What Can The Banks Learn From Olympic Athletes

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london olympics logo 2012

What does it take to be an Olympic champion? More importantly, could the UK’s banking sector benefit from a few lessons in fair play?

Now, and this is a personal opinion, if we were to compare the UK’s banking sector to Olympians, what would we see? A group of people determined to win at any odds even to point of gorging themselves on performance enhancing drugs.

So, what can the banks learn from Olympic athletes?

A Sense Of Fair Play

This had to be top of the list. I understand that banks are like any other business; they need to make a profit or they’ll go under. The issue that many people have is the way the bankers go about business. Billions of pounds have been injected into the UK’s creaking banks. Little, if any, of that money has seen it’s way back into the hands of the people that propped up the banks: taxpayers.

If the bankers really want to redeem themselves they need to start lending again. To some, awarding yourself a massive bonus from the money the taxpayers provided to prop up your bank may seem fair. To the investors flocking away from the traditional banking system, it’s actually a slap in the face.

The Unrelenting Pursuit Of Excellence

what is the opposite of excellence? Failure? Mediocrity? Indifference? I’ll side with the last option. Olympians cannot be indifferent. Have you ever heard a winning athlete say, ‘whatever’? Given the number and scale of banking cock ups over the last few years, it’s easier to envisage a champagne swilling trader uttering an apathetic word.

So what can the tainted financial institutions learn? It’s about more than just them and their huge piles of cash. Indifference to the pain of their customers leads to revolt. Revolt leads to you and I heading off to Dave Fishwick’s bank. Why? Because he cares. He’s not indifferent to the outcome just like Jessica Ennis relentlessly pursues excellence in order to win the Heptathlon.

Courage To Succeed

I could have easily highlighted a desire to succeed as an example of how Olympic athletes lead the way. But it’s not the right word. We all have desires but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever amount to anything. But courage is a different matter. Once an athlete has the desire to succeed it’s up to them to have the courage to push for the top. Desire seeds your ambition; courage sees it reach fruition.

But how does this apply to the banks? Surely they’re filled with people who have reached the top of the financial food chain? Yes, this is true but you have to consider the lack of courage this promotion process takes. Many bankers think that they should be highly paid because of the risks they take… with other peoples money! Instead of cutting and running at the first sign of trouble wouldn’t it be better if they were a little more courageous in the way they handle our money? Making a fat commission is less important than having the balls to protect what’s important – the customers money.

Discipline and Consistency

Olympic athletes not to be not only disciplined but they need to be consistent. They need to maintain both of these traits in training and competition. An athlete needs to push through fatigue, personal problems and personal difficulties so that create the right mindset for achieving their goals.

Certain jobs in the banking sector do require discipline. Without this personal trait, we’d see a lot more failed banks. What does let some institutions down is their level of consistency. Consistently earning massive bonuses may be important but delivering consistent returns for the customers is more important. Let’s look at it another way – it’s easy to be consistenlty crap but it takes real effort and dedication to be consistently good.

Coping With Adversity

Where does strength of character come from? It’s built up from many differing experiences but one of the key foundations is found in an athletes ability to overcome adverse conditions. To know what it’s like to lose with grace. To come back from failure with more determination to win. To finally recognise that it’s time to hang up their medals and take a job in TV!

This is the most dificult one for me to answer. I’m sure that any bank employee reading this will give me numerous examples of adversity in their job. I welcome your insights – please leave them in the comments – but the most important point to take away from this example is falling on your sword.

If you have any other thoughts or ideas then let me know in the comments section. Whilst your’re here I really do think you should follow us on Twitter ;).


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