All of a sudden, I’m up to my neck in Chief Executives

It’s extraordinary.  I deal with a lot of firms on the internet – after all, it’s where I do most of my work and nearly all my shopping, look after my finances, stream and download stuff, etc etc – and in the ordinary way I don’t hear from  the CEOs  of the firms in question from one year to the next.  But in the last couple of weeks they’ve been queuing up to get into my inbox like panic buyers waiting for Tesco to open.  And I’m not at all sure they’re sticking to the rules on social distancing.

It’s difficult to say quite what it is about this crisis that has so many big cheeses breaking cover.  A few do have quite important things to say – the CEO of Barclays tells me Barclaycard will be waiving late payment charges for the duration, which is worth knowing.  Many are making routine announcements – I have several from hotel and restaurant groups telling me they’re closing down for the time being, which is worth knowing but doesn’t really seem to require the top banana to make the announcement.  And many more – probably the majority – don’t really have anything much to say at all, except maybe that they’ll be doing their best to keep going and will be maintaining the highest standards of hygiene.  (Quite a few of the CEOs sending out this kind of email  are back in the inbox a few days later to tell me that sadly they’re closing down for the time being.)

I suppose that a big and real crisis brings out a bit of the Winston Churchill in all of us, the para about hand-washing and sanitiser being the current equivalent of “we will fight them on the beaches.”  But still, it is odd.  I wrote a few days ago that I hadn’t heard a peep out of any of my financial services providers, but that’s no longer true because I have heard from at least three of their chief executives – my bank, my IFA and my motor insurer.  I suppose that’s good, but in two of those three cases the CEO has pulled rank on my personal relationship manager, from whom I’ve heard nothing – there doesn’t seem an awful lot of point in having a personal relationship manager if the big boss is going to steam in the moment things get interesting.

(I interrupt this blog to say that as I write, a very long email from the CEO and in fact also President of PayPal has just come in.  It begins with the ultimate all-purpose generic opening line “This is an unprecedented time in our history,” and goes downhill from there, as far as I can see saying absolutely nothing at all over several hundred words.  Still, I suppose it’s nice to hear from Mr Schulman, who’s never been much in evidence before over the 12 years or so I’ve been a customer.)

Finally, it’s also been interesting to see how many of these CEO messages have needed rescuing from my spam folder.  It is true that my spam folder is routinely perverse in the extreme, letting through any number of messages from the dodgiest of scammers while ruthlessly editing out anything personal and urgent from close members of my family.  But, I have to say, in blocking a large proportion of these scribings from CEOs’ offices, I think it’s got a point.

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