Posts

Would you buy a bottle of whisky or invest in a bottle of whisky?

Buying whisky or investing in whisky – that’s an interesting question and my guess is that most people who buy whisky are planning on gently pouring it into a glass and maybe adding some ice or a mixer before settling back to savour the flavour (before possibly waking up the next day with a headache…)

But should you be buying whisky as an investment rather than as a consumable item?

Most people are aware of the leading share indexes around the world such as the FTSE 100 and the S&P 500 (which show the index for the largest 100 and 500 companies quoted on the London and New York stock exchanges respectively) but there are also a number of other indexes out there.

These indexes measure movements and one of the more interesting ones is the Rare Whisky Apex 1000 which measures the price movement for rare scotch whisky.

It’s a significant market and last year there were rare whiskies sold at auction in the UK amounting to £9.6 million.

There was also a strong demand for rare whisky in Asia. In August last year a bottle of 1960 Japanese Karuizawa whisky was sold for over £80,000 which is a pretty significant figure for a bottle of whisky!

Back to the indexes though and the performance of the rare whisky index last year was impressive. It grew by 14%. Other indexes in comparison performed as follows in 2015:

FTSE 100 – down by 4.9%
S&P 500 – up by 0.7%
Gold index – fell by 10%.

So the increase in the Whisky index of 14% looks very good when compared to the major indexes but I guess there could be one problem.

Namely, if you’ve had a bit too much to drink and are looking for something to finish the evening off you’re more likely to drink some of your whisky investment than consume some of your share or gold investment.

Would a good liar make a good accountant?

Do you have children? Have they ever told you a lie? Even a small teeny weeny lie?

Well, if they have then although you may not be particularly pleased with them, it may actually mean that they have good memories and excellent thinking skills.

Psychologists at the University of Sheffield tested 135 children and found that those children that lied performed much better than the honest children in the group.

The children in the study were aged between 6 and 7 years old and during the study they were given a trivia game. The answers to the trivia game were on the back of the card which they had been given. Initially, each child was in a room accompanied by one of the researchers but the researcher then left the child alone with the card with the answer on the back.

Before leaving the room the researcher told the children not to look at the answer but what the children didn’t know was that when they were alone in the room there were hidden cameras which were monitoring whether they would look at the answers on the back.

25% of the group subsequently cheated and looked at the answers on the back of their cards but claimed that they hadn’t cheated when the researcher returned to the room.

At a later stage, all of the children had to perform a separate memory test and the research found that the children who had lied performed significantly better than those children who didn’t lie.

Dr Tracy Alloway, project lead from the University of North Florida was also involved in the research and said that “this research shows that thought processes, specifically verbal working memory, are important to complex social interactions like lying because the children needed to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the researcher’s perspective in mind”.

This has got me thinking as a lot of the readers of this blog are accountants or studying to be accountants.

“Thought processes”, “verbal working memory”, “juggling multiple pieces of information” and “keeping other people’s perspective in mind” are all skills which many accountants need.

Does this mean that you would make a good accountant if you were a good liar when you were a child?

Whatever your answer is, I’m not sure I would believe you…

Let’s not run this up the flag pole…

Most of us have been there. Sat in a meeting when somebody decides to use “management speak” or “corporate jargon” to make something sound more impressive than it is.

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “think outside the box” but what about “let’s not boil the ocean”?

Michael Sugden, chief executive of the advertising agency VCCP, recently put together a list of the most irritating metaphors used in the corporate world.

He wrote in Marketing Magazine that the increased use of corporate jargon in recent years has resulted in meetings degenerating “into a quagmire of nonsensical verbal piffle”.

He put together his top 10 of the most annoying phrases and in reverse order the results are shown below.

Oh and in case you’re “not singing off the same hymn sheet” I’ve translated the “management speak” into English in the italics below the phrase.

10. Think outside the box
– come up with new ideas…

9. I may have a window for you
– I can see you on…

8. Content is king
–  first used by Bill Gates in 1996 to indicate that content would drive the success of the internet. It now appears to be used for random purposes in meetings…

7. Let’s not boil the ocean
– let’s not make this too complicated…

6. Level playing field
– keep things equal…

5. Let’s workshop this
– let’s spend far too long talking about this in a meeting…

4. Shift the dial
– to be honest I’m not 100% sure but possibly means talk about something else. Either way it sounds very dramatic in a meeting…

3. Let’s socialise this
– let’s talk about this…

2. Fail forward
– when something doesn’t work but we try to learn from it (if we still have a job after the error of course…)

1. Growth hacking
– again, I don’t think anyone is 100% sure what it means but it does sound very impressive…

So, there you go. A list of 10 phrases to [impress / annoy – delete according to how you feel about the phrases] your colleagues at meetings.

Surely this is genuine?

How do you feel when you return to the office after a holiday?

Do you feel refreshed and raring to go?

Or are you at the other extreme and cannot stand being back at work and are just a whisper away from handing in your notice…

My guess is that a lot of you are somewhere in between. It’s nice to be back at work but if we’re honest an extra week of holiday would be quite nice.

If you could do with an extra week’s holiday then you are not alone.

One reddit user recently posted an excellent attempt at securing an extra week’s holiday. Whilst the culprit wasn’t trying to get an extra week away from the office. I think we can all learn something from her determination.

The reddit user who posted the image above explained that her “daughter got the mail today (it’s Sunday), apparently they have another week off school”.

A quick audit review of the evidence suggests a few problems.

First of all, it was delivered on a Sunday when there wasn’t a postal delivery. Secondly, “break” was spelt incorrectly.

But that’s only two inaccuracies I hear you say. What about the details that appear to indicate it’s a genuine letter?

For example, the information was written with a black pen whilst the signature was signed with a blue pen. Surely this indicates it’s genuine?

For me, the thing which convinces me that it is a real letter from the little girl’s school is that it has an official stamp on the letter indicating that it’s a genuine official letter from the school and the girl should be entitled to an extra week’s holiday.

Ok, so the stamp is of a pink princess but surely that would pass the audit review test?

Cash is king but jewellery looks nicer…

Before cash came along, people used to barter. Somebody who had grown vegetables would exchange potatoes they’d grown with a baker who’d baked bread. A farmer would exchange a cow with someone who had grown rice. And so on…

This was all very well if you had lots of vegetables or lots of cows but exchanging 1,000 kg of potatoes for the latest Xbox or taking a cow with you to pay for cinema tickets was never going to work.

As a result, along came cash.

The Lydians (now part of Turkey) are widely believed to be the first Western culture to make coins and their first coins came in to existence way back around the time of 700 BC.

Since then things have developed.

Bills of Exchange were introduced in Italy in the 12th century (Bills of Exchange are paper documents which enable traders to buy and sell goods without having to carry cash).

The Bank of England introduced printed cheques in 1717.

The first credit card in the UK was issued in 1966.

Online banking was launched in the late 1990s.

Through all of this cash has remained and there are now 180 currencies recognised as legal tender by the United Nations member states.

Things are changing though and earlier this year Apple and Samsung both launched their contactless payment systems whereby money is loaded onto an app on your phone and payment can be made by scanning your Apple or Samsung phone at a contactless terminal.

The company Ringly are taking things a step further though and have announced a partnership with MasterCard which will enable you to pay for items with the tap of a ring.

The rings that Ringly sell (including the ring shown in the photo above) cost between $195 and $260 and use technology to link the ring to your phone to access the Ringly app. The app will then enable payment to be made. This is pretty impressive given that all the technology has to be fitted onto the surface of the ring.

The end result is that you will be able to purchase items via a contactless terminal by simply tapping your ring without getting your wallet or purse out.

What do you think?

Is this a genuinely useful idea or just a “gimmick”? After all, you’ll still need your phone with you to make a payment.

Either way, it’s a nice excuse if you were thinking of buying a new ring.

Oh, and if you are going to buy one, don’t forget to take your wallet or purse with you…

Is it a good idea to unfriend a colleague?

Are you Facebook friends with a colleague at work? Have you ever been tempted to unfriend them?

Whilst unfriending someone on Facebook only involves a simple click, the Fair Work Commission (an employment tribunal) in Australia has found that unfriending a colleague on Facebook was workplace bullying.

Rachel Roberts worked at the Australian estate agent View and alleged that the firm’s owner and his wife had subjected her to workplace bullying on 18 separate occasions.

Rachel Roberts argued that amongst other things James and Lisa Bird deliberately left her work unprocessed for more than a week and refused to showcase her properties in the business’s front window.

Perhaps the most interesting allegation though was that after a meeting between Ms Roberts and Mrs Bird where Mrs Bird described Ms Roberts as “a naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher,” Ms Roberts tried to leave the room but was initially prevented from leaving by Mrs Bird standing in front of the door.

She eventually managed to leave the room and was sat in her car in a “very distressed state” when it occurred to her that Mrs Bird may make a Facebook comment about the incident.

Miss Roberts went on to Facebook to check for any comments but found that she had… (wait for the drama to unfold)… been unfriended by Mrs Bird.

Yes, shock of all shocks but she had been unfriended on Facebook…

Now, whilst a lot of you may well be thinking that being unfriended on Facebook isn’t a major deal, the Fair Work Commission specifically cited the Facebook unfriending in its decision, saying that it evidenced “a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour.”

Now, before everyone starts worrying about which colleagues they are friends with on Facebook and whether or not they should unfriend them, it’s worth noting that the Facebook unfriending incident in this situation was one of 8 occasions when it was considered to be “unreasonable behaviour”. In other words, it’s unlikely that unfriending someone in isolation would be considered to be bullying.

Improving productivity or big brother surveillance?

Is this a clever way to improve productivity or a big brother surveillance system creeping into corporate life?

Humanyze, a technology company, produces devices which monitor the activity of employees and one of the more well known companies that has used it recently is Deloitte in Canada where volunteers in their St John’s, Newfoundland office wore the devices which are like oversized ID cards.

According to Humanyze their “social sensing platform” uses a variety of sensors and is capable of capturing face-to-face interactions, extracting social signals from speech and body movement, and measuring the proximity and relative location of users.

They combine these with other data sources such as electronic communications, objective productivity metrics, and spatial analysis to provide insights on how complex work gets done in the modern organization.

CBC Canada reported that the Deloitte team in Newfoundland were changing from a traditional cubicle office layout to an open concept space and the Humanyze badges were used to measure how well employees were performing in the new layout.

The participation by the Deloitte staff was optional and they were provided with contracts that made them the owners of the data.

All the information was collected anonymously and the employees were given personalised dashboards that showed their performance benchmarked against their colleagues.

Silvia Gonzalez-Zamora, an analytics leader at Deloitte said that “The minute that you get the report that you’re not speaking enough and that you don’t show leadership, immediately, the next day, you change your behaviour. It’s powerful to see how people want to display better behaviours or the behaviours that you’re moving them towards.”

So, is this a clever use of technology or the first step towards big brother monitoring?

Either way, I guess it may help identify the office winner of the “who spends the most time in the toilet award”…

Is it a load of bear or a load of bull?

The major stock markets around the world have had a rough ride this last week. The drop in share prices has been driven by the heavy falls on the Chinese stock market. At the time of writing the Shanghai Composite index (a stock market index of all stocks that are traded at the Shanghai Stock Exchange) has fallen by nearly 16% over the last week.

If you read the financial press words such as “bear market”, “bull market” and “correction” are being used a lot.

What do these phrases mean and where do they come from?

A bear market is where share prices are falling and is commonly regarded as coming into existence when share indexes have fallen by 20% or more. A market correction is similar to a bear market but not as bad (a market correction is where there is a fall of 10% from a market’s peak).

A bull market on the other hand is where share prices are increasing.

So, where do the phrases bear market and bull market come from?

There are two main views on the origin of these terms.

The first view is based on the methods with which the two animals attack. A bear for example will swipe downwards on its target whilst a bull will thrust upwards with its horns. A bear market therefore is a downwards market with declining prices whilst a bull market is the opposite with rising prices.

The second view on the origin is based around the “short selling” of bearskins several hundred years ago by traders. Traders would sell bearskins before they actually owned them in the hope that the prices would fall by the time they bought them from the hunters and then transferred them to their customers. These traders became known as bears and the term stuck for a downwards market. Due to the once-popular blood sport of bull and bear fights, a bull was considered to be the opposite of a bear so the term bull market was born.

Whatever the actual origin of the terms though I’m sure most people will be hoping for a bull market rather than a bear market.

They are outside but still inside.

You don’t have to be working inside a company to be charged with insider dealing.

Insider dealing is where a person uses information which is not in the public domain to make money out of share price movements.

A typical example of insider dealing would be where an individual works for a company whose shares are quoted on a stock exchange. The individual becomes aware that the financial results of the company which are about to be released to the public are better than expected. Before this information is made public though the individual buys shares so that he or she can sell them for a profit when the unexpected good news about the financial results is made public and the share price increases.

In other words, the individual is making a financial gain by “dealing” in shares using information which is “inside” the company and not available outside of the company. Hence the name “insider dealing”.

Insider dealing is illegal and action taken by the authorities against individuals involved in insider dealing is normally taken against employees of the company in question who are undertaking the insider dealing and / or their friends or associates who may have been involved in the insider dealing activities.

Recently though there was an unusual case where it was announced that federal investigators in the US had broken an insider trading gang who had a rather different approach.

Their unusual approach was that rather than working for the organisation who were about to release their results the gang instead hacked into the systems of financial newswire services to get hold of press releases of companies who were about to release their financial results.

The key thing though was that by hacking into the systems of the newswire services they got hold of these press releases before they were made public and used the information in the press release to purchase shares before these shares increased in value once the results were made public by the press release.

This was a pretty sophisticated criminal activity as it was reported that more than 100,000 press releases were stolen and as a result over $100 million of illegal profits were made by the gang.

The gang was said to have been run from Ukraine and 32 people have been charged in connection with the offence.

In conclusion therefore, you can be outside the company and still be charged with insider trading.

Dancing towards a big mistake.

When you’re at work it’s always worth taking a step back and doing a reality check every now and then to check that everything is ok.

Steve Pallet, a Jersey politician is no doubt a busy man but he should have taken a step back to review things a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier this month, in what was probably one of the simpler tasks on his to-do list, he needed to fly from the UK to Bucharest, the capital of Romania to be present at the handover of the Dance World Cup.

This year’s Dance World Cup took place in Bucharest where nearly 3,000 competitors from 32 countries took place in the annual dance event.

Jersey is hosting next year’s Dance World Cup and Mr Pallet was flying to Bucharest to attend the official handover where he was due to make a speech and receive a special flag from his Romanian hosts marking the fact that Jersey will be hosting the next World Cup.

You’re probably thinking that there’s nothing particularly difficult about flying from one country to another to give a short speech, receive a flag, shake a few hands and no doubt have a nice meal and a couple of drinks.

Whilst most people would probably agree with the assumption that it was a fairly simple exercise, Mr Pallet decided to prove everyone wrong. Instead of flying to Bucharest in Romania he flew to Budapest, the capital of Hungary which is about 500 miles (800 km) short of where he should have been.

Mr Pallet only realised his mistake as his plane was coming in to land in Budapest. It was too late for him to arrange transport from Budapest to Bucharest and as a result he was unable to accept the official handover of the World Cup flag.

When the news of his error broke he pointed out that the flight booking had been made by a colleague of his but this isn’t really a particularly good excuse as it was him personally who got on a plane flying to the capital of Hungary expecting to land in Romania.

He did apologise though and said “It is really disappointing, I have to apologise for wasting taxpayers’ money and for letting down the Dance World Cup. I don’t know the exact cost as I’ve still got some figures to come back, but it won’t be less than £1,000. All I can do is apologise for what is a schoolboy error.”

He mentioned it was a “schoolboy error” but given Mr Pallet’s geographical knowledge (or rather, his lack of geographical knowledge), then I guess he probably made plenty of schoolboy errors in his geography lessons at school.