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Lessons From The INDY 500

Posted by on January 20, 2017

Chairmans Corner – mbaBanking Magazine | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017

Tim Marshall, MBA Chairman and President and CEO Bank of Ann Arbor

When I was told the theme for this issue was The Road Ahead, my mind went to one of my favorite sporting activities—open wheel automobile racing. Being born a Hoosier, I grew up with the annual running of the Indianapolis 500.

While you and I may never drive one of those fabulous cars around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we can learn plenty from the Indy 500 to help our banks excel in 2017.

Racing is a team sport. Even though one driver tends to get all the glory, it takes an efficient and high performing team to put him (or her) in the winner’s circle. Think for a minute of the scene of a pit stop during the Indy 500. Everyone knows their job and does it perfectly. Every detail for re-fueling, new wheels and wing adjustments is expected to be performed incredibly fast and flawless, all in less than nine seconds. Many races are won or lost in the pits.

Is this the way your bank runs? Is consistent, excellent execution the standard? Does your team strive to get to the winners circle? What about the team members who are behind the scenes keeping the engine of your bank humming at peak performance? Do they know how essential they are to the success of your financial institution?

Racing is ever changing. The cars have gotten lighter, stronger, more aerodynamic and faster. Drivers prepare their bodies better for the grueling three-hour race. New skills are needed for technicians and engineers building and tuning a car to run its fastest.

Is your bank preparing your staff with the skills needed to keep your bank growing? Do you have a team that is hungry to keep improving or one that is having trouble keeping up? Do you encourage consistent use of the training programs available at the MBA?

The best performing banks in our state have built a team that functions like a highly efficient Indy pit crew. Each understands his or her role and the incredible value of their contribution to the overall goal of winning.

Indy car body styles, engines and tires have improved with new materials and evolving technology. Drivers have a wide range of technology in the cockpit and go through practice sessions, work outs and mental preparation like never before in order to race in the most competitive fashion. So, the Indy 500 has changed rules and procedures to keep pace with this evolution of car and driver.

In banking, it feels at times as if the pace of changes is coming at us faster than Alexander Rossi on the final straightaway. Our challenge as leaders is to sift through the many changes presented in order to embrace the ones that lead to our desired destination and discard those that don’t. Those decisions must be measured by impact now and impact on the road ahead.

But the course of the Indy 500 hasn’t changed. Thirty-three cars still run 200 laps around the 2.5-mile track. Like in banking, there are some fundamentals that remain constant. Lending is our horsepower to bring in the revenue we need to pay expenses, reward our employees and give generously to our communities. The principles of sound banking and closely managing our credit quality must be followed.

The race often goes to the patient and prudent. Just like the driver who bides his time for the right opening at the right time to pull into the lead, 2017 looks to be a great year for banks who have been able to adjust, yet stay the course by following conservative banking principles and adapting to this highly regulated environment. Many of these banks will discover great opportunities as others, who have not been able to adjust to changing times, face continued challenges.

In racing and banking, the rules are continually modified or updated. Rules intended to keep the race competitive have unintended consequences very similar to the unfolding of the Dodd- Frank Act in our industry. New economic realities, new technology or unintended consequences should force a fresh look at the rules and original purpose. But whose voice carries the most weight in these conversations? In racing, it is the driver’s and his team, of course. They are the ones on the course, living the rules day in and day out. In banking, it is all of us and every member of our team.