Friday, 30 October 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: TalkTalk couldn’t walk the walk

“We're currently making security enhancements to our website, which should be back online soon.”

This is the message that you are greeted with on the website for one of the world’s biggest telecoms group, TalkTalk PLC. On Thursday 21 October the news broke that police had commenced a criminal investigation into the cyber-attack on TalkTalk, leaving 4.2million customers’ details including contact numbers and payment information exposed. However, the Company managed to disclose the news 24 hours after they had been made aware. The share price subsequently nosedived 10 per cent as further revelations were disclosed with regards to exactly what and who had been effected and statements from CEO Dido Harding claiming ”stolen customer data may not have been securely encrypted” did little to keep their head above water.

Would the graph look so similar if the company had developed a better, more stringent crisis communications strategy? Looking at Fig.1 the share price dipped during August. This depicts one of the two previous data breaches that the Company suffered and had this not been dismissed as a ‘blip’ then potentially the topography of this share graph would tell a different story.

Crisis communications, if not a desired consideration, should be ready and waiting in reserve to protect your company from any future bad news or operating faults, that you can respond in the most efficient, transparent and effective way to uphold your reputation as well as the safety of your customers and shareholders. Information security consultant Paul Moore rightly so states that ‘more worrying than the breach itself, had been TalkTalk's response to it’. There is a key to addressing the many communications issues related to crisis and disaster, of which TalkTalk have not handled correctly:

1. Anticipation of crisis:

Problem: TalkTalk had previously become exposed to data hacking and therefore should have placed measures to not only protect networks but individual data

It is not a matter of if it is a matter of when, cyber security especially is a must for companies storing the details of consumers, preparation is key.

2. Assessing the risks:

Problem: TalkTalk claim that they are unsure as to whether the data of customers bank details were encrypted, as confirmed by the broadband provider

With the level of technology available a company must have access to analogous detail, this is a good message to send to your shareholders if not your customers.

3. Communication and notification:

Problem: The lag time in notification from security breach to announcing this to their customers. People were left puzzled as to why the website was ‘closed for maintenance’ on Wednesday morning.

How will your news be shared with investors and/or the public, the quicker and more direct the better. Trust is based on communication and evidently leaving your investors and customers in the dark can break that trust.

4. Evaluation and analysis:

Problem: TalkTalk failed to learn from previous crisis: fail to plan - plan to fail

After the smoke clears revise the reaction and handling to secure your anticipation methods, think of the crisis as a vaccination, you come out stronger.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing however in the business world companies like TalkTalk cannot afford to simply tape up holes in the structure of their strategy of crises management.

Specifically cyber intelligence is advancing faster than some companies can develop their defenses, both systematically and managerially there is a drive to evolve rapidly to build resistance for the future and crisis. If a company can develop and format a clear and concise crisis management scheme then it should in theory be ahead of the game and ‘hacking’ can return to Horse and Hound.

This week, Abchaps hosted a market lunch, where respective opportunities in the M&A and IPO markets, as well as issues surrounding diversity in the City, were discussed. Our CEO Julian Bosdet also attended a dinner hosted by Nabarro to discuss the development of AIM.

KPMG has appointed Catherine Grum as its Head of Family Office. She joins from Salamanca Group where she was Managing Director and Head of the Private Office. Daniel Williams has been appointed global head of internal audit at the IG Group, having previously been head of internal audit for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at BGC Partners. Finally, Macquarie Investment Management appointed Gillian Evans as head of UK institutional distribution. She joins after 10 years at Goldman Sachs.

“Blip” - an unexpected, minor, and typically temporary deviation from a general trend.

Fed up with Halloween already? On Saturday, Regent Street’s sweep from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford will be filled with bumper to bumper cars as the UK’s largest free-entry motoring show rolls into town. Containing vehicles of all ages and abilities, from veteran cars straight out of period dramas to racing and eco automobiles, this year’s showstopper will include Aston Martin’s bespoke DB10, created especially for the new Bond film ‘Spectre’, of which only 10 were made for filming, out of which only 3 survived.

If you happen to be a car fanatic, the following day (Sunday 1 November).some of the classic cars involved will assemble again, early in the morning in Hyde Park, before setting off to Brighton for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. This annual event began in 1896 when the law requiring motorists to have a man bearing a red flag preceding their cars was abolished. Car owners celebrated by destroying their flags and setting off for Brighton in the 'Emancipation Run'. The first organised run took place in 1993 and today the event attracts owners of veteran cars built pre-1905 from all over the world.

Christmas really is approaching as the Oxford Street Christmas lights are switched on this Sunday. The Oxford Street Christmas lights will see 1778 snowball-like decorations (and their 750,000 LED lightbulbs) lit up once again for what is the fifty-sixth year the road has been decorated for the festive period. In a subtle upgrade from last year's display, 445 new golden baubles will twinkle among the existing silver lights. Kylie Minogue will do the honours, and a stage outside the Pandora Marble Arch store will host live musical performances and celebrity presenters from 5.30pm including Foxes, Fleur East, Gabrielle Alipin, ‘X-Factor’ winner Ben Haenow and performers from ‘Matilda the Musical’.

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Friday, 23 October 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: The Great British steel off?

This week, India’s Tata Steel, announced that it would be cutting nearly 1,200 jobs at its plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire. These events put the deepening manufacturing crisis in the UK into sharp relief as the layoff effectively marks the beginning of the end of the steel industry in the North.

Tata is the third steel company to announce significant loses and cuts over the past few weeks. Both Thailand’s SSI and Caparo Industries previously operated steelworks in the UK and have also been forced to make similar announcements. Tata Steel were in an impossible position to escape from press criticism. However, Tata’s response to the situation has arguably helped the Company to weather the storm and remain in the strongest position possible.

Immediately following the layoff, Tata Steel, U.S. Steel Corp., and other steelmakers called for increased trade protection from China’s overproduction and the resulting cheap supply of steel (see Wall Street Journal). This action has two major benefits; First, it helps to show that the manufacturers are being proactive to help mitigate the situation. Second, it helps the public to perceive the layoff as the outcome of an industry issue, by diverting the media’s attention away from Tata’s responsibility, and instead pointing towards an alternative macro cause - the oversupply of steel from China.

The industry issue could not be more pertinent, as President Xi Jinping and his wife have been touring the UK as part of the first Chinese state visit to Britain in 10 years. Almost all media outlets which covered the layoff have also investigated the overproduction of steel from China.

Tata’s example once again demonstrates the importance of extensive communication between companies, the media and the public in times of financial distress. A proactive approach to crisis communications helps both the public and the media put things in perspective, and could perhaps even draw sympathy as companies operate in difficult business environments.

This week, Abchaps attended Small Cap UK’s 20 years of Small Cap party as a guest of UHY Hacker Young at the Brand Exchange, celebrating 20 years of small cap equities in London.

Fieldfisher has appointed Matthew Hinxman as partner in its finance practice, joining from Baker Botts. At BNP Paribas, Wike Groenenberg has joined as global head of emerging markets strategy, having previously been head of strategy for BlueBay Asset Management’s emerging macro fund. Finally, Pinsent Masons have appointed telecoms specialist Reg Dhanjal as partner. He joins from DAC Beachcroft.

“Cataclysmic” - a momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition; an event that brings great changes.

All Rugby’d out? Try something a little off piste this weekend as Ice Hockey teams London Raiders take on the Bracknell Hornets, the atmosphere will be electric at the Lee Valley Ice Centre in East London, as this sport takes no prisoners.

Sushi Samba is closing this summer’s party season with their last day party in conjunction with Dayzed, if you fancy sipping on some bubbly and enjoying views from the 39th floor of the Heron Tower then head back into the City this Saturday.

And lastly do not forget that this weekend the clocks go back, so you can look forward to that extra hour in bed, nothing worse than getting up for work an hour early on a Monday!

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: Will Britain un-friend Facebook?

Tax. Let’s be honest, we all loathe it. Let’s be honest, it is a necessary evil. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing that quite gets the people of Britain’s blood boiling like the subject of tax avoidance. The subject has again made an appearance in the headlines this week when it was reported that Facebook paid less than £5,000 in UK corporate tax last year. This has sparked debate about technology companies that go to extraordinary lengths to cut their tax bill.

The UK and Facebook are not alone – Bloomberg Business highlighted ‘eight of the biggest US technology companies that added a combined $69 billion to their stockpiled offshore profits’. These companies including, Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Google Inc. accounted for more than a fifth of the $2.10 trillion in profits that US companies are holding overseas.

Back in February 2014, Abchurch asked the question why bankers are being demonised for their pay packets and not tech billionaires. Now, a year and a half later, tech is under the spotlight and this is shown by a wide variety of media outlets calling for more regulation when it comes to tax and technology companies. The view is even shared by a number of traditionally right wing publications, such as the Times. If this trend continues, one such result might be the exodus of global tech players from the UK.

However, this recent bad press for tech companies suggests that the trend is changing and discontent is growing amongst the public. The revelations regarding Facebook will reignite the debate about how much UK corporation tax companies should pay at a time when several multinational corporations are being investigated by the European Commission over the tax arrangements they have with European Union member states. According to the BBC: ‘Google, Amazon, a division of the Fiat motor company and Starbucks are all subject to the investigation and the European Commission has said it could widen its probe further.’

One thing is certain, tech companies will no longer fly undetected under the radar. The more this behaviour continues, the more severe the reaction from the British press, and in turn the public and Government, will be.

To avoid making the same mistake as the banking industry, the tech companies need to start taking proactive approaches to rebuild their corporate image before the anger and mistrust of the press and public get out of control. In addition, these tech giants should be communicating frequently and immediately with the public on the initiatives they have taken to align themselves with public expectations, in order to reposition themselves as the public’s partners, not their enemies.

This week, Abchaps Quincy and Philip are attending the IPREX- EMEA Fall meeting in Amsterdam, where we will be meeting with the senior members from our partner firms from the EMEA region to discuss the strategies taken by agencies to meet the challenges of the changing communications landscape in order to achieve growth and to deliver client results.

We also attended the annual charity fundraising event Grouse & Grape Luncheon and hosted a market lunch, which probed lively discussions about UK corporate tax regulations and IPO sentiment in the City.

This week Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management appointed Stefan Krezuka as Chief Executive Officer, Head of Investment Management and member of their Global Executive Committee. Howard Kennedy appointed Jonathan Metliss as a consultant specialising in corporate finance and Matthew Hinxman joined Fieldfisher from Baker Botts as partner in its finance practice, providing experience within energy and natural resources.

“Tax avoidance” - The legal usage of the tax regime to one's own advantage to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law.

For those of you who feel that sleep is overrated, Fabric is turning 16 this weekend, and to celebrate is going nonstop from Saturday to Monday. Finishing at 5am, so there’s still time to be at the desk bright and early.

If you prefer your weekend to be slightly more sedate, Tate Modern is opening the Hyundai Commission with an inaugurating installation called ‘Empty Lot’. Conceived by the Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas, this work aims to create a unique portrait of London.

Finally, a weekend isn’t a weekend without a good meal, and Lyle’s of Shoreditch is offering just that. As winter draws in, take solace in this six course taster of all things game, with chefs from around the world coming together to create an international take on the most British of ingredients.

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Friday, 9 October 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: All this baggage is taxing

Reaction to 5p tax…a mixed bag

The 5p bag charge hit the England on 5 October, and judging by the initial reaction to the tax, the Government has a long way to go to persuade the English public of its merits…

The colossal impact on the environment made by plastic bag litter should of course be the main point of focus for the tax implementation, but pollution and lack of landfill area are no new issue. Waitrose alone hands out 257 million of the 12.4 billion free carrier bags given out by UK retailers each year and even with the intent to reduce bag usage through the promotion of bags for life, testing this water has evidently yielded no major conversion of shopper habits.

The objectives of the bag tax are to reduce waste, with proceeds going to both environmental charities as well as research institutes over the country which clearly demonstrate environmental issues are slowly moving up the agenda at Westminster, but is that resonating through to enough the population? Polls project that 62% of the shoppers in England believe that the policy is reasonable - a 6% increase since 2012. It is also only a matter of time until small businesses begin to follow suit, and there would be no reason not to.

Disgruntled shoppers have been quoted across all forms of media this week. For example a shopper told the Telegraph that “I will never, never pay for a plastic bag. It’s a scam. I don’t believe it’s to help the environment or to help charities. It’s all about the money – and we won’t see any of it.”

From a communications perspective it is interesting to investigate into the strategy behind the timing and execution of the policy. Why has the UK been so late to start to address its carbon footprint in the wake of other far “greener” European countries and is this why some shoppers are viewing the tax with much cynicism? If you can recall from personal experience there has been a marked change in the checkout experience; gone are the times of the magician-esque reeling off bag after bag for your weekly shop. One vivid memory of super market shopping on the continent, however is that you always would pay a couple of cents for your bags. This is very much an ingrained part of shopping in Europe, and needs to become the case in this country; this is the PR challenge the Government has on its hands.

Surely by utilising the media and digital space, it is imperative to drill in to shopper’s minds that they are helping put a stop to dreadful and crippling levels of waste. The next job of the Bag Tax marketing and communications effort is to make a 5p purchase part of everyone’s daily routine and not to even be questioned. A key illustration the Government will have to get across is to actually show shoppers where their money spent on plastic bags is actually going. If shoppers can clearly see a difference has been made then the policy will be viewed in a greater light, and then hopefully paying for your plastic bag will become second nature, like it is in Europe.

It is too early to predict the trends and long-term opinion on this policy, however judging by the success of both Wales and Scotland throughout 2013 and 2014 respectively, the UK as a whole should publish positive statistics in October 2016. England, compared to Europe are playing catch up, and if effective PR and the right media coverage are visible and tailored to the right audiences, this policy shall become second nature within society; and therefore a PR and marketing success.

This week, Abchaps attended Stifel Healthcare Drinks Reception at Enoteca de Luca. The event was a success, catching up with old acquaintances as well as meeting new ones, discussing the latest trends in this growing sector.

Abchurch Communications has appointed Philip Dennis as Managing Director. Darren Ellis joined Zeus Capital as Chief Operating Officer and Mike Cuthbert and Martin Green are appointed as Co-Heads of the Financial Institutions Group, a new growth sector for Zeus.

“Magician–esque” to act like that of a magician, in this case a particular trick when pulling the handkerchiefs out of your sleeve.

This weekend, enjoy the 140th anniversary of one of London’s greatest monuments, Liberty’s. Liberty in Fashion explores Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

In Trafalgar Square, help celebrate one of the world’s largest religious festivals, Diwali. As the festival of lights, Diwali promises a kaleidoscopic telling of Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom. Market stalls will offer arts, crafts and vegetarian Southeast Asian food.

Finally, celebrate one of the world’s other great festivals, Oktoberfest. Whilst this may bring with it a slightly larger chance of a hangover then Diwali, who can turn down a litre of beer, bratwurst and pretzels? London’s Tobacco Dock plays host to four days of this piece of Bavarian heritage.

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