Golfing and banking

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Me and my brother Van when we were cute little toddlers.

I just started the forty-fourth year of my banking career. I’ve been golfing even longer. Our Dad started my twin brother and me in the game, about as soon as we learned to walk.

It is easy to note parallels between the two. They both acquire a certain amount of patience and discipline to achieve a degree of mastery, although one never really masters either of them.

Banking, particularly the lending aspect of banking, can’t be learned in a classroom, or from a book. There simply is no substitute for experience. Every customer is different, every lending situation is different. Being able to put deals together that work, and are fair for all parties involved, is more art than science. You learn your best lessons from mistakes. When one of my lenders has a loan go bad, I take time to sit down with the lender, and conduct an “autopsy” to see if there were any factors we should have taken note of before the loan was made, which would have led to a better decision. Through this process the lender learns what works, and what doesn’t work.

Similarly in golf, you can read all the books and instruction manuals available, hit balls on the practice tee until your hands bleed, and you still won’t know if you have done yourself any good, until you take what you’ve learned to the golf course. A swing thought or a technique which works beautifully in practice, isn’t worth a darn, if it doesn’t work on the course. Both a banker and a golfer learn from experience, what risks are worth taking, and when to play it safe.

In banking as well as in golf, your reputation for integrity is everything. Nobody but a fool would want to deal with a dishonest banker. In golf, you are expected to abide by the rules, to the point of calling penalties on yourself, in situations where you are the only one who noticed the infraction. Some sports allow a measure of cheating. Not golf. If a professional golfer were to be caught cheating he or she would be banned from competition for life.

If you want to be a great golfer, work hard enough at it to be great. Only about 1% of all golfers play close to scratch golf…’s no mystery why. Only about 1% of golfers work hard enough at it to become scratch golfers. Same in banking. The bankers who work harder at honing their skills, keeping up with new developments in the industry, making more customer calls, etc, are the ones who are going to experience the most success.


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