Contemporary sculpture, office or residence?

Edition Office architect’s fit-out of an office/residence in Cambridge Street, Collingwood. Photo: Ross HoneysettLocated in an early 20th century building in Cambridge Street, Collingwood, this “hybrid” space is a residence and office.
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Designed by Edition Office (formerly Room 11 Melbourne), the unusual fit-out could almost be compared to contemporary sculpture.

“It was an unusual brief, with our clients wanting both a place to live and also operate their business,” says Edition Office’s design director Aaron Roberts, who worked closely with co-director, architect Kim Bridgland and architect Georgia Nowak.

The clients were keen to use architecture to brand their business, Raft Studio, a branding and identity company, which also orchestrates campaign strategies.

Formerly a conventional two-bedroom apartment, Edition Office completely gutted the interior, retaining only a couple of structural columns. With the timber floors painted black and the bagged-brick walls painted white, the designers could then proceed with almost a completely blank canvas.

“Our brief was to maximise the space (approximately 185 square metres) and make the most of the high ceilings (3 metres).

The ground-floor space, leading to a south-facing courtyard, features one simple – yet at the same time complex – black steel form, immediately past the front door. Segmented into two by a brass “skin” of walls, floor and ceiling, the elegant form was partially inspired by the work of American sculptor Donald Judd. This passage conceals a bathroom and separate toilet, all lined in black tiles.

The rectangular form, which includes 21 steel doors, has been cleverly divided into two flexible spaces. These spaces can be used as bedrooms, or alternatively as two enclosed meeting rooms. Given there’s no apertures within either “cone of silence”, doors are generally left ajar.

When the doors are fully closed like a shut suitcase, the form becomes sculpture. But when the doors are left open, the possible functions become more apparent. On one side of the form, for example, there are built-in shelves painted a fleshy-red colour.

This nook also contains the fridge and pantry. On the side of the entrance are built-in cupboards for storage. “We saw this design like an animal, with skin represented as a series of layers,” says Roberts, pointing out the fine brass layer inserted behind each steel door. “You could compare the red walls to flesh if you want to be more literal.”

As with most apartments, there’s a central island bench. However, this bench is significantly longer at 6.2 metres and is a combination of marble (with a faint red vein throughout) and stained black timber.

“We designed this bench so it could be used for meals or, alternatively, for informal meeting,” says Bridgland. Presently, half the open plan space is used as an office, with the other half as a lounge area. “The areas are loosely delineated. The space changes depending on the time of day,” says Roberts.

The devil is in the detail is a catch-cry of many architects. And in the case of the fit-out for Raft Studio this goes well beyond the usual. There are no door handles, for example, on any of the doors. Instead, magnetised handles are picked up from the floor or a benchtop and attached to the steel when doors need to be opened or closed.

The entirely black-lined second meeting room is wrapped by a steel shelf. When doors are left open, in the case of the red room, there’s a wonderful wash of red on people’s faces as they enter or leave.

As people’s workspaces change, designs such as this one may become more commonplace. However, as with changes in office design moving to non-fixed workstations, such paradigm shifts take time to be accepted. “We were fortunate our clients could see our vision, one that’s extremely pared back.

“But paring back and simplifying the essential details allows this large space to be fully appreciated,” adds Roberts.

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Putting the brakes on bosses’ bonus blow-outs

Public sector wage growth is also at a record low, at 2.4 per cent. Photo: Simon BoschThey were words to send chills up spines in boardrooms Australia-wide.
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The Commonwealth Bank’s annual report landed on Monday, bringing with it news that chief executive Ian Narev’s salary package had topped $12.3 million in a year when the bank was hit with a scandal in its life insurance division, CommInsure.

The news was met with hostility from both sides of politics. “We are returning to the 1980s adage that greed is good,” Labor Senator Sam Dastyari told Fairfax Media this week, suggesting Narev share his earnings with victims of the bank’s scandals. Just days earlier, Opposition leader Bill Shorten had spoken about a “fat cat bonus system”, as he continued to push for a royal commission into the banks, while Liberal MP Warren Entsch railed against “banking bastardy” as he called for a new tribunal.

With most of Australia’s big listed companies to shortly release their annual reports – and with them, the details of their executives’ pay packets – the outcry over Narev’s salary would have dashed any remaining hopes that executive pay would be a relatively low-profile issue in Australia this year.

Such outrage is a regular news-cycle staple; but this year, things are different. The constant threat of a royal commission hangs like a sword of Damocles over the financial services sector, with each new scandal and run of bad press adding to the case for such an inquiry.

The new parliament, set to return at the end of the month, is stocked with diverse and populist cross-benchers, several of which have already thrown cold water on the Turnbull government’s planned corporate tax cuts – already a tough sell at a time of wilting tax revenues. And a rising tide of anger over executive pay overseas – notably in the UK and US – is being closely watched here, as other governments move to crack down on executive excess with new regulations.

In a report on executive pay released in the UK this week, titled “Time to Listen”, consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers warned the corporate world that it needed to “find a way to respond to public concern about executive pay, or matters will be taken out of our hands”. (PwC’s business includes advising boards on the structure of remuneration packages and how much to pay executives and staff.)

In a note for Australian clients, it pointed to “political turmoil around the world”, which had “highlighted the concern among many that globalisation and free trade have left them behind”.

“There’s now an urgent need for “big business” to learn from this and start to rebuild public trust,” it warned.

But as far as some experts are concerned, at least one sector of “big business” in Australia has missed its chance. Former consumer watchdog Allan Fels, the architect of the “two strikes” rule that gives Australian shareholders a say on executive pay, told Fairfax Media this week that the scheme had failed to restrain executive pay at the banks, suggesting additional, special rules on remuneration may be needed for the financial services sector.

“The time has arrived for this to be considered,” he said.

Senator Dastyari says the generous pay packets showed that the influence of shareholders over executive pay was nowhere near as strong as it needed to be.

“Greed may be good for some but the rest are paying the price,” he says.

“When a small group of executives are becoming incredibly rich, and that gap between them and everyone is growing, long-term social problems will follow.

“We need to be looking at how we empower consumer and shareholders to have a greater say and make sure their voices are heard. We should be looking at international comparisons for how that’s done.” Home and away 

Overseas, anger at ever-swelling executive pay packets has been on the rise since the global financial crisis, especially in countries where taxpayers were forced to bail out companies.

Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who ran opposite Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, railed against inequality and excess in Wall Street and corporate America, with income tax hikes for the rich a prominent policy. Both Presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Clinton, have promised to keep Wall Street in check.

In the UK, new Prime Minister Theresa May has tackled the issue directly, with a proposed crackdown on executive pay, including giving shareholders a binding vote. She has also proposed putting consumer and employee representatives on corporate boards, and making companies reveal the ratio between the salary of their chief executive and that of their average worker.

In Europe in 2014, as part of a wave of post-GFC reforms, the EU placed a cap on bonuses at financial institutions – limiting them to 100 per cent of fixed pay, or 200 per cent with the approval of shareholders.

Executive pay has been “extremely topical” overseas, says Emma Grogan, a partner at PwC, particularly in countries where banks were bailed out by governments. “It became a real political issue”.

In Australia, the situation is more nuanced. Allan Fels, architect of the ‘two strikes’ rule.

Already, at annual general meetings held earlier in the year, companies like Woodside Petroleum and Spark Infrastructure have been slapped with shareholder “strikes” over their remuneration reports. Tech company Reckon received an incredible 70 per cent shareholder vote against it.

Each company’s annual reports includes a remuneration report, a section detailing the structure and quantum of the company’s executive and director pay packets. The two strikes rule allows shareholders to vote against the remuneration report at the company’s annual general meeting; if 25 per cent of shareholders vote against two consecutive reports, a resolution is put forward to dump the board.

Annual reports are hitting the Australian Securities Exchange now, giving investors and the general public a clearer picture of where Australia stands on the global stage when it comes to executive salaries, as well an idea of how well executives have fared in the almost 10 years since the global financial crisis.

Last year saw a jump in strikes against listed companies, from 95 to 113 – the highest number in three years. The number of those that involved a second strike more than doubled, from 10 to 22. Seven of the companies who received strikes were in the ASX200.

The bulk of company annual meetings will take place in a couple of months, peaking in October.

Grogan says executives are receiving modest pay increases, if any, with new chief executives often placed on a lower pay scale than their predecessors. “We are still in a period of pay restraint in Australia,” she says.

It’s not just the fear of a shareholder strike that is driving this, Grogan says, “although that is there”. There were also discussions about “what is a fair outcome here, based on the year that we have had”.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which represents Australia’s powerful super funds, expects chief executive pay packets this year to continue on a downwards trend from 2008, when it reached dizzying pre-GFC highs.

But data collected by ACSI last year shows that while fixed pay fell by 1.1 per cent for ASX100 chief executives, bonuses rose 12 per cent. Bonuses also became more common, with the proportion of top-100 chiefs receiving a bonus reaching the highest level since 2008.

ACSI has pointed to bonuses – and whether they are truly “at risk” – as a key issue for investors. Chief executive Louise Davidson says more needs to be done to ensure executive bonuses reflect more than just “short-term profit numbers”.

“It’s about having a social licence to operate and [addressing] the lack of trust and scepticism that has built up in the community – particularly toward the banks – by seeing culture failure after culture failure,” she says.

Lawrence says it is now more likely for a chief executive to be fired in Australia than to not receive a bonus.

“Executives in Australia seem to be compensated for a risk that is not real,” he says.

“What is the worst thing that can happen to you as an executive of a large publicly listed company? You get fired with more money than most people earn in a lifetime.

“You might get bad stories written about you in the newspaper, but people look at that and think that’s not risk.”

PwC has advised boards’ remuneration committees to make “tough decisions” and only pay bonuses that are close to the maximum “for unambiguously outstanding performance”.

“Furthermore, on target annual bonuses should not be easily earned,” it says. “The percentage of ASX100 CEOs receiving less than 75 per cent of their target incentive has not exceeded 30 per cent over the past three years.

“These payments need to be seen by the public as truly variable, and to be varying in relation to transparent performance outcomes.” Bank on it 

Australia’s big banks were hit with another round of bad press this week, which in turn kept pressure on the Turnbull government and its opposition to a banking royal commission.

After details of Narev’s salary emerged on Monday, news broke later in the week that the big banks and Macquarie were being sued by US hedge funds over allegations of bank bill swap rate rigging.

Labor is considering ways of pushing for a royal commission through the parliament; while a motion in favour would easily clear the senate, two or more Coalition MPs would have to cross the floor in the lower house for it to pass.

Facing mounting pressure from the backbench and anger over Narev’s pay, Turnbull announced he would require the bosses of the big four banks to front the House of Representatives’ economics committee at least once a year. Treasurer Scott Morrison has also suggested he is open to some kind of bank tribunal, as urged by Warren Entsch. “What I find helpful about these suggestions, whether that particular outcome is supported or not, is they’re dealing with very specific problems,” he told Sky News.But whether this will examine the broader issue of how much the heads of Australia’s biggest banks – and companies – get paid remains unclear.

Fels, whose brainchild, the two strikes rule, came into effect five years ago, believes the scheme has helped reign in excessive pay, “though less so for banks”.

He says any royal commission into the banks should scrutinise bank pay arrangements “to ensure that they have incentives to act responsibly and to avoid excess”. He believes additional measures addressing excessive bank pay may be needed.

“Banks are privileged. They get a licence that entitles them to prudential protection. With that licence, should come a degree of obligation to act responsibly,” he says.

“This in turn should be reflected in pay incentives.”

The corporate sector, and its advisers like PwC, warn that increased regulation on salaries can have unforeseen and negative consequences. The UK government, for example, has argued that the EU’s bonus cap has merely led to a substantial increase in base salaries.

But these arguments are hard to make in the face of job losses, stagnant wage growth and public outrage. Worldwide, big business is on notice – respond to concerns about pay packages, or brace for the consequences. “In all developed countries there’s concern about executive pay,” Grogan says. “There’s an opportunity right now for organisations to take a position on that and address some of those concerns… or there is the risk of further regulation, which could fuel perverse outcomes”.

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Morgan Stanley accused of self-dealing at the expense of its workers

A former employee says Morgan Stanley knows exactly who should buy its worst-performing funds: the bank’s own workers.
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That’s the claim behind a lawsuit filed Friday accusing Morgan Stanley and its board of mismanaging the firm’s 401(k) retirement plan – the US equivalent to a superannuation fund – and costing 60,000 employees hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the complaint, which seeks to cover other workers, the company picked inappropriate and high-priced investments so that the bank would profit at the expense of its staffers.

The lawsuit in Manhattan highlights a friction that exists at financial-services firms that put employees into their own product. The suit cited several Morgan Stanley mutual funds included in the pension fund that fared worse than offerings from rivals. For instance, a small-cap growth fund underperformed 99 per cent of similar funds in 2014 and 94 per cent in 2015, according to the suit. ‘Staggering losses’

Morgan Stanley sought a financial benefit for itself while causing the plan’s participants “to suffer staggering losses of hundreds of millions of dollars,” lead plaintiff Robert Patterson alleged in the breach-of-duty lawsuit. The firm “treated the plan as an opportunity to promote Morgan Stanley’s own mutual fund business and maximise profits.”

Mary Claire Delaney, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman, declined to comment on the claims.

Patterson is identified in the complaint as a Morgan Stanley retirement plan member from January 2011 to April 2014. His suit, ostensibly filed on behalf of the plan, seeks class action status for all who were enrolled in it from March 2010 to February 2016, including current and former employees. The plan manages $US8 billion ($10.5 billion) in assets, according to the complaint.

Management failed its duty to act in the best interest of plan participants by putting six Morgan Stanley mutual funds into the pension plan, some of which were “tainted” by poor performance or high fees, Patterson alleged. The suit seeks damages of $US150 million.

“Morgan Stanley selected their proprietary funds not based on their merits as investments, or because doing so was in the interest of plan participants, but because these products provided significant revenues and profits to Morgan Stanley,” Mr Patterson alleged. Worst Morningstar rating

Plan participants wanting to invest in a mid-cap fund were offered only Morgan Stanley’s Institutional Mid-Cap Growth Fund, which held between $US200 million and $US300 million in assets, according to the complaint. Investment advisory firm Morningstar gave that fund its worst possible rating for investors seeking to hold it for just three to five years and only a slightly better rating for those who wished to keep it for a decade, Patterson said.

Employees were also charged millions of dollars in higher fees for company mutual funds than Morgan Stanley’s outside clients, Patterson said. For instance, an international stock fund charged retirement participants the equivalent of 0.88 per cent of assets under management, almost double what a similar-sized outside client would be charged.

Morgan Stanley’s investment-management business creates funds for institutional and retail clients and has $US406 billion in assets under management. Daniel Simkowitz took over the business, one of three main divisions alongside the investment bank and wealth management brokerage, in October.

Bloomberg

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Donald Trump in the White House is the biggest risk to the world economy

You were concerned of what the Brexit would do to the world economy? Be afraid if Donald Trump enters the White House. Photo: Evan Vucci/APOnce upon a time, elections were dominated by the economic cycle. “It’s the economy, stupid” became Bill Clinton’s maxim, and one which all politicians could follow.
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If growth was good and unemployment low, the ruling party was typically a shoo-in, while a recession would lead to a hasty exit for the government of the day. Simple.

Suddenly the world works in the other direction – the economy is dominated by elections.

Geopolitical risk, the catch-all term for anything from elections to wars, is now in the driving seat.

The big event of the summer was June’s Brexit referendum. Apocalyptic forecasts of an immediate crash for the UK economy have not come true so far, thankfully, with the earliest indicators pointing to robust growth.

After all, Britain’s exit from the European Union has not yet occurred. The vote has implications for the rest of the EU and for world trade, with the outcomes far from certain. A slowdown seems likely.

Next up is the US presidential election in November when Hillary Clinton clashes with Donald Trump.

As far as financial markets are concerned, the outcome broadly matches the politicians’ own campaign – Clinton is a known quantity while Trump wants a radical new approach.

Trump inexpicably even drew a mysterious equivalence between himself and the Brexit referendum with this cryptic tweet: They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2016

As an outsider once seen in Washington as a joke, Trump’s election is not now unthinkable – a little like Brexit, which was dismissed as impossible by chunks of the political elite even on the eve of the vote.

The votes have some similarities. Here are the key economic risks. Protectionism

Core to Trump’s campaign is a scheme to set the US apart from the world, closing borders and protecting local industries.

As a pitch to blue-collar workers it seems successful – those who worked in manufacturing and have seen their pay packets squeezed or their jobs lost have a clear grievance with cheap imports.

Globalisation has also been an enormous force for good in the global economy, however, with the rise of emerging markets massively boosting growth. Even workers who feel they have lost out from world trade have benefited through cheaper goods and greater choice, whether it be on the supermarket shelf, the technology in their homes or travel choices.

Extra barriers to trade with China in a bid to make US-manufactured goods more competitive would harm other Americans directly, driving up costs and cutting choice and quality.

Shutting down trade growth would dent growth in the US and the rest of the world – it is a major risk of a Trump Presidency.

In contrast, Brexit’s impact is more nuanced. The outcome of trade talks with the EU are far from certain, though there are clear risks. Britain will lose out if exports are subject to EU tariffs, while EU customers will suffer if they pay the tax. The market for services is more significant for the UK, as the City of London needs EU customers, and they need the City.

But there is another side to the coin – the rest of the world. Outside the EU, Britain may create its own trade deals.

Again these are uncertain and will take time to negotiate. The long-term potential is for a powerful boost to trade with countries including China, India and the US, and the Government seems keen to embark on those discussions as quickly as possible.

There is clear room for gains from Brexit, if negotiations go well – Trump’s policies, by contrast, appear more negative for the world. Immigration

Trump’s most famous policy is to build a giant wall across the US-Mexico border. His idea to ban Muslims from entering the US is also an eye-catcher.

Economically speaking, migration is a big positive. Extra resources mean more growth, and allowing workers to move to the best-paying jobs means more value is created, benefiting workers, employers and customers. Large-scale migration is not always popular in the host communities, however, turning a boon in the economics textbooks into a real-life political battleground.

The risks posed by Brexit and Trump are similar. More than 2 million EU workers are employed in Britain currently even as unemployment has tumbled to below 5 per cent. While a crackdown on non-EU migration means the number of workers from the rest of the world has held relatively flat in recent years, strong growth in the UK economy has sucked in workers from across the EU.

Cutting off that supply would choke off growth, harming the UK just as much as Trump’s would harm the US. Russia

Security concerns loom large. Trump has questioned whether or not America’s Nato allies have “fulfilled their obligations to us”. If not, he hints, the US may not come to their aid.

At a time when Russia is rampant in Ukraine and active in Syria, this is not reassuring to countries in the Baltics, and clearly economies can only thrive in peaceful conditions.

Leaving the EU poses fewer risks.The EU has few centralised defence arrangements. Britain will remain in Nato and, as a former home Secretary, Theresa May is keen to keep joint operations to fight crime and terror. Nuclear war

Fears of nuclear war largely faded with the end of the Cold War so it almost feels like a joke, or perhaps the scare-mongering of the most partisan Clinton fan, to mention the ultimate weapons of mass destruction.

Yet it is it is Donald Trump who reportedly asked for reasons he should not use them, since the US has a large stock. The idea is unimaginable with any other candidate, as the deterrent has remained untouched for decades.

Even if he was elected, the use of nukes seems wildly implausible, but the fact that the idea can be discussed shows his extraordinary unpredictability and so illustrates the outright fear his election could create.

Brexit was a surprise to markets and is likely to dent the economy. Yet in the long term there are a range of ways it could end up enhancing economic growth, assuming level politicians in London and Brussels play straight with each other.

President Trump would be far more of a wild card, and his stated goals are so damaging to foreign economies – and ultimately his own – that clearly the biggest geopolitical risk of the year is yet to come.

If he really did win power and enact some of those policies, the importance of “the economy, stupid” would reassert itself brutally quickly.

The Daily Telegraph London

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West Coast Eagles confident they can win pivotal match against Adelaide Crows without Nic Naitanui

The Eagles’ Nic Naitanui holds his injured knee on the bench during the match against Hawthorn on Friday night. Photo: Getty Images/AFL MediaPerth: West Coast don’t have to wait long to see how they will go against the top sides without injured ruckman Nic Naitanui.
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The Eagles travel to Adelaide to play the second-placed Crows on Friday night in the last round of home-and-away season.

Both sides will need to win, with home finals for each still up for grabs.

Naitanui will miss the rest of this season and probably all of 2017 as well, after he injured an ACL in the Eagles’ 25-point win over Hawthorn on Friday night.

The tall Crows line-up will provide West Coast coach Adam Simpson with a good opportunity to test his limited options for covering his No.1 ruckman.

But key defender Jeremy McGovern is confident the Eagles can carry the momentum they have built in the past two weeks, despite the loss of their key big man.

“It is deflating. Nic is one of my teammates and a ripping fella. I don’t want to see that happen to anyone, let alone one of my teammates,” McGovern said.

“You don’t like seeing it, boys going off injured, especially knees. They are a fickle thing.

“He’s one of our pivotal players. But we’ve had to deal with being without him for a few games this year, which gives you a lot of confidence too – we’ve had to deal with it, so I think we’ll be fine.”

After being criticised for not being able to beat sides above them on the ladder this season, the Eagles have beaten Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn in the past two weeks.

The win against the reigning three-time premiers on Friday was by far the Eagles’ best four-quarter performance of the year. The week before, they scrambled to a rare win away from home against a top-eight side. That probably cost the Giants a top-four finish.

Those wins did come with Naitanui back in the side after a six-week absence due to heel surgery, and he did kick the match-winner against the Giants, but West Coast won five of the games in which he was sidelined.

McGovern would normally be considered an apt support for Scott Lycett, who will again take over the first ruck position. But with Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown struggling to regain their places in the side, McGovern has become the Eagles’ most reliable key defender. He’s surely in contention for All-Australian selection this season.

Given the forward line that the Crows boast – including talls Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins, Tom Lynch and McGovern’s younger brother Mitch – Simpson may not be able to use McGovern too far up the ground.

But McGovern said he was ready to do whatever was needed to ensure his side progressed deep into the finals.

“Yeah (I pinched-hit) a few times, but Scott Lycett has stood up this year when Nic has been missing and done a great job,” he said.

“I have complete confidence in him, with (Fraser) McInnes and (Jon) Giles also playing good football in the WAFL (as other options).

“But If I have to go in there, I’ll go in and play my role.”

The chance to play that role almost came much earlier than expected, when Lycett also limped from Domain Stadium late on Friday night.

With Naitanui already sitting on the bench with crutches, McGovern wouldn’t have been the only one thinking the worst.

“I was also on the bench when Scott came off and I was thinking, “Far out, I’m going on here”. Throw the shin pads on and I’m going back out,” McGovern said.

“I was pretty glad that he was able to go back out there.”

Probably not as glad as Simpson.

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