The chairman and MD have decided not to make any resolutions this year
'Made any New Year's resolutions?' I asked the managing director of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet by way of conversation.
'Isn't this where we came in this time last year?' he replied.
'It certainly sounds very familiar,' added the chairman, returning from the main bar of The Green Paper with three pints of Voluntary Compulsion.
'What on earth is that?' exclaimed the MD.
'I know, I know,' replied the chairman. 'The beer looks flat, weak and neither one thing nor the other, but the barman said it was all that was on offer for now.'
'We thought we might give resolutions a miss this year,' said the MD returning to my original question. 'If I remember correctly, our flagship resolution last year was that SmallBlue Planet would be visionary rather than follow the market.'
'And if I remember correctly, in 2002 you launched three corporate bond funds and 27 structured products,' I said.
'That's rather our point,' said the MD. 'We've now decided New Year's resolutions are bad for self-esteem because they are utterly impossible to keep. So no resolutions this year.'
'Apart from no longer to pay our staff bonuses in Turkish lira,' said the chairman.
'I'm sorry ¦ what?'
'Last year we came up with this clever little wheeze of awarding bonuses in Turkish lira to avoid paying tax,' explained the chairman. 'I'm not totally up on the small print but, basically, it was all about giving an employee a loan in a weak currency that was likely to fall further and then converting it to sterling. When the currency, usually the good old Turkish lira, fell, the employee repaid the loan but kept the so-called profit as the planned bonus while SmallBlue got to offset its 'loss' for tax purposes.'
'What could be simpler?' I said.
'Indeed,' agreed the MD. 'But those spoilsports at the Revenue reckon the pre-Budget report has put the kibosh on it. So technically we're not even resolving not to do that, if you see what I mean.'
'So what about you?' said the chairman turning to me. 'Any resolutions yourself?'
'Not really,' I replied. 'I'm with you on this self-esteem thing. I'm certainly not the sort of serial resolver referred to in an IFA Promotion survey that said 14 million people would make resolutions for 2003. Apparently, half of them make the same pledge every year and some 2.7 million will have chucked in the towel within a week.
'Of course, that wasn't the only survey over the past month or so. As we know, any PR type worth their expenses will come up with a good stats-based stunt for the holiday period. So now I know, thanks to Goldfish, that Britons were to have spent an average of £693 each on Christmas presents, although I'm not sure any of my family were surveyed. Still, that fits in with the findings of Yorkshire Bank that London and Scotland contain the highest proportion of people who are likely to spend less than £50 on Christmas. Did you know they came up with that fact, and other necessities such as that one in 10 men prefer New Year's Eve to Christmas, on 28 November?
'Mind you, they only beat Virgin's 'cut the cost of Christmas' release by a day. And in the following weeks we had First Direct positing the theory Santa Claus is a woman, Alliance & Leicester cataloguing Britons' biggest financial regrets of 2002 and Royal London wondering whether New Year's resolutions will help close the savings gap and beat the pensions crisis. I'm guessing not.
'Liverpool Victoria went for warning against the hidden costs of Christmas but didn't come close to Norwich Union Healthcare on the Bah Humbug scale for affecting surprise that 11% of people would attend five or more work-related Christmas parties.'
'Five a night's not that much,' shrugged the chairman.
'They were talking five in the whole Christmas run-up,' I said. 'They also wheeled out a representative to say that British office workers are consuming twice the recommended sensible drinking levels and that this could lead to dehydration, although drinking water before going to bed could help.'
'Who'd have thought it?' said the chairman shaking his head. 'So I suppose your New Year's resolution is to avoid this sort of nonsense for as long as possible?'
'Providing the releases don't follow the general Christmas trend of getting earlier each year,' I said, 'I should be able to hold out for about 10 months.'
‘Important to have an anchor’
Report to be written by TPR
Lack of innovation for solutions
Some 2,000 consumers affected