MISSION INTANGIBLE

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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.

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IAFS Membership Drive

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The IAFS launched its 2010 membership drive this past week. This is why. On February 28, new US SEC regulations will drive into the boardrooms risk, reputation and intangible asset management. 

You have a decision. Will you be at the table or on the menu?

These regs mean that every board member, in fact every top executive, can expect major new challenges. Members of the Intangible Asset Finance Society (IAFS) will be prepared. Here’s how:

1. Thought Leadership. The IAFS is the only interdisciplinary Society of professionals committed to the financial exploitation of intangible assets. That translates into enhanced pricing power; lower operating and credit costs; and higher net incomes and earnings multiples.

2. Risk Management. A lost reputation can destroy a firm overnight. IAFS can keep you up to date with risk management strategies for ethics, innovation, quality, safety, environmental sustainability, and security.

3. Preferential Pricing. Society members receive preferential rates for IAFS products at our new store and discounted registration to various professional meetings. Discounted registrations for the March ICAP Ocean Tomo meeting in San Francisco and the June IP Business Congress in Munich, for example, are now offered.

4. Incentive Premium. Sign on for your academic or corporate membership including payment by March 15 and receive a complementary copy of the IAFS’s latest book, Mission: Intangible. Managing risk and reputation to create enterprise value (a $29.95 value).

Click here to learn how our strengths in Thought Leaders and Risk Management, financial benefits such preferential pricing, and premiums such as the book shown at right make joining the Society today an offer you can't refuse.

You got it, Toyota

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Headaches. In case you've been unplugged this past year, Toyota Motors Corp (NYSE:TM) is experiencing an intangible asset value meltdown. Highly valued behaviors that became watchwords for Japanese manufacturers—ethics, quality, safety—appear to have recently fallen out of favor at this iconic firm.

It's been a few weeks since we looked at the automobile sector, and we will give this topical sector a robust treatment in our regular corporate reputation series in IAM Magazine issue 41. For now, a teaser.

At the of end of Q1 2009, the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index showed a precipitous decline in Toyota’s reputation relative to a sample of large publicly traded firms on the US exchanges. Honda Motors (NYSE:HMC), a Japanese-headquartered competitor, is one of the reputational beneficiaries. Its all relative. Shown in the charts below, the Reputation Index metric for TM drops from the 80th percentile to the single digits and generally holds there for the balance of 2009. HMC, on the upswing from early 2009, peaks at the 90th percentile before ending the year 30 percentage points net up at around the 50th percentile.

As for economic returns over this same period, TM rewarded its shareholders with a 45% ROE (S&P was up ~21%). HMC rewarded its shareholders with an 80% ROE.


What Sharon Allen thinks

Nir Kossovsky - Thursday, February 04, 2010
Today’s note is an extract from a recent posting on bigfatfinanceblog that was brought to our attention by Jim Catty, chairman of the board of IACVA which is a new partner of the Society. The blog note was written by Deloitte LLP chairman of the board Sharon Allen and addresses social media and reputation risk. Here is the take home message:
 
… I believe that our primary focus should be on the powerful role that corporate culture can play in encouraging appropriate social networking. A good place to start may be with business leaders whose personal example promotes the time-tested principles of ethics and values. In fact, in our first “Ethics & Workplace” survey that I commissioned two years ago, 77 percent of those polled cited the behavior of management or a direct supervisor as the top factor influencing their conduct. While creating and maintaining that “tone at the top” is an important first step, the key is to establish a culture that ensures that an appropriate moral compass is in place — in the office or out, online or off…

Thank you, Jim.

Johnson x2: Reputation regicide

Nir Kossovsky - Monday, January 18, 2010
Late last year, it was Tiger Woods. For the new year, it is the company that held the top 2009 reputation ranking by both the Harris Interactive Survey and the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index – Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). What happened this time?

There were early hints with FDA letters in August and September 2009. But the big stories broke last Friday when the U.S. Justice Department announced that it is suing the drug giant for allegedly paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to geriatric pharmacy company Omnicare Inc. (OCR) to induce the company to buy and recommend Johnson & Johnson drugs. That same day, the Company widened its voluntary recall several of the company’s top selling over-the-counter brands across the country. There is a concern that a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole is causing an unusual odor in select brands. The smell is due to the breakdown of the chemical that is used to build wood pallets that transport and store product packaging materials. The expanded recall was announced after the FDA reprimanded the Company for waiting close to a year to remedy the well-documented problem.

In short, two reputational issues: ethics and quality. We expect repercussions. Turning to the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index, we focus on Aug and Sept when JNJ received FDA warning letters. Here we see a slight dip in the reputation index and correspondingly, a lack in equity growth while both the pharmaceutical sector and the S&P were rebounding. See arrows marking Aug/Sept window on both the reputation index (red) and the equity returns (blue diamond/red outline). The full reputational and financial effects are yet to be recognized.


To be fair, JNJ’s overall ROE underperformance of 23% relative to the Pharmaceutical sector can be explained, in part, by JNJ’s resilience during the 2008 crisis. A two-year ROE in the chart below from Bigcharts.com shows that at the low point of the market in December 2008, JNJ had lost only 20%. The sector had lost 30%, while the S&P lost 40%. In march of 2009, JNJ 'caught up' with the industry and has followed the sector mean since. The ‘cost’ of that historic resilience is poorer apparent performance in the short term this past year. The gain is lower volatility and therefore lower cost of credit. Provided that the effects of the latest disclosures do not materially shave reputation value. The year is still young.

Faking trades

Nir Kossovsky - Monday, December 21, 2009
As financial intermediaries, brokers play a crucial role of matching buyers and sellers. Central among those role is facilitating price discovery. This is especially true in markets for bespoke, less liquid products. Having a reputation for ethical behavior is valuable—as are the underlying business processes that foster ethical behavior.

Faking trades to distort pricing could threaten the commercial viability of a broker were the practice found to be widespread. At the very least, it is fraud. On Friday 18 December, ICAP Securities USA LLC reached a settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company, a US subsidiary of ICAP plc (LON:IAP) and winner of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, is alleged to have posted fictitious trades in 2004 and 2005 on some Treasury brokers’ screens to encourage trading by attracting those brokers’ attention.

ICAP is active in the wholesale markets in interest rates, credit, commodities, FX, emerging markets, equities and equity derivatives. ICAP has an average daily transaction volume in excess of $2.3 trillion. In June 2009, ICAP purchased the intellectual property markets division of Ocean Tomo thus becoming one of the largest market makers in a class of bespoke intangible assets. Intellectual property markets have suffered chronically from price discovery challenges.

ICAP Securities has agreed to pay the SEC disgorgement of $1 million and a penalty of $24 million as settlement to end the investigation. The settlement includes the concept of non-intentional fraud. ICAP Securities has also agreed with the SEC that ICAP Securities will appoint an independent consultant to review the improved control environment that is now in place. Shares of ICAP ADRs fell 46 cents or 3.37% in Friday’s session in New York to close at $13.19 a share. The S&P 500 index was up 0.58% and the financial services sector average was up 0.68%

Headline risk reprieve

Nir Kossovsky - Thursday, December 03, 2009
Six weeks have passed since the Chairman of the Galleon Group, the hedge fund at the center of a suspected insider trading ring, and several executives, have been charged. Three of the companies caught in this scandal are going concerns. Their executives are accused of divulging confidential non-public information. Those companies are McKinsey & Company, IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC).

Of the three, McKinsey & Company has a widely held reputation for discretion – an intangible asset that is essential to their operational effectiveness. Last month, we hypothesized that this reputation would help mitigate McKinsey’s headline risk. Evidence of this mitigation would be fewer articles in the business and legal press relative to the other two firms.

Once again, Society member Jim Singer of the Pepper Hamilton law firm and author of the blog IP Spotlight, helped us with the analysis. Lexis Nexis searches were conducted combining 2 comprehensive databases - Business News Publications and Legal News Publications for the dates 9/3/2009-11/22/2009. The first search was for the pairing of “Galleon OR Rajaratnam.” Jim then searched the resulting articles for the additional terms of McKinsey, IBM, or Intel. 

There were no citations meeting the search criteria prior to the government announcement of allegations. Following the announcement, the data show that McKinsey’s name is less frequently associated than the other two firms with the disgraced hedge fund. This observation is statistically significant for the first three weeks of the alleged scandal.



While the findings are not conclusive—McKinsey is privately-held whereas the other two are public—these data are consistent with our general observation that companies with strong reputations based on rigorous business processes make for sympathetic actors that are treated as victims rather than culpable agents when adverse events occur. In short, reputations arising from superior intangible asset stewardship help mitigate headline risk.

NB: Statistical analysis using the Chi Square test for the five weeks of data yields a p<.03, p<.001, p<.01, for the first three weeks, respectively, and then not statistically significant differences thereafter.

Reputation quaffing

Nir Kossovsky - Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The American Thanksgiving holiday to be celebrated later this week features an excess of food, televised football and beer. Beer is an important American cultural element. The American patriot and founding father, Benjamin Franklin, once quipped that “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” There is a reputation angle to this. Read on. 

During the 2009 broadcast of the NFC Championship football game Jan 18, Heineken USA launched a new campaign for its new marketing platform -- "Give Yourself a Good Name." The campaign showcases subtle ways in which consumers decide to "give themselves a good name" through their actions, their words and their choices. Let’s focus on actions as they are the embodiment of something the Society cares about very much – processes.

By drinking Heineken, the campaign suggests, consumers will be building a good reputation for themselves. This is the process hook. There's an admonition to drink responsibly, or not to throw your name away in drunken excess. An ethical call for socially responsible behavior.

There you have it. Increasing intangible asset value (ethics) through risk and reputation management at a most personal level.



Tastes great, even if it doesn’t beat the 2-year returns of the S&P500. Above, the S&P500 in sepia, AB Inbev (BE:ABI) in blue, and Heineken (NL:HEIO) in red. Data source: BigCharts.com

We wish all an enjoyable holiday. We'll return next week.

Ethical lubricant

Nir Kossovsky - Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Operating costs such as internal frictional costs are the bane of any executive accountable for the bottom line. True, they can be cut – usually through workforce reductions – but the long-term effects on surviving employees may include net losses in productivity and even greater internal frictional costs.

Here is good news, executives. There is a proven strategy for lowering internal frictional costs. This is it. Be ethical. Be sustainable. Be safe. And be known for it.

In other words, all you need to do is apply the best practices found in other companies that are superior stewards of their intangible assets – the business processes that lead to reputations for ethics, safety, quality, innovation, security, and sustainability. Companies that follow these practices tend to out perform their peers and better reward their shareholders.

The relationship between these business processes, reputation, internal frictional costs, and value creation are illustrated on a webpage of one of our members, Steel City Re, a leader in risk and reputation management. The latest data affirming these principles comes from Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: KELYA, KELYB), a world leader in workforce management services and human resources solutions.

According to the Kelly study announced late last month,

Major public issues such as a company’s reputation for strong ethical practices have become critical factors in choosing where to work, even to the point where many employees are prepared to sacrifice pay or promotion in order to work for organizations that are actively engaged in good social responsibility practices. More specifically, concerns about ethical behavior outweigh concerns about the environment by all generations, when making employment choices.

Here are some other key findings:

  • Almost 90 percent of respondents say they are more likely to work for an organization that is considered ethically and socially responsible, something that is consistent across all age generations.
  • 80 percent are more likely to work for an organization that is considered environmentally responsible, a figure that is considerably higher among older age groups.
  • In deciding where to work, an organization’s reputation for ethical conduct is considered ‘very important’ by 65 percent of Gen Y, 72 percent of Gen X, and 77 percent of baby boomers.
  • 46 percent of Gen Y would be prepared to forego pay or promotion to work for an organization with a good reputation, rising to 48 percent for Gen X and 53 percent for baby boomers.
  • In deciding where to work, policies to address global warming are considered ‘very important’ by 31 percent of Gen Y, rising to 35 percent among Gen X and 36 percent for baby boomers.
Here's the action part. Want to cut operating costs? Ramp up your company’s reputation for ethics, sustainability, safety, etc. Become a superior risk and reputation manager.

Want to know how to do it? Join the Intangible Asset Finance Society. We provide a forum for executives to discover better ways to increase the visibility, transparency, and value of intangible assets. These assets comprise 50% of the average company's value. Click here for information on membership and affiliate with us on LinkedIn.

Galleon's wake

Nir Kossovsky - Friday, October 30, 2009
Thirteen days have now passed since the Chairman of the Galleon Group, the hedge fund at the center of a suspected insider trading ring, and several executives, have been charged. The fund has liquidated about 90 percent of its nearly $3.7 billion portfolio of technology stocks and other securities and will be consigned to history, shortly. 

Three of the companies caught in this scandal are going concerns. Their executives are accused of divulging confidential non-public information. Those companies are McKinsey & Company, IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC). Of the three, McKinsey & Company has a widely held reputation for discretion – an intangible asset that is essential to their operational effectiveness.

We hypothesized that this reputation would help mitigate McKinsey’s headline risk. Evidence of this mitigation would be fewer articles in the business and legal press relative to the other two firms.

Society member Jim Singer of the Pepper Hamilton law firm, and author of the blog IP Spotlight, helped us with the analysis. Lexis Nexis searches were conducted combining 2 comprehensive databases - Business News Publications and Legal News Publications for the dates 10/1/2009-10/29/2009. The first search was for the pairing of “Galleon and Rajaratnam.” Jim then searched the resulting 112 articles for the additional terms of McKinsey, IBM, or Intel.



The data show that McKinsey’s name is less frequently associated than the other two firms with the disgraced hedge fund. This observation is statistically significant. It is consistent with our general contention that companies with strong reputations based on rigorous business processes make for sympathetic actors that are treated as victims rather than culpable agents when adverse events occur. In short, reputations arising from superior intangible asset stewardship help mitigate headline risk.

NB: Statistical analysis using the Chi Square test yields a p<.03 (statistically significant).

Hedge fund homily

Nir Kossovsky - Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Former Fed Chairman Greenspan noted last year that in a market system based upon the intangible asset of trust, reputation has significant value. Madoff aside, trust is having a hard time on Wall Street. We share two recent stories of reputation malignment (vilification?) in the Financial services sector.
 
The first, reported by the Financial Times last Thursday, is that one in five hedge fund managers misrepresents their fund or its performance to investors during formal due diligence investigations, according to research from New York University's Stern School of Business. Researchers found that the most common misrepresentations by hedge fund managers was the amount of money they had entrusted to their funds; Performance and regulatory and legal histories are also often misrepresented.
 
The second, which broke widely on Friday, involves allegations of trading on insider information at the hedge fund, Galleon Group. According to prosecutors, co-conspirators of fund founder Raj Rajaratnam include a McKinsey & Co. consultant, an IBM (NYSE:IBM) senior vice president, an Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) treasury manager and two executives from the New Castle hedge fund group of the defunct Bear Stearns.

The reputation angle obviously interests the Society. But there is more. What really interests us is how McKinsey, IBM, and Intel will manage the headline risk. Will their intangible asset risk management systems allow them to characterize the malfeasance as the product of rogue actors? Or will they be held culpable for the non-compliance of their employees?

Stay tuned.

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