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An accountant can make 65 become 60 but it takes rather extreme measures.

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Ten years ago former accountant Mr. Christopher Timbrell became former accountant Mrs. Christine Timbrell.

Christopher had surgery to alter his gender and became Christine but still remained married to his wife, Joy.

Yesterday, three Appeal Court judges in the UK gave a ruling which links to a number of discrimination issues.

Under 2004 legislation, as a transsexual Christine is entitled to enjoy the full status of her gender. However, married transsexuals are only allowed to have their gender recognized if they dissolved their marriage. This is where the problem for Christine occurred as although she had the sex change operation she still remained happily married to her wife Joy and they didn’t get divorced.

This meant that Christine was still treated as a man for pension purposes and therefore became entitled to a pension at 65 rather than at 60 which is when a woman becomes entitled to a pension.

Christine argued that she was a woman and it was a violation of her human rights to be forced to get divorced to become entitled to a pension at 60. The three Appeal Court judges found in Christine’s favour and also added that she was a victim of discrimination.

Christine, aged 69 who has two children with Joy from before the sex change operation, will now receive backdated pension payments going back to when she was 60.

Nike and Michael Porter – generically speaking I think it’s somewhere in between…

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The French football team revolted yesterday and refused to train, football powerhouse Germany lost to Serbia, defending champions Italy failed to beat football minnows New Zealand and England were embarrassing in their game against Algeria on Friday.

At least Nike seem to be getting it right though.

Last week we blogged about the Bavaria girls and their ambush marketing at the World Cup in South Africa.

Nike, which was established in 1962 by Phil Knight who incidentally was an accounting major,  is one of the best companies in the world in terms of getting its marketing just right.

They have a long history of having a certain flair for marketing. After the 1972 Olympic marathon trials for example they proudly announced that 4 of the top 7 finishers had worn Nike shoes. They neatly ignored the fact that the top 3 were wearing Adidas shoes!

Although Adidas are the official sportswear sponsors of the World Cup, Nike are doing rather well in terms of their profile.

Anyone that has seen a World Cup match will no doubt have been drawn to the orange Nike boots that a lot of top players such as England’s Wayne Rooney and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo are wearing.

These boots, or Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II Elite boots (retailing at GBP 275) as they are officially known, are arguably catching people’s attention more so than any promotion that Adidas have done at the tournament.

Students of strategy papers will be aware of Michael Porter’s generic strategies whereby organisations compete either by way of cost leadership or differentiation (see our ExPress notes for a refresher if you’re unsure about these terms).

It can be argued however that Nike take the best of both of these approaches.

They focus on the differentiation side of things by investing heavily in R&D, design and marketing. As a result they can charge a premium for being “different”.

On the cost leadership side of things then Nike use external manufacturers rather than internal production. This means that they can source their manufacturing via approved suppliers which they will select for each product on the basis of the best price offered by these suppliers. It enables them to shop around for the best price whilst still guaranteeing the quality.

All in all a very smart business model but I’m sure that fans of the World Cup are more interested in the goals that are scored with these boots rather than the business model behind them.

36 attractive Dutch ladies, Hugo Boss and an ambush. It’s all happening at the World Cup.

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So the World Cup is in full swing but what got all the publicity yesterday involved a team of attractive female Dutch fans rather than a team of footballers.

36 young blond Dutch fans wearing bright orange mini-dresses were removed from the stadium at half time and two of them were arrested and then released on bail.

But what exactly was their crime and why all the media attention?

Their crime was that they were alleged to be part of an ambush marketing campaign by Bavaria, the Dutch brewer.

Ambush marketing is where companies which are not official sponsors of tournaments aim to get their marketing message across without making any payment to the tournament organisers.

The mini-dresses the ladies wore were promotional dresses provided by Bavaria in the run up to the tournament and when they all started clapping and swaying in unison in these dresses they understandably attracted a lot of attention. Unfortunately for them this attention was not only from the world’s press but also FIFA representatives that were on the lookout for ambush marketing.

Anheuser Busch’s Budweiser is the official beer of the tournament and no other beer company is allowed to promote itself within World Cup stadiums. FIFA receive significant amounts of money from official sponsors and therefore are keen to protect their sponsors.

Another example of ambush marketing involving a major sports tournament was at the 2009 British Golf Open. Hugo Boss sailed its corporate sponsored yacht just off the coast of Turnberry, Scotland where the golf course was located.

As a result of this the BBC who were filming the golf had little choice but to show the Hugo Boss yacht in the background of a lot of shots. Great advertising for Hugo Boss!

Back to the Dutch girls and the 2010 World Cup though and it’s safe to say that whatever the outcome of this situation it’s no doubt been a success for Bavaria. More people have now probably heard of Bavaria beer as a result of the arrests than if the girls had just been left in the stadium to sway and clap in unison and enjoy the rest of the game!

How much would you charge for an hour of your time? £900,000 would probably be ok as long as lunch was included….

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It’s tough to qualify as an accountant. The exams are difficult and it’s hard work. The rewards, both financial and non financial however, can justify all of this hard work.

If you work for a firm of accountants then the fee income of the company is largely based on the hourly charge out rates of the employees. I’ve got a feeling though that no matter what your position is within your company you won’t be able to command a charge out rate of £900,000 per hour!

On Friday however a mystery individual paid $2.6 million (approximately £1.8m) for lunch with Warren Buffett, the 79 year old billionaire head of investment giant Berkshire Hathaway and world’s 3rd richest man.

Arguably the most famous and respected investor in the world, Mr. Buffett auctioned his time in aid of the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco charity . Assuming a 2 hour lunch the winning bid of £1.8m results in an impressive hourly equivalent of £900,000.

The winning bidder can take seven of his or her friends along to the New York steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky and are free to ask anything although Mr. Buffett will not be disclosing what he is buying or selling.

Of course, I’m also assuming that someone will make the reservation for the meal rather than risk turning up and not being able to find a table for 8 people as the restaurant is fully booked…

So, how would you feel? Re-assured or spied upon? It’s a good ethical question.

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We mentioned in a previous blog about Nike publicising their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies on their website.

Asda, Britain’s second biggest supermarket chain has gone one step further in being transparent with regard to their CSR policies.

In the past they have been criticized by some campaigners for the low wages and poor conditions that were present at some of their clothes manufacturing locations in Bangladesh. Their company website states that as part of their efforts to increase transparency it has now put in webcams at two if its clothing factories in Bangladesh.

This should help reassure customers that they are treating their suppliers ethically and are not employing them under “sweatshop conditions”. The webcam shows clothes being made and you can clearly see the conditions that are present.

The supermarket chain has said that it has also installed webcams at its head office and at an automated cow milking machine at one of their suppliers.

Press reports however have indicated that not everyone is happy with the webcams with some people arguing that it is a case of spying on the workers as opposed to proving how ethical and transparent the company is. Either way, it’s certainly a novel way to utilise technology.

I guess the question we should be asking ourselves though is how would we feel if we had a webcam looking at us at our workplace – would we feel reassured or spied upon?

CIMA results and performance with a smile…

First of all congratulations to all CIMA students that received their exam results yesterday and were successful. Your hard work paid off so very well done! We’ve heard from a number of you that were successful and those are always the best type of emails to receive from students!

If your results weren’t as expected though and you didn’t pass then better luck next time.

Various papers have performance management within the syllabus. A rather unusual method of managing performance was recently reported by the press.

Japan’s Keihin Express Railway Co., in an effort to promote a friendlier customer service, has implemented something called “smile scanners” at its stations to assess the smiles of their employees!

Employees have to look into a camera every day and have their smiles scored by a computer that analyses their facial features and gives feedback. The quality of the smile is reportedly rated on a scale ranging from 100 to zero.

Is it effective? Can the scanner distinguish between an artificial and a genuine smile? The jury is still out.

While we at ExP love technology, we’re not sure we would submit to such assessment, at least not before our morning coffee!

Remember the short term and long term

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One item that people should be aware of is that management accounting and financial management are similar to the extent that they are both concerned with resource usage. But there are differences.

I was lucky enough to have recently flown on the new Airbus A380 super jumbo and that got me thinking about some of the financial management issues that Airbus face. Designing and producing the A380 must have been a phenomenal exercise and a real testament to man’s engineering skills. It’s capable of carrying over 800 passengers and has a range of nearly 15,000 km. It’s a fantastic machine.

But what has this all got to do with the difference between management accounting and financial management? One difference is that management accounting tends to deal in short-term timescales whereas financial management is generally more concerned with the longer term. Whilst the longer term is generally considered to be more than one year be aware that certain industries and companies have a distinctly longer “long-term”.

From inception to delivery the A380 took nearly 10 years and the long term view taken by Airbus is certainly longer than some businesses in for example the IT or fashion industries. Some of the businesses in these industries have distinctly shorter “long-terms”.

Anyway, despite the millions spent on design and development of the A380 there was one disappointing thing about my flight and that was I fell asleep during the film and missed the ending…

A strategic alliance with local farmers.

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I always tell my students that they need to look around at their surroundings to see what is happening and see if they can link it with the  syllabus in any way. Doing this will make it easier to remember concepts and ideas.

I was lucky enough to visit Germany recently to do some work. I noticed an unusual vending machine and it made me think of strategic alliances.

Strategic alliances can come in a variety of forms including the very large formal Joint Ventures such as Sony Ericsson (a 50:50 JV between Sony and Ericsson) and co-operation agreements such as the airline alliances of Sky Team and Star Alliance.

What was unusual about the vending machine that I saw? The thing that caught my eye was that the vending machine sold fresh farmers produce such as milk, eggs and sausages rather than the typical selection of snacks that you would find in vending machines.

Farmers are facing a tough time at the moment. Distribution channels can be a problem for farmers. If they sell through the large supermarket chains they can end up in a weak negotiating position. Selling direct to the customer is something that a lot of farmers don’t have the skills or facilities to undertake.

Some further investigation found out that a number of farms have collaborated with a vending machine manufacturer to stock these machines in several towns in Germany. This alliance is helping both parties. The farmers for example now have a great new distribution outlet. The customers also appear to be pretty happy as they get fresh local produce in a convenient location. The fact that the “middle man” is removed also means that the produce is priced very competitively.

Will we see this expanding to other items and other parts of the world?