Henderson to buy New Star Friday, January 30, 2009
Henderson today announced a recommended offer for New Star Asset Management, the business founded by John Duffield in 2000 and who owned just under 6% of the company, prior to its' share restructuring agreed with the banks.
New Star has rapidly fallen from the sky in recent months to the extent that it is currently majority owned by its banks who converted their debt into equity.
The deal values New Star at £115m in a cash and share deal, but includes £20m of cash in New Star balance sheet. Henderson will add £10bn of assets under management to its existing £50bn and it hopes to manage the new funds at a marginal cost to income ratio of 40% - most fund managers operate at 70%+ cost to income ratio. Some of the incremental costs will come from taking on about 150 staff, including the retail "star" fund managers.
With integration costs amounting to £31m, Henderson will have a busy year in 2009 as they are apparently also going to switch back office outsource provider, moving from BNP Paribas Securities Services to JP Morgan.
There has been considerable coffee shop discussion about what any buyer would actually be getting for their money since
- New Star's brand is tarnished and so is regarded by many to have little or no value
- There has been a huge exodus of funds as IFAs have lost confidence in the New Star business and some business that remains will clearly have waited to see what would happen before making a decision. As such more funds may leave, but this is normally factored into the price offered by the buyer.
- A buyer will normally prefer to add funds onto their own platform and so the existing New Star infrastructure is unlikely to be of considerable interest to a buyer.
- "Star" Fund Managers are a little like premiership footballers and can be tempted away by competitor cheque books. Consequently, it is normally cheaper to hire the staff you want.
I'm just waiting for the Henderson advertising campaign to see how they will position this acquisition with IFAs - "There's a New Star at Henderson" perhaps?
Legg Mason's annus horribilis Thursday, January 29, 2009
Image via WikipediaLegg Mason has experienced an awful year. In 12months
- Its' money market funds had to be significantly propped up to prevent them "breaking the buck"
- Star manager Bill Miller had a collapse in performance after 15 years of consistent out-performance, albeit many of those gains have now been wiped out
- assets under management have fallen to less than $700bn, 30% lower than a year ago
- it has just reported a $1.5bn loss for the last quarter to produce the worst results in 25 years
Unsurprisingly, its' shares has fallen by about 70% over the year.
Legg aren't alone in being battered by market conditions, but being one of the largest fund management firms makes the impact looks much larger.
You have to have some sympathy for Mark Fetting, Legg's Chief Executive. He only took over in January 2008, inheriting the reins from "Chip" Mason, who had led the firm for the previous 46 years, and who also stepped down as Chairman in December 2008 in favour of Fetting. Yet, as Napolean said, "give me lucky Generals" and Mason will be known as the successful Patriarch whilst Fetting will be the CEO who oversaw the downturn in the firm's fortunes. Indeed, if it was a movie script, you can imagine Chip being called out of retirement in 18 months time to "save the day and rescue the firm".
I've commented on Legg previously here, here, here, and here.
John Thain quits Bank of America Thursday, January 22, 2009
Image via WikipediaWell it took a week from my asking the question "Can John Thain remain at Bank of America?" and concluding it seemed unlikely to his "mutually agreed" departure today following a meeting with his boss, Ken Lewis as reported here. Shares in Bank of America fell 16% on the news.
Perhaps the "icing" on the cake was the news that John Thain's new office had been lavishly re-furbished e.g. waste bin for $1,400 and a rug for $87,000, which isn't the sort of thing that goes well with tax payers or politicians who've just bailed out your company.
Merrill's staff should have cause to be thankful to Thain. He
- found them a safe-ish harbour in the storms and thus avoided the fate that befell Lehman
- negotiated a good deal with Bank of America despite Merrill's awful prospects, as borne out by their Q4 results
- paid their bonuses in December, totalling over $4bn despite the huge losses, which was some two months earlier than usual and days ahead of Bank of America taking over
Might John Thain follow his former colleague, Hank Paulson into academia and avoid the hassle of commercial life? Paulson has just stepped down as US Treasury Secretary and can easily afford not to work again. Similarly Thain is unlikely to be pressured by the need to work again, even without any payoff he may receive from Bank of America. However, his talents are widely recognised and it is probable that a number of firms are already weighing up the possibility of engaging him in some capacity after a short break, especially in the private equity sector where he could avoid much public scrutiny.
Any payoff he does receive will be a matter of public disclosure because Bank of America is listed. So it will be interesting to see whether he extracts one final huge "pound of flesh", despite the company having only just received a huge bailout. For Bank of America any sizeable payout will be a PR disaster since it will clearly be described as a payment for failure that has been funded by the taxpayer. However, John Thain probably has a pretty watertight employment contract under which he will inevitably be entitled to some pre-determined payoff. I also doubt that Ken Lewis will press any case that Thain was dismissed for misconduct or something similar, regardless of his personal feelings, since this would embroil the Bank in far too much unwelcome press over a protracted period, as each side makes disclosures helpful to their case.
Thain could, of course, choose to forego a payoff in recognition of the climate as he evidently decided to do with his bonus. Yet having conceded over his bonus to save face for Ken Lewis, he may be less inclined to do so given the manner of his departure. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, I hear his successor could be inheriting a nice new office.
One of the 3 firms showcased at the WeB@nk event this week that was hosted by Nesta was Zopa. Nearly 4 years old, Zopa [which stands for "Zone of Possible Agreement"] describes itself as a market for money. Targeted at the retail market, the platform has executed £31m of unsecured loans to date across over 7000 loans, with £12.6m booked in 2008 for 2600 loans. Their maximum loan limit is £15k and typical loans have been for cars, weddings and medical expenses - the loan purpose has to be detailed as part of the information provider by a borrower.
In supplying offers of cash, lenders specify
- the total amount on offer up to a maximum of £25,000 beyond which a lender needs a Consumer Credit Licence
- the rate they are prepared to lend at, which can be set per borrower risk category
- the maximum amount per borrower they are willing to commit e.g. no more than £100 per borrower [Zopa sets a floor of £10 minimum per borrower]
- the loan term
- the category of risk they want to invest in [Zopa stratifies its' borrowers across 5 risk categories]
- Complete a loan application
- Make monthly repayments comprising capital and interest
- Can borrow over 36 or 60 months with the ability to repay early
- Pay a loan fee of £94.25 when taking a loan
- Can borrow between £1,000 and £15,000
- provide the marketplace platform
- pool funds provided by lenders and distribute these amongst eligible borrowers
- vet lenders and borrowers against anti-money laundering criterion
- credit score borrowers
- undertake loan administration i.e. cash distribution and collection, oversee debt recovery via a third party arrangement
Zopa were at pains to stress that many people are attracted to Zopa because it puts a human face on money which they termed "Social lending", rather than the impersonal and institutionalised banking that traditionally operates. Yet as one member of the audience put it, "they made it sound like charitable work or lending for emotional/entertainment value".
Zopa did acknowledge that the flip side to social lending is that it can turn sour/personal when bad debts arise as people feel their "trust" has been betrayed. Overall Zopa has experienced 0.2% bad debts to date, and provides its' lenders with an estimate of bad debts per risk category as shown here.
One of the major selling points of Zopa is that borrowers and lenders reportedly get better rates than from banks by interacting directly. Lenders are presently getting an average of 8% after fees compared to high street savings ates of under 2%, whilst borrowers are receiving loans at 9% compared to 15%+ from a bank from unsecured loans.
I felt quite strongly that Zopa is disingenuous in making interest rates comparisons between themselves and banks for savers. When depositing with a bank you are transferring loan default risk to them and losses are borne by the bank's shareholders. Depositors also benefit from deposit protection schemes in the event of bank default. In Zopa you retain this risk. Hence an element of the rate differential has to compensate for that. In conversation after the event, their MD admitted to me that whilst the rate differential is about 6% following the sharp fall in bank deposit rates [Zopa lenders are averaging 9% less 1% Zopa fee versus average savings rates of 2%], back in the summer it was about a 2% differential.
What astounds me about this latter figure is that it indicates that Zopa lenders are clearly not making an allowance for borrower default. Whilst average historic loss rates may be only 0.2% across all lenders, those lenders who lent to defaulting borrowers will have been lost much more. More significantly, whilst Zopa claim that their credit screening process rejects a considerable percentage of borrower applicants and keeps them clear of sub-prime loans, I suspect that the deterioration in the economy is going to push up their default rates in line with the experiences of banks on similar tranches of unsecured personal debt.
My assertion regarding default risk being overlooked by lenders was further validated when I enquired about whether Zopa would consider offering credit protection insurance and Giles advised that it had been offered but there had been minimal interest in the product. Perhaps people are being overly seduced by the touchy-feely aspect of "social lending" and become too trusting or are ignorant of the risks.
Whilst savers are undoubtedly complaining about the pitiful rates currently offered on deposits, in the current environment I suspect that many people are most concerned about return of capital than return on capital, at least temporarily.
As James Gardner of Lloyds TSB (Bankervision) put it during the panel session, the real question is whether Zopa and its' kind represent a significant threat to banking and could disrupt the current model. He contended it did not and I have to concur. Whilst I believe Zopa has considerable growth potential from its' current low base and is not liable for losses on loans, I'm not convinced about its' business because
- despite having increased it's margin from 0.5% to 1%, this feels like insufficient gross margin on which to operate and develop the business. For example, at best Zopa is generating approximately £300,000 of interest revenue each year on £31m of loans, assuming all loans transacted on the platform were open, no capital repayments had been made and 1% was applicable to all of them. On top of this, Zopa will have generated just under £200,000 of borrower loan fees in 2008. Once costs are factored in e.g. staff, premises, insurances and technology, this doesn't leave much.
- Zopa isn't a regulated business at present, but were it to scale-up I believe that regulators would probably be forced to take a closer look. As James Gardner observes, were a major bank to enter the peer-to-peer lending space it would be inevitable that regulators would seek to include it as a regulated activity. At this point, its cost of operation would increase considerably putting further pressure on its' margins.
- Zopa claims that all elligible borrower applications have been funded to date, demonstrating that their supply of funds is sufficient. However this is represents a probable and material constraint on their business. The higher rates currently on offer may induce more savers to use the service but I believe that Zopa will also need to increase the average deposit several fold from the current average of £1,300, which translates into an average of 3 savers per borrower. Whilst banks have a similar situation, they can also supplement funds from wholesale markets, leverage and shareholders. None of these options are available in Zopa's current "peer to peer" model.
- Banks have considerably more experience in loan pricing than individuals and I question whether the rates presently on offer on Zopa may represent naive pricing on the part of lenders once bad debts/risk premium is taken into account. Obviously I acknowledge that bank lending rates will be higher simply to allow for bank profit and bad debt provisions, but stripping out such elements are likely to suggest higher rates should apply.
The 150 or so people attended the Nesta run "WeB@ank" event last night on the subject of peer to peer finance models and businesses were treated to a lively and polarised panel debate involving Giles Andrews (MD, Zopa UK), James Gardner (Bankervision and LloydsTSB) and Umair Haque (Havas Media Lab).
Unfortunately Umair's contribution lacked any real relevance to the discussion and left him appearing as someone wanted to be a deep-thinking academic offering higher plane wisdom and insight, but who actually came across as someone out-of-touch with matters at hand. Of course, he may retort that I was simply not bright enough to understand his mutterings but it was evident I wasn't alone in my thinking speaking to others in the audience later.
Fortunately, James and Giles were excellent sparring partners on opposite sides of the debate. Indeed, it almost had a pantomime feel to it with the traditional banker ["the baddy"] questioning the upstart model ["the goody"] - Giles was even pulling exagerated faces to win over the audience when James was speaking.
Good contributions came from the audience, which further the discussion. Disappointingly, though Nesta's organiser decided to cut the debate short simply to fit into the closing time they had publish which sadly failed to reflect the momentum the evening had built up.
Congratulations to Nesta and Christian Alhert at Open Business for organising the event.
I intend to post separately about the presentations from three firms who were showcased, namely
- Zopa, a loans marketplace
- Kubera Money
FT Alphaville has published an excellent graphical representation of the decline in the market values of major banks that was created by JP Morgan analysts. Really brings home the answer to the question of how one gets to be CEO of a small bank - start as CEO of a large one and wait.
The dramatic falls in UK banking share prices in recent days have prompted people to immediately conclude it is directly related to the FSA's removal of the short selling ban on UK bank shares. The Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee has already contacted the FSA in this regard and prompted the Chair of the FSA to comment in a radio interview this morning that the ban could be re-introduced at any time and without warning, albeit conceding that there was no evidence that short selling was the cause.
The Short Stories blog, which monitors stock borrowing and short interest in stocks, highlights the relatively trivial levels of shorting that appears to be going on.
Clearly the timing suggests some causality between the declines and shorting but one other culprit exist - the Government recapitalisation and insurance plans revealed to the markets on Monday. That such action appears necessary has prompted increased jitters, with the consequence that existing investors appear to be dumping their stock in fear of what lies ahead. So perhaps those levelling criticism and anger should be actually focussing their comments on existing shareholders who are voting with their feet and heading for the exit.
Increasing numbers of firms are asking their employees to make a choice - take a pay cut or lose your job. Unpalatable as both options are, in the current climate with few job vacancies available as a report here highlights, it is understandable that most employees choose the former.
What's notable about this sort of offer is that they are not
- a request to defer an element of pay in an effort to conserve company cash, but which maintains your current entitlements
- a temporary reduction with a guarantee to revert to former levels when there is an upturn
Whilst not suggesting losing your job is a better options [unless you have another job to go to], if you do have any scope to discuss the terms then you may want to propose foregoing any benefits that form part of your compensation package as the first element of any cut instead e.g. car allowance or health care. These tend to be ignored for pension purposes and are often less significant in negotiations with subsequent employers.
As a minimum, you could suggest rephrasing the terms of the cut such that you will agree to "donate" a proportion of your salary to the company during these turbulent times but that your contractual salary remains unaltered. This enshrines an acknowledgement that the cut is temporary in nature. You may be unsuccessful but "don't ask, don't get."
Details have emerged that the Abu Dhabi Royal Family inserted an anti-dilution clause alongside their investment in Barclays, which would re-price the shares issued to them in the event that new capital was raised within 9 months at a lower share price. e.g. if £100m bought 100m shares at £1, then if shares were subsequently issued at 50p then they would automatically receive an additional 100m shares [£100m divided by 50p].
Such a clause is relatively common in private placings and Angel/VC rounds of fund raising. It's purpose is simply to protect the investor from subsequent investors being offered better terms, rather than being a device to deter further capital injections. However, the rapid deterioration in Barclays situation and market conditions, with corresponding slump in share price from 153p to under 70p, would prompt a significant repricing of the Abu Dhabi stake were new capital raised at such levels, with the consequence they would probably end up with a majority stake.
This now presents Barclays with a considerable problem - if they conclude that they do need more capital, new investors would face the prospect of automatically being a minority shareholder in the shadow of the Adu Dhabi control. This is likely to deter some sources of new capital and hence frustrate Barclays efforts to the extent that the only source of new funds may be the Abu Dhabi's themselves.
Whilst Abu Dhabi could sit back in the expectation that the UK Government would be obliged to bail out Barclays, I suspect that the UK Government would be forced to nationalise the bank rather than simply inject fresh capital, given that it would be political suicide to be seen to be using taxpayers money to hand control of the bank to another sovereign state.
Nationalisation would clearly be a dramatic step and materially damage relations with Abu Dhabi, given it would wipe out much, if not all, of their investment. However, the idea of nationalising a major UK bank is openly debated and advocated in some serious quarters, albeit RBS and Lloyds are most commonly the subjects of such discussion in this context.
Hence, Abu Dhabi may now find themselves having to consider the prospect of having to [unwillingly] provide more capital to prop up their ailing investment or else waive their anti-dilution rights.
Hedge Funds assets dwindle considerably Wednesday, January 21, 2009
For the industry as a whole, [albeit starting from a lower estimate than I've seen elsewhere, which may reflect that their figures do not include assets invested in fund of hedge funds] Hennessee Group has estimated that hedge fund industry assets decreased by USD782bn in 2008 to USD1.21trn, a 39% fall. They divide this up as
- USD399bn redemptions
- USD383bn drop in valuation
This is because the Madoff case has challenged the notion that the due diligence and monitoring is in any way adequate to warrant their fees. Furthermore, investors notice fees far more when performance is low or negative and will question the value added far more.
Hennessee Group Research says, fund of hedge funds were the largest single source of capital for hedge funds at 32 per cent of the total. Of direct investors in hedge funds, individuals and family offices accounted for 30 per cent, pension schemes 15 per cent, endowments and foundations 12 per cent and corporations 11 per cent.
The hit on fund of hedge funds will affect smaller and less well known funds hardest, since they tend to be weakest at marketing successfully to end investors. Whilst they may get seed money from some wealthy investors to put them in the barely viable $100m range, pushing beyond this without fund of hedge funds assistance is incredibly tough.
One firm in particular, RAB Capital, is having a bad time [not to mention investors in the company and its' funds]. Previously acclaimed, its assets under management fell 74% in 2008 to $1.9 billion at the end of December, compared to $7.2 billion a year earlier, according to Market Watch. As a result, revenues including management and performance fees fell to £51m, a drop of 59%.
Across the industry, there is also an investor backlash from hedge funds that have imposed a "gate" on investments i.e. refused to allow investors to make withdrawals, whilst still demanding their management fees on those same funds. This has been likened to being locked in a hotel room by staff and still being told you have to pay the room rate. In the good times, few investors seemed to care about their liquidity options on such investments. Now it has moved to the forefront of their mind and I anticipate more investors will demand considerably lower fees to lock their money up for long periods.
I confess to some bitterness on this matter of investor liquidity - I was involved in a venture that sought to develop a regulated secondary market for hedge funds that would enable investors to trade with each other, without necessitating redemptions from the funds. Many fund of funds firms we spoke to back in 2007 scoffed at the notion that such a mechanism was useful since "redemptions and liquidity would never be an issue" which is a genuine quote to me from the CIO at GAM. I am hoping to run into him again soon to remind him of those words.
Many hedge funds will also be quietly dying or considering exiting since the likelihood of them receiving performance fees for some years to come looks remote, given that they normally have to hit the high watermarks of past years before they qualify. Of course, management fees may tied them over, but drops in the value of assets will have also pushed these down.
If 2008 was bad for funds, my current guess is that 2009 will not be any better.
Just saw this image of the new US Presidential Limo.
from the blog 2-Speed
- 8 miles per gallon [not so eco-friendly]
- top speed of 60 miles an hour and 0-60mph in 15 seconds [no high speed getaways ala "24" TV show with this tank]
- Driver's window opens by only 3 inches so he can pay a toll!
- Laptop with Wifi [and they're worried about the President having a Blackberry]
Amazing footage of the Hudson Plane Landing Sunday, January 18, 2009
Real-time security camera video on the plane landing and the subsequent rescue efforts.
Can John Thain remain at Bank of America? Friday, January 16, 2009
Image by Getty Images via DaylifeThe credit crunch has unravelled the reputations of some of the previously most respected investment banking bosses. Previously praised for their deal-making abilities, business savvy and genius, many have been undone by the collapse of their empires e.g. Dick Fuld. Yet of all of those in the spotlight I have perhaps been most astonished by the apparent fall from grace of two former Goldman Sachs senior figures, Hank Paulson and John Thain. Regarded in awe within and outside of the firm, they were credited with steering Goldman on an prosperous course for a number of years.
Hank Paulson, as the US Treasury Secretary, appeared to have the perfect CV to design and oversee the actions of the US administration given his extensive experience on Wall Street. Yet he has been widely derided for his handling of the situation and notably the hastily arranged TARP.
Meanwhile John Thain, who was only parachuted in Merrill Lynch at the end of 2007, and who appeared to have cleverly manoeuvred his "ship" into the safe harbour of Bank of America is now being castigated for the issues being uncovered in the Merrill Lynch balance sheet that weren't declared up front. The Bank of America has now received a further $20bn capital injection from the US Government to ensure it remain adequately capitalised. Trust in Thain by his boss, Ken Lewis, was already strained following the furore over bonus claims the Merrill executives were allegedly going to request, as well as the awful Q4 performance by Merrill.
When your current boss thinks you hoodwinked him, regardless of the fact you were acting for Merrill shareholders at the time in soliciting the best price, your position is surely shaky. Having been in charge of the "ship" for a year, Lewis may also question whether Thain has demonstrated he can turn things around quickly enough at Merrill, especially given the state they have now apparently inherited.
Separately, the FT are also raising the question of whether the bonuses paid to Merrill staff in Q408 could come under scrutiny if it turns out Merrill was technically insolvent at the time the BofA deal closed. If Merrill staff weren't already panicked by fear of layoffs, the prospect of having to repay bonuses should really make their day.
Deposit protection schemes are supposed to re-assure savers that their deposits are [mostly] safe. In recent months, combined with actual interventions to demonstrate support, many national schemes have been improved to remove any risk for most depositors e.g. UK Govt protected 100% of Icesave Bank and Irish Govt guaranteed 100% of Irish bank deposits.
Yet even a 100% guarantee doesn't seem to have deterred savers from making large scale deposit withdrawals from Anglo Irish Bank if reports are to be believed. Ireland's third-largest lender, who were also offering some of the best sterling savings rates, was nationalised last night, following a dramatic decline in its' share prices as concerns mounted and ahead of an assumed "run on the bank" perhaps fuelled by comments of the Irish Opposition Leader.
This has considerable ramifications for deposit protection policy since if savers aren't assuaged by a 100% guarantee, preferring to grab their cash rather than "take any chances", what else can Governments do? I confess that I don't have a ready answer for those banks remaining in private ownership, since it appears savers will continue to have doubts unless a bank is actually Government owned, at least for now. As I wrote here, I thought the Irish scheme, would actually be sufficient to pull in savers from the UK given the "better protection" apparently offered. Evidently Irish savers didn't share my confidence.
Anglo Irish had recently hit the headlines when its' Chairman had been found to have received enormous loans from the bank which had not been declared because of window dressing transactions around the Bank's financial year end. It was also considered to be the Bank most exposed to Ireland's property market collapse and had appeared in Cazenove's most at risk league table here.
Image by adambowie via FlickrI confess that I haven't bought an Evening Standard for easily more than a year. I was never a regular buyer, mainly because my evening commute was often devoted to reading my weekly copy of the Economist. However, because of the availability of instant news online, I now feel even less need to buy a copy.
At one time on the evening commute, many people would have a copy of the Evening Standard. Now it's a rarity to see anyone with a copy, despite news that the Standard's sales were rising. In my experience, the vast majority are looking at freesheets such as the London Paper and London Lite. Likewise the street vendors of the Standard no longer have the busy crush of commuters trying to snatch a copy but appear somewhat forelorn relicts of a past era, outmuscled by pushy freesheet distributors standing on every street corner.
Whilst the paper isn't closing, annual losses of £10m demonstrate that radical surgery will be required to re-invent the offering. Given the trite content of the freesheets, one hopes that the Standard can successfully use quality as its' point of differentiation and to justify its' paid-for status. However, I wonder if the free sheets are its' only competitor or whether online material has been equally to blame.
Gladinet - joining up the clouds [storage and apps] Friday, January 09, 2009
Being a big fan of cloud application and to the extent I'm almost able to operate entirely using free online apps, I was delighted to be introduced to Gladinet, a brilliant free service that joins up cloud storage services with cloud applications.
Some of my concerns with any cloud application are a) where does my data live b) how portable is my data c) how reliable is the service provider. Gladinet helps overcome these fears by liberating data storage from cloud applications [or at least the ones it presently supports] and then enabling you to connect between them at will.
Windows only, you do need to install a small desktop application to use the service. The Gladinet software creates a virtual drive on your desktop from which you can access your online storage services as if they were local folders. You can also access the same folders from multiple PCs via the same Gladinet account.
Presently the service integrates with Microsoft SkyDrive [25gb of free storage], Amazon Simple Storage Service(S3), Google Docs and Google Picasa. You can also connect to folders on remote local computers that you have access to e.g. at home or at work. In effect it means your files can follow you.
It's easy to drop and drag files between your online and desktop folders, and the files become instantly available. You can also drop and drag files between cloud storage folders i.e. skydrive to google docs.
The "icing" comes from the ability to easily access online applications. Hence, your online or desktop files can be instantly opened within the web applications supported from Google Docs, Zoho and Think Free.
For example, you can elect to open a document stored on Skydrive in Google Docs. A temporary instance of the document is created in Google Docs but all the changes are instantly reflected by in the original source file when you save the document. Next time you open the document you could instead choose to use Think Free or Zoho to edit it, or perhaps use MS Word on your desktop. A point to note is that I found Google Docs considerably faster at opening files than Think Free.
Gladinet also lets you share your files by creating internet urls that you can send to others. If you choose to youcan protect your share with a password. You can also put a timer on the URL so it can expire at a specific time. Both features make the sharing experience more secure.
Gladinet doesn't provide any synchronisation capabilities between online and offline folders, leaving that to services such as Microsoft's Live Sync and Dropbox amongst others.
But here's a personal reason why I am enthusiased about this offering. When I installed Gladinet I simply couldn't get it to connect to the cloud storage services following the installation and got a Window error code. I dropped Gladinet an email asking for help and one of the founders, Jerry Huang, was kind enough to spend time investigation the problem with me online and despite it not being a Gladinet issue, tracked it down to a conflict with a very old Juniper Networks security application I had on my laptop, which I hadn't even been aware was still active. Thereafter things have been troublefree.
Whilst on the call, Jerry also took the time to give me some background on the company and a taste of their future plans, which were impressive.
Definitely a service to look at.
Image via CrunchBaseIf you happen to use Google Reader and have ever tried to add your twitter feed you'll know that they are incompatible. This is apparently because Google Reader doesn't support the authentication Twitter requires.
After wasting some time trying to use Yahoo Pipes as a conduit which was one solution thrown up on a web search, I finally thought I would try Feedburner which is the service that provides a RSS feed of this blog.
It was surprisingly easy and worked first time. Here's how.
- At the bottom of your Twitter home page on the left hand side, you'll see a box marked "RSS". Copy the associated link location by right clicking on the box and selecting to copy link location.
- Setup/Login into your Feedburner account
- Within Feedburner, go to "My Feeds", which is accessed at the top of the screen, and paste the Twitter link you copied into the field under the heading "Burn a feed right this instant".
- The link you copied in is password protected and so you now need to add your twitter username and password into the link as follows
where "n" at the suffix represents the numbers of your unique feed.
- Click the "Next" button adjacent to the Feedburner field you've entered the link into
- On the subsequent Feedburner page you can modify the resultant feed title and link if you wish to
- Click on the button marked "Activate Link". This makes your feed live and provides you with a feed url which you should copy.
- Back in Google Reader, add a subscription and paste in the feed url.
Given that Twitter no longer provides a feed via IM clients, you may find this an easy way to keep on top of your Twitter updates.
Image via WikipediaI hardly ever use Facebook, occasionally logging in just in case anyone has left me a message. Yesterday was one such occasion and whilst I was online, I was contacted by an old work colleague who I'd "friended" on Facebook sometime ago via the online chat facility. Off the back of that chance conversation, we agreed to meet up to talk about his new business.
It struck me that LinkedIn should really look at doing something similar. Whilst it's not a "social network" site, in my experience lots of business stems from chance conversations and having the facility to drop a quick IM "hello" to connections who happen to be online would be a valuable feature.
Having already added an address book facility to add more info about a connection, it is perhaps a natural extension to allow real-time interaction on the site. Importantly for LinkedIn, it would perhaps encourage people to spend more time on the site and increase it's value to advertisers.
As an aside, I've also been using a service called SocialMinder lately which I intend to write about separately, but in brief it's a cut-down CRM hooked-up to LinkedIn. This is something LinkedIn should definitely buy or replicate.
Image via WikipediaDescribing itself as the tube travellers bible, I stumbled across Metazone's London tube site last night by accident whilst looking to find the nearest tube to a meeting venue.
In one part of the site, they've overlaid the tube lines on a google map which highlights the astonishing meandering routes some of these lines follow, but more practically as you mouse over the map useful tube information is revealed.
You can check it out here.