Monthly Archives: September 2009

Ravi Mattu

Time magazine (and a number of its sister publications and websites within Time inc.) is running a year-long series on the future of Detroit.

There are few cities that have experienced as much change – not, it seems, for the better – as the result of the changing nature of business. While there may be a lot of popular anger at banker and their bonuses (in the UK at least), the decline of Detroit from being one of the biggest and most prosperous cities in the US into one of its most savaged.

A few statistics tell a grim story:

By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit’s treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services. The school system, which six years ago was compelled by the teachers’ union to reject a philanthropist’s offer of $200 million to build 15 small, independent charter high schools, is in receivership. The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved. Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit, the unemployment rate is 28.9%. That’s worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.

PS: For anyone who hasn’t seen it already, I would recommend rewatching Roger and Me, Michael Moore’s first film, which charted the decline of Flint, Michigan when GM closed its factory there.

Luke Johnson

Something has been troubling me for a long, long time. I have a certain regret about the industries to which I have devoted my attention. I love fields like hospitality and the media, where I have spent much of my career. I understand how the economics work: restaurants and broadcasting can offer high margins and excellent cash flow, and providing diners and viewers with pleasure is hard to beat.

Ravi Mattu

I’m a bit late on to this but last week Jerome Kerviel, the “rogue trader” who is accused of losing French bank Societe Generale €5bn, was interviewed on French television.

The video on France 2′s Objet du Scandale is revealing partly because of all the talk at the G20 and, in the UK at the Labour party conference, of the need to curb bankers’ bonuses or at least restructure how they are paid out. Kerviel’s broader point is that there isn’t any point; whatever rules are created, clever people will find a way round them.

But I thought his other comment on the nature of his former job as a trader pointed to a wider issue that doesn’t seem to be attracting quite as much discussion. “It’s a job that makes you a bit crazy, an addict. They push you to take risks,” he said, referring to the culture of his former workplace.

Stefan Stern

Lord Turner’s recent remarks (first made in Prospect magazine) about “socially useless” financial innovation may have cost him a few friends. Perhaps a good regulator – he is chairman of the Financial Services Authority – should have a prickly relationship with the industry he is scrutinising. But he returned to his theme in front of a City audience at the Lord Mayor’s banquet last week, provoking some heckling at the time and rather more harrumphing after he had finished speaking.

Lucy Kellaway

On Saturday, the FT published a list of the top 50 women chief executives in the world and, loving such lists, I settled down over breakfast to study it. First, I admired the double string of pearls worn by the CEO of Avon; the pearly white teeth of the Sara Lee chief and the spookily perfect skin of Yoshiko Shinohara, founder of Tempstaff in Japan – who looks younger than I do but turns out to be 74.

By Andrew Hill, associate editor

What do you think of our Top 50? Have we missed anybody out, or included a woman you think doesn’t deserve to be there? And should the FT publish a ranking of top women in business at all? Join the debate; add your comments to this post. Click on comment.

FT top 50 women in world business

Ravi Mattu

Last week, we published an article about Covestor, a trading site that has become a sort of Facebook for investors. It is trying to tap into the idea of social networks as a means to make profits and encourage communities.

After we published the piece, Doug Estadt, one of the company’s “model managers” not mentioned in the piece, e-mailed with his own experiences.

I traded stocks for years with mixed results.

Last winter a friend, knowing my passion for trading stocks and online technology, brought Howard Lindzon to my office. Howard told me about a new community he’d built on Twitter called StockTwits that he was very enthusiastic about and of which I was thrilled to learn. I signed on during the dark, chaotic period the markets were suffering this year and found an incredible fount of knowledge, a wonderful community willing to share ideas and their actionable trades in real time.

Ravi Mattu

Stefan Stern

Take a look at those pictures of Sydney, Australia in clouds of dust, and tell me that you don’t think that climate change and land and water shortages are a matter for concern.

An expert from the state of New South Wales told the ABC that we should expect more scenes such as these:

“Dr John Leys from the NSW Department of Environment’s Dust Watch division says it looks like dust storms such as this will become more prevalent.

‘There has been a report… that shows that this drought is the first of its type, because we’ve never had droughts which have been so hot,’ he said.

‘Things like this are going to be more prevalent unless we can improve our land management practices so we can maintain more ground cover, so there is less chance of us all blowing away.’ “

Ravi Mattu

If you haven’t seen it already, do check out “State of Play”, our excellent series of interviews with chief executives of some of the UK’s biggest companies.

Leaders so far: Francis Salway of Land Securities; Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP; Warren East, Arm Holdings; and Michael Smith of Mind Candy.

Tomorrow: Justin King of Sainsbury’s who has some interesting things to say on how consumer behaviour may well have changed for good as a result of the recession.



About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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Elsewhere on FT.com: Lucy Kellaway

Lucy Kellaway writes a column on Mondays on work , poking fun at management fads and jargon and celebrating the ups and downs of office life. She is also the FT's Agony Aunt.

Elsewhere on FT.com: Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson writes an FT column on Wednesdays on entrepreneurship. He runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and is chairman of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a column in the Financial Times. In the online edition of her Dear Lucy 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too.

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