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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

A friend in need


According to research from Scottish Widows Bank (disclosure - they are a client of ours) the number of people clubbing together to buy their first home is on the rise. According to the research more women are buying property with a friend than men - linked to both lower average earnings than men and a more open attitude to this solution possibly.

However the most worrying aspect of this development is that two thirds of the people who use this approach CANNOT afford to buy out the other person should things change. At first I was quite alarmed at this but then I considered that in any partnership one person is likely to out earn the other.

So, as the saying goes, if you cannot choose your family make sure you choose wealthy friends.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Every cloud....


So Northern Rocks bad luck is someone elses good fortune.

The Nationwide has seen deposits increase by £1.8bn in September as savers seek to find a more stable place to stash their cash.

Hey it's the only good news I could find at the moment.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

How not to use Facebook


The rush to exploit the new commercial opportunities provided by Facebook has already claimed its first victim, Alicia keys.

Futurescape, who from their site really do seem to be immersed in this stuff, have produced a Facebook application to promote Alicia Keys new album, As I am. I've no problem with that, we are all testing the water but it's the manner of the application I query.

The app (see how the jargon creeps in), in the words of Futurescape, 'is the first ever artist-endorsed, socially powered self-help tool, which lets people share advice.' Now there's probably a really, really good reason for that - what in the wide wide world of sport does Alicia Keys know about self help?

Sorry but this is such a poor connection that it makes me weep.

How much did last night cost?


As a confirmed football fan I was watching last night as we were squeezed out of Euro 2008.

This morning, as we savour the departure of 'that man' it's interesting to see the ripple effect of England dropping out of a major competition.

Sports Direct saw a drop in the values of their shares of £71m, Umbro lost 5pm off its share price and JJB almost 12p. No feedback from the publicans yet but its going to hit them hard as well. Commercial TV will be re-working ad revenue estimates this morning no doubt.

According to the Evening Standard last night could cost UK business around £1.5bn. McClaren's £2.5m pay off seems small fry in comparison (and not deserved but don't get me started).

Hips operational


By Dec 14th we (anyone selling a property) will now need to organise a Home Information Pack (HIP) as the criteria extends from 3 & 4 bedroom houses to one and two bedroom properties.

While you can debate the value of a HIP in terms of the quality/depth of information the principle was a strong one - one HIP for each property rather than numerous surveys on sales that may or may not go through.

What is hilarious (forgive my strange sense of humour) is that the official consumer HIP site has no mention of this at all on it and the last update was in September but the industry site does - now who were HIPS designed to help?

Meeting expectations


There's been a great story about a BT customers frustration in trying to query a bill and how, when he posted his story on YouTube, he finally received an apology and compensation from BT.

It reminded me of a recent report on how bad financial institutions were in responding to email requests made via their web sites - very few were able to respond within 24 hours - given the primary benefit of email is speed this seems quite unreasonable.

If you set up the expectation that users can communicate with you this way then you have to ensure you have the resources to deal with the enquiries.

With the uncertainty created by the loss of the 25 million records by HMRC you can pretty much bet that the volume of calls and emails to banks will be significantly higher than normal. Let's hope the banks can improve their service at a time when customers are most in need of reassurance.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Hey buddy can you spare me 25 million records?


Couldn’t let the day go past with out commenting on the revenues decision to lose my full name, bank details, date of birth and all that gloriously important data that they and the rest of the FS industry have been telling more years is the key to identity theft.

Well in light of yesterdays announcement from the Chancellor on behalf of the HMRC I’d like to say “I want my money back for the shredder I bought and the hours of time I’ve spent hunched over the thing ensuring that my details don’t get beyond my front door”.

Also I think the latest headlines from the Government about being vigilant is rubbing salt into the wound, I wouldn’t need to if they did their job, why should I bother!

No doubt as I write this someone somewhere in a darkened underground Car park is saying to a contact in the Russian mafia, Psst want some records and I don’t mean LP’s!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Paragon raising capital through rights issue rather than commercial credit


The market in the coming months is going to be interesting as more and more distributors and providers of financial products seek alternative methods of raising capital. Paragon is just one such company that rather than accepting as it sees it disadvantageous rates would rather dilute its share holding to secure its future funding needs. What is interesting is that the Merchant Banks make hay whether rain or shine. Either selling expensive credit or advising on issue opportunities.

Maybe now will be the right time for an alternative view to capital raising through the community lending markets such as Zopa who can put together like minded lenders and hopefully at a rate that is more bearable.

Feeling sentimental? Not if you are a first time buyer


It would appear, according to the latest research by Abbey, that first time buyers are becoming more desperate to the point that they are prepared to sell family heirlooms:

According to the report first time buyers are:

  1. Prepared to move to a cheaper area, sell their possessions and even take on three jobs in order to afford a home, a survey showed yesterday.
  2. One in four trying to get on the property ladder said they were considering relocating to a cheaper part of the UK, while 16 per cent would move to a country where houses are less expensive.
  3. The number who would be prepared to sell items of sentimental value has doubled from 10 per cent five years ago to 20 per cent now
Looks like the demographics of the Antiques Roadshow are about to change quite dramatically.

Monday, 19 November 2007

A new financial term?


Never the best at spelling myself I was amused at a story in FT Adviser today:

'Managing director of Hamptons Mortgages, Jonathan Cornell said: "It would appear that borrowers are choosing to opt for longer term mortgages as they like everyone else are noon the sewer as to what will happen with interest rates and are tired of second guessing," he said'

I'm pretty sure that's not what Mr Cornell said unless he's quite mad or it was directly after a long lunch.

None the wiser indeed.

Friday, 16 November 2007



It was great to see the work we have developed for our client IFAP win the best ecomms award at Wednesday nights Financial Services Forum awards.

Having transferred virtually all of its marketing online IFAP, responsible for the Unbiased site, has really benefited from the measurable and flexible nature of online advertising.

So hurrah for IFAP, I-Level and ourselves as the team behind this award.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Serve your work colleagues with a WASBO


Today we launch a new campaign for the Britannia Building Society allowing work colleagues to serve a WASBO on their inconsiderate work mates.

If you know someone who deserves a WASBO then you can download the WASBO certificate here and fill in their details.

So far Metro has picked up on the story this morning.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Buying debt


The BBC is reporting that three of the top US Banks are close to agreeing to create a super fund to buy 'debt of weakening value'.

The article reports 'Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are said to have agreed on the structure of a $75bn (£36bn) scheme that will buy debt of weakening value.'

Each plans to commit $5bn with the remainder coming from other banks and in total is looking to raise $75bn.

However comments are made that while the super fund is a good idea the debt package market is actually worth somewhere in the region of hundreds of billions of dollars.

So far we have lost a CEO here and there but it seems possible we may actually lose Banks as well.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Innocent sets a great example


I've often used Innocent Smoothies as a great example of a viral/word of mouth activity with its 'woolly hats' activity. In the past they have asked customers to design woolly hats which could sit on the top of their bottles as we approach winter (to keep them warm I suppose).

They've repeated the exercise and linked with Sainsbury's and Age Concern and asked various celeb's to design their own hats. Now clearly DJ JK (?), Russell Brand and Fearne Cotton haven't got out their knitting needles but that will not bother most people. Each purchase creates a 50p donation to Age Concern and that must be a good thing.

Where Innocent have been clever is in their use of social networks. They have a flickr group and a facebook group on top of creating specific pages on their own site. Now there are only 86 members of the flickr group at the time of this post but this will certainly grow with the current wave of publicity. Despite being a digi boy through and through I know that offline PR still remains one of the best ways of driving online traffic and the people at Innocent are hardly publicity shy.

Just a shame it's going to force me to go to a supermarket.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A mortgage or petrol?


Strange that a subject which caused major protests, endless column inches and discussions in Parliament not so long ago (petrol at £1 a litre) seems to have slipped through with little comment whatsoever with oil hitting $100 a barrel and petrol back to 99.9p a litre this week.

All I can put that down to is the focus on mortgage rates, sub prime crises in the US and the much anticipated credit crunch.

Does this mean people were over reacting to the first petrol price crisis? If your mortgage is increasing by £200+ a month an extra £5-£10 to fill your car perhaps does not seem to be as big an issue as it was last time.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Two in five (40%) of us described the nation as unfair

Here's our latest work in the web 2.0 world - posting the story we created for Britannia on Digg - a site which let's users rate the news themselves. It's a site I don't think you ever want to try and manipulate but a very good example of showing that if your story is of genuine interest users will make it famous. I've made sure, using the comments, that it's obvious this was a story posted by an agency. If you don't think people will find out you are only fooling yourself and not crediting people with the right level of intelligence.

read more | digg story