Sometimes a species reaches the end of its natural existence. As its numbers dwindle, disappearance becomes inevitable and the last survivors of the doomed herd become objects of curiosity and pity. This is happening to chief executives who are also chairmen — but with none of the pity.
Scottish nationalism figured prominently in the campaign for Thursday’s UK general election. But the first true act of independence could be a move by HSBC, a bank that has never been happy in London, back to Hong Kong. The Scots expatriate clan that founded and still heads HSBC is losing patience — a virtue it never possessed in abundance — with being taxed, ringfenced and unappreciated.
Stuart Gulliver’s crisp explanation this week of why he once held his annual bonuses in a Swiss private bank account via a Panamanian company was plausible yet somehow more puzzling than if he had been evading tax.
Charlotte Hogg, chief operating officer of the Bank of England, gives career advice to London school pupils
Being seated inside the hallowed court room of the Bank of England was the last place 14-year-old school pupil Rachel Natoajeva thought she would end up when she signed up for an event to meet “inspirational women”.
“You can’t see someone from Lewisham coming here,” she explains, as oil paintings of be-wigged former governors stare down upon us from the walls. One of 120 school girls from London state schools aged between 13 and 17 selected to attend a “speed networking” event at the Bank with City career women, surprisingly few said they wanted to be bankers or work in finance. They came here, one girl explains, to meet “women who are successful”. Read more
© Tim Moore/Alamy
If you thought that where you worked, how much cash you made, or how well qualified you were was the main reason you were content – or otherwise – at work, think again.
A new study has found that the most powerful predictor of a worker’s job satisfaction is their boss’s ability to do their – that is the worker’s – job themselves.
The study, by academics from Warwick University, the University of Wisconsin and Cass Business School, part of City University, looked at three decades of data on job satisfaction among 35,000 employees across the UK and the US. They examined responses to a series of questions such as “Could your supervisor do your job if you were away?”
They found that the perceived competence of bosses was more significant than a host of other factors, including workers’ education levels, the industry they worked in, the money they earned or their gender. Read more
Je m'excuse: Andy Street © Bloomberg
France is economically doomed and no place for an entrepreneur. “Nothing works and worse, nobody cares about it.” If this is what Andy Street is like at a public engagement, just imagine how dreary he’d be on a home counties golf course. It’s like being bashed around the head with a ringbinder full of Economist back issues.
Piqued by a bad Eurostar journey, the managing director of the leading UK retailer John Lewis morphed into John Bull at an awards event for start-ups in London on Wednesday. Such events can have an aphrodisiac effect on middle-aged executives running staid businesses. But what has John Lewis done recently to give it the right to appropriate the rock star smugness exhibited by many modern entrepreneurs? Read more
If you are a business leader and you yearn to spearhead reforms to British bureaucracy, you have until the end of next week to apply to be the first chief executive of the UK civil service. So far, recruiting the requisite heavy-hitter is proving a struggle.
Shortly after Philip Clarke made his surprising – and, it turns out, prescient –admission at a conference in March that his days as Tesco chief executive were probably numbered, the boss of another blue-chip British company asked me, worriedly: “Does it sometimes take two CEOs to turn a company round?”
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
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
Few things are as alluring as optimism and Mark Carney sees the banking glass as half-full. The Bank of England governor has arrived from Canada with a dose of can-do spirit, casting off the pessimism of Mervyn King, his predecessor.
Readers from countries accustomed to wild extremes of weather, please look away.
But for those in the path of the storm that swept through southern Britain into London’s rush hour this morning, we’re keen to know how you managed your teams to cope with the disruption. Read more
British bank customers are hearing a lot about a 19th-century Scottish cleric called Henry Duncan, who opened the world’s first savings bank in 1810, from Lloyds Banking Group and TSB, the latest descendant of the good vicar’s pioneering idea.
But the origins of “new TSB” are less inspiring than those of its ancestor. It is the brand attached to bank branches the European Commission has forced Lloyds to separate out as a condition of the group’s post-crisis government bailout. In due course, Lloyds is expected to float TSB on the stock market. Read more
Long hours have become the norm for employees, and the demands of social media and working for global organisations mean that for many there is never an end to the working day.
There is a case that a rested employee is more productive. But should a company encourage its workers to sleep? Read more
What strikes me about the findings of the UK Competition Commission’s inquiry into the audit market is that in a world of ever more rapid change, a company’s relationship with its auditor is now often the oldest fixture in the boardroom.
Think about it. The commission says 31 per cent of blue-chip FTSE 100 companies have had the same auditor – almost invariably one of the “Big Four” – for 20 years or more. During that period, on average, most companies will have changed their chief executive at least four times, their non-executive board members (assuming replacement at the nine-year mark, when they lose their independence according to UK guidelines) twice, and their computer systems probably five or six times. Read more
If I were a mastermind seeking to undermine the City of London, I would shift Germany’s financial centre from Frankfurt to Berlin, just as the country moved its political capital from Bonn in the 1990s. Then it would be part of a cosmopolitan city where foreign bankers and lawyers might actually want to live.
When David Cameron flew to Davos last week to tell companies that reduce their tax bills by dividing activities among countries to “wake up and smell the coffee”, his target was clear. Starbucks now faces a consumer boycott and has been publicly accused of acting unethically.
It’s 25 years, almost to the day, since I started at the Financial Times. “One tip,” confided a more experienced colleague, early on: “Don’t stay more than five years, or you’ll be here for ever.”