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Shaping the future of finance

What if banking was football?

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I was watching Match of the Day the other day and realised how much football moves and changes. Teams of yesteryear are now champions of Europe, whilst teams that were my shining lights growing up are now shadows of their former selves. I wonder if that’s what we’re seeing today in banking and finance? In fact, when I look at sport in general, I can see similarities to banking and finance. Teams are all about management.

Think about any of your favourite sports and teams. Think of them as a company. The company has an owner. The owner is not the manager. The owner is the board, the shareholder, the investor.

The owner elects a leader. The leader is the CEO. The leader has to organise the team. The leader has to organise the company.

The company has to work in synch, co-ordinated, together. A team that knows how each player thinks and works. Some parts of the team are support workers: the HR guys, the marketing folks and the financial managers. Other parts of the team are the players. They are customer facing and customer accountable. It’s the salespeople, the delivery people and the support people.

Think of your company as a sports team and you start to realise that (a) everyone is important for the team; (b) it’s not just the players on the pitch that make it work; and (c) sure, there are team stars, but the teams are a team, it’s not about individuals.

That last point is a key point as we celebrate stars in teams, but how do they become stars? They become stars by being part of a team. The team works together. It’s all about how the team works, not about the star.

Often, we lose sight of the teamwork. We focus on the goal, the objective, the star. We forget about the support, the defence, the other players, the structure.

This is why, when we think about companies, we can learn a lot from teams and sport and sports management. I went to an evening with Alex Ferguson a few years ago. He had just launched his new book, an autobiography, and Sir Alex is a man I respect. I’m not a Manchester United fan, but what he achieved with that team is amazing. We can learn a lot from Sir Alex Ferguson.

What did I learn?

“You'll learn more in a month in the first team than you will in two years in the reserves.” Alex Ferguson

You have to be in the game to play the game. If you’re not in the game, you’re not in the game. This applies to FinTechs and banks. Are you in the game? Are you playing the game? How are you playing the game? Are you better in the game than the other guys?

Think of yourselves as a sport team. As a team. Every player but, more importantly, every supporter and support person are key. Don’t think of yourself as the star and no-one else matters. You are just a part of a group of people that make the team or, in business, the company work. Remember that.

“The work of a team should always embrace a great player, but the great player must always work.” Alex Ferguson

Meanwhile, if banking was football, who would win the world cup?

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, 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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