Posts tagged ‘finance’


Occupy, the brand

27.11.2011

Serious! "Occupy Wall St"
VBlessNYC, under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

It was in the fourth quarter of the year that Occupy became a brand. Just capitalize it, and everyone knows what you mean. The original geographical indicator of Wall Street disappeared—to be fair, it began disappearing when similar protests began happening across the United States and then, the world—but I’ve only noticed in the last few weeks that the simple utterance of the word Occupy brought with it a multitude of values. That’s what a brand does: it’s shorthand or code for a range of associations.
   But what associations? If one believes some of the media, then Occupy is unfocused, with its protesters simply upset at the status quo. Others see it as an attack on the technocratic agenda and the multiple facets they possess, whether it’s the financial system being broken (something Chris Macrae brought up at my first Medinge meeting back in 2002) or corruption in politics.
   The truth, at least initially, was probably somewhere in between. I never believed Occupy was one where there was some “protester class” (at least one media outlet believed that), and that its members came from a cross-section of society, even if a few of the international protests brought out a few of the usual suspects from antiestablishment groups. It was clear, early on, certainly from the social networks that brought more direct news than the mainstream corporate media, that everyday people were involved. To me, the most poignant images were probably that of retired cop Capt Ray Lewis getting cuffed by the NYPD.
   However, there were so many conflicting emotions at Occupy that it would be hard to sum up just what people opposed. Maybe it was very hard to voice because there are so many parts to the system that they see is broken. I know when we did our post-Enron session at Medinge, we probably had three dozen Post-It notes on a whiteboard summarizing what we thought was wrong with the business system. They were then synthesized into eight points, not without some effort.
   As the protests wore on, the synthesis has taken place. It’s not an unusual phenomenon: gatherings of people can take time to figure out, through dialogue, what their common grounds are. Better doing it this way, codifying through dialogue, than having a set of values imposed on you from above: it’s a way to preserve authenticity in the movement. A good set of values that represents an organization, in a formal, corporate setting, is usually the result of in-depth research into staff, channel members and external audiences. In the branding world, especially with social networks empowering communications, it makes more sense to harness people’s thoughts through the technology we have at our disposal.
   It was interesting reading what Naomi Wolf had to say about Occupy in The Guardian. The crux of her article is not about brand whatsoever—she highlights potentially dangerous patterns as crackdowns take place and their implication for the US—but read on and she finds out there are certain things that Occupy wants through simply asking its supporters online:

  • get the money out of politics (e.g. ‘legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process’);
  • ‘reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act … This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks’;
  • ‘draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.’

       No doubt there will be variations of these with Occupy movements in other parts of the planet.
       I don’t know Ms Wolf’s processes, or how academic this Q&A was, but perhaps that is not the question here. What we should realize is that the movement is taking a more defined shape, and the media’s contention that this is something unfocused is getting weaker by the day.

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    Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, politics, USA | 2 Comments »


    Today’s adventures with US dollars and New Zealand banks

    14.11.2011

    National Bank Asian Banking
    Above: I’m Asian, and I want banking. National Bank gets me again. (For that story, click here.)

    Out of the businesses I have, one is unincorporated, and it has a US dollar bank account based in New Zealand. Over the years, it’s been at numerous banks, and was at the ANZ.
       Until the ANZ began charging a deposit fee for foreign cheques. It seems that the ANZ does not understand the basic principle that a deposit is a loan by the customer to the bank. I would only accept such a fee if, when borrowing money from the bank, I can charge it a Jack Yan Is Good Looking and Humble fee, but, alas, the bank said it would not accept such a term, nor such an outrageously false name.
       So the account went over to the TSB, still my preferred bank by some margin, but it would have to be a term deposit—that was the rule back in 2006. However, I was advised that it could be turned into a call account, which sounded closer to what I had at the ANZ, but without the ridiculous deposit fee. That would work for me—plus I needed an account where I could deposit US dollars and not be a two-time loser on the exchange rate when depositing and withdrawing money because of using a Kiwi account as an intermediary.
       Unfortunately, the rules have changed. TSB will only open a new account for foreign currency for legal persons, and an unincorporated business is not a legal person. That’s fair enough, though it doesn’t help me. HSBC, for whom TSB acts agent, is in the same boat after I enquired there today about its market currency account. However, I should note that, unlike many other businesses, I had a competent person on the phone who could answer all my questions with only a total of one minute on hold.
       So, what are the alternatives? After visiting several banks, I don’t believe I have any answer.
       Kiwibank, a division of Johnny Foreigner Bank (2013) Ltd., did not know. The teller believed that I might be able to, but it was done over the phone, not in person. She was unsure how I could deposit cheques over the phone. I couldn’t find the slot on my phone where I could insert a cheque.
       The National Bank, a division of ANZ, still charges a deposit fee. I was shocked to learn that the fee has increased to NZ$15. I was pretty sure it was NZ$5 when I left the ANZ group. Stuff that. Enough horsing around.
       The BNZ, a subsidiary of yet another Australian bank, was unable to advise me whether I could open an account without my making an appointment.
       I have yet to try Westpac, where Lucire Ltd. has its account here, but Lucida turns me off. I may have to check them out next, but I would really prefer a New Zealand-owned bank. As I write this, I realize there’s also the Auckland Savings Bank, also owned offshore, but they may be able to accommodate me (goodness, a decade of Goldstein and it’s still not in my consideration set?). Might have to be a trip into Bay Road tomorrow.
       Where does John Key keep his $50 million? Maybe that’s where I should put these funds.

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    Posted in business, humour, New Zealand, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


    Taranaki food shop must be a front for international finance

    02.02.2011

    In the Fairfax Press today, this story: ‘Food shop protest “racist”’.
       From what I can make out from this story, New Plymouth District Councillor Sherril George (her address, telephone number and email are here) has been urging people to boycott a Waitara food outlet run by some folks of Cambodian ethnicity.
       This business, Town & Country Foods, says it has employed New Zealanders to get it up and running, some neighbouring businesses say it has brought extra custom to the street (though the Hot Bread Shop has seen its sales dip 50 per cent), yet Councillor George claims that it does not support ‘the local community’.
       Most Taranaki residents support the business, which is heartening. One person in the article says Councillor George has a personal vendetta and it’s to do with the extra competition her own food business faces.
       My concern is this quote which she provided to John Anthony:

    This is nothing to do with my shop. This is to do with the health of our town and the economy. I’m trying to make other small communities aware of what happens when these people move in. There are 14 food stores here in Waitara and one comes in here and kills it for everyone else.

       Now, I’m sure she knows that the owner is a gentleman called Hoyt Khuon, so what’s with that third sentence?
       Who are ‘these people’?
       Would the Councillor care to elaborate? She is, after all, getting called out and being labelled a racist by one person in the article, and I’m sure she’d like to deny that charge.
       From what I read in the article, Mr Khuon employed locals to set up his business and is employing locals to work in the business. I only know the story second-hand, but how is this ‘bleeding the town dry’ when it’s a local business, owned locally, and paying taxes locally? It’s not as though the profits are all being siphoned offshore.
       If that’s her problem, there are plenty of other businesses she needs to stand outside. Will she monitor the fruit juice aisles at New World and demand that no one buys Just Juice because it is Japanese-owned? Will she stop deliveries of Wattie’s products to Waitara because of its ownership by H. J. Heinz of Pennsylvania? Will she stop giving quotes to the Fairfax Press because it is Australian-owned? There are bigger businesses she needs to take on if she is truly concerned about the health of her ‘town and the economy’.
       For years, I’ve been voting with my dollar on how I spend, so the argument about supporting New Zealand businesses resonates with me—and Town & Country appears to be a legitimate New Zealand-registered, tax-paying business.
       Unless she provides the Taranaki and, now, the New Zealand public with how Mr Khuon’s business is a front for international financial traffic, her arguments appear deeply unconvincing—and only lend weight to the charge of racism that one resident has levelled at her.

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    Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, politics | 4 Comments »


    Learned misbehaviours

    17.01.2010

    Jack Yan at Proton Business School, IndorePreparing for one of my Swedish speeches, I came across this, which I delivered in India in December 2008:

    If you ever get to read Michael Lewis’s writings about the US financial industry, you’ll learn that a lot of people within there do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it. There is just a series of coded behaviours and no one remembers the reasons behind it …
       If you can separate what is being done because of learned behaviours—or should I say misbehaviours—and what is being done because the principles are correct, you have already come a long way in dealing with international business.
       The only way to break the cycle is to communicate with people, and get them as passionate about your brand as you are about it. Because you might just discover that despite more entrenched companies operating in your industry, they may well be helmed by management who do not care or do not remember just what their brands stand for.

       This is exactly where ‘having council experience’ has got Wellington. It is a crash course in learning misbehaviours. And the more you learn, the less relevant you become to Wellingtonians as a representative of the city.
       This is why I am heading over (on my own money, I should add): to get even more world-class examples and create even more networks should I be elected mayor.

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    Posted in branding, business, culture, India, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 3 Comments »