Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Straight to the heart of the matter of hanging on hold with Cathay Pacific

There have been a few responses to our item yesterday on the time it takes to get through to a human being at Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club.

In one case, our reader booked his son's return airfare to school a few weeks ago online. 'During the payment stage, their system collapsed and so I had no idea if I had or had not booked the fare. After more than one phone call and hours on hold, I was told someone from the revenue department would call me to sort the issue out.' That was two weeks ago and he still hasn't heard from the revenue department.

He eventually gave up and made a booking through a travel agent. ''Straight from the Heart' is simply not working for us customers any more,' he concludes. 'More a case of straight through the heart.'

Another reader has sent us the e-mail he sent Marco Polo. It reads: 'I've tried to contact you on various phone numbers over the last two days because I want to change my ticket. The accumulated time I have spent on the phone trying to get through to you has been nearly four hours, and for someone who doesn't appreciate listening to Robbie Williams on your hold music for that long, it has now become unbearable, so I am resorting to e-mail as a last resort. I did manage to speak to someone yesterday after calling the 2747 1888 number, and they suggested I call the 2747 1577 number to make the ticket change.'

Fortunately the organisation around the business of flying seems rather better organised than Cathay's call centre. Thank god for the pilots.

Porsche's form and function

Juergen Gessler cuts a slim, trim figure in his Porsche Design Group shirt, watch and funky shoes. Only his trendy close-fitting suit is not Porsche because the company doesn't do suits. Nevertheless, the 48-year-old chief executive of Porsche Design Group looks the part. He is sitting at the group's new store in Entertainment Building in Central while staff scurry around him preparing for last night's opening ceremony. This is the group's second Hong Kong store, though at 1,500 sq ft, it's three times the size of its store in the Ocean Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. It comes at a price - about HK$1.5 million a month.

Porsche Design was started in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the designer of the iconic Porsche 911, and the grandson of the company's founder. The group only went into retailing five years ago. Porsche Design is one of the smaller luxury brands but interesting in that many of its products, says Gessler, are inspired by 'intelligent luxury or engineered luxury'.

The company has been an innovator and was the first, in 1972, to produce black watches. Now every collection has a black watch. Although aviator sunglasses were first designed by the US Air Force in 1956 and produced for them by Ray-Ban, Porsche was the first in 1978 to produce them for the commercial market together with its novel interchangeable lenses. They have been the most successful sunglasses in the world with eight million sold.

In 1980 Porsche was the first to introduce a titanium watch. Hitherto, titanium had only been used in the aerospace industry. The watch, says Gessler, was a favourite of Steve Jobs, who used to keep a box of them and gave them to business partners. Indeed, Porsche believes that its titanium watch influenced the look Apple gave to its MacBook computers and iPads.

Gessler says there is more to Porsche Design than making expensive products with a logo. Porsche was interested in the Bauhaus approach, though it did not slavishly follow the creed that 'form follows function', believing that form and function were equal partners. The new store has one item of which Porsche is very proud - a lining-less leather jacket that won a coveted 'Best of the Best' red dot award, the first given for a textile product.

The smartest guys in the room?

The hedge fund industry has been undergoing a difficult period, according to The Economist. It reports that a survey by GlobeOp found that in June funds suffered the largest withdrawals in assets since October 2009. Eurekahedge found that hedge funds suffered their fourth consecutive month of negative returns in June, while in the first half of the year they saw returns of 1.3 per cent, compared to a 3.7 per cent gain for the MSCI World Index. That follows a 3.6 per cent decline last year.

However, investors, who elected for funds of funds with the accompanying extra layer of fees, were rewarded with a 0.4 per cent return this year, following a 5.4 per cent loss last year. So investors have lost money over the last 18 months. Are hedge fund managers still the 'smartest guys in the room'?