Monthly Archives: March 2013

Andrew Hill

I can’t remember a declaration of war as emphatic as the one made by Neil Ashe of Walmart on Wednesday. The chief executive of the US retailer’s ecommerce arm told the FT:

We own what we own, and we’re going after what we don’t. We can get to every customer in the world via ecommerce. It doesn’t matter where they live or how much they earn.

In Walmart’s sights: Amazon, the online jungle’s biggest beast. Read more

Infuriated by Fleet Street’s tabloids, the House of Lords this week nodded through a law to curb the British press. It authorised a Royal Charter that defines how self-regulation will work after the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.

Andrew Hill

Like thousands of parents inspired by the story of 17-year-old “software prodigy” Nick D’Aloisio, I’ve just asked my teenage son what he’s doing on his computer that might later be worth $30m.

Mr D’Aloisio’s tale has all the elements to make pushy parents sweat: the boy had the idea for his news reader app Summly, just bought by Yahoo, while revising for his history exam, for goodness’ sake! Read more

US chief executives are beginning to wean themselves from their perplexing attachment to the role of chairman. But at a few large banks, the addiction persists.

John Gapper

The chaos over the rescue of Cyprus – under which insured bank deposits were initially threatened but have been reprieved – has raised questions about whether depositors in other eurozone countries will feel safe.

But I wonder if the bigger long-term effect will be on offshore banking centres in general, rather than the eurozone. After all, Cyprus shows that a small financial centre that becomes overwhelmed by financial difficulties cannot stand behind a banking system several times the size of its economy. Read more

Depositors of banks in Cyprus now fear they have less money than they thought while US corporations have plenty of cash to hand – $1.45tn and rising, according to Moody’s. But whose money is it, anyway?

Andrew Hill

Warren East’s unexpected retirement as chief executive of Arm Holdings, comes at “an inflection point” for the chip designer, according to the FT. Which raises the question: why go now, then?

Andy Grove, former chief executive of chipmaker Intel, wrote in his book Only The Paranoid Survive that he worried most about strategic inflection points. The book is full of valuable tips about how to tackle such moments, but quitting is not one of them. On the contrary. Read more

The first two rules of Fight Club, according to the film of the same name, are “You do not talk about Fight Club” and “You DO NOT talk about Fight Club”. Studies of corporate success follow the opposite code. Since Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published In Search of Excellence in 1982, readers have not stopped talking about whether the lessons taught by such books are valid.

John Gapper

I struggle to see any logic behind the European Parliament’s latest initiative to crack down on financial industry pay, beyond a dislike of bonuses. The idea that investment funds should be treated similarly to systemically important banks has even less merit than the original idea.

The basis on which the EU proposed to rein in bank bonuses – despite UK opposition and criticism from supervisors including Andrew Bailey, the incoming head of the Prudential Regulation Authority – was that excessive bonuses gave bankers a perverse incentive to take risks. Read more

Andrew Hill

HSBC’s strategic overhaul is already heading for a place in the business school curriculum. This was, after all, the group that called itself “the world’s local bank” in its advertising campaigns and once relocated its chief executive to its traditional Asian hub in Hong Kong. But current, (firmly London-based) incumbent Stuart Gulliver has more modest international ambitions. Read more

It has been a frustrating week for well-intentioned and interventionist political leaders. Michael Bloomberg and David Cameron have been roundly defeated in their efforts to prod citizens into health.

Andrew Hill

Pat Howard is getting some undeserved flak for suspending four players from Australia’s national cricket team.

The manager was once chief operating officer of a listed company, but never in his corporate management career can he have taken a more controversial decision. Read more

The debate about “work-life balance” will generate contributions weightier than Erin Callan’s short article in last weekend’s New York Times, but few will be sadder.

John Gapper

The article by Erin Callan, former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, on how she lost herself in work, is an interesting reflection not only on women on Wall Street, but also on how relentlessly many bankers work.

Ms Callan, who lost her job in 2008 “amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt”, writes in the New York Times of the extreme work culture at the top of the former investment bank: Read more

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is unhappy with Forbes magazine, accusing it of prejudice in estimating his wealth at $20bn – a mere 26th among the world’s 1,426 billionaires. The Saudi investor has broken off his “longstanding relationship with the Forbes billionaires list” and sought comfort in the Bloomberg Billionaires ranking.