Bank CEOs Walking Communications Tightrope Amid Slowdown Talk

By April 11, 2019 No Comments

It’s been pretty obvious for some time that America’s top bankers need to be very careful about their public comments on a number of subjects.

The wrong word choice here, or a flippant aside there and the wrath of the anti-Wall Street brigade can quickly descend upon them.

Ask Jamie Dimon who this week was the subject of a broadside from Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for his comments on the Green New Deal.

The Democrat superstar asked simply how bankers had not been locked up for their role in the 2008 financial crisis when fare dodging kids from the Bronx can get sent straight to Rikers for a two-dollar crime.

But this week’s Congressional hearings with some of the country’s most senior bank CEOS put the spotlight firmly on a new balancing act that those bankers must perform: how to discuss a potential slowdown in the US economy without talking it into reality.

Reuters published a thought provoking piece on this very subject. For some, its thesis that bankers’ comments themselves could precipitate a recession may be a touch overblown. But there is no question that in times of economic uncertainty CEOs must navigate a narrow channel between remaining credible on the one hand, and, on the other, projecting the optimism and positive vision that is the hallmark of all great corporate leaders.

Fortunately, as we told the Reuters team, there are communications strategies to make sure that bank leaders hit that sweet spot.

First, they should fall back on their house economists’ official outlook to avoid introducing audiences to any new, and potentially confusing, viewpoints.

Second, they can emphasize that their institution itself remains in a strong competitive position despite the various market challenges and business headwinds on the horizon.

If they get it right, they can reassure their own shareholders and the wider public; and, critically, keep their credibility.