Sightholders Rankled by Questionnaire

As part of its new “supplier of choice” initiative, De Beers recently sent out a questionnaire to its sightholders, but many are unhappy about its length and the questions it asks.

The extensive questionnaire has led many to feel they must produce extensive presentations in response-and left others wondering why it was sent in the busy period before the holiday season. The questions themselves are detailed: how much money the sightholders spend on marketing, how much they buy in rough and in polished, relationships with banks, and their visions for their companies. “Some of the questions get pretty detailed about things privately held companies don’t normally talk about,” one sightholder said. Another noted that he didn’t expect every sightholder to answer every question.

De Beers spokesman Andrew Lamont said the questionnaire was designed to help De Beers serve its clients’ needs. “We are putting our relationship with our clients onto a modern 21st-century footing,” he said. “In order to do this, we need clarity on various aspects of our sightholders’ business. The questionnaire needed to be thorough; otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to make the sort of decisions we are expected to make.”

Of course, despite the grumbling, no sightholder can refuse to fill out the form. “At the end of the day, De Beers is still a powerful source for rough diamonds, and no one wants to lose them,” says another sightholder. “Whether we find it intrusive or not, or disruptive, we’re all playing the game with them. People are spending a lot of time and money on this.” Some companies, however, tried to stay philosophical. “I didn’t really find it that invasive or outlandish,” says Saul Goldberg of William Goldberg Corp. in New York City. “These are the same kinds of questions they’ve asked over the years.” Another said: “We aren’t telling them anything they don’t know already.”