The early front-runner for tortured corporate metaphor of the year

Earnings before interest, taxes, cheese, and sour cream.
Earnings before interest, taxes, cheese, and sour cream.
Image: Flickr user Omnitographer, under a Creative Commons license
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In his latest letter to shareholders, Henry Engelhardt does not resort to the usual corporate jargon. This is how the CEO of Admiral Group, a London-listed auto insurance firm, described his company’s annual results:

2013 was the year of the baked potato. It was a good, solid year, something on the plate that is appreciated but doesn’t really grab the spotlight. This is a comfort food set of results.

Admiral’s share price jumped by more than 7% in trading after the report was published yesterday, suggesting that the CEO might be selling the firm a bit short. That, or investors like baked potatoes more than he does.

Colorful, sometimes quizzical metaphors are nothing new for Engelhardt. His chatty prose has peppered shareholder letters since he founded the firm in 1993. If they weren’t so narrowly focused on the European car insurance industry, the letters might attract a wider following, like some other bosses’ occasional scribblings.

Although Engelhardt may attract some ridicule for his occasional flights of fancy, Quartz, for one, would rather parse his prose than the snoozy platitudes and boilerplate that pack most annual reports. And in likening the insurer’s recent performance to a tuber, his latest letter also breaks new metaphorical ground—previous editions mostly stayed within the animal kingdom:

2012: “The year of the kangaroo: it bounced around a little bit but it turns out to be pretty big, strong and energetic with the babies protected in the mother’s pouch.”

2011: “The year of the chameleon: quite useful (they eat insects!) but changeable and a bit fickle.”

2010: ”It was the year of the puppy dog because when one looks at those highlights it looks like an incredibly cute, cuddly year with a lot of moments that you’ll treasure forever. However, as with a puppy dog, sometimes it wee’d on the floor!”

The CEO seems to see food as the way forward. “There are lots of reasons why today’s baked potato will be tomorrow’s steak dinner,” he told analysts on a conference call. Investors will hope that at this time next year, they will be reading about how the company served up a wagyu filet mignon, instead of a stringy skirt steak.