Tag Archives: HSBC

Mubarak heads to Dubai (maybe)

Dear Diary what a week it has been.

Mubarak finally makes a sharp exit to Sharm el-Sheikh – didn’t he read all of those stories about the sharks?  Brave man – to stay in Egypt that is.  Now speculation is building that he is negotiating to come to Dubai.


Lifted from my newspaper of choice:

Mubarak said in his first speech during the uprising on 1 February that he would not leave his homeland, pledging to “die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history”.

But exploratory discussions involving the Saudis, the US and the UAE have reportedly taken place about him moving to Dubai. One important issue is immunity from any prosecution he might face on charges of crimes against humanity after 300 deaths and documented abuses by the security forces.

According to the London-based paper al-Quds al-Arabi, revelations about the Mubarak family fortune and possible legal action over that are also a factor in planning for a post-presidential future.

Experts have estimated that the Mubaraks could be worth £43.5bn, with much of the wealth from investment deals in British and Swiss banks or tied up in upmarket real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.

For the likes of you and me, transferring our hard earned money can be the task from hell with all sorts of rules and regs.  So how has Mubarak managed to siphon away $43.5bn with complete impunity?  The gnomes and our lovely bankers have a lot to answer for.

Cameron has a new friend

Someone loved Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism, step forward Marine Le Pen, Leader of France’s National Front who has congratulated David Cameron on his controversial speech.  I have openly said I don’t like Cameron’s politics but I never had him down as a fascist.  Live and learn.  This came in the week that most of the top universities in England declared they would charge the maximum student tuition fees.  Now anyone who thinks that students from a middle and working class background will not be put off going to Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial College etc. is sadly deluded.  Parents who send their children to private school will still be looking forward to the day their kids head off to uni, £9,000 versus £30,000.  A country’s future (and its ability to pay for everything else) depends on its education system.

A cautionary tale about online advertising

A few weeks ago I expressed a concern that banks shouldn’t have sales and in the article I named and shamed HSBC and gave my critical opinion.  HSBC’s sale is being supported by a huge advertising campaign and I accept being stalked on The Guardian is the penalty I pay for reading a quality paper where  customers and potential customers of HSBC are lurking.

However imagine my surprise when their ad popped up on my blog?  I wrote to them politely explaining that I was telling people that, in my opinion, a bank holding a sale was a bad idea but they declined to reply.  We went public on Facebook and Twitter but  the world’s local bank has no local social media strategy, so again complete silence.  All of which reinforces my view that HSBC is falling way short in all respects.

HSBC sale HSBC ad above my blog on phone

It’s all about the line

I had a very interesting meeting last week with the marketing lady from Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai (a seriously good hospital specialising in anything and everything to do with your eyes which in my book are our most precious sense and yet we go to the dentist once a year but pretty much completely ignore the health of our eyes unless something goes seriously wrong) and the media guru from Optimedia. We slipped into jargon, above the line (advertising), below the line (stuff like packaging, sales promotion) online (anything to do with the www) . . . Nadim from Optimedia speculated that there is no line anymore, it’s all about one line, in other words you have to be on the ball in all forms of communicating with customers/clients.  Sounds about right to me.

Was Amy any good?

Before I reveal all, I went to Bike Week to meet up with our Harley client and had a play on a big bike, wow, I went vrrm, vrrrm, vrrrrm.  My wife has banned me from riding a bike but in my next life I’m going to get a big boy Harley and a super cool Vespa.  Harley’s start from around AED 34,000 here and Vespa’s are a snip at AED 14,000.

Harley DavidsonVespa

My wife Sally represented the Prosser’s at Amy.  She is tough to please, for example she rated Robbie as average when he visited Dubai a few years ago.  Amy started slow and was in a bit of a mess but in the opinion of our Sal she was incredible and very special.  I think this goes against what you are going to read and hear but give the gal a chance if you get the opportunity to see Amy before it’s sadly too late.

My music tip for this week is The Hold Steady – one for Alan Main and anyone who loves Bruce Springsteen. These guys rock like it’s1984 – watch out for the guitar break at 2:50 and get air guitaring: 

McDonalds profits soar, again

Apparently during a recession our spending power goes down and we eat more cheap, junk (comfort) food.  The US gave the world fast food because it suited their lifestyle and monster appetites, British food is a bit hit and miss so I can fully understand why McDonalds has done well in these two countries.  But Asia has the most scrummy food on earth (along with the Italians) and have fantastic, incredibly cheap street food so why are more people in Asia eating more McDonalds?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.


Top five

Leading on here are my top five foods I can’t live without:

  • Pasta
  • Pesto (bit of a cheat)
  • Tomatoes (fresh, sweet and juicy)
  • Eggs
  • Plums (fresh, sweet and juicy)


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Tough call for the Americans

Egyptian protesters

I’m not sure anyone has quite worked out yet how far the people’s revolution can spread through the Arab World.  For those of us that witnessed the fall of communism it was quite astonishing watching the former Soviet bloc countries fall like dominoes with the fleeing or execution of some very unpleasant dictators.  The President of Tunisia saw the writing on the wall and cut and ran PDQ, President Mubarak won’t give up power that easily but there are a lot of unhappy people in Egypt and Cairo is a city of 20 million plus people which equals a lot of people-power.  Whichever side the army supports as the situation unfolds will determine the outcome.  Now comes news that Yemen is catching the bug and who knows where it will end.  My guess is the GCC will be unaffected, most of the countries have small, wealthy, highly privileged local populations and the expats are not entitled to get involved.  My only slight niggle is Saudi where there large numbers of disaffected youth but the importance of religion in their culture will almost certainly keep any discontent in check.

The Americans are now between a rock and a hard place.  As the world champions of democracy they welcomed the collapse of the communist world but now they have the dilemma that undemocratic countries are their allies.  Do they cheer the people on or offer covert advice and lend a few of their operatives to crush the people’s revolution?  Maybe Wikileaks could throw some light on this one.

Egyptians protesters

HSBC announces sale, time to fill your boots!

Having got that off my chest it’s time to return to marketing, my specialist subject.  I’ve been having a very interesting dialogue with HSBC this week.  Some of you may have noticed that HSBC is having their FIRST EVER SALE.  Now it’s my opinion that bank and sale simply don’t go together and I put this to a representative of the bank and he really couldn’t see my problem.  Resisting the urge to say it’s beedin’ obvious I resorted to reasoned argument.  In my book a sale is when the owner of goods or services offers discounts to attract buyers, a tactic that is typically used to boost sales and get rid of excess stock.  Banks by contrast are meant to take deposits and lend money, that’s their job pure and simple.  They make money on the difference between the interest rate they pay on deposits and earn on loans.

Now you will remember the financial meltdown that is still having a huge impact around the world, without going too deep into the causes, it was triggered by the excessive risk-taking of banks.  Lesson learned and you would expect a return to good governance and conservative banking practices, instead we have a bank throwing a huge amount of money at publicising a sale on products like credit cards, loans and mortgages!  If that isn’t encouraging people to take on debt I don’t know what is.  I have invited HSBC to reply to my observations, hopefully they are not too busy calculating their bonuses to reply.

HSBC sale ad

What is a brand?

Staying with marketing, I had an interesting conversation with two very nice ladies from a charity we are supporting by providing our services at a heavily discounted rate (i.e. free).  They do voluntary work for Senses, a charitable organisation that helps children with special needs.  We got to talking about brands and they thanked us for the logo we have designed for them, at which point our branding guru, a certain Nameer Kanderian, explained a logo is all good and proper but a brand is much, much more.  The essence of his argument was if you think of a person as a brand then the logo is the clothes they wear.  This creates a first impression, but there is so much more to the person.  Now one of the ladies was posh spice and the other sporty spice so if we judged them just on the clothes they were wearing we would never have guessed they are both kind, considerate, generous people who are totally committed to giving back. My guess is whenever they are deciding whether or not to do something they will subconsciously be making a judgement against their value set.  This is what a brand should do.  For example, the essence of Apple is Think Different and they live this in everything they do from the people they employ, to the products they sell to the retail shops we visit.

There endeth the branding lesson by a non expert.  If you would like to know more Nameer is your man.  He is also the person who when I asked about the 10km last weekend, namely did he manage to dodge the traffic queues into Media City, his reply was, ‘oh, I ran from my home’ (in somewhere like Abu Dhabi) ‘to the start’.

All time top 5s and the return of the Gang of Four

Having done my top 5s for 2010 a few people (one actually) asked me whether I had seen or heard anything in 2010 to change my all time top 5s. After a couple of seconds thought the answer was a resounding no.

Click this link to find out my top 5s of all time

Last week Gang of Four released their first album for sixteen years (or thereabouts).  On the off-chance anyone out there is also a fan you can hear the stream by clicking the link below.


Gang of four

It always makes my day when someone pitches in below, so feel free to comment.


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Paul puts parrots on employment scrapheap

A horribly fluey thing attacked me last week but I battled through!  It was a real shame that Holland tried to kick their way to the World Cup and then had the bad grace to blame the referee.  In truth they could have been down to nine men at half time and that would have ruined it for everyone watching around the world.  One thing they chose to blame was the referee giving a goal kick instead of a corner which resulted half an hour later in a goal.  Clutching at straws springs to mind.   Had to laugh though at a holier than thou Graham Souness laying into the Dutch for foul play and the ref for letting them get away with it; for those that saw Souness play, the pot has called the kettle black.

Like Paul the Octopus I predicted Spain to win the World Cup.  Unfortunately Paul’s success has put parrots throughout India out of work, Syed our cricket loving production guru sent me the attached cartoon.  If you want a parrot now is the time to buy.

Moving back to my story about the stoning sentence in Iran, Paddy McGrath has rightly chastised me for not updating you.  Apparently the sentence has been commuted but when this happens hanging sometimes replaces stoning as the method of execution.  For the full story click on the link below.  I wonder which option Tiger would have chosen, death by a thousand golf balls or a good thrashing from his wife?  For myself if ever I had to face the choice maybe I would go for the guillotine, it seems to have a bit of French romance about it.


While on the subject of women’s rights the Catholic church has shot itself in the foot once again.  In essence they have issued new rules on sex abuse and managed to slip in that ordaining women is on a par with paedophilia.  Shame on the Pope and all of the idiots who surround him.  As the proud dad of two lovely daughters it disgusts me that women are still treated by stupid men as second class citizens.  For the full story of Catholic perversion of human rights click on this story (let’s hope God has a fairer view of humanity and sends the Pope straight to hell without any bread and water/wine).



Best picture of the week has got to be this the death-defying stunt of Balancing artist Eskil Ronningsbakken.  I just went up the Burj Khalifia (fantastic experience, highly recommended) and that was pretty scary, but what this guy is up to beggars belief.  For more amazing pictures click on this link.


Two stories about advertising this week, the first is a great exchange between Ryan Air and Easyjet.  Michael O’Leary’s Ryan Air used advertising to accuse Stelios Haji-Ioannou of easyjet fame of lying, O’Leary’s claims were proved to be unfounded and Easyjet hit back.  View the ads and have a chuckle.

Michael O leary adRyan air ad

This week came news that BBH has resigned the Levis account after 28 years.  I love it when agencies resign big bits of business on a matter of principle even in these difficult times. BBH has been responsible for some truly brilliant advertising for Levis over the years including Laundrette and Drug Store.  Click here to view the show reel and prepare to be blown away by how brilliant advertising can influence the way you think and behave towards a brand.


Finally on the off-chance that anyone from HSBC is reading this, over a week ago I responded to your ads by applying for an Advance account and yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m still waiting to hear from you.  Lesson one, if you are going to spend money on advertising make sure you have your systems set up to meet the demand.  Otherwise Mr HSBC you are just wasting your money and you’ll end up blaming the ad agency, $250,000 campaign and no accounts, your fired!

Oh and finally, finally, MMI have some hum dinging offers on wines this month and Bud tax-free so get down to one of their shops and fill your boots.  Click here to find your nearest shop.


Went to play Yas Links at weekend and it’s forced me to change my top 5 golf courses:

  • Yas Links, Abu Dhabi
  • Kingsbarns, Scotland
  • Ballybunion, Ireland
  • St Enodoc, Cornwall
  • St Mellion, Devon

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Paul strikes again

Paul the octopus

Paul's (and my) prediction

Mr P is seriously good at this prediction game and we are now fishing for his thoughts on who will win the British Open.  Taking the lead from my blog entry before the World Cup started, he’s gone for Spain in the final.  Could I be the new Paul?

This has been a good week for news in the UAE.   HSBC’s regional chairman thinks sending debtors to jail is a great idea.  So if you owe HSBC money get the hell out of dodge town, judging by their usual response times you’ve got about a year’s head start before they notice.


While on the subject of HSBC they have an offer to upgrade to an Advance account which includes receiving 100,000 Air Miles.  The nice thing about Air Miles is that if you do use them for flights there are no restrictions and you can travel on the airline of your choice.  At this point I do have to declare a very vested interest, Air Miles is a client of ours and jolly nice people they are too.

More local news, the Sheikh Zayed Road stunt drivers were revealed as a police officer and government worker.  In a great example of punishment fitting the crime they were fined AED 1,000 for their antics.  This seems about right, a kiss equals three months in prison for offending local morality whereas driving like an idiot and endangering the lives of other road users is covered by a small fine.


Meanwhile the good people at the stats office have been having some fun cooking up the latest population numbers.  Once again the population of Dubai has grown despite all evidence to the contrary.  As you may recall from your English teacher at school, there are three types of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics (Benjamin Disraeli).


Even higher up the humour stakes this week were Gazza’s extraordinary offer to mediate in the Raoul Moat stand-off, there’s Geordie solidarity for you, and Joe Biden proving that Vice President’s are totally irrelevant.  When asked why America was exchanging 10 Russian spies for four American spies Mr Biden replied that the American ones are very good.  Well if they are so good how did they caught?

The Israelis take it even further and exchange half the population of Gazza for one soldier.  In welcoming Netanyahu to the White House has Obama conveniently forgotten the stealing of identities to murder a Palestinian in Dubai and the boarding of a ship in international waters?  I’m the elephant in the room.

I’ve hatched lots of plans this past week, notably to buy a big kite, start kettle bells and go to the Isle of Islay.  Having made up my mind to go to Islay I checked with my Scottish golfer friends how to get there and was met with blank faces.  For anyone that is interested you head towards Glasgow and turn sharp left.

On 6th July one of my client’s sent me an e-mail letting me know that today is the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future after hitting 88mph in a pimped out Delorean in 1985.

back to the future board

Before you get excited it was a hoax that stormed the internet (I fell for it and dug out my Back to the Future box set) once again proving the power of viral.  To offset my palpable disappointment I was rewarded with these gems



Having rambled enough it’s time for top 5s; this week I’ve settled for my five favourite footballers of this World Cup:

  • Xavi; Spain
  • Xabi Alonso; Spain
  • Iniesta; Spain
  • Mueller; Germany
  • Sneijder; Holland

If I don’t hear anything, I’ll assume you all agree with me (otherwise get busy with the comments box).

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Am I to blame?

I really didn’t think through the consequences of my actions, sorry BP. My friendly bit of American baiting has made Obama crazy mad with the Brits. To restore a bit of fair play let’s not forget Transocean, Cameron International, Halliburton Energy Services and we the people, for our insatiable demand for oil.

It’s difficult to know how this will all play out but I can imagine the city boys rubbing their hands with glee. As they bet furiously on BP’s share price the value of BP sinks ever lower and they become a take-over target. Imagine if the Chinese make the biggest bid, that would be a lot of fun for Obama and his new cheer leader, David Cameron.

What, you are probably wondering, has all of this got to do with the World Cup?

Robert Green that’s what. His spill just before half-time was catastrophic and I have to admit for about 30 seconds I felt very sorry for him. Then I remembered how much he is paid a week. As the ball trickled into the net I couldn’t help thinking of all of my Scottish friends leaping up and down with joy. Contrast this with the African approach where a whole continent is supporting each other. Come on you Scots, surely it’s better that we win the World Cup rather than Johnny foreigner.

Back to Green’s howler. As an experiment I took my 13-year-old, never played a game of football in her life, daughter into our garden this morning and rolled a football slowly towards her. She casually bent down, picked it up and nonchalantly chucked it back to me. The answer to England’s goalkeeping malaise is alive and well and living in a tidier- than- most teenager’s bedroom in Dubai!

Moving closer to home I have a small observation which has troubled me for many years. When you withdraw money from an HSBC ATM why doesn’t it give you the option of AED 500 and AED 1,000 on the first screen? Who wants to withdraw AED 600 or AED 1,300? Going to a second option and keying in the numbers is fiddly, time-consuming and a right pain in the butt for everyone waiting patiently behind.

However my prize for shocking customer service which has been the sole preserve of HSBC for longer than I care to remember has finally been handed over to a more deserving case. Step forward Etisalat/Evision for blitzing a very attractive World Cup offer while not taking into account that some people may actually want the service. Constantly busy phone lines and an e-mail response system which sends back the e-mail you send to them, make a great case study on how not to do it.

Further afield great news that Abby Sunderland has been rescued. Her poor parents are being heavily criticised for setting her adrift on a 40 foot boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Given the opportunity most parents of teenage children would do the same, but probably without the boat for company.

News also reached me that women are responsible for 70% of all shopping dollars spent (according to a Communicate report) I think our household skewed the numbers a bit but only on the basis that my wife, Sally, is much better at shopping than me. I head off on my bike for milk and return laden with everything from beetroot to toothpaste in a tin can.

To round off I’m really liking the new Klaxon single – listen to it here – and am especially looking forward to reading Roddy Doyle’s new book; The Dead Republic.

Top five for this week, has morphed into KP’s World Cup predictions;

  • Winners; England
  • Real Winners;Spain
  • Golden boot; Lionel Messi
  • Biggest shock; Brazil going out in QF
  • Smallest shock; Maradona self imploding

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Cream always rises to the top

I was in one of those ‘nothing interesting has happened this week’ moods when up popped the Oscars followed by Forbes Richest People in the World list.  The thing that caught my eye about both was women (I hasten to add not the party numbers the celebs were donning for the Oscars).   Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director for the Hurt Locker and it was made especially brilliant as she was previously married to James Cameron (who was widely tipped to pick up all the gongs going for Avatar).  In addition there are exactly six women on the ‘richest 100 people alive’ list.  None of these women are self-made; they all inherited their fortunes from their Dads.  How can this be?  At my school girls were much cleverer than boys especially in anything to do with creativity.  Given that they do so many things better than men they should be the ones inheriting the earth instead of which boys grab everything going.

While on the subject of girls my brilliant wife Sally is involved once again in a very worthwhile cause.  Trekking through Lebanon in aid of refugee and orphaned children.  You can follow her progress as she trains, raises money and gets stuck into the challenge on her blog: trek for lebanon.  I’m a huge fan of Lebanon but I don’t buy into Beirut being the Paris of the Middle East.  It’s simply not true, the people of Beirut are incredibly friendly and they know how to welcome guests and party like it’s always the weekend.  Parisians by contrast live up to their stereotype and then some!  At this point I have to mention a dark secret that has haunted me for many years.  The second greatest Britain ever, as voted by a BBC Poll in 2002, actually had a strong claim to be the greatest Frenchman ever.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Dad was French and he was educated at Lycée Henri-Quatre in Paris.  Fortunately no-one French has ever read my blog so my secret should be safe.

Turning back to Sally, she has received generous support from companies like Unilever, MBC, Emirates NBD, Emirates Leisure Retail, MMI and BASF.  In these difficult times it’s great to see companies still actively helping good causes.  Banks here seem to struggling a bit and if HSBC is anything to go by I’m not surprised why.  I mentioned last week about things happening in threes, this is my last week’s tale of woe with the aforementioned world’s local bank (can somebody please explain this slogan?  It’s absolute dogs-do on the simple premise that they are a big, impersonal, multi-national with absolutely zero personal service).

HSBC embarrassment number one.  My cash point card (AKA ATM card), wouldn’t work in HSBC cash point machines.  The advice from HSBC – try it in a National Bank of Dubai ATM; it worked!  You might say smart for offering sound advice but for goodness sake it’s absurd that you can’t get your money out from the people you bank with.

HSBC embarrassment number two.  I couldn’t transfer money through online banking from my UAE account to my UK account, their advice was try before 2 p.m.  It worked, meaning HSBC’s 24/7 internet banking service only operates for around 6 hours a day.

HSBC embarrassment number three.  Internet banking again, I couldn’t get various functions to work.  When quizzed a representative of the bank told me that their internet banking service only works properly with Windows XP, in other words two operating systems ago.  Jeepers, get a new IT department.

I was going to do top five banks but I ran out of ideas after none so having tried and failed to get a car loan from HSBC (they don’t do car loans for companies anymore) I’m going to do top 5 cars of all time.

  • Jaguar E-type
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
  • Citroen DS 19 (when I was a kid I loved going to France to watch Citroens’ trick of rising when the hand brake was released)
  • Mini Cooper John Cooper Works

Which model turns your head the most when inhaling the smell of petrol and burning rubber?

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