22 Jan 2016 |Off Balance
This year marked the 30th anniversary of PwC's annual pantomime, with the entirety of the production formed of its staff. Warwick Hunt, the firm's CFO joined in with the fun yesterday to help mark the occasion.
The unique charitable production is a must-see for many in the accountancy profession, ever since its first production back in 1987, with the PwC team performing the classic Disney tale Cinderella.
This year it was Jack and the Beanstalk, which was apt as there were a number of bean counters in the audience - one of the many jokes which appeared in the cleverly-written script.
The production was not your typical pantomime that can be found in your local church or town hall. The actors were supported by a brilliant orchestra (all of whom are PwC employees) who kept up the tempo with their takes on melodic pop tunes like One Republic's Counting Stars, Miley Cyrus's The Climb and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk.
Despite PwC having over 200,000 employees to choose from, the firm's C-suite execs weren't afraid to get stuck in and take to the stage. CFO Warwick Hunt kicked off proceedings with a skit alongside "Fairy of the Year" Alecia Putt.
Each night a different board member takes on the cameo, with appearances from UK chairman Ian Powell, head of clients and markets Dan Schwarzmann, head of strategy Richard Oldfield, head of deals John Dwyer, regions chief Stephanie Hyde and head of consulting Ashley Unwin.
Other sketches included appearances from fast growth companies leader Brian Henderson (see below), who was part of the excellent ensemble.
Hunt also capped off the evening by awarding Putt and her character Fairy Ida Noh with "Fairy of the Year 2016" as well of reminding people what the evening is all about.
Each year PwC chooses a different charity to donate all its proceeds to, and this year the finance group has chosen national children's literacy charity Beanstalk, which is also very close to the heart of Financial Director's very own Chris Warmoll.
The production ends its six-day run on Saturday with a matinee performance that is sure to be fun for people of all ages. FD is already looking forward to next year's show which is sure to be a hit.
12 Oct 2015 |Off Balance
" ...WE WANT to work with our suppliers to get back to innovating on behalf of our customers and these changes will make is easier for us to do that."
These are comments made by Tesco chief Dave Lewis at the latest IDG retail conference, and a big part of this ‘innovation' is to tell its smallest suppliers that they will receive payments within 14 days.
Off Balance is fascinated at how Tesco will achieve this, what with it having such a bad reputation in how it treats suppliers. In June, the Groceries Code Adjudicator said that 30% of suppliers it spoke to said Tesco rarely complied with the Supply Code of Practice. Only Iceland scored lower.
OB was also reminded of the last Competition Commission (as it was then) back in 2006, when sister title Accountancy Age and credit agency Graydon revealed that only 67% of invoices below £5,000 had been paid on time. Then-FD Andrew Higginson said that "we have electronic payments to suppliers so don't see that as the case...".
Can Tesco finally get its house in order? Better late than never...
26 Aug 2015 |Off Balance
OFF BALANCE was intrigued to see another big merger in the gambling sector announced today, with Betfair and Paddy Power entering into that ‘mutual appreciation society' phase in front of investors and the markets.
Of course, towns aren't big enough to accommodate both boards. And some people have to move on.
Paddy Power CFO Cormac McCarthy is conspicuously absent from the businesses' statement to the market about its future plans and board structure. Alex Gersh, Betfair CFO, is announced as the CFO if the two companies merge.
While Cormac won't have the top role, he can console himself in being part of what OB believes are the best set of executive portraits. As you can see (below), the caricatures look awesome, certainly better than the efforts you see in tourist destinations. And he's even holding an abacus!
Though not averse to a bit of wild cheek itself (see Betfair's Twitter accounts), it will be interesting to see how the new group will manage both brands, and how it deals with culture at staff level.
One thing's for sure, if Off Balance was Alex Gersh, we'd be lining up a new portrait as soon as taking on the new finance role.
18 Aug 2015 |Off Balance
OMG. Those clever number-crunchers at the Bank of England set up an experiment to see if Twitter could help predict a run on a bank.
Concerns had been raised in the lead-up to last year's Scottish independence referendum, which Governor Mark Carney had warned "could raise financial stability issues".
So they wrote a programme to analyse tweets (there's 500 million of them every day). Suddenly, on 15 September, there was a spike in the number of tweets containing the words ‘run' and ‘RBs'. Were queues of anxious depositors about to start forming outside the Royal Bank of Scotland?
Nope - it was tweets about the Minnesota Vikings game. ‘RBs' referred to ‘Running Backs', not ‘RBS'. "We learnt a lot about social media analysis," says the slightly embarrassed Bank, "and a little about American Football."
ROTFL, as they probably don't say at the Bank of England.
07 Jul 2015 |Off Balance
"THE GREEK DEBT CRISIS DEEPENS" or some variant thereof is something OB has become wearily used to reading over the past five years, and even more so over the last couple of weeks.
So imagine our relief when, at last, a modicum of good news about the beleaguered Mediterranean state emerged as it teeters on the edge of leaving the eurozone.
Yes, a well-meaning man by the name of Thom Feeney is trying to crowdfund another bailout for Greece.
29-year-old Feeney, who works in a shoe shop in London, is seeking a rather ambitious €1.6bn (£1.14bn) by the end of today, and has so far attracted €1.9m from donors.
Anyone donating €3 can expect a postcard from Greece of Alexis Tsipras, Feeney promises, while a donation of €6 will get you a feta and olive salad. €10 will gain you a "small bottle" of Ouzo, while €25 will buy you a bottle of Greek wine. (How much for the whole country? Ed)
It's fair to assume that, unless the IMF has a massive change of heart and chooses to use IndieGoGo for the first time, then Feeney's efforts will be in vain.
Still, it's not for the want of trying.
"All this dithering over Greece is getting boring," he declares on his fundraising page. "European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not. Why don't we the people just sort it instead?
"The European Union is home to 503 million people. If we all just chip in a few Euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy."
11 Jun 2015 |Richard Crump
'BASH the banks but just not too much, particularly if they threaten to up sticks and shift their tax base to friendlier climes' - has been the reaction to HSBC once again considering whether to move its headquarters from the UK.
Earlier this week the bank - which has been engulfed by scandal and controversy over its historic tax practices - said it will review where it is domiciled, raising the prospect that it could end its 22-year stay in Britain and return to its historic home of Hong Kong.
And in Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee and one of the bank's fiercest critics, HSBC has found an unlikely supporter. Speaking to Financial Director at the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors annual dinner at London Guildhall last night, Hodge, who once branded HSBC bosses as 'incompetent and naïve' over the bank's tax affairs, said "of course they [HSBC] should stay, but they should act properly".
Among HSBC's chief gripes is the cost of the UK banking levy, effectively a tax on balance sheet assets. The bank is set to pay around £1.5bn in 2015. If HSBC and its ilk are to remain in the UK with their very substantial tax contributions, the chancellor will need to consider a reform of the bank levy in order to reduce its burden on the foreign operations of UK banks.
The taxman has also come in for its fair share of flak from Hodge during her tenure chairing the PAC. But rather than subject HMRC to an independent review of its resources, powers, culture, governance and modus operandi as called for by Paul Aplin, chair of the ICAEW' Tax Faculty Technical Committee, Hodge added that the taxman should be "better and properly resourced".
05 May 2015 |Off Balance
WHILE NOT the most publicity-loving of finance directors, David Keens hasn't been afraid to pull together the numbers of one of the high streets few successes of modern times - namely as FD of NEXT.
Although in the prime of his life, Off Balance did wonder whether he would slink off to tend to the garden, having put in a 23-year stint with NEXT and senior roles for the preceding ten years.
But the understated number-cruncher has come back with a bang, scooping two senior non-exec roles within a space of days. This just months after picking up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Business Finance Awards.
Firstly he was named audit chair at Sainsbury's, where he will work with other uber-finance heads such as chairman David Tyler (GUS, Christie's) and CFO John Rogers. Just three days later, and he's picked up another role: as audit chair and senior NED at Auto Trader. Having had a break over the May bank holiday we assume he'll be recharged enough to take on another role soon.
One thing's for sure: Keens certainly isn't letting the grass grow under his feet...unless he's in the garden of course.
21 Apr 2015 |Off Balance
FINANCE CHIEFS tend to stay out of politics, Off Balance has noticed. Some would say that finance chiefs rarely stick their head above the public domain parapet on anything.
So it was nice to see the AA's CFO, Martin Clarke, giving plenty of space on page two of today's City AM to reveal his wishlist for what a political party would do to win his vote in the General Election.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he calls for "investment in industry" as top of the business agenda. Certainly not in spendthrift mode, he say there is a real opportunity for "modest" amounts of public money to be used alongside commercial and retail sources of funding to create industries of the future.
Despite Clarke declaring himself a Labour supporter, he described the party as "the worst offender" in "crude politically motivated policies that have nothing to do with their stated intent", citing the mansion tax as a cynical ploy to punish bankers.
He also wants a proper culture of philanthropy in the UK, with tax concessions and structures that mirror the US. Clarke also calls for someone to have the courage to admit that "throwing money" at the NHS is not the solution.
Off Balance is intrigued at how, given Clarke's wishlist, his party of choice will manage...
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