July 17, 2015

Deal Cubes: Making a Comeback?

As the proud founder of the “Deal Cube Museum,” I’ve been digging this blog devoted to deal cubes so much that I sat down to conduct this podcast with the blogger, David Parry of “The Corporate Presence.” The podcast addresses:

– What is your role for “The Corporate Presence” (including this blog)?
– Who typically makes the buying & design decisions for deal cubes these days?
– What are the latest trends in deal cube designs?
– What are the coolest deal cubes you have seen?

And hat tip to Lois Yurow for alerting me to this article from the “Financial Times” entitled “Mementos of triumphs make a return to bankers’ desks”:

When Lehman Brothers collapsed, Jessica Lindroos watched from her Canary Wharf office as redundant bankers left their building carrying boxes loaded with personal detritus. “It was a difficult time,” she says. For “The Corporate Presence,” where Ms Lindroos works, the bank’s bankruptcy was particularly gloomy. TCP makes deal toys, also known as Lucites and tombstones, commissioned by banks to mark the closure of a corporate deal and sit on a desk or an office shelf. The design will include relevant corporate logos and may reflect the nature of the deal. A TCP Lucite for the Twitter deal featured the blue bird logo in a birdcage.

When the financial crisis hit, headcount was cut at TCP, mirroring the sector overall. Smaller Lucite makers went bust. Kim Russo, founder and chief executive of New York deal toy agency Global Design Network, felt “scared” enough to reduce headcount, move offices, pitch to new clients and diversify into awards. Today, as mergers and acquisitions have bounced back, so have the deal toy makers. Ms Lindroos says last year “there were more deals, the phones were ringing and it was getting busier. Then, in 2014, even more so.” Nonetheless, the business landscape is very different from the 1980s and 1990s, says Ms Russo, a former stockbroker: “Deal toys were elaborate and budgets were not so constrained.” That said, the design process then was a lot slower, when she had to liaise with clients by fax and post.

Typically a deal toy ranges between £30 and £200 apiece, with the average about £60, says Ms Lindroos. A set of 20 or so is usually distributed among bankers from different institutions who have worked on a deal. It tends to be an analyst – the most junior banker on the team – who is charged with working with the deal toy maker. The task can be stressful for anxious bankers hoping to impress their higher-ups. Ms Russo says many fret, for instance about deadlines for the dinner to commemorate the deal and hand out the Lucites. They worry that “the managing director will get [angry]”. So part of her role is to hold their hand and say: “I need you to trust me.” She adds: “I’ll do anything I can to make the analyst look like a hero.” The worst jobs are those with tight deadlines. “What you are asking me to do is get pregnant and produce a baby in a few days,” says Ms Russo. Also difficult are bankers with grandiose ideas: “You can’t have a Mercedes for the price of a Volkswagen.”

Ms Lindroos recalls one project that spiralled out of control: the client wanted a rollercoaster, a zoo and lots of different animals. “It ended up looking really cluttered, but the client was adamant and it was something we could produce.” She says some of the Arabic banks want the largest pieces, mostly when marking energy deals. “[Those deal toys] are pretty extravagant and weigh a lot.” A substantial amount of time is spent ensuring one bank’s logo does not dwarf another’s.

While outsiders may view deal toys as frivolous and trinkets, they are important in providing meaning to work, says Daniel Beunza, a specialist in the sociology of financial markets at the London School of Economics. A merger, he says, can seem abstract to the bankers working on the deal, in contrast to, say, the factory workers in the companies being merged. “Deal toys are helpful in that regard. They can be shown around, exhibited in the office, and are understandable by many people, inside and outside the bank – kids, partners, friends.” Moreover, he says, they can provide a distraction from the vexed issue of bonuses. “By providing meaning and attributing credit to the overworked bankers involved in a deal, the hope is that less of their personal self-esteem will ride on the bonus.”

Coming Soon: Morrison & Romanek’s “The Corporate Governance Treatise”

We are happy to say the 2015 Edition of Morrison & Romanek’s “The Corporate Governance Treatise” has been sent to the printers! Here’s the “Table of Contents” listing the topics so you can get a sense of the Treatise’s practical nature.

You will want to order now so you can receive your copy as soon as it’s done being printed. With over 1100 pages — including 239 checklists — this tome is the definition of being practical. You can return it any time within the first year and get a full refund if you don’t find it of value.

Pay Ratio: Petition Hits 165k – & A New Timing Poll!

As noted in this press release, a group consisting of AFL-CIO, CREDO Action,, Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen delivered a petition to the SEC yesterday that numbered 165k signatures. Not sure whether that will influence the SEC to act any sooner since other petitions have not resulted in any action – although the rumor is that these rules will be adopted on August 5th.

There have been false starts before – this poll of the community as to when the pay ratio rules would be adopted fared well as the “winners” were those that guessed that the pay ratio rules would be adopted later than any of the offered poll choices. Here’s a new poll for you to make a prediction:

online surveys

– Broc Romanek