How should one live a life? How to leave an indelible impression on the world, to mark oneself out from your fellow man? Writing yourself into the history books is the prize at the end of the road for the future Olympian. Bankers (and indeed, banks) may come and go, money will be made and lost but to compete at the Games secures you membership of a very exclusive global club. It marks you out as an achiever on a higher level, something that could never be put down to luck. It’s about pure physical ability in your chosen field: no wonder the first Olympians in Greece were lauded as gods.
In the shadows of the high concrete towers of Canary Wharf, the Olympic park has grown over the last four years. The City has its own supermen, people who juggle demanding jobs with feats of astounding physical ability. So who among you will be stepping up to represent the Square Mile at next summer’s Games?
Great Britain Hockey Goalkeeper and Derivatives Analyst, Nomura
Brothers, 28, is the heavily-padded last line of defence for the Great Britain hockey team, juggling playing in goal with a job as an equity derivatives analyst for Nomura. In 2008, he was working for Lehman Brothers, having put his sporting career on hold in order to concentrate on developing his professional life. When the company collapsed in September that year, Brothers found himself unemployed while his onetime teammates were enjoying the Beijing closing ceremony. Then he got a lucky break. Nomura took up some of Lehman’s investment banking business and kept him in a flexible role that allows for his demanding training. Those used to long City hours will wonder how he does it.
“I rely on the fact I have a very sympathetic and understanding employer. I prioritise all of my hockey commitments and I train up to six days a week. When I have a rest day I go into the office so my working week is never the same,” says Brothers.
Is he a trophy employee? “Depends who you speak to. To my work colleagues I’m public enemy number one – they see me as just swanning in and out and not there Monday to Friday. I’d like to think if I do get into the squad and do win a medal that could be of some benefit to the firm, possibly for marketing purposes.”
For Brothers, competing at the London Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as he will return to full time work on completion of the event. If the role at Nomura hadn’t come up, he would have devoted himself to his professional career because “we all have to earn a living”. The male and female hockey squad are not funded in the same way as individual athletes as, at most, they can only win two medals; it’s much more cost effective to fund one cyclist, for example, than 32 hockey players. Brothers will only find out two weeks before the Games start if he has made the squad, though as a goalkeeper, his chances are good. The team will include two, “though I’d rather be the one on the pitch than watching from the sidelines” he says.
A naturally competitive person, he admits his desire for coming first has helped him both in the City and on the pitch before warming to his theme and drawing further parallels. “When things are going well at the bank there is a great team spirit, camaraderie and good banter. That’s very similar to being in the changing rooms with the hockey boys. When you’re winning, everyone is chirpy. When things are not going so well and results or markets turn against you, people are looking out for themselves or they’re looking for someone to blame, perhaps suggesting that one of their colleagues shouldn’t be in the team. I thrive on the competition and I enjoy the hard work and the fear environment.”
Though balancing a City job with constantly trying to prove you’re good enough for the Olympic team sounds pretty stressful to me, Brothers says the balance works well for him. “If I was just to play hockey full time, I would put too much pressure on myself, firstly to be selected on the team and secondly to go and win that gold medal. Going into the office a couple of days a week is a good reality check for me. It makes me use my brain in a completely different way to the way I do when I’m competing.”
When pushed, Brothers admits there are downsides. For a start, when I speak to him, he sounds frankly knackered, although his brain is still sharp as a pin. As he’s not putting in a full quota of hours, his professional life is “on hold” as he puts it and he has seen his colleagues shoot past him on the career ladder while he devotes himself to the necessarily demanding training that a future Olympian must undertake.
Then there’s the missus to contend with. Apart from working, training and sleeping, he says with his tongue in his cheek, “the only other thing I do in the week is quell the anger of my fiancé” since she rarely gets to see him.
Of course, he recognises competing at the Olympics is a unique opportunity. Great Britain rank fourth in world hockey and on current form, the Germans and Australians are the nations to beat. With the kind of rivalry home fans enjoy with those two countries, it should ensure the pubs are full when the games are on.
Brothers definitely has his eye on a medal: “Competing won’t feel that different to any other hockey tournament. Once you’re playing, you’re in the zone, playing against players that you’re very familiar with,” he says. “It will be a completely different beast when you get into the medal games. To take a medal home, particularly a gold medal, I think I could die a happy man after that.”
(photo by Rii Schroer)
Great Britain Marathon Runner and Business Analyst at Legal & General
If all goes to plan, Wicks, 27, will be one of three British marathon runners at the Games. Currently, he can burn up 26 miles in two hours and 15 minutes and, with only one other Brit currently putting in that sort of time, if he can shave three more minutes off it he’s practically a cert for the Games. When he’s not averaging 130 miles a week of training runs, he’s a business analyst at Legal & General, whose headquarters are at One Coleman Street. The company’s flexible working policy means that he can usually get a run in before and after work, while also making use of the company gym from time to time. He’s still putting in 40 hours a week at his job, though.
Wicks agrees with Brothers that work can prove a useful distraction from training. “It’s a good balance. Working allows me to get away from thinking about running. I enjoy professional life and I enjoy building a career.”
Unlike Brothers, he has more than the London games in mind. “As a marathon runner you peak in your late twenties to early thirties so I’m coming into a stage where I’m going to get the best out of my career. I’ve got the London Olympics but also the Rio Games. I’ll be at my peak somewhere between the two. So, 2016 will be just as achievable if not more so.”
So what about a medal? Marathon running is dominated by African athletes, in particular Kenyans and Ethiopians. Before his untimely death this year, the current gold medal holder Samuel Wanjiru won it with an Olympic record time of two hours and six minutes. Won’t Wicks be off the pace? “Traditionally, European runners do well in Olympics. City marathons, where the Africans are always at the front, have pacemakers. Olympic races are slower and more tactical, which makes it easier for Europeans to do well there.”
After coming to running relatively late at 18, the Olympics has provided the motivation to get the most out of his body. Doesn’t the punishing mileage he’s putting in every week hurt? “A lot of people ask if it comes easy but it’s no different for me than for any other runner or jogger. It hurts just as much. The success I’ve had to date and the drive to make the Olympic team has been the motivation for a while now.”
He sees the Olympics as the pinnacle of a career where he is already the best in the land over 10km and half marathon distances. “Particularly with a home crowd next year it’ll be incredible. I think it’s hard for people to understand why you would put yourself through it and dedicate so much of your time towards it. To make the Olympic team for me would represent the culmination of ten years of hard work and would be an achievement to really be proud of. It’s what I’m thinking of when I’m training hard; it’s what I’m dreaming about.”
Chief Executive of Locog and former Goldman Sachs senior partner
with sneers and embarrassment and Wembley Stadium was delivered a year late, who would have the cojones to take on the next major British project, the biggest of all three – especially with the media champing at the bit to get the digs in? Once Seb Coe and his team secured the Games for London, the next challenge was to deliver them convincingly. It meant securing £2bn of investment, 36 venues, 200,000 staff and volunteers by the time the event begins and crucially, nearly 11 million tickets to sell.
Step forward Paul Deighton, 55, former Goldman Sachs senior partner and now CEO of Locog, based in Canary Wharf at One Churchill Place. Was he nuts to want the position? “I was ready to have one final job where I could throw everything into it and what better opportunity than being involved in the Olympic Games? It touches on all the things that are important in my life like sport and the impact it has on young people; my relationship with my kids has been built mostly around sport.”
After seeing the position advertised in the Economist, his wife convinced him to put his name forward. But initially he was told “the last thing we need is some testosterone-crazed investment banker” before Seb Coe – convinced Deighton was exactly what they did need – intervened. The businessman in him comes out when he speaks about the job. “What other business opportunity do you have where you can build your own organisation over seven years from more or less zero to 5,500 people?”
Most of the Games’ sponsorship revenue was in place before the 2008 financial crisis and Deighton credits his City experience for that. “Years in investment banking taught me that when the market is good, you go. You don’t wait for it to get better, because it won’t.” Journalists are now writing with respectful praise. The new venues are attractive, nearly complete and under budget. And as a certified fat cat (Deighton, as a partner, made £110m when Goldman floated on the New York stock exchange in 1999) he’s giving good face when the public wants blood. He donated his £330k performance bonus to charity in 2010 and he’s pledged to give any future rewards away in the same manner.
Leaving aside his role’s £500k pay packet, a step away from banking has also proved rewarding in a soulful way. “When you’re an investment banker you think you are at the centre of the world, but what I found when I stepped out of it is that it is a small bubble by comparison and everybody is interested in themselves, but the rest of the world is not that engaged with what you are doing. The Olympics is different because we are engaged in something everybody is interested in, and I love that.”
(photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images for LOCOG)
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