If you had asked board directors at the beginning of last week which of two situations – the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine in Crimea, and the forthcoming British Budget – was politically riskier, they would have chosen the first. But for a few insurers involved in the lucrative business of offering annuities to pensioners, Britain turned out to be the more perilous place after George Osborne, the UK chancellor, astounded them by announcing reforms that could cut the size of that market by 90 per cent.

Emma Jacobs

Marian Robinson with Barack and Malia Obama

Michelle Obama’s secret weapon for this week’s China trip has been unveiled: she is taking her mother Marian Robinson along, as well as her two daughters. Dubbed “grandma diplomacy“, it is seen as a way of charming the Chinese, who place greater emphasis on tight family bonds than their American counterparts. Read more

Andrew Hill

Two images stand out from the 30% Club’s latest report into why relatively few women make it to the highest echelons of UK companies.

Both illustrate that the main problem with gender imbalance lies in the executive committee and below – the so-called “talent pipeline”. A man starting his career at a FTSE 100 company is 4.5 times more likely to reach the executive committee than a women, the research says. This is how far short big UK companies fall:

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Once upon a time, a worried manager realised staff were ignoring his instructions. He paid a handsome fee to sages and soothsayers, who advised him to use a compelling tale to season the facts and figures he wanted his team to digest. And so, business storytelling was born and spread throughout the land.

Newsweek’s flawed attempt to expose a 64-year-old Californian called Dorian Nakamoto as Bitcoin’s mysterious inventor has come at an opportune moment for exponents of the cryptographic currency. It has distracted from a crisis of trust caused by the failure of Mt Gox, the Tokyo Bitcoin exchange.

Pets at Home’s IPO prospectus opens a window into the lucrative world of Britain’s cats and dogs. The company, which went public on Wednesday, has a 12 per cent share of the £5.4bn pet care market and there are some fascinating nuggets in its 261-page document. Here are six of the best.

 

1. What recession? Britain’s pets haven’t been tightening their collars.

Living standards in the UK have fallen to their lowest in a decade (a fact not unrelated to Poundland’s successful IPO on Wednesday) but the country’s pets appear to be better off than ever. Read more

Adam Jones

Delivering a TED talk has been a passport to fame for an elite band of academics. According to an FT book review at the weekend, one who is well placed to make that step up is Nicholas Epley, a behavioural science professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Prof Epley’s recently published book Mindwise looks at how difficult it is to understand what others are thinking. In the FT review, Julian Baggini commends him for rejecting the “folk wisdom” that suggests this can be overcome by merely trying to place yourself in the other person’s shoes.

A TED talk for Prof Epley would be “well-merited”, the review concludes, albeit after exhibiting a certain amount of exasperation with the “smart thinking” publishing genre to which Mindwise belongs.

FT readers don’t need to wait for a TED talk though. Back in 2008, Prof Epley delivered a series of three excellent video lectures for us covering bias in decision making, how to read colleagues’ minds (or at least try to) and how to motivate staff. Read more

Andrew Hill

Unless Euan Sutherland’s resignation letter is published in full, the context of his claim that the Co-operative Group, where he is chief executive, is “ungovernable” will remain unclear. But it is a strange declaration for any professional manager to make: cats are ungovernable; humans, however cussed and contrary, generally do respond to direction. How they are directed is another matter.

The Co-op is a strange beast, as the saga over Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers’ appointment and eventual disgrace revealed. But I think Mr Sutherland has been doing a decent job of taming it. He took some flak last month for appearing to ask Co-op members – and the general public – how the group should be run, rather than setting his own strategy. I read this, however, as a clever combination of an advertising campaign, an opinion poll, and a response to those insiders who disliked his management style. Read more