Archive for February, 2012

KPMG chief optimistic about U.S. economy

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

John Veihmeyer, chair and CEO of the global accounting firm KPMG, has some advice for anyone interested in knowing what’s really going on in the world.

“Don’t believe anything you hear on CNBC or MSNBC,” Veihmeyer told students at the A. B. Freeman School of Business. “All you do if you watch those programs is get really depressed about the state of the world.”

In his talk at the Freeman School, John Veihmeyer said CEOs “are generally feeling pretty good about their companies and their prospects over the next 12 to 15 months.” (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Despite what you might hear on the cable news channels, Veihmeyer said most of KPMG’s major clients are optimistic about the state of the economy. He lectured on Monday (Feb. 13) for the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

“The CEOs I’m meeting with, particularly those that lead large multinationals here in the U.S., are generally feeling pretty good about their companies and their prospects over the next 12 to 15 months,” Veihmeyer said. “I think you could actually see a bigger bounce in the U.S. economy than most people are predicting.”

The Greek debt crisis could still derail the U.S. economy, Veihmeyer said, but he expressed confidence that European officials understand the gravity of the situation and won’t allow a collapse of the euro.

Looking back at his 35 years with KPMG, Veihmeyer told students to be open to new and unplanned opportunities, to find people who care about them and can help their careers, and, most importantly, to always maintain a high degree of personal integrity.

“It’s not the earth-shattering, big ethical decisions [that make the biggest difference],” he said. “It’s the little things you do eight times a day that I think define your reputation as an individual and how trustworthy you are.”

In addition to his talk, Veihmeyer also announced that KPMG plans to donate $150,000 to the Freeman School over five years to establish the KPMG LLP Professorship in Accounting. The company is a global network of professional firms providing audit, advisory and tax services.


Global accounting firm KPMG to fund professorship at the Freeman School

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

During a speaking engagement at Tulane University yesterday, KPMG Chairman and CEO John Veihmeyer announced plans to establish the KPMG LLP Professorship in Accounting at the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

John Veihmeyer

During a speaking engagement at Tulane, KPMG Chairman and CEO John Veihmeyer announced plans to establish the KPMG LLP Professorship in Accounting at the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

KPMG partners, retired partners and employees, supported by matching gifts from the KPMG Foundation, together have pledged $150,000 over five years to support the teaching and research of an outstanding accounting professor.

“Professorships like this allow universities to attract and retain outstanding faculty who understand deeply the needs of the public accounting profession,” Veihmeyer said. “Likewise, maintaining strong relationships with accounting professors and faculty at ‘schools of choice’ is critical to our mission. We are very pleased to support President Cowen, Dean Solomon and the administration at Tulane and Freeman in their efforts to expand faculty and to graduate high performing students, providing firms like KPMG with a strong pipeline of talent.”

“We are delighted to receive this generous investment in the future of accountancy education at the Freeman School,” said Ira Solomon, Freeman School dean. “KPMG has always had a very strong orientation toward scholarship. This gift will enable us to continue to produce top-quality accounting research as well as prepare an increasing number of students for careers with KPMG and other prestigious accounting firms.”

Accounting is a growth area for Freeman. The school plans to hire three new tenured or tenure-track accounting professors and has recently signed agreements with Xiamen and Zhejiang universities in China to offer master of accounting programs for Chinese graduate students.

Veihmeyer was in New Orleans to meet with Tulane officials and speak to students as part of the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series. He shared his views on the global business environment, the job market for new accounting graduates and his principles for success based on his 35-year career with KPMG.


Freeman team takes top prize at Wall St. Training Valuation Competition

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Four Freeman School Master of Finance students beat out teams from more than 25 universities to take home the top honors at the inaugural Wall St. Training Valuation Competition. The contest, sponsored by Wall St. Training, a provider of training programs for finance professionals, took place in New York on Feb. 3.

Hamilton Lin, left, CEO of Wall St. Training, with the winning Freeman School team. From left to right, Bo Yuan, Bohua Liu, Feifan Qiang and Luo Xue. (Photo by Craig Williston/Qool Foto.)

In winning the competition, the Freeman School team—Bo Yuan (MFIN ’12), Bohua Liu (MFIN ’12), Feifan Qiang (MFIN ’12) and Luo Xue (MFIN ’12)—edged out finalists from Princeton, Rutgers and the University of San Francisco to earn a $1,000 cash prize.

“The whole experience was very exciting,” said Yuan.  “Our analysis required in-depth knowledge in a particular industry, so the classes we took at Tulane were incredibly helpful. I think they gave us an advantage.”

The Freeman School team won the competition with an analysis and valuation of Chesapeake Energy Corp., a company they’d first studied as part of the Freeman School course Energy Markets, Institutions and Policy.

Making the team’s accomplishment that much more impressive is its circumstances: Three of the four students were members of the Freeman School’s Zhejiang Advanced Placement Program (ZAPP), a 12-month dual education program with China’s Zhejiang University that enables students to earn a master’s degree from Tulane in conjunction with their honors program curriculum from Zhejiang.

The students entered the competition last fall when they were attending classes together in New Orleans, but by the time they learned they were finalists, the ZAPP students had finished their residency in New Orleans and team members were scattered across two continents with a daunting 12-hour time difference separating them. Undeterred, the students collaborated online, fine-tuning their analysis and practicing their final presentation via Skype and other Internet resources.

“We’ve always known that the students in our joint master’s program with Zhejiang University are among the very best in the world,” said Ira Solomon, dean of the Freeman School. “The ability of these students to work together and succeed despite significant obstacles speaks volumes about their knowledge, dedication and spirit. I congratulate them on this outstanding achievement.”

 


Burkenroad Symposium tackles ethics of social media

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

If there was an overriding theme at this year’s Burkenroad Symposium, “Taming the Dragon: The Ethics of Doing Business in the World of Social Media,” panelist David Vinjamuri summed it up best.

Burkenroad Institute Director Adrienne Colella, left, with panelist David Vinjamuri. Vinjamuri emphasized the importance of ethics in social media at this year’s symposium. Photos by Cheryl Gerber.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” said Vinjamuri, founder of ThirdWay Brand Trainers and “Brand Truth” columnist for Forbes magazine. “There are many things that are perfectly legal and not at all ethical.”

Vinjamuri was one of three national experts who took on the topic of ethics and social media for this year’s symposium. Joining Vinjamuri were Michelle Sherman, a Los Angeles-based attorney who specializes in social media law, and Chris Weil, global chairman and CEO of New York-based marketing firm Momentum Worldwide. Laila Morcos, senior account public relations executive at Peter A. Mayer Advertising, moderated the discussion.

The symposium, an annual presentation of the Freeman School’s Burkenroad Institute, took place on Friday (Feb. 10) in Dixon Hall.

Vinjamuri cited a laundry list of ethical and legal transgressions committed by businesses in their social media activities, everything from secretly sponsoring bloggers to write about their companies to creating phony review sites to hype their products. Invariably, Vinjamuri said, those misdeeds come back to bite those businesses.

Attorney Michelle Sherman discussed some of the legal issues of social media.

“It’s not okay to assume that you can influence people in a way that you wouldn’t be comfortable with if everyone knew,” Vinjamuri said. “The only thing that is of value is your reputation as a company, as a brand or as an individual, and all those things will be gone if you misbehave.”

Despite social media’s reputation as the Wild Wild West, Sherman said many of the laws governing offline business conduct also apply to social media. For example, employers can’t enforce social media policies that punish employees for engaging in protected activities — such as criticizing a manager or complaining about working conditions — on a personal Facebook page.

“If you have a social media policy, you don’t want it to be overbroad,” Sherman said. “We’ve seen companies fire employees that they then had to rehire because they fired them based on protected activity.”

Weil closed things out with a discussion of how social media is changing intellectual property models, and he also got the biggest laugh of the morning by making his point via YouTube sensation Antoine Dodson.

Marketing executive Chris Weil, left, and panel moderator Laila Morcos. Weil said social media is transforming traditional intellectual property models.

Dodson, a resident of Huntsville, Ala., became an Internet celebrity after his interview with a local TV news crew about an intruder who broke into his home went viral. Weil showed a clip of Dodson’s original interview and then a clip of “Bed Intruder Song,” a recording and video by Brooklyn band the Gregory Brothers that sampled Dodson’s impassioned rant to hilarious effect.

Instead of simply appropriating Dodson’s voice for their own financial gain, the band reached out to Dodson and signed an agreement to split all proceeds from the song with him. Weil said that philosophy, one in which social media participants share credit and profits, will become the new standard.

“They did the brilliant thing,” Weil explained. “They said, ‘Hey, we didn’t write these lyrics. We added value to something that happened, and we’re going to share, 50-50, all the proceeds with the person that did.’

“That’s how things are going to be going forward. The co-creation model.”


Study shows ‘downsizing’ options beat calorie warnings in convincing diners to eat less

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Studies have shown fast-food calorie postings do little to deter diners from overeating. A better approach may be for restaurants to simply ask consumers if they’d like smaller portions, according to new research by a Freeman School professor in this month’s Health Affairs.

Janet Schwartz

A new study by the Freeman School's Janet Schwartz shows that "downsizing" is more effective than calorie labeling at getting consumers to make healthy choices.

The study, by Janet Schwartz, assistant professor of marketing, found that when servers asked customers whether they’d like to “downsize” starchy side dishes at a Chinese fast-food restaurant as many as a third gladly cut back – saving an average 200 calories each meal.

“Our goal was to test whether the invitation to downsize a meal component would be embraced by consumers and, importantly, whether the approach would be more effective than a purely information-based approach – in this case calorie labeling,” said  Schwartz, the lead study author.

Schwartz and fellow researchers conducted several field experiments at a single Chinese fast-food restaurant. In each case, servers asked customers selecting side dishes, “Would you like to save 200 calories or more by taking a smaller portion?”

In one scenario, customers were offered a 25-cent discount if they took the downsizing offer. In another, menu calorie labels were prominently displayed in front of consumers as they selected their meals and in another calorie labels were removed. In all, anywhere from 14 percent to 33 percent of customers opted to downsize portions. Surprisingly, the 25-cent discount had little impact on downsizing choices and the calorie postings didn’t persuade much either. In fact, significantly more customers —21 percent versus 14 percent — accepted the downsizing offer when calorie information was absent.

Schwartz hopes the study helps restaurants understand that helping diners exercise portion control won’t alienate customers.

“I think the restaurant industry may find this counterintuitive, but it’s an interesting and easy strategy to implement that could help their customers make healthier choices,” Schwartz says.



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