The idea of Co-CEO management is not new in financial services, particularly when it comes to these types of deals. It will be the method used by Janus Henderson, for example. Other firms have also sought to use it to combine the talents of senior individuals, albeit with varying success – Deutsche Bank’s ill-fated experiment with this style of management a couple of years ago stands out particularly as an example that the Co-CEO model does not always mean the best of all worlds.
As Amin Rajan of Create Research notes in Financial News: “There is nothing inherent in the Co-CEO structure that dooms it to failure.”
There are successful examples of course, but at the same time it doesn’t take much imagination to see its various pitfalls.
In fairness, Aberdeen and Standard Life have been reasonably quick to try and address these concerns, outlining the specific areas its respective chief executives (Martin Gilbert and Keith Skeoch) will each be responsible for.
This said, a recent FT Lombard column sketch makes the challenges all too plain, particularly when it comes to balancing the competing interests, personalities and focuses on individuals and businesses well known in the financial services world.
While clearly tongue-in-cheek, what we should take from this example is that successful communications around corporate issues are actually far more sophisticated than one might first expect and as much reliant on the behind-the-scenes structures and organisation that is put in place as they are on the messages themselves.
Continually reiterating positive/optimistic sentiments will only take you so far; but a lack of consistency in key messaging between different (potentially competing) spokespeople is one of the quickest ways to undermine communications efforts and cause confusion among target audiences, however positive or noble the motivations might be. In an environment where we are likely to see further consolidation in the Aberdeen/Standard Life mould, this is increasingly something financial services businesses need to be aware of.