great advertising opportunity as rather than staring blankly at the wall in front of you (or telling the person with the clipboard and stopwatch to go away) they have developed a urinal-based games console which allows men to, how can we say it but aim and shoot at targets with their “stream”.

The games are mixed with adverts and include for example a downhill skiing game which is controlled by your “stream”.

It remains to be seen what products will be advertised in this way but one thing for sure ladies is that if your boyfriend or husband returns from the gents whilst you’re out together on a social evening and he says that he’s just beaten his personal best then you know what it refers to.

ACCA or CIMA? …or MICE?

Published on: 01 Oct 2014

ACCA and CIMA are two of the leading professional bodies and as providers of some of the best finance and business qualifications in the world they have ethics at their core.

If you take a step back though, they are arguably in competition with each other and here’s an important question:

Have they been ethical in their approach to competing with each other?

In my opinion the answer is a resounding yes, and it’s a good example of how competition can and should be undertaken ethically.

Ethical competitive approaches include for example focussing on your strengths rather than deliberately trying to harm or damage your competitors.

If you’re looking for the other extreme though and want an example of how to compete unethically then head over to Philadelphia in America.

Nickolas Galiatsatos, the owner of Nina’s Bella Pizzeria in Philadelphia came up with an extremely unusual and completely unethical approach to winning business from his competitors.

Mr Galiatsatos was spotted by the owner of Verona Pizza, a competing restaurant, heading to the toilet of the competitor restaurant carrying a full plastic bag but then emerged a couple of minutes later minus the bag.

Doing nothing to dispel the stereotypical view of US policemen spending a lot of time at Donut bars and Pizza restaurants, there just happened to be two policemen sat in the restaurant eating pizza at that time.

Further investigation by the police found a number of mice in and around the empty bag in the toilet and when they headed out of the restaurant to find Mr Galiatsatos they found him depositing some more mice around the back of another nearby restaurant.

Mr Galiatsatos has now been charged with criminal mischief, harassment and disorderly conduct as well as cruelty to animals.

Importantly therefore if you’re thinking of ways to get ahead of your competitors please don’t involve bags of mice…

Would you accept this money?

Published on: 20 Aug 2014

Now this is an unusual one. It involves an accountant that wouldn’t accept money…

Baverstocks Accountants is a small firm of accountants in the UK that recently fell out with one of their clients.

Their client, a Mr Fitzpatrick, got into a dispute with the accountants and withdrew his business from them with an outstanding debt of £804.

The (ex) client apparently wasn’t overly happy with things and decided to settle his debt by payment in cash. Now this wasn’t 80 crisp £10 notes together with four pound coins. No, he decided to pay his £804 by dropping off five big boxes full of 1p and 2p coins.

I don’t know the exact split of coins but if we assume that the £804 was settled by way of 2p coins this meant that there were over 40,000 coins in the five crates!

Now whilst the disgruntled client was no doubt feeling very pleased with himself that he had settled the debt and left a mess of thousands of coins at the accountants, the accountants decided not to take this sitting down.

As a result, they took Mr Fitzpatrick to court and sued him, arguing that it was illegal to pay off debts higher than £10 with coins.

The accountants were successful and the judge ruled in their favour.

Apparently, under the Coinage Act 1971 (no, I didn’t realise that existed either), copper coins (1p and 2p coins) are only legal tender up to the value of 20 pence, coins worth up to 10p can only be used for payments up to £5 and coins worth more than 10p can only be used payments up to £10.

The end result is that whilst the unhappy client probably felt quite pleased with himself when he dropped off the thousands of coins, he has now been told by a judge that he has to settle the debt correctly (and collected the coins…)

Do you ever feel tired at work? If so, then maybe you should…

Published on: 06 Feb 2014

…wear a tie.

Japan is famous for the long hours that some of their office workers undertake but there is now an invention that will maybe ease things a little bit for hardworking office staff.

A new tie called “Nemuri Tie” is now on sale in Japan.

Nemuri Tie means pillow tie in Japanese and if the advertising is anything to go by it will enable hard pressed office workers to grab a quick sleep at their desk.

It’s a relatively simple design in that it’s a normal looking tie but it’s got an inflatable pillow in it which can be blown up to provide a handy place to rest your head when you fancy a nap.

It can be inflated when the user is wearing it so there’s no need to keep on taking your tie off and putting it back on every time you fancy a sleep.

The Sleep Tie is currently on sale for just under £20.

It’s not clear whether the tie is stain proof for anyone that dribbles in their sleep.

Is it me or is this just nuts?

Published on: 27 Apr 2013

Anyone that suffers from an allergy knows full well that it can be a very unpleasant experience. One of the more common allergies is when people are allergic to nuts.

food-labelling-lawsAccording to Allergy UK, peanut and tree nut allergy is the most common food allergy in adults and children. The symptoms can range from mild reactions to more serious problems including difficulties in breathing.

It’s a vital safeguard therefore that food products are clearly labelled with their ingredients in case they contain items which an individual is allergic to.

The Food Standards Agency is an independent government department responsible for food safety and hygiene across the UK. They monitor food products and when for example the allergy labelling is incorrect they can force the food product to be withdrawn from sale or recalled to protect the consumer.

They have just issued an alert about some food that was being sold by the supermarket chain EH Booths.

If I’m honest I’m not sure what to say about the warning as by way of background the food that was being sold by the supermarket was bags of monkey nuts. Monkey nuts are peanuts with the shell on.

To quote from the alert:

EH Booths is withdrawing some batches of its Whole Hearted Roasted Monkey Nuts, because the presence of peanuts is not declared on the label. This makes the product a possible health risk to those who are allergic to peanuts.

Or in other words, the supermarket had failed to highlight that a bag of peanuts with their shells on would contain peanuts.

Now, I’m not an expert here but I can’t help thinking that the presence of peanuts in the bag could have been a bit of a clue that the product contained peanuts.

If by any chance you’re not allergic to peanuts but are allergic to milk then you should be ok as long as that carton of milk doesn’t contain any milk.

Would you have ridden this wave differently?

Published on: 25 Apr 2013

I’ve got a couple of friends who are keen surfers. If you speak to them they will tell you that successful surfing is all down to getting the timing right and catching the wave at the right moment.

billabongIt looks like timing is also an important issue if you happen to hold shares in one of the world’s largest surfing brands.

Billabong is Australia’s largest surfwear company and is currently the target of a takeover bid.

Billabong was set up by Gordon Merchant in 1973 when he started making surf shorts on his kitchen table and selling them to local shops.

The company rode the waves of success over the following 35 years and developed a strong following amongst fashionable surfers (as well as a strong following amongst people who had never been near the sea!)

Back in 2007 the company was valued at A$3.8 billion (approximately £2.5 billion at today’s exchange rate) but unfortunately for the shareholders the global recession bit and faced with increased competition from other fashion brands the sales of Billabong products fell dramatically.

Last February the shareholders turned down an offer of A$842 million (£560 million) to buy the company.

Earlier this year the company reported their largest ever loss after writing off most of the value of its main brand.

It’s not exactly smooth water for the company and they are currently in sale discussions with a consortium made up of a former director and a private equity company. The value of the offer on the table at the moment is A$287 million (£190 million).

£2,500 million to £560 million to £190 million.

As they say in the surfing community, it’s all in the timing.

This Financial Controller will be sat in prison rather than in a £140m apartment…

Published on: 17 Dec 2012

What’s the link between a Financial Controller, a £140 million apartment in London and prison?

Ross Smith, the former Financial Controller of property developer Candy and Candy will have plenty of time to contemplate the link as he is currently in prison serving a sentence for stealing nearly £100,000 from his employers.

As the Financial Controller of the Property Developer Candy and Candy, Mr Smith was able to access funds that clients had deposited with the company to pay for improvements on a number of luxury properties in the UK.

One of these properties for example was at the prestigious “One Hyde Park” Development in London.

Now, One Hyde Park isn’t your average property development.

It contains over 80 properties and the “cheapest” one starts at £20 million.

The UK’s most expensive property – a 6 bedroom apartment – was sold there for the staggering sum of £140 million!

Even though Candy and Candy had some of the best properties in the world on their books it’s fair to say that their internal controls weren’t up to the same standard.

Mr Smith simply created false invoices to redirect funds into his personal bank account. He actually got away with the fraud for a number of years until it was spotted as part of a routine check.

Going back to One Hyde Park though and if anyone is interested there is currently an apartment for sale there.

Full details are on the Estate Agents website and the good news is that it’s a lot cheaper than the £140 million that the penthouse went for.

This one is on the market for a mere £65,000,000.

Now, before you all go and rush out and buy this property it’s worth remembering that the average property price in the UK at the moment is just under £250,000. So, instead of buying the one apartment why don’t you spend your £65 million on 260 “average” properties instead…

What have Louboutin shoes and Cadbury chocolate got in common?

Published on: 04 Oct 2012

Whilst wearing Louboutin shoes and eating Cadbury chocolate would probably represent a pretty good night out for lots of women around the world, they are two very different products.

Louboutin shoes are top of the range designer ladies shoes that can cost well in excess of £1,000. They are worn by female auditors undertaking inventory counts in dusty warehouses some of the most famous (and wealthiest) women in the world.

Cadbury on the other hand are a UK company that has been producing chocolate bars since 1824.

So, what have they got in common?

The answer is colour and both companies have managed to get a trademark for the distinctive colour that is used in their products.

Most major companies will have trademarks on their name or logo but having a trademark on a colour is pretty unusual.

Louboutin shoes have a distinctive red sole and a couple of years ago they were successful in trade marking these red soles.

Cadbury has just been successful in registering its right to use their distinctive colour purple on their chocolate packaging. It wasn’t an easy process though as they first registered their right to use the colour purple back in 2004.

After they applied for the trademark 8 years ago, Nestle, a major competitor to Cadbury argued against the registration by Cadbury and the matter went to court.

The court case was finally settled this week with the judge deciding in favour of Cadbury.

This means that Cadbury are now the only company in the world that can have chocolate wrappers with the colour purple. Well, to be precise, they are the only company in the world that can have the Pantone 2685c purple colour on their chocolate wrappers.

Now, I’m an accountant and not an artist or designer but I do wonder just how different the Cadbury trademarked Pantone 2685c purple is from Pantone 2684, 2686, 2687…

Did Ernst & Young get it wrong?

Published on: 02 Oct 2012

I think that Ernst & Young (EY) are a great company but if I’m honest I think they are missing something.

I know a lot of people that work at EY and overall they seem to be both pretty switched on and very professional but I think they’ve got something seriously wrong.

For several years now there has been a financial crisis in most countries around the world. The term “recession” has been in all the papers and on the TV.

Companies around the world have been cutting back on staff and their sales are down.

But what about EY?

Surely they should also be following suit with a reduction in sales and staff cuts?

Well the impressive news is that they have just released their latest annual results and they appear to have got it completely “wrong”.

Their combined global revenue for the year ended 30 June 2012 grew by nearly 8% to US$ 24.4 billion (personally speaking I always feel that billions look far more impressive when written with all the zeros so US$ 24,400,000,000)

All of their service lines showed good growth (Assurance revenues were up 4.1%, Tax 7.0%, Transactions 9.4% and Advisory 16.2%).

Jim Turley, Global Chairman and CEO of EY said that “we are pleased that our business showed good results, the best since 2008, in the midst of what has been several years of uncertainty.”

In terms of regional growth then the emerging BRIC nations did particularly well with Brazil growing 17.5%, India 19.8%, Africa 10.2%, China 11.8% and the CIS 15.6%.

In the UK the growth was 11% and this was the highest level of growth in 6 years. Over 1,200 new jobs were created by EY in the UK last year and Steve Varley, UK Chairman and Managing Partner of EY appears to be committed to making EY in the UK a diverse and inclusive employer.

He said “Continuing to lead on gender diversity among the Big Four is something I am very passionate about – 28% of our UK leadership team and 18% of our partners are female. I know we can do more and I know we need to move forward so that we focus not just on gender, but also on the ethnic diversity of our people and partners.

So we have been bold, setting an aspirational goal that at least 30% of all our new UK partners are women and at least 10% are BME (black, minority ethnic) by 2015. We’re clearly not there yet and aspirations alone won’t drive change, but we believe diversity and inclusiveness is a business imperative.”

So, in summary there’s a global recession on and yet EY have increased sales in all their service lines, their global revenue has increased by nearly 8%, they’ve recruited significant numbers of people and are committed to a diverse workforce going forward.

Somehow I don’t think that EY have got it wrong…

No need to pay tax. Just get a private plane…

Published on: 30 Sep 2012

It’s human nature that most people would probably prefer to pay less tax. To be honest though taxes need to be paid as without them the government wouldn’t be able to pay for, for example hospitals, schools, the police, infrastructure such as roads and if you’re in Italy then if taxes weren’t paid there wouldn’t be any private planes, parties and yachts for tax collectors.

Hang on a moment. What did that last sentence say?

“Private planes, parties and yachts”.

Yes, that’s right as earlier this week Italian police arrested Giuseppe Saggese, the head of Tributi Italia (Italy Taxes) and he has been accused of stealing some pretty significant amounts of money.

Tributi Italia is an agency based in Genoa that collects taxes for 400 town councils in Italy and as head of the agency Mr Saggese was no doubt earning a pretty good salary.

Unfortunately for the town councils (and in fact, unfortunately for Mr Saggese now that he’s been arrested) it looks like he was tempted to increase his “remuneration” from the job by some illegal methods.

Together with four colleagues Mr Saggese is accused of arranging for some of the taxes to be paid into the other bank accounts rather than the bank accounts of the town councils. The money was then used to pay for private planes, yachts, expensive cars and extravagant parties.

Even after Mr Saggese no doubt attended some pretty impressive parties on some private yachts this wasn’t enough to satisfy him as he is also alleged to have taken Euro 20 million in cash for his own use.

As I said at the start, it’s probably human nature to prefer to pay less tax and I should imagine that the residents of Genoa in Italy will be especially upset knowing that their taxes were spent on private planes and parties rather than hospitals and schools.

The ExP Group