Monday, 30 January 2012

The Case for Hester

In case it escaped your attention, and despite my own close association with the finance industry, I've become increasingly disillusioned with the self-serving monster that the City has become.

So it might come as a surprise that I count myself amongst those who feel that, both morally and contractually, RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester was entitled to his bonus.

If you or I had entered into a challenging role on the understanding that a bonus would be forthcoming provided we delivered on an objective serving the public interest, we'd feel pretty shafted if the rewards for our labours didn't materialise.

Now this isn't a case of an employer reneging on their part of the deal - Hester's bonus was rightly placed on the table in accordance with the provisions of his engagement and in acknowledgement of the fact that RBS has begun to turn around under his stewardship.

Instead, this is the story of a man compromised into foregoing his entitlement because a Government too toothless to regulate effectively wanted to make an example of him by demonstrating they are coming down hard on the excesses of a banking industry responsible for getting us all into this mess in the first place.

And who were there, gutlessly baying over Cameron's shoulders?  The double-speaking Labourites who, in language suggesting they intended to stitch Hester up all along when first negotiating his pay deal, are trying to salvage some credibility by claiming "There is nothing in the employment contract of Stephen Hester which binds the company or its remuneration committee to pay a mandatory bonus".

Hester's reward for stepping up to the plate?  A poisoned chalice, shimmering enticingly … at the end of a stick.  He was never going to win against the full weight of our conveniently united reds and blues, both trying to appease a public rightly disconcerted by corporate greed.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Barclays Wins Award! Oh, hang on .......

A short post today, on a theme close to my heart.

To coincide with the World Economic Forum currently being held in Davos, Switzerland, Barclays Bank today (27 Jan 2012) won a Public Eye "shame award" for [purportedly] speculating in food prices (story here).  So much for CEO Bob Diamond's appeasement to the Occupy Movement that banks should become "better citizens".

Those of you who know me will be aware of my Facebook page "Let's Sink Anthony Ward ("Choc Finger", Armajaro) and his greedy ilk", first set up when Mr Ward's company Armajaro caused heavy fluctuation in cocoa prices in 2010 (you'll have to start right from the bottom of the threads to get to why I set it up in the first place).

Since then a number of people and companies have been added to my 'Hall of Greed / Corruption (Allegedly)' and I urge you to look at the page and then get behind organisations like the World Development Movement, who are campaigning hard for tighter trading regulations.

An update to the above story, posted by the World Development Movement (26 Apr 2012) can be found here
Denied (twice) at AGM - WDM have been advised "Barclays creates commodity derivatives which it sells to clients, but it doesn't technically speculate itself." More investigation required ... views on this would be appreciated by commenting below.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Getting down with the Kids

How many social media sites can you join before it becomes overwhelmingly, administratively burdensome?

Having been a Facebooker since the Year Dot (and experimenting with MySpace, MSN etc. along the way), it's been a blessing to keep up with family and friends in Oz.  I'm also on LinkedIn and, more recently, Twitter (second attempt, after failing to see the advantage first time round).

I've now had to pare down some Facebook game peripherals (I've farmed, gambled with virtual money - what's the point? - and was even briefly a hitman for the Mafia) because suddenly social networking has got serious for me as I explore ways of monetising my web 'influence' in the continuing absence of a regular job.

It started with Klout, a measure of your 'reach' on the web, i.e. how many people you engage with who go on to proactively share or comment on your output.  You add all the places where you have a web presence (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Blogger to mention a few) and it pulls in all the data and gives you a rating of 1-100.  At first, I was suspicious of a site seeking access to so much of my personal information but, hey, I decided my life is an open book anyway and I have nothing to hide.

And today I finally awoke, blinking into the light of a brand new world of possibilities as I started to develop my contacts in an initiative I recently found on Klout called Wahooly. It cleverly capitalises on your influence by joining with partners to help develop and promote new business start-ups in exchange for a share in their equity.  At the same time it gives those companies a new kind of traction (as an alternative to conventional marketing) to hit the market running.  It fits well with my social conscience, because it might just be that missing link between Capitalism and Socialism where more people get to share the prosperity, rather than all the spoils going to 'The 1%'.

But it's piled on more web admin ... cross-following, making Twitter lists, keeping up with group discussions and exchanging details, etc.  I only hope I'm using my time productively in between usual jobsearch techniques.  That said, I feel energised by the buzz I'm getting from all the Bright Young Things that have subscribed.  Of course, the super-competitive go-getter Americans have gone into hyper networking mode! Gotta love 'em for it. Failure is weakness.  :-)

We'll see, but at the moment I'm an excited bunny waiting for the first proposition to land in my portfolio!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Somebody mugged us ...

... and then disappeared into the crowd.

Why are we sitting back and allowing the gamblers and speculators to get away with this financial hit'n'run? Where's the forensic analysis of who ended up sitting on a pile of gains at our expense? - and for which we'll keep paying?

My belief is that the investment houses knew for many years that the continuous splitting of financial instruments was unsustainable - rumours had been circulating well before the meltdown that it was inevitable the whole flimsy pack of cards would have to come tumbling down (if only because it was becoming too administratively burdensome) - but the dealers knew that for every desperate new position they took, they were still raking a nice little commission regardless of the outcome.  They might not get as big a performance bonus, but it would be enough to pay their exorbitant salaries in the meantime.  If the writing was on the wall, why not go totally mental, keep playing "pass the toxic parcel" and hope you got out of there with enough feathers to cushion your cosy little nest egg before it all went tits up.

The truth we have to face up to is we're in a self-perpetuating tailspin and, regardless of politicians and financiers trying to talk us up (no doubt in the hope of dusting off their balaclavas and doing it all over again at some point in the future), no known strategies are going to work - not austerity, not even honesty.  It's way too late for that - society is in exponential decay as our population explodes.  I read yesterday that we'll have to produce as much food in the next 50 years as humankind has consumed in history to date.

An optimist by nature, I don't like to entertain or promote doom and gloom - someone either tell me I'm wrong or show me a platform I can rally behind.