M:I Products

MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

Read future M:I posts via RSS RSS

Citi: Opportunity for enterprise risk management grand slam

C. HUYGENS - Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Other than BNP Paribas, which is actively struggling with serious compliance issues and reputation damage, the large banks appear to be stabilizing. Jonathan Salem Baskin of Consensiv, writing for Forbes, notes that for a financial conglomerate such as Citi, stability is a misnomer -- its very essence is a conflict of narratives.

"Citi’s brand possesses at least four major attributes, by my accounting, and each comes with varying degrees of credibility and meaning: Evil lender, reward points-giver, 200 year-old company, and friend to small business. If it could express them as an integrated, coherent whole, it would be a branding grand slam."

The value of Citi's integrated coherent whole, that is to say, its reputational value, is much better than it has been in the past, but it is still relatively dynamic with at least around $14.3B in play (~10% of market cap) over the trailing twelve months.

"Figuring out how to weave together at least four of its brand attributes would be a grand slam," affirms Baskin. If it could transform that collective reputation into a stable source of value, it would be an enterprise risk management grand slam.

JPMorgan Chase: You're doing it wrong

C. HUYGENS - Monday, March 31, 2014
"Doing it," a double entendre used extensively in the arts, rarely raises an eyebrow nowdays. But when used in banking?

Last week, start-up condom company Lovability learned that Chase Paymentech, an operating company of JP Morgan Chase, would not handle its credit card transactions. Lovability’s founder, Tiffany Gaines, who started the company as a way to discreetly sell condoms to women, told the Huffington Post that a representative told her on the phone that they would not work with her because doing so posed a “reputation risk” to the company.

The financial sector is under orders from the Office of Comptroller of Currency (OCC) to manage financial risk where "reputation risk" is a named component. But reputation risk, in this context, is a risk of negative future expectations -- which in the financial sector, means liquidity risk. Confounding reputation risk with social concepts such as likability and cultural acceptability, as Jonathan Salem Baskin wrote in Forbes,  is simply "doing it" wrong.

Planning to attend RIMS 2014 Denver 29 April? Come learn more on enterprise reputation risk.

Eight Horsemen of the Banking Risk Apocalypse

C. HUYGENS - Monday, February 03, 2014
Banks must develop a written framework to manage risks or face civil money penalties for failure to comply with new regulations from the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Issued on January 16, the proposed rules and guidelines requires management controls for the following eight (8) enumerated risks: credit, interest rate, liquidity, price, operational, compliance, strategic and reputation.

The Proposed Guidelines would generally apply to insured national banks, insured federal savings associations, and insured federal branches of foreign banks with average total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more (each a Bank, and collectively Banks). Banks would also be required to develop a written three-year strategic plan that is developed by the CEO with input from the applicable business units (front line, risk management, and internal audit).

The Bank's board of directors (Board) would be required to evaluate, approve, and actively monitor implementation of the strategic plan. Read more.

MSCI: Business is war profiteering

C. HUYGENS - Monday, November 04, 2013
Business, management guru Gary Hamel explained, is war. Companies battle for supremacy, annihilate the competition, fight for market share and conquer new territories. And while this metaphor is limiting, it works with respect to war profiteers.

Huh? Consider Joseph Heller's infamous Milo Minderbinder. A U.S. Army Air Corps mess officer during the second world war, his war profiteering business model draws revenues from both sides of the conflict when he begins contracting missions for the Germans, fighting on both sides in the battle at Orvieto, and bombing his own squadron at Pianosa.

Now consider the proxy advisory firms. They provide recommendations to shareholders regarding governance practices and also provide consulting services to the companies whose boards and directors they assess. This "war profiteering" has become as undesirable as auditors that also charge management consulting fees of their audit clients, and credit firms that also provide consulting services to the firms they score. The SEC, Congress and other regulators have been indeed considering.

MSCI Inc. (MSCI), the global stock market index provider, reported October 31st that it has hired Morgan Stanley to explore options of sale or other possibilities for Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its Rockville, MD governance proxy advisory unit. The problem is that is not clear, given the scrutiny, whether ISS, or any of its competitors, will be able to deliver the independent, objective shareholder analyses required in today’s more demanding governance marketplace, and make money. ISS, GMI Ratings, Glass Lewis and Marco Consulting are all in the same boat. The question: have they collectively taken a torpedo below the waterline?

How this might affect MSCI Inc. may be gleaned from the Consensiv reputation metrics that reflect stakeholder expectations. Of the 16 firms in its sector, Financial Publishing/Services, MSCI Inc. draws a slightly better than average Reputation Premium. Its stakeholders are more confident than average in that value with a Consensus Trend that is in the second quartile with an absolute value of 1.9% and a Consensus Benchmark at a comfortable 7%. But with all that, its reputational health is just average suggesting that disposal of ISS, the problem child, may deliver a reputational value boost.

For more background on the Consensiv reputation controls, click here. To view the October 2013 reputational value league table at CFO.com, click here.

Goldman Sachs: Reputation is just fine, thank you.

C. HUYGENS - Thursday, October 31, 2013
Last week, an article in the New York Times' Dealbook declared that Lloyd C. Blankfein presided over the implosion of Goldman Sachs’s brand and reputation. Really?

Written by Jesse Eisinger who is a top-notch investigative financial journalist working for ProPublica, the charge against the company's Chairman and CEO should stick. No slouch, he and colleague Jake Bernstein were awarded in 2011 the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for a series of stories on questionable Wall Street practices that helped make the financial crisis the worst since the Great Depression. He and Bernstein were also finalists for the 2011 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting for the series.

Here's the funny part. Eisinger documents all the operational successes Goldman Sachs appears to be realizing and the remarkably light touch regulatory opprobrium it navigated -- all empirical proof points that stakeholders are valuing Goldman Sachs' reputation. He concludes that reputation must be irrelevant, quoting Yale legal scholar Jonathan R. Macey. “Reputation is no longer an asset in which it is rational to invest,” writes Macey in his recent book, “The Death of Corporate Reputation” (FT Press).

The problem and source of Eisinger's congnitive dissonance, as followers of the blog picked up from the opening paragraph, is lack of clarity over the meaning of reputation. It is not brand, and it can not be understood the way brand is understood -- through opinions and sentiment surveys.

Andrew Carnegie, one of Pittsburgh's most famous capitalists, explained, "As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say, I just watch what they do." Sentiment and opinion surveys only capture what 'men' say. To appreciate a company's reputation, you need to watch what its stakeholders do. Everything else is just marketing.

Turning to what stakeholders do as evidenced by the Consensiv metrics, Goldman Sachs' Reputation Premium is at the 86th percentile having bounced near the peak these past few months. Its Consensus Trend, the uniformity with which stakeholders agree on its Reputation Premium, is high with a scatter of only 1.2%. Both values stand out as extraordinary when compared to the 80 peers in the Investment Banks/Brokers sector. The Consensus Benchmark is at a generous 10.5% indicating that the normal variance of reputational value and the associated ability of the company to exhibit resilience in the setting of bad news, is at an optimum.

Notwithstanding all the stories over the past few years, none of which present a more sinister image of Goldman Sachs than Matt Taibi's "giant vampire squid," the customers flock to its doors, employees love working for the firm, its costs of capital are reasonable, and the greatest cost of all -- regulatory burden -- somehow seems lighter.

Yes, the overall reputational health, as Eisinger points out in detail, is quite good.

For more background on the Consensiv reputation controls, click here. To view the October 2013 reputational value league table at CFO.com, click here.

JPMorgan Chase: The limits of reputation resilience

C. HUYGENS - Tuesday, October 15, 2013
A strong reputation among a diversity of stakeholders can sustain a firm for years through thick and thin. Witness the 25-year run enjoyed by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) after the famed 1982 Tylenol poisoning, and the less famed but much more important 1986 Tylenol poisoning II. Alas, resilience has its limits as Johnson & Johnson discovered in recent years.

Enter JPMorgan Chase (JPM), an integrated bank led by Jamie Dimon, a CEO with rock star-like cult status as a risk manager extraordinaire, who guided his firm through the ugliness of 2008 unscathed. Since the London Whale event hit the news 18 months ago, sturm und drang have played out amongst stakeholders, especially those at the periphery comprising regulators, litigators and mommy bloggers, who have piled on the opprobrium -- and the fines. The New York Times' pithy summary comprises the headline: The Bloodlust of Pundits Swirls Around Jamie Dimon. See cartoon clip starting at 0:56/2:31 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCz0-CYj8M

The damage has been incremental, but measurable; the largest U.S. bank by assets, on Friday reported a $380 million loss, or 17 cents per share, in the third quarter on lower revenue and massive legal bills. That compares with net income of $5.7 billion, or $1.40 per share, a year earlier. Excluding litigation expense, the New York financial giant posted a profit of $5.82 billion, or $1.42 per share.

The Steel City Re reputational value metrics reflect the lowered reputation (CRR) ranking (reputation premium) driven by the volatility of stakeholder (RVM Vol) expectations (consensus trend). Wells Fargo (WFC) now enjoys a greater premium and greater return on equity, and lower current volatility. The projections are for Wells Fargo to continue gaining premium value, and for JP Morgan Chase to continue losing.

Financial Institutions: Expecting rapacious behavior

C. HUYGENS - Monday, July 22, 2013
"It’s far too easy to decry what the financial firms do wrong," writes Mission Intangible Monthly Briefing moderator and Forbes columnist Jonathan Salem Baskin. "After all, they’re rapacious and unrepentant capitalists who seem too willing to follow the cruel logic of their mathematical equations despite the feelings of their critics."

If you agree, and if the above description comes as no surprise, then banks are meeting your expectations. You're not alone, explains, Baskin, and that's why they're making money hand over fist. Read more in Forbes.

Baskin will be moderating the Mission Intangible Monthly Briefing this coming Friday, 26 July, where he will take a sweeping view of the many intangible assets underpinning reputation.

Joining in the conversation will be Dale Furtwengler, a consultant's consultant specializing in bringing clarity to the value in intangible asset management; and Mary Adams, author, consultant, and Smarter Companies thought leader, and formerly a member of the Society's Reputation Leadership Council.

Three is no cost to register and listen to the broadcast. Register here.

Liquidity: You're at risk for doing it wrong

C. HUYGENS - Friday, July 19, 2013
Since the Pittsburgh Conference of the G20 in 2009, where Huygens used the skirmishes with anarchists to educate his daughter on the ideals of civil disobedience and the realities of tear gas, there’s been a coordinated effort to mitigate the risk of another global liquidity crisis. The consensus strategy among world governments is capital adequacy.

“Adequacy” is a fuzzy concept, but the intent is that institutions would hold capital sufficient to meet the expectations of stakeholders for unfettered access to funds on demand; i.e., liquidity. “Expectations” is also a fuzzy concept, but well appreciated by followers of this blog. The meaning here is that as long as stakeholders expect adequate capital to meet demand, there will not be a panic-driven run on financial institutions.

The word used in BaFin’s (Germany) regulations for this expectation of adequate capital is -- wait for it -- “reputation.” Similarly, this expectation of adequate capital is what Alan Greenspan meant when he said “In a market based on trust, reputation has enormous value.” Liquidity risk is therefore linked to reputation risk when the latter is defined as “the threat to enterprise value when myriad stakeholders perceive that corporate behavior violates their expectations."

Reputation risk is a governance and control problem, and it can be exacerbated through adverse publicity, but it is first and foremost not a PR issue. The legislative problem, and the source for "doing it wrong," is that the word “reputation” has a lay meaning -- likeability -- which is how at least some regulators are interpreting the word. Rereading the paragraphs above and replacing the notion of “expectation for capital adequacy” with “corporate likeability,” leads to a diversity of wrong activities.

The first group of wrong activities comprise restrictions on business counterparties -- not on the basis of creditworthiness, but rather on the basis of likeability. This is flat-out goofy, as discussed in American Banker and partially in Forbes. The second group of wrong activities comprise fostering business controls over the wrong business processes -- not on the controls that manage stakeholder expectations of capital adequacy, but rather over drivers of likeability. This will direct corporate resources in the wrong direction, and do nothing for addressing the core risk of capital adequacy, as discussed both in Forbes and an earlier Intangible Asset Finance Society blog note.

JPMorgan: Bowl game, Tampa, 21 May - Dimon 1, Activists 0

C. HUYGENS - Sunday, May 19, 2013
It's last call at the betting window. Cold beers have been wagered on the outcome of the May 21 annual shareholder meeting of JPMorgan Chase. One one side, the status quo which has weathered risky times, rebounded from mistakes, and outperformed on a range of metrics. On the other side, philosophical and ideological notions of governance backed by the moral principle that less risk-taking is an inherent good. Governance blogs on LinkedIn provide ample background:

Boards and Advisors Blog 1
Boards and Advisors Blog 2
Boards and Advisors Blog 3

The quants, too, have their say. With five days, left, the Steel City Re reputational value metrics, as before,  show exceptionally low levels of current reputational value (Current RVM) volatility at JPM indicating stakeholders are not expecting change.

JPMorgan Chase: Saying foolish things?

C. HUYGENS - Sunday, May 12, 2013
The chattering classes are terribly excited about the upcoming annual meeting of JPMorgan Chase. True, the banking industry is generally not all that exciting, except when it is uncomfortably so. But JP Morgan Chase has much good news to share. This part quarter, for example, its trading team had a perfect record of no losses on any day bringing in a performance that beat both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Its M&A team also topped the league tables for the prior year, again beating Goldman Sachs. The bank's borrowing costs are rock bottom, and its CEO was offered up as Secretary of the Treasury by none other than Warren Buffet.

None of that, however, is factoring in to the chatter. The press and airwaves are dominated by expressions of outrage by proxy advisory groups that CEO Jamie Dimon, the earstwhile Treasury secretary nominee, has the audacity of being his own boss by holding also the title of Chairman. Their distress, to be shared in Tampa, Fla., on May 21, is more broadly directed at the board as a whole comprising individuals who failed to monitor the bank’s risk management, a failure highlighted by last year’s $6 billion trading loss in the company’s chief investment office. The directors stand charged with "letting down outside shareholders."

Writing for the Financial Times, Gary Silverman offers a refreshing counterpoint. In an essay aptly named "Daydreams of supervising Dimon," Silverman concludes "that just about the only person who would be truly capable of supervising Mr Dimon at JPMorgan these days is Mr Dimon himself, and that means this column leaves him as it found him – in a lonely place."

Huygens, being a numbers man, seeks comfort in the wisdom of crowds. Yet as Jacques Anatole François Thibault, winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature observed, "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." Huygens, being a numbers man and being from Pittsburgh and and being an admirer of Andrew Carnegie, is less interested in what people say, and more interested in what they do (or are expected to do).

Stakeholders are generally rational. Activist investors have a point, and when a company is in trouble, things need to be shaken up. Witness the value created at JCPenny by activists investors who upon the departure of then CEO Myron Ullman and brought in Apple Inc. retail giant Ron Johnson to restore integrity to the sinking retail ship. Seeking Alpha's assessment: JCP's stakeholders must be furious that the company spent $170M of their money to hire Ron Johnson and his team...only to rack up dreadful five quarters of 15%+ year-over-year declines in comparable sales. So who's in charge now? Myron Ullman.

From a reputational value perspective, JPMorgan Chases remarkable journey over the past two years has been document here previously. At the risk of having a Karl Rove moment, Huygens opined recently on a LinkedIn blog, Boards and Advisors, that the Steel City Re Reputation Value Metrics indicated no major changes at JPMorgan Chase. Huygens shared the same with friends on the LinkedIn blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society. Updated metrics from this past week, now only less than two weeks from the annual meeting, affirm Huygen's impression. JPMorgan Chase's reputation is in generally good standing, and the current volatility of its RVM, a non-financial measure of reputational value, is at a peer-group low of less than 1% (Chart, top, row, Vital Signs and Current RVM Volatility). The data, representing the wisdom of crowds including, but not limited to pundits and shareholder advisers, indicate that as a group, no one is expecting any surprises. Or in the words of Consensiv, an advisory group, the Consensus Trend for JPMorgan Chase reflects a remarkable coherence of expectations.

Which leads Huygens to predictions in the alternative. First, it is unlikely that there will be major changes at JPMorgan Chase's Board of Directors; second, if in the unlikely scenario there are, the stock price will become quite volatile.

Recent Comments