You certainly can’t accuse our provincial government of a lack of imagination when it comes to trying to convince us that they’re being innovative.
You’ll recall the casino that’s not a casino. Well now we’re to have a “call centre that’s not a call centre.” As Phil Taylor, director with AMVESCAP, took great pains to drive home this week at his company’s announcement thereof. From the CBC:
While the AMVESCAP office will consist of people taking phone calls and answering questions, Taylor said the operation would be a lot more sophisticated than what Atlantic Canadians have come to think of when they think of call centres… “This is really a client relations operation. So we would be dealing with sophisticated financial advisers, or our end clients, or the back office admin groups of our corporate clients, like, let’s say, RBC Dominion here in Canada.”
And from The Guardian:
The Global Enterprise Centre will not be a call centre, said Taylor. It will provide client relations with financial advisers, as well as act as a backup to its Toronto headquarters in the event of a weather or terrorism-related crisis.
Spin-decrypting lesson number one: watch carefully for what they claim it isn’t; that’s probably what it is. Earn bonus points if the obfuscation involves the word “global.”
Presumably the move to Prince Edward Island is related to AMVESCAP’s goal, stated in their 2005 Annual Report, to:
…decrease our operating expenses by approximately $120 million… [w]e expect 50% of the expense reduction to be realized in Compensation costs, with the remainder of the savings from decreases in Property and Office, Technology/telecommunications, and General and Administrative costs.
And therein lies the rub: whether it’s called a “Global Enterprise Centre” or an office for telephone-based “client relations with financial advisers” or a call centre doesn’t really matter: it will still suffer from the same “fair weather friend” nature of all such enterprises.
Everything’s rosy and revolutionary right now; until something better comes along, a more lucrative package from another desperate jurisdiction, or the market dips, or the parent company gets acquired and operations “consolidated.”
Ask the people in Austin, Texas where the Houston Business Journal reported in 2003 that “Downtrodden market forcing AIM to close Austin call center:”
Underscoring the extended bear market, mutual fund manager AIM Investments will slash its Austin staff by about 200 positions this year. AIM, a Houston-based unit of London financial services giant Amvescap PLC, plans to make the cuts when it shuts down an Austin call center operation by the end of this year, says AIM spokesman Ivy McLemore.
Or the people in Denver, where, in 2004 the Denver Post wrote this about Invesco, another Amvescap subsidiary:
At its peak in 2000, Invesco Funds Group was flush with 860 employees and $56 billion in assets under management. The company built a new headquarters in Denver for up to 2,000 workers. The next year, Invesco Funds was confident enough in its future to pay $120 million for naming and advertising rights at Denver’s new football stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High. “We’ve just begun our work,” Invesco Funds chief executive Mark Williamson said at the time. It turned out to be the beginning of the end… Invesco Funds Group operations here are now managed by an executive out of Louisville, Ky.
While tarted up call centre jobs have all the sheen of “high tech” jobs that provide what the Premier qualifies as “good job opportunities for post-secondary graduates,” they are jobs that exist at the pleasure of decision makers with interests that predominantly lie elsewhere. These are not sustainable jobs, and they add nothing to the “natural capital” of Prince Edward Island.
…originally, ownership of land by proprietors who did not reside on the land or cultivate it themselves but enjoyed income from it. The term absentee ownership has assumed a derogatory social connotation not inherent in its literal meaning, based on the assumption that absentee owners lack personal interest in and knowledge of their lands and tenants.
Substitute “our children” for “land” and the words ring more true today than ever.