Friday, 5 December 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Cyber Abuse

Cyber abuse has become an ever growing problem that has mirrored the internet’s growth over the last decade. With the introduction and vast uptake of social media in recent years, cyber abuse has become a popular topic, prompting discussions on cyber bullying and trolling. This week, Twitter announced new anti-trolling tools in an attempt to combat online trolls. ‘Trolling’ is a description for when a user’s account or post (on Twitter, Facebook etc.) is bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Cyber bullying sees the ‘traditional’ form of bullying (physical and mental abuse) move online. This has a number of consequences: The most obvious being that it's much harder to control, monitor and discipline those partaking in cyber bullying, particularly as cyber abuse is often faceless and nameless. This means that recipients often don't know who is attacking them over the World Wide Web.

The anonymity of cyber abuse intensifies the insults because abusers feel they have the autonomy to behave without repercussion. Would they say the things they do if they were standing in front of the individual they were abusing? The internet and social media has allowed individuals to connect with a much greater audience than ever before, connecting with people who you may never meet or see face to face. This therefore makes it easier to insult another individual via keyboard. It takes away individual responsibility for what a person says as well as and more importantly, the consequences it has to the individual or the group the insult is intended for.

This also ties in with the concept of gang culture. ‘Pack mentality’ is as equally apparent online as it is in real life. More people are likely to join in if one person starts abusing a group, product, person, video or picture. For example, where avid followers of a band or artist have been seen to attack (online) journalists or individuals simply because they criticise said band or artist. What makes this scenario more worrying is the age of the online abusers and some of the deviant phrases posted. So as much as the young can be the targets for cyber abuse, they can just as easily be the culprits.

However, cyber abuse is not limited to certain categories such as age or profession. It encompasses anyone who has access to the internet. Being a part of a social media platform will also increase an individual’s chance of being targeted. Twitter in particular, has broken down barriers in terms of the contactable audience, placing every member on an even playing field. An example of this is the constant abuse aimed at celebrities on Twitter. Celebrities were once seen (and still are in some cases) as ‘untouchables’ – someone who would never be in contact with the ‘average Joe’. But with the increasing popularity of Twitter, it has been seen as a way for celebrities to connect with their fan base and stay in the public eye. It is now far rarer for example to find a celebrity who isn’t on social media than one who is.

After Robin Williams’ (comedian and actor) death earlier this year, his daughter Zelda Williams was driven to delete twitter after the intense online harassment she suffered following the suicide of her father (at least two people sent her “photoshopped” images claiming to show her father’s body). A more recent example occurred last month: Olympic gold medallist Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill received death threats via Twitter, after she said she would request her name to be removed from a stand at Sheffield United if it offered a new contract to convicted rapist Ched Evans. These are extreme examples of how easily anyone can be reached and targeted by online abuse with the even more troubling question remaining – can anything be done about it?

Twitter’s new anti-trolling tools announced this week is a good step towards abolishing internet trolls and bullies. Now a user can simply now click on a tweet and select ‘block or report’, then click through a list of reasons explaining why they wish to do this. The previous system meant the person had to fill out a report describing the alleged harassment. Users witnessing abuse will now also be able to report it. Twitter has improved their behind the scenes procedures so that reviewing and responding to abuse occurs faster. This is one step in the right direction as the attempt to eradicate this type of behaviour continues.

In the UK, there is no legal definition of cyber bullying, however a number of laws exist that can be applied to cases of cyber bullying and online harassment. In India on the other hand, cyber bullying is a bailable offence, punishable with three years of imprisonment and a fine; however the complainant and police can interpret what constitutes offensive behaviour. Perhaps using India as an example, the only way forward is to be harder on cyber abuse, making examples of the worst cases. With the internet and social media continuing to expand at such a rapid rate, cases of cyber abuse are likely to continue to rise with them. This may be the only way to turn online trolls and bullies into the equivalent of outdated technology.

Organisation All Rise are currently undertaking research into cyber abuse and collecting data on how wide spread it is. There's a short survey here which needs your input:

This week, Abchaps attended the Pre Xmas Social Drink of the East meets West Club in Kensington Gardens. Abchurch and East Meets West Club share the interest of connecting businesses in Asia and the West. As well as joining Stickland Tucker's Christmas Drinks, we also participated in Gordon Dadd’s tech roundtable event, where we contributed our insights into the UK tech scene, especially on London tech IPOs.

Edison Investment Research appointed Hans Boström to its global healthcare team in London, who joins from Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, Jim Muir has joined Baker Tilly as its new head of Financial Services. Muir Joins from KPMG. Finally WH Ireland have create the position of head of Risk for James Baptise. Baptise joins with 20 years’ experience in the industry, having previously worked for Espirito Santo Investment Bank.

‘Cyber Abuse’-Using the internet or digital media platforms to deliberately cause harm or harrass another individual or group, often repeatedly.

Starting with something a bit different, The London Illustration Fair returns with a three-day event of artist-led stands, workshops, live DJs and pop-up food stalls. Showcasing the most innovative and exciting illustrators, printmakers and draftsman working in London today, the fair also champions four invited designers as part of its Affiliated Artists scheme, which this year includes Mr Bingo and Louise Pomeroy.

Continuing with the weird and the wonderful, if you are set on spreading the Christmas cheer this Saturday, then join in with Santacon. Dress up as the man of the moment and run around London at this 'non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical' celebration of Christmas cheer. Santacon is a flash mob-style gathering that sees three huge groups of Santa’s wandering through the city, giving out gifts and free hugs, singing carols and occasionally popping to the pub. Towards the end of the routes the groups join together into a huge throng of merry Santa’s (plus a few elves and reindeer – they're allowed to join in, too).

Finally for a relaxed Sunday away from the high street crowds of Christmas shoppers, Spitalfields City Farm is the place to go. The farm is hosting stalls selling handmade cards and non-massed-produced presents, as well as Christmas tress themselves, and will be invoking a non-jarring festive atmosphere with carol singing, mulled wine and seasonal family activities.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Christmas has begun

Over the last week the UK has seen the official start to Christmas; John Lewis told us so.

John Lewis started this off in 2009, seeing Coca-Cola’s Santa and raising him, in no particular order, a penguin, some snowmen, and unlikely friendships between woodland creatures. Ever since, companies have rushed to get in on the act, pushing ever greater briefs, backed by ever larger budgets. All in the attempt to attract shoppers through their doors. But is this money well spent? Or have these adverts become so removed from what advertising traditionally stands for that they could potentially damage the high street they’re meant to save?

Simply put, the cost of these adverts is enough to make any company's CFO turn ashen faced. With a budget of £7 million, John Lewis tops the charts, and the sheer scale of Sainsbury’s WW1 extravaganza means it can’t be far behind. But one thing was conspicuously missing from both adverts, and that’s a product.

Whilst you may now be able to buy a Monty penguin for the sum of £95, and Sainsbury’s will sell you vintage chocolate for £1, neither make product a focal point during their two or three minutes of air time. Having been placed in the most expensive slots on British TV, the question has to be asked, ‘is this good advertising?’

On the surface, the answer surely is yes. In terms of outreach, these adverts achieve circulation that could never have been expected even a few years ago. In less than 24 hours, Sainsbury’s saw online viewing figures of nearly one million, whilst being shared on Facebook nearly 42,000 times. This pales into insignificance when compared to John Lewis, who in just a week garnered viewing figures of a scarcely believable 13.5 million, with Facebook shares of 154,000.

With not a single product advertised, the effect these adverts have on sales is incredible. John Lewis announced this week that its like for like sales for the first week of November were up 6%.  The retailer has a proud history of defying the credit crunch, posting positive festive figures every year since 2009.

Whilst these lavishly funded, sentimental adverts may be achievable for large companies with large budgets, smaller companies are having to get more creative. The irony of these messages is that whilst they may cost millions of pounds to produce, their greatest success comes from an (almost) completely free source, social media. Every retweet, share, view, comes at no cost to the retailer. Whilst their slots on television may cost the company, their online presence does not. Therefore, this is how smaller companies can succeed.

Ironically, while online shopping has for a long time been described as the end of the high street, online advertising may be what saves it. One of the greatest adverts to come out of last year’s Super Bowl was not the blockbuster Budweiser advert, but a tweet sent by Oreo. Quick thinking led to a simple quip being shared round the world over 20,000 times, garnered 525 million media impressions, even making Adweek’s top five ‘ads’ of the night. From this, the answer appears simple, use digital, save physical.

This week, Abchaps had a brilliant evening at the Nabarro London Wall launch. The evening kicked of with a fantastic cooking demonstration from Michelin Chef Michel Roux Jnr, along with magical entertainment.

Eversheds  appointed Cathryn Vanderspar, formally of Berwin Leighton Paisner, head of their London tax tea, whilst Mark Brown joined Westhouse Securities as executive chairman. Brown was previously chief executive of Collins Stewart Hawkpoint. Meanwhile, Pinsent Masons announced the appointment of Meriam Alrashid as an international arbitration partner in its global construction practice in London. A fluent Arabic speaker, she joins from Crowell & Moring. Finally, Walker Crips appointed Matt Ennion as Investment Director. He joins from Towry.

"Evangelism Marketing" - a form of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), in which companies established a loyal group of customers with strong belief in their products. These customers willingly and actively convince others to buy their products.

Enjoy some ice-skating in the beautiful splendour of Somerset House’s neoclassical courtyard. Then rest those sore legs (and bums) in the Skate Lounge for a well-deserved après-skate, where you can indulge in a cocktail, fondue or tasty treat (or all three)!

If you’re looking for something different, head along to the Hyper Japan Christmas Market at Olympia open this weekend only where you can immerse yourself in Japanese culture and find some interesting Christmas gifts for family and friends. Also at Olympia this weekend is the BBC Good Food Show which promises to be delicious!

The highly anticipated Regent Street Christmas lights switch-on will be taking place on Sunday. It's an evening of Christmas tunes, celebrity talent and fireworks. A London tradition since 1948, when the Regent Street Association first decorated the street with Christmas trees, the lacing of the street with lights marks the official countdown to Christmas day. The show will begin at 4pm with the switch on moment taking place at approximately 4.45pm.

And finally, for all those rugby enthusiasts, the Autumn Internationals continue on Saturday with the headline game, England vs South Africa kicking off at 2.30pm and Wales taking on Fiji at the same time. Scotland face the almighty New Zealand at 5.30pm and finally, Ireland play Georgia on Sunday at 2.30pm.

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Friday, 7 November 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Be "nice" to customers & reward shareholders

This week, the budget airline Ryanair reported unexpectedly positive results, with profits up 32%. These were unexpected as earlier this year the airline was forced to put out two profit warnings.

This round of positive profits were partly attributable to the warm reception of the company’s Business Plus product, as well as the low price of crude oil in recent months. It is also largely due to CEO Michael O’Leary’s vow earlier this year to cease “unnecessarily p****** people off” and be nicer to his customers. Examples of this p****** off included threats to charge passengers up to £5 to use the loos on planes, as well as to introduce “standing tickets” whereby some passengers didn’t get a seat so as to get more people on planes.

As one might have expected, this vow worked well, and Ryanair enjoyed a rise in passenger numbers of 12% in the current quarter, and 20% in the final three months.

The fact that his vow of nicety worked seems to have been a surprise to what some have termed: “the loud mouthed” businessman. Indeed, his new strategy has proven to be so much of a success that he has announced his intention to continue being nice to his customers – thank heavens for that.

Rather than sharing Mr O’Leary's surprise that his nice strategy worked, we're rather surprised that he hadn’t realised the customer centric approach had always been necessary. In any walk of business, whether  capital markets or otherwise, placing the individuals / organisations that you service at the core of everything you do is essential for commercial success, to earn a good reputation, survive the initial years and thrive in the later years. In an age where consumer loyalty has been work thin, corporate competition is at its peak. Companies are accountable for all that they do – social media is the first place a disgruntled customer will share any tales of woe. Companies must value their customers and work their entire business models around them. This will keep them happy and therefore keep them as customers. Supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury are famously battling the same issue as Ryanair, and in response have been working to tailor their customers’ experiences to be second to none.

Similarly, whilst companies can benefit from treating their customers well, publicly listed companies must treat their shareholders so. With more and more companies coming to a market that is slowly but surely recovering, publicly listed companies must reward their shareholders to ensure that they stay the journey. The companies that perform best on the London Stock Exchange are those that place their shareholders at the fore by paying out regular dividends, communicating effectively and only making business decisions that will positively impact their shareholders.

The fact that Ryanair’s results made the news is not notable; they are a large, consumer facing company. The fact that Michael’s statement was featured in most headlines, however, is notable as it shows exactly how important placing customers / shareholders at the fore is.

Businesses should be constantly communicating exactly how they are placing their customers and shareholders at the fore so as to ensure that their good work is not going to waste. As pointed out by Forbes contributor Micah Solomon, visibility is one of the seven most important elements of having a truly customer centric business model. These days customers like and need to be rewarded for their loyalty, and so will be scanning the headlines for the companies that will do that. Stories of customer reward schemes and so on will therefore catch the eye and possibly custom.

There is an old saying that is often bleated by the elders of the world: “manners don’t cost you a penny”. This week’s headlines have never proven this point more effectively, even showing that in the case of Michael O’Leary, good manners can even gain you a lot. We look forward to seeing a bright future for the newly focused Ryanair.

This week Abchaps attended a very interesting event hosted by UK – Israel Business who hosted Avi Hasson, Israel's Chief Scientist, part of Israel's Ministry of the Economy. The event was attended by the UK Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Ambassador to the UK. The panel discussed the huge trade links between the two countries and Israel’s highly successful tech sector and opportunities for English companies to tap Israeli expertise as well as Israeli companies to take advantage of the UK market, in particular the capital markets in London.

We also enjoyed Sanlam Securities' networking event and the Recombu Awards.

Chris Nicholls, previously an executive previously director at JP Morgan Cazenove, joined Deloitte as a partner of the equity capital markets team. 

KPMG expanded its Cyber Security Business by appointing Rob McElvanney and Steve Bates from IRM, and Lawrence Munro from Nebulas Solutions Group.

Guy Hill joined Sanditon Asset Management as its Senior Investment Director of the European investment team. He was the London head of Swiss equities team at Helvea.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is taking place on Saturday 8 November, with a procession from 11:00 – 14:40. The parade takes the flotilla, dancers, drummers and over 7,000 participants throughout the City of London. The evening is rounded off with a fireworks display over the Thames in the evening.

If you haven’t quite put Guy Fawkes celebrations to bed just yet then let us recommend the Battersea Park Fireworks. Tickets are £10 a pop but definitely worth while, with one of London’s best displays on offer. The bonfire is lit at 7:30 so make sure you leave plenty of time!

If you are a ruby fan, then head to the Famous Three Kings this weekend. 16 screens worth of Autumn International delight as England take on the All Blacks at 1430, Wales face up to the Wallabies, Scotland face Argentina and then finally at 1730 the Irish play South Africa.

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Friday, 24 October 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: The Angel of the North is Burning Bright

We often hear rumours that there is more going on up North than Gail Platt simply taking a new love interest on ‘Coronation Street’; this week has been a case in point.

There have been multiple indications that the economic potential of the North is booming. These indications have inspired us to ask ourselves: should we be making a better job of tapping into the North so as to maintain our position as a dominant force in the global economy?

Numis Securities, one of the City’s most successful independent stockbrokers, have opened up a Northern office, to be headed up by Graeme Summers. This makes complete sense, as one of their main rivals, Zeus Capital, is currently one of the only brokers operating in both the City and the North. Zeus has successfully raised £900 million for its clients over the past 15 months, and has been the book runner on 40% of all of the AIM flotations in that period. Clearly Numis have caught a whiff of Zeus’ sweet Northern success, and are wisely following suit. This move indicates that if the advisers are heading North, there must be attractive and economically proficient Companies growing businesses in the UK’s Northern cities.

And where did one of the only IPOs to successfully get away in the last few months come from? C4X Discovery is a Manchester-based University spin-out which successfully raised £11 million on its AIM debut. This raise is not bad in the current economic climate, with just the week before seeing the stalled IPOs of Virgin Money, Aldermore and BCA Marketplace due to volatility in global equity markets.

So why is it that we still consider the Northern cities as secondary to London? The Government is making efforts to change this, as they realise that the UK is more attractive if considered by our international brethren as having not just one city with potential, but rather a constellation of burgeoning centres of business. Nick Clegg’s launch of TechNorth, the tech cluster designed to rival London’s Tech City shows a desire to encourage innovation throughout the UK.

But it’s not just about taking advantage of this potential, we must also do a better job of communicating it. The Guardian published an interesting article this week stating that it’s the public perception, branding and positioning of the North that needs to change. Several valid points are made; constantly referring to multiple cities as ‘The North’ positions the likes of Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool as one and the same. They are very different environments, with different histories and different strengths. Perhaps if we were to identify and acknowledge this then perceptions would change. Referring to ‘The North’ also invokes the feeling that these cities are on the peripheries, slightly removed from the action. This lack of connectivity can only harm common perceptions.

Angel of the North
Image courtesy of James Creegan, Flickr CC
I’m not sure that rebranding the collection of Cities as ‘ManPool’ or even ‘ManSheffLeedsPool’ would help, as Jim O’Neill suggested in the City Growth Commission report this week. But surely it would be easier to communicate the economic potential both domestically and internationally if we readdress how we position and brand them. The UK will not be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with international competitors, powered by multiple megacities, if we are left clinging on to the attributes of our singular ‘hub’. Surely a constellation of these ‘hubs’ is more attractive to investors and we would be better off nurturing the perception of a hive of activity.

This week Abchurch met the Kerman & Co team and exchanged our credentials in the various sectors that we both operate in, particularly in the mining space. We were warmed by the team’s hospitality and were delighted to be hosted in their very own Temple Bar.

Abchurch also hosted a China- themed market lunch and enjoyed a heated debate amongst City Advisors on the strategies of London-listed Chinese Companies going forward. Despite recent nuances, it is exciting to see that advisors are generally confident on the outlook of the Chinese Companies' equities market.

Jonathan Richards has been appointed equity research analyst in Cantor Fitzgerald Europe’s Financial Institutions team. Richards joins from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and has previously worked at UBS and Lehman Brothers.

Marc Tendler and Bas Hoekstra join Grant Thornton’s adviser specialist leasing, asset and consumer financing division. Tendler, an accountant, has worked in senior roles at Invigors, UK Vendor and Captive Asset Finance, and ING Lease UK. Hoekstra was also previously at ING Lease Holding, where he held a leadership role.

Investec Wealth & Investment has announced two appointments to its Bournemouth office. Darren Elmes and Steve Hart both join as senior investment directors from Barclays Wealth, where they were directors. Elmes has also held roles at Lloyds Private Banking and Capel Cure Sharp.

'ManSheffLeedsPool’ – The suggestion of Jim O’Neill, Former Goldman Sachs economist and Chair of the City Growth Commission, for the rebranding of our Northern treasures

Do you miss the Dandy; do you yearn for Dr Strange? This weekend sees ExCel London at the Royal Victoria Dock being turned into a comic lover’s feast with the arrival of MCM London Comic Con. This two day event is predicted to attract 100,000 comic fans from across the world to celebrate all that is great about this artistic medium. Visitors can expect memorabilia, photos with the starts and special guests.

Looking for a slightly more gentile experience? The London BluesFest is due to open this Sunday 26th at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore. This festival will run for six days, and will include performances from all of the best starts in blues, soul, jazz, R&B and beyond. Whilst the venue may send out vibes of expense, tickets for this festival can be purchased from as little as £17.25.

Halloween is on the horizon, and it is not just the ghouls and goblins that we should be afraid of. This Sunday 26th, hundreds of devilishly dressed dogs will take to the streets of Hampstead in the Devilish Dog Walk, a fund-raising event hosted by All Dogs Matter and Spaniards Inn. This walk will kick off at 10:30am and those brave enough to see their pups in Halloween attire can enter the walk at £5 a go.

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: The Communications of Switching

This week saw a new figure hit the headlines: 1.2 million people have switched their current accounts since September 2013.

This comes one year on from the launch of the Government’s scheme to encourage consumers to switch their banking current accounts by reducing the time that it takes to switch bank accounts from 30 days to just seven.

As detailed in the Payment Council’s annual report, switching levels are up 22% on last year, with some banks winning new customers - Halifax, Santander and Nationwide - and some, inevitably, losing customers - NatWest, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds.

This rise in consumer switching has been hailed as a success story of a scheme that is going to plan, or so according to George Osborne.

There are many benefits that have been discussed as rising from the growth of consumers switching their current accounts:
1) Accountability: The Daily Mail has suggested that this switching is the public’s way of “punishing” the banks for the mistakes of pre and post-2008
2) Competitive rates: In order to woo potential new customers and to retain existing customers, banks are now offering more customers more competitive rates and incentives
 3) Entrepreneurialism: With increased switching comes the opportunity for new companies to appear and succeed. This has been seen in the banking industry with so-called “challenger banks”, and is also being seen in the energy industry with the growth of alternative energy providers

So to what can we attribute this switching?

The most obvious answer is the governmental support that this scheme has received; a call to action from the powers that be which made headlines by suggesting that consumers deserve better.

But we in the communications industry would like to suggest that another big reason as to why the scheme was so well received is the act of communicating itself, both online and in the press. Whereas previously it was more likely that “a man would divorce his wife than switch his bank account”, due to the fact that it was unheard of and very difficult to switch, this scheme has not only made it easier but also more common for bank customers to question the product that they have been receiving and to look around at other options.

Whilst some have said that this 1.2 million is a modest figure, the BBC reported that 69% of consumers are now aware that they have the ability to switch due to the launch of the scheme.

This scheme has come at a time when consumer understanding and empowerment is of utmost importance. Whether that be regarding current accounts, energy bills or phone tariffs, consumers are now being given the necessary information and comparison tools to take more control over their own finances and help them live their lives more efficiently. Consumer price comparison websites such as have become hugely popular in recent years for just this reason, as have debates about preferred providers on social media.

The communications industry sits at the heart of this new information era, with information about new schemes and alternative providers being disseminated through national, trade and technical press, as well as through websites and social media. Companies seeking to ensure that their voice is still heard and that their commercial and financial case is still shared must therefore be keen and willing to engage with communications so as to ensure that they are not on the losing side of the market. Companies must also learn to listen and respond to the comments of their customers or face losing them to competitors.

In years gone by, customer switching and the need for communication were not in the mind of the corporate. Today, however, customers are on the lookout and companies must fight (and shout) to keep them…

The cold may be setting in but Abchaps are still out and about! We met up with some of our favourite journalists at Bloomberg and Dow Jones this week to get their take on the somewhat ‘choppy’ markets. We also caught up with the team at Daniel Stewart over a few glasses at our favourite local. We work very closely with a number of their team, and so it was fantastic so get everyone together again.

Investec has hired Christian Hess to head its financial sponsor transaction group. Christian was previously a partner at Compass Partners and the founder of Hess & Co International. Warren Mead has been appointed the head of challenger banking and alternative finance at KPMG, where he worked for 15 years. Robin Baillie has joined law firm Squire Patton Boggs as a global projects and real estate partner. Robin was previously a partner at Nabarro.

"Uswitch": an energy price comparison website helping consumers find the best energy deals on the market. Websites such as these heavily drive consumer switching

Frieze London, the contemporary art fair, is taking place in Regents Park.  Frieze is expected to draw in the world’s rich and famous and it is anticipated that they will spend millions on different works. The art fair has gained enormous popularity of recent years but the organisers have capped admission to 70,000 over the course of the event as it is unable to expand. The nearby illustrious and plush streets of Marylebone and Mayfair are expected be net gainers of the elite who will pile into its restaurants, cafes and hotels. 

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Scottish Referendum

Scotland has voted “no” to independence.

Was this is a shocking result? Well, when compared to the state of the “Yes” vote this time a year ago it is at least surprising if not shocking, as over the past few months the “Yes” vote has managed to sneak its way to almost drawing with the “No” vote. With a final percentage split of 44.7% “Yes” and 55.3% “No”, it was certainly a close call.

As with any political debate, this referendum was a ballroom dance for the political players involved. With the “marriage” metaphor continually dragged up in the media, some could say that watching the Scottish referendum unfold was like watching a particularly colourful divorce between independence seeking Alex Salmond and wounded but loyal Alistair Darling. Each had their teams behind them, as a divorcing couple might have their lawyers, and the statements emitted from both the couple in question and their “lawyers” were almost more interesting than the referendum itself.

What these comments had in common was the conviction in which they were delivered. Each party was absolutely certain that their line of thinking was the right one, and that the alternative would be disastrous for both Scotland and the UK. SNP Party Leader, and leader of the “Yes” campaign, Alex Salmond remained steadfast in his opinion that it was the only way to secure Scotland’s victory, and that "The 'Yes' campaign is the most positive and empowering campaign in recent political history”. Scotland’s first lady Nicola Sturgeon (really the SNP’s Deputy First Minister for Scotland) stood by her “client” with her belief that “local government is a central element to good government, and the interests of people who receive services from local government are best served by a Yes vote”.

On the other side of the divorse table, “there’s no going back if we decide to go,” said Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign. In a similar vein, President of the market research firm YouGov Peter Kellner told Sky news “I can’t see No losing this now. At the obvious risk of looking like complete prat in eight hours' time, I would say it is a 99% certainty of a No victory."

The conviction of both parties and controversial statements is something that the City will have been able to recognise from its dealings with business leaders and CEOs. With the number of on-going debates in business and politics, CEOs and business leaders are well accustomed to making controversial statements and predictions about topics that may not conclude in their favour. Whilst this obviously puts those in question at the risk of coming out “looking like a completely prat”, it can be guaranteed that they will still have an impact.

One impact that could result from these statements is that they could influence the end result. The minds of the voting population are notoriously changeable and easily swayed by the comments of those influential leaders that are (or at least, appear to be) speaking with more knowledge than the population themselves possess.

Another impact is just that: impact. If a business leader makes a statement or prediction that turns out to be wrong, he has still positioned himself as a knowledgeable spokesperson on the topic, a man in the “know”, and one to refer to on this and similar debates in the future. It not only raises the profile of his knowledge and expertise in that field, but also the profile of himself, his business and even his business partners.

This was the certainly the case with the celebrities’ open letter to Scotland in August 2014, where more than 200 public figures wrote an open letter to the people of Scotland, urging them vote no to independence. Not only did these celebrities take part in a cause that they obviously believed in, but they had their names splashed across many of the UK and international headlines in the days following.

In the world of communications, positioning a CEO or business leader as an expert for comment is an oft used method of raising a person or company’s profile within the media. In times of political debate, journalists are often looking for experts to pass their judgement on the future or outcome of a particular situation, which is when they turn to PR’s to provide this comment.

The danger here, however, is that PRs will position leaders that actually don’t actually have that much knowledge on the topic but are simply keen to grab a headline. The result of this is that they can often speak out of turn and probably incorrectly. In this new age of social media and accountability, CEOs and business leaders who put out controversial statements just for the sake of it are often called out and up to account, therefore making the exercise more damaging to the person / Company than had they not spoken at all.

The lesson for communicators and businesses is therefore to approach these debates with caution and consideration. Yes, if you are or you represent a leader that is genuinely connected with, knowledgeable about or will be affected by a national debate, then offer them to media with conviction. If, on the other hand, their link to the debate is tenuous and could fall apart under cross-inspection, remove the draft “expert for comment” email from your inbox and wait for someone else to speak out and play the fool.

For now, we can only envisage how the result of the Scottish referendum will affect the future of Scotland at the UK. What we can be certain of, however, is that the predictions and statements of one set of business leaders will be wrong or at least out of tune with the majority. Whilst this won’t be damaging for those truly positioned business leaders that didn’t end up sitting on the winning side of the table, it may well be for those that unjustly threw themselves into the spotlight, and so the firing line of the referendum debate.

Michael Campbell has joined Northland Capital Partners as a research analyst. He was previously a senior analyst of Daniel Stewart. Linklater has appointed Stuart Bedford to head its London corporate practice. Stuart was previously head of Linklater’s Asia corporate practice. Bradley Phillips has joined PWC as the asset management tax director from Herbert Smith Freehills, where he was a tax partner.

The summer may be coming to a close but don’t feel the need to turn your back on the world of BBQs just yet! In Camden this Saturday there is a celebration of one of the BBQs greatest conquests; Brisket! If you like ‘em low and slow then we suggest heading to the Camden Town Brewery Bar to indulge!

If you want to enjoy some of London’s finest architectural marvels, then this weekend celebrates the annual Open House London where hundreds of buildings that are not normally accessible to the general public are opened up for your viewing pleasure. Paperworks.

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Friday, 15 August 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: A Lesson in Crisis Managment

Starbucks is a Company that has suffered from its fair share of negative media coverage of late. However, this week it may well have dodged another bullet with a carefully and most likely pre-planned demonstration of crisis management…

An article in the New York Times this Wednesday reported on the strife and struggles of the Starbucks worker, Janette Navarro. Her difficulties were largely driven by the lack of consideration by her employer. The paper published an article on the Starbucks employee’s work schedule and its damaging effects on her personal and academic life. As a mother of a 4 year-old, Janette struggles to drop her son at school whilst also attending her associate degree classes. On several occasions, she was made to work until late at night and then had to start in the early hours the following day, followed by another long shift.

The public’s concerns raised in the article could have led to a public relations disaster for Starbucks. However, immediately after the article was published, the company responded to the situation. It announced that it will update its scheduling software and allow for more human input from managers to achieve more stable and consistent work schedules for shift workers.

Cliff Burrows, group president for the U.S., the Americas and the Teavana division also sent an e-mail to all staff on Thursday morning expressing his concerns over the situation. He says that “taking care of our partners is a responsibility I take very personally. I was troubled to read a New York Times story this morning regarding scheduling challenges one partner, Janette, faced as she strives to balance work while also pursuing a college degree and raising her son.” He has also promised to ensure that workers with commutes longer than an hour are transferred to stores closer to their homes.

The response provides a great example of how companies should respond to a potential corporate crisis. The response was immediate, humane, and thoughtful. In addition, by responding directly to the staff, as well as addressing the media, Burrows as a member of the senior management, demonstrated respect to his fellow colleagues. Very often, rather than taking a defensive position in reaction to a crisis situation, admitting mistakes can be one of the most effective tactics. A PR program is essential, but it can only drive results with the support of a sincere and supportive management team, coupled with real actions.

This week, Liberum hired Anna Hartropp to its banking team, who previously worked at Laird. Jonathan Brown, previously senior associate at DWF Fishburns, joined Clyde & Co as a commercial disputes partner, whilst Ernst & Young appointed Jay Nibbe as the global vice chair for tax. He has been with EY since 1985.

The Seven Dails Spotlight event takes place tomorrow in Covent Garden. There will be various outdoor activities, including an Airstream photo booth, Sol Cinema, the world’s smallest solar movie theatre and an Emergency Poet, the world’s first and only mobile poetic first aid service.

London largest free Jazz Festival is taking place in Canary Wharf, featuring jazz-funk, Latin, big band, soul, Instrumental, folk and jazz music. Rising stars such as Andy Sheppard Quartet, Ciyo Brown’s the Motown Sound and the Riot Jazz Brass Brand will be performing.

For fellow food lovers, the Foodie Festival takes place at Battersea Park this weekend, serving popular street food. Top London chefs will be cooking live in the Chefs Theatre, whilst experts will be giving tips in the Cake & Bake Theatre and BBQ Area.

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Friday, 8 August 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Boris Johnson - zip wire to Prime Minister?

This week Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the explosive news that he will, “in all probability”, work towards becoming an MP at the next general election.

As with every statement that Boris puts out, the media coverage was both wide ranging and abundant. The Express was kind to the incumbent Mayor, quoting the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid “it’s fantastic news”, whilst The Guardian was more sceptical. It focused on how the announcement “drew accusations of hypocrisy” in regards to his previous statements that he would not hold two political offices at once.

Stepping past the issue as to whether or not he would make a good MP (again), the dramatic announcement through Bloomberg says more about his long-term political intentions than his short-term plans to become an MP. A Mayor of London running to be an MP is not a new thing. It is exactly what his predecessor Ken Livingstone did for a year, so the news should not have attracted as much attention as it did.

Some in the City have speculated that Boris will do anything for a headline, an idea that suggests this announcement was just another headline grabbing ploy ahead of a much bigger campaign. Few can forget the famous zip wire event of 2012 when he was famously left stuck and dangling and his name subsequently splashed across the media. Did the zip wire really stick by accident, or was it planned?

Fast forward two years... Does Boris truly plan on running for MP and then “sticking” with these two roles? Or is he simply building his reputation ahead of a bigger and more prime ministerial campaign?

Almost every piece published on the topic speculated that this move could simply be a small step for Boris ahead of challenging David Cameron for the role of Tory Party leader / Prime Minister. Cameron’s quote, interactively shared through social media, suggests that he was delighted with the news. He said that he has always wanted his “star players on the pitch”. Whilst this comment is clearly very supportive towards his old friend Boris, we must bear in mind the old adage: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

If further building his reputation and positioning himself as a potential PM was Boris’s intention when announcing his MP-ship plans, he satisfied his objective.

Of the comments that resulted from the news, many contained expressions of delight at the idea of Boris becoming Prime Minister:

BBC: Corrigenda (6TH AUGUST 2014 - 16:10): Excellent news. This will liven up politics and will much increase interest and further eclipse Milliwatt-Balls.

nj (6TH AUGUST 2014 - 12:36) I would really love to see this MAN as our Prime Minister who speak TRUTH and stand by his words. Who walks with the current times.

Twitter fans also shared their views: Chris Beech ‏@chris1310beech (Aug 6): Yess Boris Johnson says he is going to run for priminister, come on Bojo!!!!

For now we have to wait and see what comes of both the 2015 election and the Uxbridge & South Ruislip seat. What we can do, however, is take stock of the media coverage that Boris achieved this week and keep an eye out for more headline grabbing moves on Boris’s political road to Westminster.

There was a flurry of activity in the Abchurch office this week with two particularly good Market Lunches taking place. Following the successful float of Savannah Petroleum last week, there was lots to talk about at the Natural Resources lunch. The take-home point from the Environmental lunch was that it is down to larger tech companies to bring environmental technologies to the forefront of consumers’ agendas and so solve the current energy crisis.

This week we congratulate Anne-Sophie Girault on her appointment as managing director of EMEA business development at RBC Global Asset Management, having moved from Aviva Investors. Meanwhile, RPC appointed David Gubbay, from Dechert, as a Partner in their corporate team, whilst Stephenson Harwood announced that Ben Stansfield will join as a real estate partner after having worked in the environment and planning group at Clifford Chance.

“Political stunt” - When a politician seeking to influence a politician or governmental policy takes an action they know will gain attention but is not likely to achieve its stated goal.

Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle will take place this Saturday. 10 miles of road in central London will be closed for the occasion, enabling cyclists to pass through the city safely without regular traffic. The route features Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and many more sites along the way.

For fans of underground opera, Grimeborn Festival of New Opera will take place from 4 August to 7 September, featuring new composers, musicians, and artists. The festival is taking place at Arcola Theatre in Dalston Kingsland.

The 3 Crowns Wine Fair will take place near the Silicon Roundabout. Branded Portuguese, French, and Italian wine will be available at £5 per glass. There will be original folk music performance throughout the event.

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: International Tax Regulation – A Law to be Inverted?

The Democrat Party’s recent proposal to restrict companies from moving abroad for tax inversion has continued to cause considerable concern amongst US companies this week. It has been proposed that companies should be banned from tax inversions in destinations where less than 50% of the company’s dealings change hands. Previously, inversions were banned where less than 20% of the company changed hands, which would place home companies in a  disadvantaged position when compared to their foreign competitors.

Whilst many could, and do, argue that this change of regulation will be a positive step towards supporting domestic business; the international business community would do well to take into consideration the important part that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has to play in the growth of many of our world’s economies, and in the US itself. In the light of this new regulation, we should ask: how could the US economy suffer if tax inversion is banned?

Legal infrastructure is extremely important to Foreign Direct Investment. Asian cities like Singapore and Hong Kong have had great success in attracting FDI among their Asian counterparts due to their their transparent tax and fair arbitration systems, the explanation of their almost legendary success stories.

US trade groups have traditionally had a strong influence over tax policies, thus resulting in a distorted corporate tax system. America has the highest corporate tax rate among the 34 richest members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), yet it implements tax breaks for interested parties from machinery investment to the highly popular NASCAR race tracks. This not only disturbs the business ecosystem, but it also increases tax risks and legal costs. The current attempt to ban tax inversion might drive businesses further away from investing into the US.

Aggressive and non-transparent tax authorities are often a great deterrent for foreign investors. One recent example being India’s Tax Authority’s attempt to recollect £1.55 billion of “outstanding” tax from Vodafone for its takeover of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa’s Indian mobile unit in 2007. Whilst under the previous tax regime it was stated that Vodafone should be subjected to no tax liability as the £6.5 billion transaction took place between two overseas companies (the transactions were made through both companies’ subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands), the Authority argues that they had the jurisdiction to tax the companies in question because the transfer of stock involved an interest in the Indian company. Despite the Supreme Court’s judgement in favour of Vodafone, the Tax Authority has reattempted to over-rule the Supreme Court judgement and collect the tax. The action has posted strong threats to multinationals that have wanted to invest into India, thus further hindering an economy already suffering from stagnation of growth.

The recent spotlight being shone on the tax situation in the US creates a useful thinking opportunity about the UK tax position going forward. Arguably, the UK has a very strong legal infrastructure in place. Its access to international arbitration, adoption of Common law, and a relatively simple tax regime places it in a much more business friendly position when compared to other places in the World. It seems that US companies are increasingly choosing to turn away from their home country so as to focus on investing into regions with more transparent and simple tax regimes. The proposed US regulation has highlighted the tax issues that US businesses currently face, issues that must be addressed if that economy is going to retain its best companies, technologies and talent.

From a British perspective, however, this development of the US tax system could represent a great opportunity to the UK for Foreign Investments. By maintaining the transparency and simplicity of the UK tax system, London could position itself as an attractive location for foreign investment, and therefore look forward to a prosperous future a buoyant economy.

As always, Abchaps were busy meeting up with City advisers this week. At a lunch completely dedicated to the Social Stock Exchange, the future of impact investing was discussed and debated. A little later in the week Abchaps swapped credentials with Altitude Corporate Finance, discussing each other’s expertise in the green and life sciences spaces. In smaller groups, Abchaps continued to be busy catching up with one of the City’s most prestigious lawyers, Richard Jordan of K&L Gates, who recently returned from cycling to Paris on a Boris Bike, as well as nurturing our relationships with a number of key journalists.

Neil McPherson has been appointed as Managing Director of pensions trustee company Capital Cranfield. He will be joining from the Conference Board’s European Pensions Council where he is currently the Council Director.

Hill Hofstetter has appointed Simon Halberstam to be the head of the firm’s technology law practice in London. He was most recently head of IT law of Kingsley Napley.

Economic Refugee” - A person (or entity) who leaves their home country for a new country, in search of better prospects, opportunities and an improved working environment.

The Phoenix Fringe – Can’t make it up to Scotland for this summer’s Fringe Festival? Do not fear; the comics are also descending on London, with big names like Frankie Boyle, Al Murray and Ed Bryne all "doing their thing" on stage as well as some of the smaller names on the circuit.

Camden Beach – The sun is shining in London; those who can’t get away this summer but who may still be in need of some sand between their toes should head over to Camden, where a 900 sq metre beach has been constructed for Londoners who are confined to the concrete jungle this weekend. There will be great music to help sunbathers relax too!

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Monday, 28 July 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: IMF & Selective Criticism

On Thursday, following the publication of the International Monetary Fund’s forecast on global economy, tales of Britain’s economic growth were published on the front pages of the various media outlets, boosting the confidence of politicians and public alike. The UK is expected to grow by 3.2% this year, a figure ahead of all G7 countries, and is the second fastest growing economy on the list. The fund also increased its UK growth forecast for 2015 from 2.5% to 2.7%, compared to original prediction of 2% in October of last year. With the forecast published just seven months before the UK General Election, it will certainly have a strong impact to the dynamics of all forthcoming political campaigns.

Politics aside, the public’s perception of the IMF is also an interesting phenomenon in itself. It is not hard to observe how punishing the media has been on the IMF, following the publication of its most recent forecast. Commentators have emphasised how the IMF is proved “wrong” with current figures, arguing that the UK has made the right choice by avoiding to changing its economic policies accordingly to IMF previous predictions.

Only one year ago, the IMF’s Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard accused George Osborne of “playing with fire” by persisting with austerity. Following the fourth upgrade that the IMF has made on the UK economy since the comment was made, Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde, admitted that the fund had “got it wrong” on the UK.

Scepticism towards the IMF is not unusual. Undeniably, the IMF is one of the most powerful super-governmental bodies in existence, and perhaps not a very well-received one. As a Bretton Woods organisation, the IMF has dictated public spending patterns in the past, and arguably has caused structural changes in some parts of the world, some of which have received strong criticism from the public. Until recently, some of the economic and social consequences caused by the IMF’s induced policies have been repeatedly cited by academics and the media.

On this occasion, however, the public has been largely biased towards the recent IMF forecast, compared to any forecast in the past. The current forecast has even been used as evidence against previous IMF forecasts.

So why has this forecast been so popular? The IMF could be equally as wrong about its predictions now as it was this time a year ago, and yet the public has happened to favour this most recent forecast, portraying it as being more credible than the previous forecast.

There are two explanations for such selective criticism. The first could be a defensive explanation; the UK media has favoured the positive figures which not only prove that the nation can succeed, but which also enhances public spirit. Secondly, the current phenomenon might be a reflection of the rightward lean of the media and its support of the government’s austerity policy.

Image courtesy of Owen Phillips / IMF
Both of these explanations are possible. Either way, the phenomenon reflects how powerful public perception is in determining the way that data is interpreted. This once again indicates the importance of the communications industry in today’s world: in a world where data could only tell so much and the role of the interpreter is critical. Indeed, last week’s news about the IMF could now serve as an example of when perception has triumphed data in deriving conclusions amongst the public.

Is the future bright for solar? This question was considered and debated at another excellent EcoConnect event hosted by environment focused lawyers Pinsent & Masons. The message was that although the sector has potential, it requires greater consistency of policy. We also met with some of the City’s finest accountants at Crowe Clark Whitehill to celebrate Paul Blythe's promotion, as well as exchanging ideas with the team at Shore Capital. This week’s market lunch ran with a China theme; one that proved to be incredibly topical in light of the recent wave of Chinese companies joining the London Stock Exchange. Of course, the London Stock Exchange was well represented at the lunch to share its opinion, with other city advisers.

Law firm Addleshaw Goddard has boosted its real estate practise with the appointment of Stewart Womersley as Partner, who joins from Nabarro. And, as mentioned above, Paul Blythe has been promoted to corporate finance partner at audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill. Paul has been at CCW for coming up to 4 years, where he has advised on 35 UK public market transactions.

"Bullish" - expecting the level of economic activity in general to rise

This weekend Japanophiles – yes, that word exists – will once more be celebrating in force this weekend. If you are a fan of the food, culture and music of this amazing country then make your way over to Earls Court for the weekend-long Hyper Japan 2014 festival.

Already feeling nostalgic for Rio? Then relive the Carnival vibes by celebrating the two year anniversary of the London Olympic opening ceremony at the Great British Carnival in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This feast of colours, costume and music will mark the anniversary of the fantastic display of British local talent.

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Federer, Bouchard & Business

The past week has certainly been an eventful one for sports fans. Whilst football is still undeniably dominating the sports scene, many turned their attentions to the Wimbledon finals. This year’s Wimbledon men’s single final was certainly an exciting one for tennis lovers; 17 Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer was again competing in the finals against 27-year old Serbian player Novak Djokovic. The cheering at the venue clearly indicated that many more took side to support Federer. It was as if the crowds wished to see the legendary player winning one more Grand Slam title before his retirement, as opposed to the junior Djokovic with a long career ahead of him.

However, the women’s game was quite a different story, with 21-year old Eugenie Bouchard gaining much attention. The attention was hardly surprising as Bouchard possesses all the qualities to receive the likes of the media; she is exceptionally good looking and she entered the Wimbledon finals after having played in the Grand Slam major draws for just 14 months. The media has even been speculating about the birth of another Maria Sharapova, a woman who just ten years ago defeated Serena Williams at the age of seventeen, laying down her foundation of becoming one of the most discussed sports stars in history.

It is interesting to see how the media’s speculation about the world of technology very much resembles that of the world of sports. Leaders of the largest companies in history, including Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and the Google brothers Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are still some of the most celebrated personalities in media history. To a certain extent, the popularity of their brands is very often built upon the company and the individual's success, with many die-hard fans caring more about the success of the company in question than with the actual products being sold.

On the other hand, startups are increasingly dominating the media. The success stories of companies who have blossomed out of nowhere are nowadays just as likely, if not more, to receive media attention than the more established companies with steady incomes and long-term customers. In the UK, titles such as “Silicon Roundabout” and “Tech City” have become everyday words for the business press.

This week, for example, Google’s venture funding arm announced that it is setting up a $100m investment fund in London to invest in tech companies in Europe. Despite being incredibly high risk, venture funds have become increasingly active, and this announcement demonstrates the confidence that Google has in the startups of the world. Google was suitable rewarded for its startup focus; the media praise of Google’s risk-taking and “supporting the underdog” was bountiful.

Looking back at the examples of Federer and Bouchard, it is very clear that the press’s favour cannot be predicted or pigeon-holed. Whilst journalists are intrigued and keen to report on the entrepreneurs, innovators and startups of the new world, there is still a great appreciation for the more traditional beasts that time has proven are successful and worthy of praise.

Having made a series of appointments in recent months, Cantor Fitzgerald Europe further boosted its team with the appointment of Eric Bourguignon as Director of Consumer and Retail for its corporate finance division. Meanwhile, Neil Cullum, Head of Banking at the Accountancy and Investment management group at Smith & Williamson is due to retire at the end of this month. He will be replaced by Peter Mitchell, former Chief Executive Officer at CAF Bank. Walker Crips Investment and Wealth management Group also recruited two Barclays Wealth veterans in the form of Steven Moss and Mark Entwistle; both will be stockbrokers.

“A business beast” – A well-established and substantial corporation, possible a business that is steeped in history and tradition.

Missing the adrenaline rush of the annual school sports day’s ‘egg and spoon’ race? Not to fear. Head to Bedford Square for The Chap Olympiad where dapper attire is a must and you can take part in events such as breadbasket ball, passing the port, umbrella jousting, bakewell battles and that old favourite; The Tug Of Hair Competition.

If you are in need of some pre-game sustenance, then we suggest spending your Sunday lunch time at The Truscott Arms in Maida Vale. This Victorian pub not only does a mean Yorkshire Pudding, but they offer a whole Gluten Free roast!

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The A-Z of Generation Y

Recently we’ve seen several press articles on the tastes, working habits and culture of those categorised as ‘Generation Y’. Why all the fuss? Why should we turn our attention to this demanding demographic? At first glance, it just seems experts are advising we change working environments to play to their strengths, and, in many ways, protect businesses from Gen Y’s weaknesses.

Dave Baxter wrote an article in The Business Reporter, distributed by City AM, stating that Generation Y, generally considered those born between 1980 – 1990, are often described as "collaborative, workshy, digitally savvy and anti-authority”. These are, of course, generalisations, but looking around the City, each of these ‘Millennials’ (as they are otherwise known) that I spy undoubtedly demonstrates, at times, most of these characteristics. And the scary bit? In workplaces across the world they are starting to climb the career ladder.

This new workforce breed will undoubtedly affect how companies and leaders operate and manage their teams. Let’s consider what this could mean for employers in the communications industry…


The possibility for collaborative working methodologies is undoubtedly a positive. Working in silos would almost be an oxymoron for any natural-born communications professional. As new sources of information emerge and communications channels constantly evolve, resources need to be pooled to ensure optimal internal communications, in order to deliver the best quality of service to your clients. Collaboration in the workplace also improves the creativity of content, allowing more perspectives to shape the final product. This is essential when vying for column inches or coverage for smaller companies in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Digitally Savvy

Last week, Morgan Stanley gave the green light to its Brokers to post self-authored content on firm-approved Twitter profiles. The majority of journalists are also active Twitter users. In fact, with hundreds of emails and calls a day, often the most responsive and standout way to get in contact is via the social media platform. If financial journalists and advisors are using it, surely the platform is perceived as influential? Could the content even influence a share price? If communications professionals have grown up using social media, tweeting an equity story is as natural as putting something down the RNS, or indeed arranging a night out. It’s probably therefore a good thing to have Millennials as members of the team


But let’s not tweet before we can talk. An anti-authoritarian attitude can be difficult to manage and, more importantly, to teach. But for Millennials, it’s more a case of a lack of awareness of authority. Due to the more regimented family lives of generations past, young people were taught, ‘only speak when you are spoken to’. However, due to the flexibility and fluidity of modern family units, relationships are more relaxed at home, which can often translate to the workplace. This modern mentality means that Generation Y simply do not feel constrained or restricted by authority, so are not afraid to voice opinions. Their creative and often well-educated minds are therefore freer to help shape a company’s strategy and business decisions. Maybe that’s not a bad thing?

At the end of the day, Generation Y is becoming a more senior and dominant demographic in the workplace. Surely it would be better to facilitate their preferences and habits in order to make the most of their strengths? A diversity of skills is an asset to any business. It can lead to the evolution of a new differentiator or USP.

But then again maybe I would say that?

I was born in 1990. Oh and workshy is just a rumour!

Stephanie Watson

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Friday, 4 July 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: EU plays with the News

Google’s domination of the search engine market often makes it seem like it is the only single portal of information. This continually raises controversy over the company’s power and therefore control over online data flow. This week the debate spiked in profile, as Google erased certain links to news articles, blogs and so on from its search results.

This action follows the European court ruling in May that granted individuals the “right to be forgotten” online. The decision, which was fought by Google, asks that the company comply with the law in taking down search results that are deemed “inappropriate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”. Indeed, it is the search results themselves that are in contention, and not the content of the article or story in question. The ruling will only affect Google searches in Europe, whereas (in the USA) will remain untouched.

In response to this ruling, earlier this week Google began informing several British news outlets on the deletions that it was having to make. On Wednesday, for example, the BBC’s Robert Peston reported that he had received a ‘notice of removal from Google Search’ relating to a blog that he had written in 2007 on San O’Neal, the former CEO of notorious investment bank Merril Lynch. This removal hit the headlines throughout the course of the week, causing a spike in controversy and, no doubt, a spike in the number of hits that Google received.

A case can be made for the individuals who may deserve to disassociate their name from a story that has forever branded them on the basis of a mistake. However, more can be said and questioned on the wider implications that Google’s filtering could have on censorship and the media industry.

Importantly, should the EU have the right to pass judgment over what is “inappropriate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”?

Surely this judgement is subjective; by giving search enginges the power to decide what should and shouldn't be removed from our screens are we not posing a great threat to freedom of speech? Written pieces on the questionable actions of those involved in the Financial Crisis of 2007/08 are surely still of significant interest to the public even if they are considered by some to be "no longer relevant". Allowing the wealthy and powerful to conceal their tarnished reputations by simply filing a request of removal to Google is a dangerous path for the company and the EU court to take.

Robert Peston said that Google had “killed” this piece of his journalism. Indeed, in response to Google informing publishers of what stories had been removed, the individuals who filed the complaints have since experienced the complete reverse effect on what the ruling set out to achieve; the publicity surrounding this discussion simply highlighted and re-told the very stories that were asked to be removed. Furthermore, the subject of the deleted article will surely face more questioning from the public as publishers reveal those wanting to hide articles written about their actions.

Between May 29 and June 30, over 70,000 requests of deletions were made to Google. At the core of this debate lies the lack of clarity surrounding Google’s decision making; who can make a request? What are the criteria for deletion? How can journalists respond? The media industry is calling for transparency from Google in order to establish to what extent search filtering will impact the freedom of speech.

Abchaps have been making the most of the fair weather this week by getting out and about with other advisers. We welcomed some of Cenkos’s finest Technology experts to our office for some bubbly, before the invitation was returned by a trip to their Summer part at Coq D’Argent.

Our Market Lunches never fail to stir some great discussions about the capital markets, and a particularly interesting discussion was held at our China focused lunch, relating to the need for further promotion of Chinese companies in the London.

To expand its London corporate practice, Hogan Lovells has added equity capital specialist, Daniel Simons, as a Partner. Meanwhile, Fieldfisher has added Mark Webber as a Technology Partner at its London office, who specialises in technology, digital media, e-commerce, IT law, and IP-related transactions.Crowe Clark Whitehill also promoted Paul Blythe to the role of Corporate Finance Partner. Blythe was previously a director at the firm and has expertise in Natural Resources. He will continue to be based in firm’s London office.

Google Scrubbing: The removal of certain results from a Google search.

Thursday saw Dow Jones warming itself up nicely for a record breaking Independence Day. Although we Brits may geographically be a few miles away from the Americas, there is no reason as to why we shouldn’t help celebrate this booming economy. Those wishing to do so can raise a glass tonight at 36 Craven Street, the former home of US founding father Benjamin Franklin, with a historical tour and show.

Care for a more international celebration? City lawyer Jessica Tucker will be serving up a selection of edible treats from across the world with the Urban Food Fest on Saturday 5 July. Taking place in Shoreditch, visitors will “want for nothing” with stalls of pizza, pad thai, halloumi, souvlakia, sushi and much more. This is just another event that proves that you do not have to leave London to escape the City!

Bringing the focus a little closer to home, on Saturday the V&A is launching itself into the 21st century with its “Rapid Response Collecting” exhibition. With a pair of Primark jeans from the Rana Plaza factory disaster and the world’s first 3D printed gun, the V&A is taking a whole new approach to modern art, communicating to the British audience about the interaction between current affairs, architecture, technology and society.

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