WHILE Michael Jordaan will be missed when he leaves First National Bank (FNB) at the end of the year after nearly a decade as CEO, it is on Twitter that the departure of the verbally adroit and witty CEO will be most keenly felt.
Mr Jordaan, who took to the 140-character message service as the public face of the bank in the past few years, has utilised this medium with a verve and humour that few social media savvy users, let alone bank CEOs, can muster.
Apart from raising the bank’s (and his own) profile, he has put a public face on an industry more known for being opaque and unresponsive. Mr Jordaan, who amassed 30,255 followers, has been featured in numerous profiles in newspapers and magazines as much for his new-media savvy as for the innovation he instilled in the bank that saw its smartphone app launched years before the competition.
An example is from August 2011, when some asked on Twitter: “Can someone tell me when is the FNB Whiskey festival and Sexpo?” @MichaelJordaan replied: “For the record we only sponsor one.”
Similarly, Vodacom’s group former CEO Pieter Uys (@uyspj) proved an adept study at Twitter, arguably becoming the first head of a listed company in South Africa to ask journalists specifically to tweet during a results announcement in 2011.
Both men showed that Twitter — which is widely used for complaining about bad service — can also be used to address customer complaints. When Vodacom’s network went down in June 2011 and FNB’s credit card and internet banking systems went offline after its Randburg data centre was hit by lightning last March, both used Twitter to calm their angry users. Mr Uys’ intervention proved a masterstroke. A single tweet turned anger into praise for his responsiveness: “Hello. Words can’t express how sorry I am about today’s problem. Flat out working at making sure all is 100%. Pieter.”
The Twitter streams of big businessmen and celebrities are often a corporate account managed on their behalf, but Mr Jordaan and Mr Uys have shown initiative and led from the front. (Disclosure: I am friends with both men on Twitter and in the real world.)
Globally, other CEOs have taken to the virtual airwaves too, most notably News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, whose blunt opinions on Twitter have had similar mixed reactions of anger and derision as anything else he does.
Mr Jordaan has not lost any of his trademark humour.
After announcing his resignation on Twitter on Wednesday and referring to the annoying character from FNB’s radio advertisments, Mr Jordaan’s next tweet read: “Steve will not be joining me!”
This column first appears on Business Day.