Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oh. Em. Gee.

Whilst I appreciate my blog claims to have a financial focus and having not posted in quite some time, it would probably be fitting to cover: the potential for a Greek bail-out (overdone), constant downgrades (depressing and inevitable) or the ever-increasing wealth of the East (China's rich, we're not - pretty sure that covers it). However, having destroyed my brain over the weekend and discovered this magnificent story on Friday, in my mind this was the only choice for a good post...

Soul Calibur V.

I've never claimed to be the 'trendy' type (I wear Raybans in the hope that one day the cool kids of Shoreditch will want to play with me). Although, I've also never broadcast about the depths of geekyness I'll go to (I have an entire day in February dedicated to watching every Harry Potter movie. That's right. I've even pencilled it in). However, even the coolest, double-denim clad Shoreditcher, couldn't help but think this is brilliant.

Apparently, some Japanese gamer has used the custom character feature of Soul Calibur V to create Steve Jobs as an avatar.

Some may claim this is bad taste. I, however, can't think of a better way to be paid testament to. The man has an apple as his weapon of choice for God's sake.

Now, so far as I can see, there's only one thing left to do - create an avatar of Bill Gates and kick the shit out of it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

If ever a poster were needed more....

I feel a bit of sympathy is needed for Mario Draghi. Today he starts as the ECB's newly appointed President. For most of us the first week in a new job will consist of: unrepentant training, endless contract signing and the almost impossible task of remembering everybody's name. Draghi, however, is faced with the following 'to do' list:
  • Day one: must sign contract of employment
  • Day two: need to signal my strategy for getting the Eurozone out of the current economic doozy it's found itself in
  • Day three: remember everyone's name
  • Day four: announce the interest rate decision
  • Day five: hit the pub at lunchtime - it's been a long week...
By anyone's standards that's a bit of a beast of a week. Fingers crossed for some positive news tomorrow and Thursday - it's about time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NAPF Annual Conference & Exhibition

Last week I attended the NAPF Annual Conference & Exhibition and whilst the event itself came across as a huge success, my sheer weight gain was barely legal.

It appears that the fashionable cupcake market hasn't gone unnoticed by the financial industry and although I'm not willing to divulge the total tally consumed by myself - you can rest assured it was enough to drive Jamie Oliver away from his latest American fat camp project, to London to drop kick me onto a cross trainer and in front of a plate of saut√©ed celery sticks.

This shameful inhaling of sponge doesn't even cover the box of 'family size' Quality Street and tin upon tin of handbag breathe mints!

Not only this, but having not seen daylight in three days, my skin tone can only be described as albino.

Needless to say, other than the lack of vitamin B and personal willpower, the event offered a fantastic opportunity to network, as well as learn more about the implications of auto enrolment on the pensions industry, with impressive speakers (and eyebrows) such as, Alistair Darling and Steve Webb.

Next year will truly be the turning point to see what pension schemes are offering (and still around) to employers to accommodate these reforms.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tuition fees come at a cost

I'm no politician and by no means do I claim to have a wealth of knowledge about the UK education system (other than having a mother and two brothers who are all teachers that's about where I max out). However, I feel it doesn't take a genius to appreciate that the UK economy is supported primarily by the tertiary sector.

Therefore, to me, it seems an incredibly irresponsible move to increase tuition fees to £9,000 per year, deterring (and even stopping in some cases) students from continuing in further education, undermining the UK's dominant resource, i.e. it's workforce.

Especially when in the past, investors have been discouraged from investing in emerging markets such as Brazil due to its lower standard of education and Brazil has a strong primary and secondary sector to lean on. Surely, this should then set an example to government that education is the one area that fiscal policy shouldn't touch, if the UK economy is realistically going to improve in the long-term and avoid a double-dip recession?

Rant over.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The trials and tribulations of oil...

Like most, I only know the basics about oil:
  1. it lets me drive around (or at least it would if I had a license)
  2. you should never mix it with sea life (otherwise you're going to have a lawsuit on your hands faster than you can say Ryan Giggs superinjunction)
  3. once it's refined it can be used to make products such as: lubricants, asphalt and the raw materials for plastics and rubber

Well, I possibly didn't know the last one (I'm not even quite sure what asphalt is), but a quick Google search is the equivalent to knowing it off the top of your head.

However, what I didn't know was quite how volatile (market-wise) it was. If you read the news covering commodities (FT, Companies & Markets covers it most days towards the back pages), you'll soon see it has more ups and downs in stock price and drama surrounding it, than Jordan does on 'What Katie did next' (yes, I am a bad person).

In August, not only did we hear how the European Union was preparing to impose an oil embargo on Syria; but saw Petrofac (an oil and gas services company with a revenue of $4,354.2 million) potentially expanding its business into Libya in light of the revolution in Tripoli.

Then this month, in response to the Fed's 'Operation Twist' we've seen traders shunning oil in favour of less volatile assets: "Since the Fed concluded its meeting, gold alone has tumbled 8 per cent to $1,656 an ounce, while US oil prices dropped from $86 to below $80 a barrel, their lowest level in more than a year." (Michael Mackenzie and Dan McCrum, Financial Times).

Not to mention the Commodity Futures Trading Commission saga in August, whereby: "The [newly proposed] rules would prevent speculators from amassing futures contracts totalling more than 25 per cent of the deliverable supply of a commodity" (Gregory Myer, Financial Times).

Basically, when the Eastenders omnibus is cancelled for the Olympics/next Royal wedding, and you're not a sports fan/royalist, crack out a couple of articles on oil and you'll soon be thinking: "Oh no they did not just say that?!", "Babes that is totes out of order", or something along those lines...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Strange but false

Working in the financial sector inevitably means you will be surrounded by money and people with money (as with every rule in life there is an exception, in the case of this one it's me) and these individuals are obviously highly intelligent to have gotten where they are; and highly successful as a result. However, I used to take solace in the Hollywood stereotypes that these individuals must be, either: social outcasts focused solely on their career; workaholics tied to their desks; or have neglected friends, family and embroidery (or whatever the latest hobby craze is) to get up the job ladder.

Unfortunately, none of these are true, or at least not for the majority. It appears not only do they have the money and success they also have lives outside of work and worse still - achievements on top of this. Most of which beat my entire life's achievements.

Case one: Elizabeth Corley, CEO, Allianz Global Investors

Case two: Jerome Booth, Head of Research, Ashmore Group plc

He is now worth a whopping £160bn, getting himself listed as number 71 on The Times Rich List this year.

Case three: Helena Morrissey, CEO, Newton Investment Management, part of BNY Mellon
Whilst managing Newton Investment Management, which holds over £47bn in AUM (as of 30 June 2011) and is one of BNY Mellon's largest boutiques; she also founded 30% Club, the not-for-profit organisation aiming to get at least 30% of women on boards.

Not only this she has also been successful in her family life, with eight babies by the time she was 41.

Basically, these people are upsettingly successful and - similar to a size 8 at a night club - you want to avoid them like the plague, to minimise the feeling of complete self-loathing and inadequacy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To tweet or not to tweet - that is the question…

My former employer, MHP Communications recently commissioned a survey looking at the asset management industry’s enthusiasm (or lack there of) towards social media.

Its findings showed that only 35% of the reviewed asset management firms were active on Twitter, i.e. that actually tweeted and didn’t just have a holding page to avoid/highlight fakes.

However, according to a recent article by Tom Osborn in Financial News: Social media FX: the future of trading?, this case doesn’t appear to be the same of FX traders.

Osborn argues that FX traders are more open to the idea of tweeting because: “the global foreign exchange market is so huge that the activities of retail investors are highly unlikely to have an impact on price, especially in the main currency pairs.” However, the same could be argued for fund managers within the asset management industry.

Therefore, what is the real driving force behind this unlikely enthusiasm these experts have to make their top tips so readily available to the rest of the world?

Whatever it is, it can only be a good thing. Greater transparency within the financial industry in general has been the name of the game since the recession hit. Be it the Dodd-Frank Act for hedge funds, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) lease accounting rule reforms for lessees and lessors or the Treasury Select Committee (TSC) demands that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) disclose all bankers paid more than £1 million.

Tools such as Twitter allow this to happen (although – granted - in a very public and intimidating way for the investment community), and the precedent that the FX industry is setting is a step in the right direction.