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Can our banking system achieve the Olympic dream?

The Olympic Games have ended.

What will we do now?

Back to reality?

Back to LIBOR fixes, money laundering scandals and selling products you weren’t supposed to sell to muppets who weren’t meant to buy them?

Or keeping the good cheer and positive moment and moving onwards and upwards?

This is the theme of most columns today.

The Telegraph summarised the Games saying: “not to take anything away from the jaw dropping sportsmanship and flawless organisation of these Olympics but I think some of the incredible atmosphere of these games has been down to the British love of and skill at in enjoying a party.”

We do like to party.

The New York Times put it even better: “The Games have hit this country like an extra-strength dose of a mood-enhancing drug.”

Well, it has been quite a fortnight and was clearly sponsored by Visa.

All over London, taxis and buses were advertising their contactless, mobile capabilities.


Billed as the first contactless Olympics, Visa was the only card accepted for payments anywhere.

Hence, their heavy advertising before the Games started, with their unique take using Usain Bolt.

Then, from the Opening Ceremony with its dark, satanic mills, to the amazing performances of athletes, swimmers, divers, rowers, cyclists, gymnasts, footballers, basketballers, volleyballers, handballers … anything and everything with or without a ball, it’s been a tremendous demonstration of strength, power, speed and tenacity.

In the UK, we’ve been talking non-stop about Gold medal-winners Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Mo Farah and more, along with the amazing performances from Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Michael Phelps and more.

A tremendous moment for this country and for history.

Meantime, the financial industry has picked up on the themes from the Game with the Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, saying “banks could  learn a thing or two about fair play from the Olympic movement”.

In an article in the Mail on Sunday, Mr. King says there are three lessons the Games have taught him about the British economy.     

First, and most important, we have been reminded that an objective that is worth attaining, like a gold medal, requires years of hard work. Success does not come overnight.  That is as true of our economy as it is of sport.

The second lesson is that motivation does not come from financial incentives alone. Motivation is more than mere money. Over the years, the people who have impressed me most in business have been those motivated primarily by the desire to show that their products are the best. By being passionate about what they produce, and the customers whom they serve, they achieve success, and, in so doing, they make money, almost as a by-product. There is no substitute for passion and commitment to one’s sport or business.

The final lesson from the Olympics is that competitive team sports are an essential part of children’s education. Learning to play in a team, the importance of trusting others in order to find success, how to cope with victory and defeat, are all preparation for the world of work.

That all may be well and good, but the Wall Street Journal is less complimentary:

While British sportsmen were busy winning medals at the Olympics, the sad truth is that U.K. banks were picking up the wooden spoon for finance … in the eyes of the world, British banks now look more like Ben Johnson, the disgraced 1988 Olympic 100-meters champion disqualified for cheating, than this year's hero, Usain Bolt. If the Olympics have reinforced the U.K.'s reputation for honest competition and fair play, the City of London has a long way to go to reclaim those virtues for itself.

Hmmm … I guess the road we face for the future of finance is similar to the road we have travelled since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In 1996 Team GB won one Gold Medal.

It was our worst performance in an Olympic Games in history.

Sixteen years later, we are third in the medal table with 29 Gold medals, and beat Russia, Germany, Australia and many other old rivals in the process.

It has been our most successful Games ever.

Sixteen years from now, I hope our banking system is as successful in transforming itself into a world beating team.

As Team GB say, Don’t Stop Me Now:


adidas | Team GB Don't Stop Me Now from Philip Bloom on Vimeo

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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