Unintended shutdown furlough: The corporate CFO
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
The Statue of Liberty and Yogi bear weren't the only national figures left in limbo by the government shutdown. The corporate CFO may prefer to go home rather than try to set a 2014 budget at a time like this. The variety of ways in which the debt ceiling breach could be avoided, as well as the potential changes to the federal tax code to get a budget deal done, could make it difficult for CFOs to set a financial plan for the coming year with any conviction. That could mean instead of making tough investment choices, CFOs go on greenlighting stock buybacks as a way to spend cash on the balance sheet, as has been the case in recent years.
"You don't know what the next step is and you don't know if you are going to step on a bomb or it's going to set you free."—Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines.
Getting out of the US while the getting is still good
After riding a wave of gains in U.S. stocks, the pros are betting that some foreign issues will do better next year. In a quarterly poll, institutional investors told Citigroup that European stocks are now the hottest prospects, followed by Asian stocks. American ones were third. That doesn't mean they were dissing the U.S. The average respondent said the S&P 500 will gain at least 6 percent next year, and about a third said at least 9 percent.
"This focus on Europe was fascinating in that this was the first time in the quarterly poll that such results were registered."—Tobias Levkovich, Citi's chief market strategist
Hiring extras to play ping pong in Silicon Valley
In Silicon Valley, where firms are desperate to hire A-list software engineers, the value of creativity in recruiting is leading to some unusual benefits, well beyond competitive salary and health insurance. Free cafeterias, laundry services and shuttle buses aren't nearly enough, either. One firm gave an engineer a free Tesla car that leased for $1,000 a month. Another made sure the office Ping-Pong table was actually in use while a recruit was on tour, and another firm provided a key engineer with a drum studio. The second-highest paid Twitter executive behind CEO Dick Costelo is the company's senior v.p. of engineering, not any of its trio of other "chiefs"—operations, technology and finance.
"Having 10x engineers at the top is the only way to recruit other 10x engineers."—Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures, an early-stage venture fund, on the Silicon Valley lore of the "10x" engineer, who is a person so talented that he or she does the work of 10 merely competent engineers.
Dealing with bad press is one of those chores that any executive may face at some point. Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson's response to a story suggesting he'd moved from his native England to the Virgin Islands to save taxes looks like an example of how to do it right. To prevent the criticism from taking root, he responded almost instantly, in his own words, not a spokesman's, on his personal blog. And his defense had a ring of truth, pointing out he's now devoting his time to philanthropy.
"I have not left Britain for tax reasons but for my love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island, which I bought when I was 29 years old. ... I have been very fortunate to accumulate so much wealth in my career, more than I need in my lifetime, and would not live somewhere I don't want to for tax reasons."—Sir Richard Branson
If you've ever stood in the aisle waiting as another passenger s-l-o-w-l-y takes off a coat, fiddles around for a book and then attempts to cram an overstuffed bag into the overhead bin, you know how tedious the process can be. Good news: there is no shortage of ideas on how change the boarding process. A solar-powered boarding ramp made by Keith Consolidated Industries of Medford, Ore., is being tested on some planes at big city airports. Another option is seats that slide out of the way to let passengers in more quickly. There's even a physicist who has developed a model to board passengers in a line so that when they enter the airplane their seats are spaced two rows apart.
"For example, the first passengers would be 30A, 28A, 26A, 24A, 22A, etc. If speed is the primary goal, I believe that this method is the fastest."—Jason Steffen, a Lindheimer Fellow in the physics department at Northwestern University
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com