Published on: 26 Apr 2018
Some of you may have heard of the website Ashley Madison.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Ashley Madison, it’s a website where married people can register to meet other married people without their respective husband or wife knowing and then have an affair.
In fact, some of you may be registered members of the site (this does raise the question that if you are a registered member of Ashley Madison and are reading this business blog then at the moment you are finding business stories more interesting than having an affair so well done on that).
Ignoring the rights or wrongs of a website facilitating affairs, Ashley Madison has had an up and down ride over recent years.
Back in 2015, they were hacked. As a result the personal details of their users were leaked and there were a lot of users. When I say “a lot”, there were 32 million users.
The situation got worse for Ashley Madison though.
As well as their systems being hacked and details of who had signed up being leaked, it turned out that the vast majority of users were men and of the women who had signed up a significant proportion were Bots (i.e. a piece of software) or prostitutes.
All in all, not great selling points when trying to encourage new members.
In an attempt to build up trust (if trust is a relevant word for people looking for affairs that is…), Ashley Madison commissioned Ernst & Young to cast an eye over the membership data and see if it stood up to scrutiny.
There were some interesting results including the fact that 15,542 new members signed up each day in 2017 (that’s nearly half a million new users per month).
There were also more active women on the site than men. Globally, the ratio of active males to active females was 1 to 1.13 but there were variations on a regional basis ranging from Australia where the male to female ratio was 1 to 0.78 and Columbia where the ratio was 1 to 2.39.
Ernst & Young also reported that “The Client had used Bot programs to generate message activity with paying customers in prior years. The Bot programs were decommissioned in 2015 and our procedures related to calendar 2017 found no evidence that the use of Bot programs previously operated had been reinstated.”
So, in theory the registrations are human and there’s no danger of falling in love with a bot.
The full Ernst & Young report can be found at www.ashleymadison.com/2017report but I would be careful as if you’re viewing this on a computer at home and your husband or wife finds you’ve been visiting ashleymadison.com then there could be some difficult questions to answer.
Then again, if you start typing in the website and your web browser recognises it from a previous visit to that site then maybe…
Published on: 28 Jan 2018
KPMG UK released their results last month for their most recent accounting period and they showed a fall of 10% in pay for the KPMG partners when compared to the previous year.
Although the firm’s revenue rose by 5% to £2.2 billion, it’s profit fell to £301 million.
The firm wrote off a number of technology investments.
KPMG, like the rest of the Big 4, have invested heavily in technology companies in an attempt to stay at the forefront of technology.
Unfortunately for KPMG, not all of their investments were successful. Bill Michael, the Chairman of KPMG, highlighted one investment that hadn’t done so well – KPMG had committed £3 million to Flexeye, a tech company that analyses large amounts of data and it hadn’t proved to be the wisest investment.
Whilst profits fell, it hasn’t all been bad news for KPMG as their audit practice grew by 10%.
Back to the average pay of the KPMG partners though and although their average pay fell by 10% I’m sure that the partners will still be able to afford to buy a sandwich for lunch.
The average pay for the KPMG partners was £519,000 each.
That’s not too bad is it?
But how does it compare with the average pay from the partners of the remaining Big 4.
The most recent reported results show the following average pay per partner:
Deloitte – £865,000
EY – £677,000
pwc – £652,000
It looks like Deloitte partners will be having the more expensive sandwiches for lunch.
Published on: 20 Aug 2017
If you’re in the office at the moment take a look at the person next to you. Would you say that he or she is a “good worker” or a “toxic neighbour”?
A recent bit of research by economists from Harvard Business School has shed some light on the type of person you should be sitting next to.
If you’re an “average worker” and you sit next to a hard working and diligent person then your performance is likely to improve.
Unfortunately though the opposite is true and if you’re an average person who sits next to somebody who isn’t very good at their job then that badly performing person could well take you down to their level.
The researchers studied data from seating plans and reports from over 2,000 employees. The performance of these employees was rated based on the time they spent to complete a task as well as quality and effectiveness. Their efficiency was based on how often they had to ask for help.
One of the interesting bits of the research was finding out whether when a person sat next to a high performing individual that person’s performance improved because they learnt from the better performing individual or they were inspired by him or her.
When the research team split these people back up again the average worker’s performance reverted back to the average level rather than stay at the high performing level. This implied that the improvement was not due to learning new skills but instead was due to being inspired by the good worker.
When it comes to sitting next to a “toxic employee” who doesn’t perform, the bad news is that the negativity rubs off on the good employee almost immediately.
So it may well be worth trying to sit next to the stars of the office rather than the toxic ones
A quick word of warning though and if the person you sit next to has recently asked their boss to move away from you asap then the chances are that you aren’t the star of the office but instead are…
Published on: 09 Aug 2017
If you buy a Chelsea or Manchester United football shirt and it turns out to be a fake it can be annoying but if you buy medicines and they turn out to be fakes it could be a lot worse as it could kill you.
Illegal copies and fakes of products are one of the big problems facing businesses today (£300 billion is the estimated size of the global counterfeit market) but some scientists have recently developed what they believe could be a cheap solution to the problem.
The technology is currently being developed by a company called Quantum Base and in simple terms involves placing an extremely small microdot onto the product which gives off a unique light signature.
The microdot is really small and I do mean really small – it’s a tiny flake of atoms which is a thousandth of the width of a human hair. Not only will it be impossible for a human to see but it will be unique. The flake of atoms which will make up the microdot will be unique and cannot be cloned. They will be placed on the product at the production facilities and then the atomic structures will be recorded on a database.
The technique for preventing fake products is that when an individual buys a product such as medicine or designer clothes they can scan their phone over the label and an app on their phone will identify the light source from the atomic structure on the microdot and send it to the database to confirm whether or not it is on the database.
If it is on the database, it’s genuine. If it’s not, it’s fake.
An excellent way of identifying whether the product you are buying is real or fake.
As mentioned, the technology is still be developed and made ready for the market by Quantum Base but it looks very promising in terms of helping to eradicate the problem of fake products.
Published on: 18 Apr 2017
Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.
You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.
(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or
(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?
Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).
The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.
A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.
The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.
We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.
Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.
The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.
The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.
In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.
38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.
Published on: 06 Apr 2017
There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.
Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.
Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.
If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.
This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.
His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.
Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.
These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.
Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.
He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.
He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.
He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.
Published on: 03 Feb 2017
Does your weight affect the amount of money you earn?
That’s an interesting question and researchers from the universities of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Potsdam in Germany have come up with a potential answer.
They analysed data from nearly 15,000 working men and found that men within that the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) health range earnt more than those who were outside of the range.
Individuals who were underweight on the body mass index were found to earn 8% less than those who were in the top end of the healthy bracket. They found that the effect was more prominent in manual jobs where no doubt the extra strength of the guys in the healthy weight bracket helped increase their earnings.
What was perhaps surprising though was that there was also a difference in earnings in white-collar office jobs. They found that in the more middle-class occupations the rewards peaked at a BMI of around 21.
It wasn’t just men who were impacted though. The study also looked at the weight and earnings of 15,000 German women and found that the slimmest earnt the most and the obese the least.
Jonny Gifford, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted in the press as saying “it is depressing that, in this day and age, looks are in any way a factor in how much people are paid”.
I have to agree with him as organisations should employ people on the basis of their abilities as opposed to how heavy they weigh.
Anyway, best dash as I’ve got a packet of biscuits to finish…
Published on: 21 Dec 2016
Anyone that has studied hard for their exams will almost certainly at one time or another utilised the services of a strong coffee.
Whilst desperately trying to cram that last bit of knowledge into your brain before the exams there is often a temptation to grab a strong coffee late in the night to keep your mind awake.
For years students around the world have been utilising the caffeine in coffee to help get that extra mark or two.
Coffee is said to originate from East Africa where legend has it that a 9th century Ethiopian goat herder by the name of
Starbucks Kaldi noticed that after his goats had ate some coffee beans they started bouncing around like teenagers at the local disco.
This started the journey of coffee and associated caffeine hits so loved by students around the world.
Over in Thailand though a new type of coffee has just been put on sale which has, how can I put it, but a pretty unusual processing method.
The key staff involved in the processing function are also unusual as they have massive heads and bodies, weigh on average 4,000 kg and are grey in colour.
Yes, that’s right. The key team members involved in processing coffee are 20 Thai elephants.
The new brew of coffee is “processed” by getting the elephants to eat some coffee beans and then stepping back (in fact stepping way back) and letting the natural digestive juices in their stomachs do the job of “processing” the beans before they are deposited naturally on the ground a day later.
The beans are then handpicked out of the elephant dung by people who probably don’t bite their nails before being dried and then ground into coffee.
The finished coffee is said to have a
slight pooey taste smooth flavour without the bitterness of normal coffee and is some of the most expensive coffee in the world selling for nearly £150 per kilo.
It’s certainly an unusual production technique but it’s also for a good cause as 8% of the sales revenue goes towards the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a refuge for rescued elephants in Thailand.
We’re now heading off on our Christmas holidays and will be back blogging in January.
Thank you to all of you that have read our blog during 2016 and have a great holiday season!
Published on: 14 Dec 2016
Well, what can I say?
I admire them for being brave enough to do it but if I’m honest, by the look on some of their faces, I think a few of them aren’t sure that this will be the high point in their career.
Partners in accounting companies are renowned for being hard working and intelligent individuals.
One thing they are not renowned for is singing.
Now, whilst there are no doubt a number of partners who are good at singing, the PwC partners in Hungary have just released a video of them singing a cover of the famous John Lennon song “So this is Christmas” and it has confirmed that their finance and business skills are far superior to their singing skills (or at least I hope their finance and business skills are better than their singing…)
Congratulations though to them for getting into the festive spirit and their singing skills can be seen in the video below (if you’re viewing this in the office I’d advise headphones so as not to alarm any of your colleagues…)
Published on: 22 Sep 2016
Should you employ good-looking people or not so good-looking people?
Whilst the obvious answer would appear to be that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like as long as they can do their job properly, researchers in Japan have found out that the attractiveness of an employee can have an impact on the sales of a business.
Interestingly though, it’s probably not the correlation most people would think applies.
Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied retail sales in shops and found that the more attractive the shop assistants of the opposite sex were, the lower the sales were. The researchers found that male shoppers were less likely to go into the shop if the more attractive woman in the research study was serving.
Even if they entered the shop with the attractive shop assistant in it, only 40% of them bought something. This compared to 56% who purchased something when a less attractive assistant was serving.
Lisa Wan of the University said “attractive service providers can lead consumers to become self-conscious or embarrassed. This is especially true when the provider is of the opposite sex. Even when the attractive salesperson is the same sex, consumers may feel a sense of inadequacy through self-comparison.
In either case, the shopper may avoid interacting with physically attractive providers, rendering the salespeople ineffective”.
It’s worth mentioning though that the scientists undertaking the research were monitoring a shop selling figures from Japanese comics and the male shoppers were obsessed with computers.
“Male shoppers obsessed with computers” – surely they would only notice the female shop assistant if she was holding a computer?