One small step for digi-kind
Illustration: John Shakespeare
Westpac Group must be on a different bandwidth to its banking customers. The bank attempted to dazzle the financial media yesterday when it hired the top floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art, on Sydney's Circular Quay, and laid on complementary pastries before what was promised to be the ushering in of a ''new era of mobile banking''.
''Westpac has embraced this change and will continue to do so as we look forward to being part of our customers' digital world, today and every day,'' teased a statement released by the bank, heralding the big unveiling.
The Westpac media relations operative Danny John helped build the suspense before the big moment. Just like Neil Armstrong did when he took his giant leap for mankind. ''As you'll see round the room, we've tried to give a feel for how the whole nature of banking is changing,'' he told the room, which contained a flat-screen television.
And then came the historic moment. ''It looks like the 3G network is down,'' said John, as the bank spent about six to seven minutes trying to get its new iPad app working. Fortunately, Westpac was able to use a ''static prototype'' to get through the presentation. Kent Street, we have a problem.
A Gray area
It was all about literature yesterday when NAB rising star Lisa Gray lectured executives lunching at the Trans-Tasman Business Circle about the bank's efforts to ''break up'' with the other banks.
Advertising boss Peter Biggs, of Clemenger BBDO, kicked off with a lengthy ode to Gray, comparing her to an antebellum hero of the American old south.
It was an ode that raised the eyebrows of the host of the event, the PricewaterhouseCoopers managing partner Peter Van Dongen.
''He went into this literary stuff, I thought, 'Gee, what's going to be the connection'. There's a literary connection with Gray at the moment - 50 shades, I started to think, 'Surely not'.''
However, van Dongen was quick to point out the differences between NAB's campaign and the bonkbuster Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a story of a naive graduate lured into a world of sadomasochistic sexual shenanigans that has so far sold 31 million copies.
''But that's all about getting things together, and what we were talking about was break-up of course,'' he said.
''I don't understand that joke at all,'' Gray responded.
Gray also had a kind word for rival Mike Smith, the chief executive of ANZ, who recently ruled out moving to troubled British bank Barclays.
''I was disappointed when I saw Mike wasn't going to be doing that,'' she told reporters after lunch.
Shut to shine
The former Perth resident and wife of Pankaj Oswal, the debt-laden entrepreneur once behind Burrup Fertilisers , has staged a robust counterattack on suggestions that her vegetarian restaurant chain, Otarian, could soon close.
Radhika Oswal, who has expanded the Otarian chain from four to one restaurant, condemned a report in The West Australian newspaper last Friday that suggested the remaining New York outlet could shut soon.
Oswal, who renamed one of her Australian companies Comical Ali Militant Vegetarian Pty Ltd after she moved to Dubai, mounted an even more strident defence of her restaurant chain than the former Iraqi information minister did for the Saddam Hussein regime.
In a tirade of weekend tweets, Oswal said the article was ''blatantly dishonest'', ''unsubstantiated'' and a ''nothing-so made up story''. And it seems things are onward and upward for the food chain, which closed its two London outlets nearly a year ago. When the restaurants closed in August last year, Oswal explained the closure was a result of Otarian wanting to work on a new menu.
Asked yesterday when the London restaurants would re-open, Oswal explained (via Twitter) that Otarian in Britain was ''refining our business model, perfecting the menu, consolidating our team and expertise''. ''As soon as that's achieved, we'll return,'' she tweeted.
Par for the bourse
At last. Years after it was first unveiled by the Australian Securities Exchange, retail investors at the small end of the market will be offered ''high-quality'' research (aka two sentence blurbs) on the companies in which they invest.
The ASX announced yesterday the launch of a 12-month ''equity research scheme'', which would ''fund high-quality, independent research for ASX-listed companies with a market capitalisation below $1 billion''. So painstaking is the research, that investors in 1179 listed companies valued at less than $50 million on the market will be provided with a two- or even three-paragraph ''snapshot'' on what each entity actually does.
The ASX said the improved research would ''assist the investor relations activities of small- to mid-cap companies''.
But there are a remaining 1000 other, smaller companies listed on the ASX that are too tiny to even have a one-sentence ''snapshot'' written about them.
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