I am chief economist at Daimler. If this job sounds more adventurous to you, do not worry, you're not alone. But I assure you: It is incredibly varied – because no day is like the other.
Here and in the Daimler podcast HeadLights on Spotify, Apple podcasts / iTunes and Google podcasts, I'll tell you why the ups and downs of the economy today are more exciting than ever, when my team and I are in great demand and why we sometimes to deal with the development of the beer price at the Cannstatter Wasen.
Imagine: In a normal German pedestrian zone, you randomly address people and ask them what jobs there are at Daimler. What would be the most common answers? Mechanic would probably be in the lead. Engineer or car salesman also determines. And my job – chief economist – certainly not. What I also understand somehow: Someone who is intensively involved in economics, one expects more commonly in a bank, insurance or in politics.
The economic environment influences us
And yet, it is somehow obvious: a company that sells vehicles and offers mobility services, of course, also deals with the economic environment in which it operates. Because what has happened in business and politics, of course, has an impact on our business – on the sales markets for cars, trucks, vans or buses. That's where my team and I come in. We monitor and analyze economic development globally and in individual markets. We make statements about what impact this might have on the demand for our products. And we identify opportunities and risks that result.
But: how exactly does it work? How can we make statements about the economic weather conditions for the next one, three or ten years, when meteorologists sometimes can not even reliably predict the weather for the next three days? So much in advance: we do not have a glass ball. But we do not need that either. We use models that allow us to identify certain trends – and then we can make relatively reliable statements, such as how economic growth is likely to develop over time. Important: We also work a lot with bandwidths, corridors and scenarios. Of course, the board expects concrete announcements from us where the journey is going. That one is wrong then? Well, that's probably an occupational risk.
In times of crisis, economists are in demand
Toi, toi, toi: So far, our forecasts have been correct rather than wrong. Most important for the success of the company is that we develop our tools and our models in such a way that we recognize impending economic downturns or crises as early as possible so that the right decisions can be made at an early stage. In general, we economists are especially in demand when the economic environment looks just not so rosy: Then, of course, all want to know where the journey goes, whether the bottom has passed or the recession still persists. On the other hand, if things go well, it is relatively unimportant whether economic growth is now 2.5 or 2.8 percent.
The influence of politics is getting bigger
Of course, thanks to big data, our early warning tools are far more sensitive and precise than they were just a few years ago. I think that, for example, we would have recognized the 2008/2009 crisis much earlier using our methods today. On the other hand, we also observe that the influence of politics on economic development is becoming ever greater and, above all, unpredictable. This also ensures that the ups and downs of the markets can no longer be predicted only with economic expertise – this makes our job more complex than before, but also more exciting. Not for nothing do we work on four major topics in my team: Firstly, the pure macroeconomic or economic observation, secondly the automotive market forecast, third geopolitics and fourthly industrial and trade policy.
What the beer price has to do with economy
The job of my 15 employees and me is so much more than just the dull analysis or interpretation of numbers. Especially when it comes to bringing our findings to the man or to the woman. I like to say: Economics is also storytelling. If we want to make ourselves heard, we can not just present numbers or diagrams. We also have to tell the story: What are the reasons for this development? Why do we assume that it is in this direction and not in the other? What specific impact does that have for us?
To give a very good example, we have published a Wasen index in the intranet of Daimler – named after the square where the famous Cannstatter Volksfest takes place in Stuttgart 1). We compared the development of Volksfest prices (beer, chicken, tram ticket) with the development of average wages. You can see if you get the same for your money under the Ferris wheel today as you did a few years ago. The story was great – even if a colleague aptly noted: At least after the second measure, the cost-benefit calculation then but relatively no matter. Well then cheers.
I really enjoy putting the complex developments of the world economy in a good story. And I would say: I'm not just a graduate economist. I am economist with body and soul. That's why Daimler is the gold-winning employer for me: Through our various business lines, the many products we offer and the many markets in which we operate, we have a weird wealth of topics that we economists can work on.
That's the biggest attraction for me in my job – and certainly one of the reasons why I've been working here for more than 30 years. In other words, as an economist at Daimler, you may not be in every project from A to Z – but always at A. Because every good business plan starts with a solid analysis of the economic weather conditions.
Speaking of the weather: When you meet a meteorologist, at the end of the conversation, you're probably asking about the weather for the next three days. At the end of the interview, people whom I tell about my job often ask me how things are going to be for the economy in the near future.
The answer is given in the new episode of HeadLights, our Daimler podcast – as well as many other insights into my professional life. However, I always provide a disclaimer: no matter how good the quality of our analyzes and forecasts is – there will certainly be 2019 something that we did not expect. That means for my team and me: It's not boring for us.
1) Based on an analysis of UniCredit from September 2018.
All episodes of our Daimler podcast will be available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts / iTunes and Google Podcasts.