Thursday, February 26, 2009

Banking on generosity

Many thanks to RTBH reader Karn for sending in today's hopeful tale from MSN Money. It's a rather unusual story about a banker, Leonard Abess Jr, who saw fit to reward his employees handsomely even in the current financial climate. Having steered Florida's City National Bank through market turmoil, Abess sold a large stake of the business to a Spanish bank for $927m. Rather than passing this windfall to senior executives and board members, though, he decided all his employees and retirees deserved a share, regardless of seniority. So all received cheques in the mail averaging $127k each! In total, Abess handed out $60m to his staff saying "those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity, I always thought someday I'm going to surprise them." And what a nice surprise it was - particularly when set against the greed and excess sadly symbolised by so much of the banking industry today...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Planning to keep hope alive

His heroics have inspired us already. Now, Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III - the pilot of the US Airways flight that landed, ultimately safely, in the Hudson River (see earlier post) - is sharing some of his reflections, including through this article in Newsweek. I won't seek to paraphrase, but this passage in particular jumped out at me: "We never gave up. Having a plan enabled us to keep our hope alive. Perhaps in a similar fashion, people who are in their own personal crises—a pink slip, a foreclosure—can be reminded that no matter how dire the circumstance, or how little time you have to deal with it, further action is always possible. There's always a way out of even the tightest spot. You can survive." Good advice - planning can help with many things, including working your way out of a crisis. That's something many people need to hear right now. And Sullenberger is, I guess, the living proof. (Photo from Newsweek.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy investments

This is a nice little piece from the Economist, which suggests that if you want to make sound investments you should put your money into happy companies. Apparently, recent research by the Wharton business school indicates that Fortune Magazine's '100 best companies to work for' have routinely outperformed their less happy competitors on the stock exchange. It could be that strong and effective leadership is the key to both profitability and employee satisfaction, of course. Either way, it's good news!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cambodia's truth will out

Some long-awaiting good news from Cambodia's Phnom Penh Post today, as the trial of Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav - known as 'Duch' - finally got under way. Duch is the first of several Khmer Rouge officials expected to go before the UN-backed trial, but as he has actually confessed his crimes (which include running the notorious Tuol Sleng detention centre) it's thought his testimony will reveal much about the inner workings of Pol Pot's brutal regime. Substantive hearings should begin in about a month – but even for today's procedural hearing there was, apparently, a huge media presence. It seems likely that Duch's revelations will echo right around the world. (Photo from Phnom Penh Post.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yes, you heard right...

Well, the hope and expectation that some financial bosses would apologize for their part in fueling the economic crisis (see post from 27 January) were not, it seems, misplaced. According to this article from the BBC, two former heads of UK banks said "sorry" today, before the UK Parliament's Treasury Committee. More importantly, perhaps, they also identified specific mistakes they made that led to the collapse of their banks and highlighted changes that must be made across the banking sector if risks are to be reduced in future, including changes to staff bonus schemes that "do not reward the right kind of behaviour". Now we need a bigger discussion about the kind of behaviour we do want to see across the financial sector (and there's been precious little on this line of enquiry from the US administration so far). Behaviour that's more ethical, more socially responsible, with less emphasis on rent extraction... perhaps?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First woman to swim the Atlantic

Every now and again you witness a feat by a fellow human being that is truly astounding. This story, from Canada's CBC News, documents just such a feat. Earlier today, 56-year-old Jennifer Figge arrived on a small island off the coast of Trinidad. It was the first time she'd set foot on dry land for 24 days, since she left Cape Verde to swim across the Atlantic. In doing so, she became the first woman to swim across the ocean. The first man did so about a decade ago. Apparently, Figge swam in a large cage to ensure she wasn't attacked by sharks! Marine life aside, I'm just amazed she managed to keep warm enough. Rather her than me... I'm seriously impressed! (Photo from AP/CBC News.)