Jim Armitage: Bosses aiming to make a difference for those left behind

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Mike Ashley was running Sports Direct like a Dickensian tyrant, HSBC’s currency chief allegedly front-ran his own clients, Standard Chartered failed to prevent money laundering through its Malaysian operations. 

With all these allegations flying around the City, sometimes it’s hard to be positive about British businesses. Especially when, in the case of the banks, it’s so often left to foreign regulators to clean up the alleged British mess.

But, as the CEOs gathered at the Evening Standard offices yesterday for our Brexit panel highlighted, 99.9% of businesses really aren’t like that.

None of those present were wearing the Victorian top hats and mutton-chop sideburns apparently in vogue in Sports Direct’s boardroom. No spivvy traders were rubbing their hands at the thought of their bonuses.

The vast majority of enterprises for whom we Londoners work are run by decent people with decent ethics.  They’re also, as the panel repeatedly made clear yesterday, increasingly evangelical believers that private enterprise exists to improve the whole community. As one said: if we don’t spread the wealth we create, we’re pointless.

One after another, while thrashing out how best to deal with the repercussions of the Brexit vote, these hard-nosed employers stressed the need for businesses to help those left behind.

They had good ideas, too. A fund providing seed capital for poor minorities to start new businesses, projects to build more affordable housing in central London, a London industrial strategy to boost young people’s skills. 

Less surprising, yet still important for post-Brexit success, were demands for tax breaks and cutting red tape.

But more than anything, they unanimously wanted to send a loud and clear message to foreign talent: London still loves you.

Alliance’s challenge

Alliance Trust’s peculiar structure always seemed to enrich its directors with very little benefit to investors in its funds. Its new investment performance does nothing to shake that perception.

That’s not to say it’s been easy for those running money lately.

But Alliance is underperforming its peers, which does yet more to undermine its argument that it is better off operating as a standalone fund manager.

Activist investor Elliott — known in the US for its aggression — has been quiet after presiding over the the well-paid Katherine Garrett-Cox’s departure.  

Since then, costs have been brought down and the board is better governed. But performance like this will only strengthen the activists’ demands for Alliance to contract out fund management to a cheaper giant like Blackrock.

Source Article from http://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-bosses-aiming-to-make-a-difference-for-those-left-behind-a3302251.html

July 22, 2016 |
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