Inefficiency is not a quality usually associated with Amazon but Jeff Bezos’s company is behaving as if it is a small, disorganised bookstore that cannot quite control its stock. “You want that book, do you? Very sorry but we have run out. We can order you another copy but they are taking a long time to arrive at the moment. How about buying another title instead?”
An artist's impression of the revamped bunks with en suite shower Photo: Transport Scotland/PA Wire
The revamp of the Caledonian Sleeper train service between Scotland and London looks like good news for the business travellers who account for half the traffic on that route.
Serco, the outsourcing group that has just snagged the franchise from FirstGroup, said more than £100m would be invested in new rolling stock that would come into service in 2018, with taxpayers footing much of the bill.
It already offers luxury sleeper services in Australia, including double beds at the very top end. The new Caledonian Sleeper carriages will feature berths for one or two travellers with an en suite toilet and shower, a safe, larger “hotel quality” towels and Shetland wool blankets (or duvets for the unpatriotic). Read more
When tycoons and world leaders meet – as they will at a conference today on inclusive capitalism in London, featuring the Prince of Wales, Bill Clinton and Christine Lagarde – you never see them exchange cards. If they do, I doubt they hang on to them. At the end of an international gathering a couple of years ago, someone went to check a billionaire speaker’s room in case he had left anything behind. The guest had tidied it himself – bed made, furniture neatly arranged. The only evidence of his stay was in the bin: business cards from dozens of hopeful high-level networkers.
Stephen Immelt, brother of Jeff Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric, has become the second Immelt to lead a multinational organisation – in his case the law firm Hogan Lovells.
Jeff Immelt has given his brother some advice on how to do so. In an interview with The Lawyer magazine, Steve says Jeff has a rule of three-to-five for managing GE: Read more
The Chinese backlash against the US decision to charge five Chinese military officers with cyber-espionage has started. Of the US companies likely to be affected, Cisco is the most obvious.
The New York Times, quoting Caixin magazine and the Xinhua news agency, says China plans to make security assessments of foreign equipment entering the country to ensure that it cannot be used for espionage: Read more
Presumably, although he denies it, Brady Dougan considered resigning as chief executive of Credit Suisse this week when it became the first global financial institution since Crédit Lyonnais in 2003 to plead guilty to criminal felony in the US. In any case, he stayed.
Is it worth uprooting family to move to a new city for a job? Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania, is not convinced.
Assessing the broad decline in internal migration that the US has suffered in recent years, Prof Cappelli argues that the trend for people to stay put may well reflect the fact that so many jobs are transient these days. Read more
Self-castration was such a popular path to a high-flying advisory career in China’s imperial court that the Ming dynasty ended up having to employ lots of eunuchs it could not afford.
Colin Fan, co-head of Deutsche Bank’s investment bank, is about to become very famous. His short video sternly admonishing traders for their online conduct and warning them that being “boastful, indiscreet and vulgar” will have “serious consequences for you personally” is certain to go viral.
Doubtless, plenty of investment banking and trading veterans will say he is trying to sap trading floors of their very lifeblood. Where would the City, Wall Street and even Frankfurt be without a certain amount of boastfulness, indiscretion and vulgarity? Well, not as deep in the reputational hole they currently find themselves, I would say. Read more
Perhaps the European Court of Justice wants to equal the US Supreme Court in a display of poor judgment. That might explain why it ruled this week that a 19-year-old directive means Google must remove some search results that people do not like.
Clayton Christensen: straight talking on complex ideas about innovation Photo: Bloomberg
And still they come. The stream of articles, books and research purporting to tell people how to innovate is unending. But is there anything new in innovation?
A lot of what is sold as new thinking is actually “people applying their own language to something that isn’t really different from what has been applied before”. That is the view of Scott Anthony, a Singapore-based partner at Innosight, the consultancy co-founded by Clayton Christensen – an acknowledged master of using straightforward language to help business people understand complex ideas on innovation. Read more
Early in her career at Apollo Hospitals, Preetha Reddy, then aged 30, went to question a senior doctor. Affronted about being interrogated by a manager half his age, he quit the next day. It taught Ms Reddy, now managing director of the Indian healthcare group, to practise “the art of listening” before confronting a more experienced team member with new ideas.
The collapse of the proposed Omnicom-Publicis merger, a bravado effort to override cultural differences, executive egos and national tax law, does not come as a surprise. The venture had been displaying signs of distress for some time, with both sides admitting to difficulties.
The challenge of getting various tax authorities to agree to a complex and artificial structure – a Franco-US company incorporated in the Netherlands but tax resident in the UK – was one barrier. John Wren, Omnicom’s chief executive, warned investors last month of delays due to tax issues. Read more
Graves at the Père-Lachaise-cemetery in Paris
I’ve been wondering about the most suitable place to commemorate the death of the Omnicom-Publicis deal. How about Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where Oscar Wilde and The Doors’ Jim Morrison are buried?
A photo of Maurice Lévy and John Wren, respectively the bosses of Publicis and Omnicom, thumbing their noses at each other against a backdrop of moss-covered tombs would be just as appropriate in its way as the infamous deal-announcement image of the two men toasting one another, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Read more
On Tuesday in New York, modern art collectors will get the chance to spend tens of millions dollars on paintings such as Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild (712)”, which is on sale with an estimated value of between $22m and $28m. Will the painting, which was sold 18 months ago at Sotheby’s for only $17.5m, set a new record for the German artist? It may be difficult to tell.
Apparently size matters in assessing business culture. The latest Populus opinion poll for the FT says 61 per cent of British voters want the party that wins the next election to be tougher on “big business”.
This result raises all sorts of questions – and not only for the political parties, which appear to be drawing up the battle-lines over how to treat business. With British elections one year away, it underlines, for example, that companies need to recalibrate their strategies to deal with political risk on the home front. It also makes me wonder how British people, let alone their elected representatives, define “big business”. Read more
The recent history of Britain’s Co-operative Group is so peculiar it is tempting to paraphrase the opening lines of Anna Karenina – “Happy companies are all alike and every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way” – and dismiss it as a management aberration.
It’s the Woodstock of Capitalism, the investors’ Super Bowl, the Lollapalooza of lolly…
Tens of thousands of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders converged on Omaha, Nebraska, for the $300bn conglomerate’s annual meeting and the chance to hear in person from its legendary founder, Warren Buffett (and his droll sidekick Charlie Munger).
Stephen Foley, the FT’s US investment correspondent was there, too, to capture the wit, wisdom and sometimes wackiness on display. Read more
A speech by Lionel Barber, Financial Times editor, at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, May 1, 2014. An accompanying video can be viewed here.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, I am delighted to be here tonight at Hughes Hall in the University of Cambridge. This is the prestigious City lecture, but sadly I will not be providing slides. As Lord Acton might have said, power tends to corrupt, PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.
Tonight I want to talk about bankers and banking. These days, bankers are widely viewed as greedy, self-serving, amoral or actually dangerous. Estate agents, even journalists, are held in higher regard.
This past week’s kerfuffle over bonuses and remuneration at Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland is a reminder that bankers continue to be held responsible for the financial crisis and the economic calamities which followed.
Bankers appear to be living in a parallel universe, where the rewards are far out of kilter with what the rest of society can expect. This speaks to a deeper unease about inequality which explains the unlikely best-seller on economics, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
My questions tonight are: Can bankers mend their ways and their reputations? Is there a path to rehabilitation? Read more