Chairman looks to Valentine's Day to shore up his marketing campaign
This has been a week for the big questions of life. For example, were my occasional past digs at Richard Branson the reason I didn't receive the upgrade enjoyed by most of my travelling companions on a recent Virgin flight?
Moreover, should I be grateful or irritated that the huge alcohol-related premium Legal & General have whacked onto my critical illness policy means I can no longer afford to go to the pub? Perhaps most importantly, what is LeggMason's diminutive split capster Alan Kerr doing playing a hobbit in the Lord of the Rings film?
Big questions have also been occupying the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet. 'So what are you doing for Valentine's Day?' he said as we sat with the managing director, drinking bottles of Chateau Collusion in City boozery, The Magic Circle. (Yes, I know a lot of people say it doesn't exist but you've just got to know where to look).
'No doubt the same as every Valentine's Day,' I said. 'Lying low and trying not to punch anyone smiling too much. What about you? It doesn't really strike me as your sort of thing.' 'On the contrary,' said the chairman. 'I see it as one of the most important days of the year.' 'Well, you think you know somebody,' I said. 'So what surprise have you got planned for Mrs Chairman, you old romantic you?'
'I'm sorry,' said the chairman looking at me blankly. 'I don't see what my wife has to do with this.' 'I think we may be at cross purposes here,' the MD intervened helpfully. 'When the chairman says Valentine's Day is one of the most important days of the year, he means from a marketing perspective. It's one of the easiest and most natural angles for getting stories into the press. But surely we're not the only ones who do this?'
'Very much not, come to think of it,' I said. 'Yorkshire Bank has already kindly reminded me that while I might not be able to splash out thousands of pounds this Valentine's Day on a shiny Ferrari like Chris Evans bought when he was romancing Billie, love and money do go firmly hand in hand. Meanwhile Redmayne Bentley claims its Valentine Index of companies with strong links to romance is making mincemeat of the FTSE 100 while, curiously enough, both Liverpool Victoria and Hiscox Online are going on about the importance of insuring an engagement ring before proposing. Or 'Reckless Romeos risk ruining their romance' as the latter puts it.'
'Risible rot, really,' sniffed the MD. 'Right,' I said. 'I mean, yes. Anyway, the AITC's also in a romantic frame of mind, using National Marriage Week to air research that money, or more precisely the lack of it, is partly to blame for the number of cohabiting couples. Apparently women are particularly likely to be put off getting married by a lack of money.'
'Who'd have thought such a thing?' said the chairman. 'Indeed,' I said.
'So what romantic angle will SmallBlue Planet be using to push its wares? No offence, but your office has hardly been an advertisement for blissful relationships this week, has it?'
'Ah, you'd be referring to the unpleasantness, I'd imagine,' said the chairman. 'If by 'unpleasantness' you mean one of your top fund managers walking out in a bit of a huff and then threatening to sue you,' I said. 'It's a great shame,' said the MD. 'A great shame, said the chairman. 'We didn't want him to go,' said the MD. 'No, we didn't want him to go,' said the chairman.
'Hang on ' let me get this straight,' I said. 'You say you didn't want him to go and he's been saying he didn't want to go. So why can't you broker some sort of reconciliation?' 'Wouldn't work,' said the MD. 'Why not?' 'Because he's suing us,' said the MD. 'And we're suing him,' added the chairman. 'What on earth for?' I said. 'No idea,' said the chairman. 'But I'm sure we'll think of something. Probably because his Lovely Companies fund was going to be a centrepiece of our Valentine's Day push. 'Fall in love with Lovely Companies' lovely performance' ' it would have been a classic.'
'A sad loss to advertising,' I said. 'So what'll you do now?' The chairman looked at the MD and shrugged. 'Something along the lines of 'Plenty more fish in the sea', I guess,' he said.
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