After 32 years at the Bank of England, the current senior economist at Threadneedle Street – Andy Haldane – is moving on to new pastures. His departure as one of the top dogs at the Bank of England will leave the oldest and first central bank without his valuable experience. But as communication with the public on economic matters becomes increasingly important, he will also be missed for his ability to communicate.
A quick search of Andy Haldane on the internet will yield a whole host of articles, conference talks and video interviews. He is the media darling of economics. Despite the seriousness and complexity of the subject matter his role involves, he has a deft touch for comms with engaging soundbites and funny anecdotes which readers of CityAM, the FT, Times, Evening Standard and the Daily Mail can all connect to and understand.
A recent example of his communication prowess came in an interview with Nick Ferrari of LBC. A summary of the soundbites reveals a tour de force in catchy and engaging language. When talking about the UK economy, he described the economic situation as “going gangbusters” and when describing the role the UK government played in supporting the UK economy he praised Rishi Sunak saying “the Chancellor has played a blinder, we went in big and we went in fast.”
Whether you agree with him or not, the tone and the language is perfect for the medium and audience of LBC. While some may reel at his colloquial turn of phrase, he understands that to get people’s attention and to make the message relatable you’ve got to part ways with corporate speak and economic jargon. Ultimately, no one wants to hear or read statements taken straight from a chunky White Paper or data report.
Down to a combination of natural ability and carefully thought-out conscious comms decisions he has cemented his position as a go-to for news outlets. He has done what is rare, if not unheard of for economists: won the hearts of the public. His role and seniority at the Bank of England have certainly helped, but his way with words and boldness in ditching the kind of drawl that comes from so many economists is ultimately what has got reporters coming back for more.
All economists, CEO and experts should take note of Haldane’s success. Being able to distill complicated information down in a way that is intelligible and memorable is an indefensible skill. Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam proved the case of this during the pandemic. He became central to boosting confidence in the vaccine programme after he became known for his football analogies. People don’t want to be talked down to or patronised but they don’t want to be bored into submission by a series of dull economic forecasts.
Whoever follows in Haldane’s footsteps must resist the urge to fade into the background. The Bank of England is a core institution and yet, beyond the Governor, few will be able to name anyone who works there. They should seize the chance to educate the public and shape the narrative around the current state of the UK economy.