Friday, 21 March 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: George's Re-borne Popularity

Oh what a difference a day makes...

Once more, George Osborne emerged from the door of 10 Downing Street to present the Spring budget, clutching the box that has so often caused City-folk and the public alike to see red with anger.

As usual, the press were gathered; crowded around like a pack of hyenas ready to set upon and tear apart Osborne’s carefully worded document.

However it was not a shade of red that the City saw on this occasion but a fine shade of sky-blue, indicative of a budget and economy finally enjoying a sunny outlook.

It is easy to see why; the world of corporate is set to become markedly easier - the budget for exports is to be increased to £3bn, the Annual Investment Allowance for companies increased to £500,000, and R&D will receive a boost in the form of £220m and a 3.5% raise in the rate of cash credit payable to loss-making SMEs conducting R&D which do not have corporation tax liabilities.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this week’s budget was not what the budget contained, however, but the effect that it had on the reputation of its owner. George Osborne’s has had a notoriously negative reception in the press over the past few years, battling to maintain composure with a struggling economy. Who could forget the coverage surrounding the “Omnishambles” of 2012 and the famously controversial “pasty tax”?

After the release of this rather more popular budget, however, it seems that Osborne has become the flavour of the month - on Friday morning The Sun published an article on how Osborne’s popularity is on the rise following the budget, with 37 of voters saying that he is doing a good job as Chancellor. This was a marked improvement on the figures released just a couple of months ago that painted Osborne as a man disliked.

Even Alistair Heath, City AM’s rather out-spoken editor, tweeted an unusually supportive article on Friday morning:

@AllisterHeath: My @cityam column: Labour would be mad to oppose George Osborne’s great pensions liberation …

So what is the underlying cause of Osborne’s new popularity? Is the public now recognising a job well done? Or is it just the warm, fuzzy feeling of an economy back on track which Osborne is lucky to be sitting at the centre of?

To some extent Osborne’s popularity will be due to both. He has dealt the British economy a good hand and so should be able to savour a brief moment of good favour. But it is also clear that his sudden lurch in popularity is the side-product of the British economy gaining momentum.

This week’s good news should serve as a lesson to those managing communications: no matter what the Company, who the CEO or what the contract, public opinion is often dictated by large-scale national issues over which neither the Company nor the communications manager has any control over. The job of communications agent is therefore to be on top of any industry happenings or national issues that could affect the entities that they represent, and to be able to react and adapt as necessary.

This week the Abchaps decided that as Spring has undoubtedly sprung into action in the City, it was time to throw a party! The excitement bubbling away in the technology sector was the focus of the event, and we were lucky enough to welcome over 100 companies and advisers into our 125 Old Broad Street office. Medtech, cleantech, biotech, fintech – you name it; we discussed it!

The LSE Media group also held a fascinating event which one of the Abchaps was invited along too. The BBC presenter, Justin Webb, explained his views on ‘the News from America’ as well as current trends such as social media and information aggregation in journalism.

Simon Newsham, who previously owned the tax law practice Newsham Tax Solicitors, has joined Winckworth Sherwood as a partner of the tax team. He previously headed the tax practice at Dorsey & Whitney, and his career has lead him through Macfarlanes and KPMG.

Monica Ma left her role as a partner at Simmons & Simmons to join Keystone Law. Monica is part of the pensions and incentives team.

Lucy Harrold has also joined Keystone Law, where she is now part of the intellectual property division. Lucy was previously a partner at Stephenson Harwood.

“Omnishambles” - A neologism first used in the BBC political satire The Thick of It. The word refers to a situation which is seen as shambolic from all possible perspectives.

One can never go wrong by immersing oneself in the world of art. This Saturday, the Royal College of Art’s annual fundraising exhibition and sale will be held at the RCA gallery at the Battersea site. RCA students, along with work by established artists, illustrators and designers and famous names will be selling their postcard-size artworks.

For cruise lovers, the sixth annual London Cruise Show will be held this weekend at Olympia. This will be the Europe’s biggest cruise expo, parading a range of ships of all sizes: from small to modern resort style. This exhibition would be perfect for experienced sailors and curious cruisers alike!

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Obamacare "hangs" with the Millenials

President Obama, in what some have considered his riskiest interview to date, appeared on Between Two Ferns; a spoof chatshow hosted by Zach Galifianakis, star of "The Hangover". The show was broadcast online by the comedy website Funny Or Die on Tuesday.

Some may deem this move to have been a risky one by the affable President, but it is arguable that where there is risk there is also gain when appearing on a show that draws in 30 million viewers. Obama has been trying to promote the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, and what better way to reach out to young and politically indifferent Generation Y who are more inclined to support it than through their favourite medium: social media?

Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House - Pete Souza

With access to such a large and influential audience, appearing on the show for six minutes and gaining the opportunity to urge young people to sign up for health insurance at the website was a remarkable success for Obama. Furthermore it generated significant social media attention as it went up online.

The message the business community can take from this week’s appearance is that too often business leaders are too reticent to engage with social media, deeming the risks too high. The opposite is true, and the more bold a company is and the more outspoken a Company’s CEO is, the more likely it is to make an impact and get its message heard.

On Thursday one Abchap was invited to have tea with the FT to talk about Abchaps’ favourite topic: video and multi-media! Abchurch was delighted to be invited to this round-table discussion to share our insights on how to make content more engaging and accessible. We can’t stress more about the effectiveness of using videos in communicating the true essence of a business to the wider audience.

Abchurch also never tires of hosting our well-received market lunches. On Tuesday, advisers from SP Angel, MXC Capital, WH Ireland, Fasken Martineau, Deloitte, Grant Thornton and Investec came and shared their insights on the current happenings in the increasingly heated market.

One of these lunches had a particular theme, with advisers from Liberum Capital, Pinsent Masons, CICC (UK), and Allenby Capital attending to discuss business in relation to China. The Abchaps enjoyed sharing their views on how the perception of Chinese companies continues to evolve among investors, in part thanks to improved communications!

This week, WH Ireland made a top-level appointment as Dan Cowland was appointed Finance Director and member of the Board. Dan joins WH Ireland from Shore Capital, having gained a wealth of experience at Macquarie Bank and Lehman Brothers in the past. Cantor Fitzgerald also gained two new advisers in the forms of Tobias Woerner and Howard Prince-Wright; they had previously held roles at Antenna Group and Saxobank (respectively).

Earlier in the week, Field Fisher Waterhouse announced that Philip Abbott has become a partner of the firm’s Finance division. Philip is a specialist in funds finance, real estate finance and restructurings sectors and has formerly worked for Simmons & Simmons.

"Millennials": Also known as Generation Y, Millenials are the demographic group following Generation X. Commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Whilst the ExCel Centre in Islington may be full of City speak during the week, at the weekend it becomes the site and haunt of London’s magical and mythical caricatures. Head up to the ExCel Centre this Saturday for the London Super Comic Convention, to include panel discussions, autograph session and publisher reviews.

This Sunday will be St Patrick’s Day; Abchurch forecasts showers of green and a rather jollier than usual vibe. Head on down to Piccadilly for the Parade and Festival, formed around the theme of “World of Dance”. Look forward to a headlining act by Riverdance and a performance from the cast of West End musical “The Commitments”.

If you would prefer to avoid the crowds of the City, why not head out to the Country with the Country To Country Festival. This two-day indoor festival brings the music of Nashville to Greenwich in London’s O2 arena with appearances from Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley.

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