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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.

Out of the pwc girls and the Deloitte guys who do you think are the most attractive?

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When I was younger I was given some good advice.

“Never write something about somebody else in an email that you would feel embarrassed about if that message ended up pinned to the office noticeboard”.

The thought behind this was that it’s easy to fire off an email but once it’s sent it can quickly be forwarded by other people and isn’t always guaranteed to remain confidential.

A certain male member of staff at the pwc Dublin office will no doubt from now on be thinking twice before he hits the send button on any of his messages.

A couple of weeks ago on what must have been a quiet afternoon in the office he sent an email to 14 male colleagues.

Sending emails to colleagues isn’t in itself a bad thing but the message was in fact asking his friends to rate the attractiveness of some recent female new joiners to the firm.

It also included staff photos of the ladies in question, all of whom were trainee accountants.

The subject line of the email was “this would be my shortlist for the Top 10”.

A colleague replied an hour later after obviously undertaking a detailed peer review and came up with a somewhat un-gentlemanly comment about whether one of the ladies justified being in the top 10.

Such is the ease with which emails are sent that within a few days the message had been forwarded to thousands of people and had “gone viral” around the globe.

My guess is that over the years the majority of employees in most companies have at one stage or another got together over a drink after work and debated the attractiveness of their colleagues.

Taking photos from the staff directory and emailing them though is probably on a different level. pwc are understandably taking this matter seriously and have reportedly launched an investigation.

Now before any ladies out there start accusing this of being purely a male problem it’s worth reminding people about former Deloitte employee, Ms. Holly Leam-Taylor.

In an email sent last December Ms Leam-Taylor’s message entitled “Deloitte first year analysts Christmas awards” asked her female colleagues to vote on which men in the office they considered to be the most attractive.

This message also “went viral” and became a global internet hit.

The conclusion to this article?

Well I guess it’s not to preach about whether or not you should make top 10 lists but rather if you do then don’t put it in an email as it may well end up being pinned on a global noticeboard.

A bank run? Don’t worry, it’s only a bit of fun…

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It hardly seems possible that the bank run on the UK bank Northern Rock happened over 3 years ago but last week some people thought that there was a similar run on the Spanish bank BBVA.

A bank run occurs when a large number of people with deposits at a particular bank head to branches of the bank to get their money out as quick as possible.

It often follows a rumour about problems with the bank and can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy.

Large numbers of people withdraw money. This can cause liquidity problems at the bank which in turn causes more concern which leads to more people rushing to withdraw their money which leads to liquidity problems with leads to….. and so on until a vicious circle develops.

A bank makes its money from lending.

If it just keeps depositors money without using the deposits to generate revenue by for example lending to borrowers then the bank is in effect just a safe deposit box for the deposits.

In the great depression of the 1930s sudden withdrawals by panicky depositors caused liquidity problems to such an extent that a number of healthy banks were forced to close.

Nowadays, as long as the bank is solvent, any short term liquidity problems should be resolved by borrowing cash from its central bank as a “lender of last resort”.

Bank runs can still happen though and last week the queues of people outside of BBVA bank in Madrid caused rumours that resulted in the share price falling sharply.

It took a while for the markets to identify what was going on and it wasn’t so much a bank run that was causing the queues but rather a “fun run”

There was a 10km fun run sponsored by BBVA and joggers were queuing up to get their race numbers and t-shirts from the bank for the run on the Sunday.

Unfortunately rumours quickly spread around the financial markets that there were large queues outside the bank and in the jittery post financial crisis atmosphere the share price plummeted by nearly 4%.

Luckily a hour or so later the markets realised that the bank withdrawals were race t-shirts rather than cash and the share price recovered.

Finally, to test your knowledge of the financial markets there are two pictures in this blog entry. One shows a bank run whilst the other shows a fun run. Can you tell the difference…

According to Apple there’s an App for…something that I shouldn’t say…

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Apple is an extremely successful company. Earlier this week they released their latest set of results.

For the first time their quarterly sales exceeded $20 billion. In my opinion though the really impressive thing about the published figures was their cash balance.

They have total cash and marketable securities (stocks and shares, etc that can be readily converted to cash) amounting to a staggering $51 billion.

To put this amount of money in perspective, if they took their cash and put it in an empty company and then listed this “cash only company” on the London Stock Exchange, it would not only make it into the FTSE 100 but the “Apple cash company” would in fact be the 18th largest company quoted on the London Stock Exchange!

The blog entry here provides some thoughts on what else Apple could do with their cash if they decided to go on a shopping trip.

One of the growth areas of Apple can be found within their Apps business. Apps are “applications” (in effect software to use on their devices). 3 billion apps were downloaded in the first 18 months after their launch.

Apple has a very slick and professional marketing strategy.

Apple’s iPhone adverts such as the one below famously state “There’s an app for that” and finish with “There’s an app for just about anything”.

As well as having a very creative approach to their advertising Apple has also taken a very commercial and sensible approach to matters.

Last week the phrase “There’s an app for that” was officially classified as a trademark of Apple.

This means they will be able to prevent competitors benefiting from the phrase.

It will probably result in adverts such as the one below by US network carrier Verizon being prohibited. Verizon parodied it’s competitor  A&T (a carrier for the iPhone in the US) with this “There’s a map for that” advert.

We all make mistakes at work and I know you shouldn’t laugh but…

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On Tuesday, Microsoft were due to launch their much anticipated Windows 7 phone system. The launch event was scheduled to take place in New York with a start time of 3.30pm.

“Joe O” works for the electronics firm LG who were one of a number of phone companies that were expected to launch Windows 7 phones to coincide with the Microsoft event.

The phone companies however were under strict instructions not to announce anything until after Microsoft’s big launch.

Alas, poor Joe who is based in the UK made a slight mistake when he thought the launch time was 3.30pm UK time rather than 3.30pm New York time. The end result was that LG’s official UK blog revealed details of the phone and what it was capable of doing under the new Microsoft system some 5 hours before Microsoft started the official event.

The error was spotted by LG pretty quickly and the post was withdrawn but it was too late as it had already been picked up by a number of other websites.

Now, picture the scene. You’re part of a project team that has been working on a major project for some time. The “partner” to your company on this project is none other than the mighty Microsoft. The world’s press are anxiously awaiting the launch event and then you press a button which releases the news to the world some 5 hours early.

What would you do?

No, honestly, what would you do?

Deny it? Blame it on somebody else? Say it was a technical error?

Joe did the honourable thing and posted the following on the LG blog:

Yes, that early slip may have been my fault, I may have failed to notice the time zone was EDT, not BST, but let’s not kick a man when he’s down. And I was down, literally hiding under my desk ignoring my constantly ringing phone.

Please consider this my public confession… And remember “to err is human; to forgive divine”.

Showing that Joe has a good sense of humour he also posted the following animated GIF on the blog.

In today’s ever increasing global business environment this is a useful reminder that it’s important to remember the more simple areas of international business.

We all make mistakes though and well done to Joe for his excellent recovery!