"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
September 7, 2009

The Sporting Investment

I enjoy travelling back to Australia to visit family. The contrast between the open spaces and fresh air down-under and the provided with the cramped, polluted environment of Hong Kong, is invigorating. But, I find the popular culture and especially the advertising and television in Australia always hits me with a kind of reverse culture […]

I enjoy travelling back to Australia to visit family. The contrast between the open spaces and fresh air down-under and the provided with the cramped, polluted environment of Hong Kong, is invigorating. But, I find the popular culture and especially the advertising and television in Australia always hits me with a kind of reverse culture shock. To get a glimpse of what I mean, check out this rant against the recent advertisements from Qantas and Tourism Australia (there’s some colourful language in there and missive from yours truly, so be warned).

A case in point was a television advertisement for an investment company. Their claim, a fairly unspectacular but supposedly reassuring one, in these times, was that their company would be hard at word protecting your investments.

But, to emphasis the message the visuals didn’t show people toiling away in an office doing the business of investing your money, they showed a succession of fit younger adults training for sports.

It’s a typically Australian and somewhat troubling advertisement.

Obviously, it sends the message that the image of people at work in a modern office is neither compelling, interesting or reassuring. More disconcertingly it makes the conceptual claim that dedication to sport is somehow an analogy for dedication to the financial well-being of others, as in you, if you have invested your money with this company.

But, is sport really an effective analogy for work in this sense? Perhaps we learn lessons from sport and develop attitudes through training for sport that help us do our jobs well – perhaps. I’m not convinced this is always the case, it seems more of a person variable thing. The kinds of people who can apply insights learnt from sport to the rest of life seem to almost always possess a more fundamental skill, the ability to transfer insight across life experiences. Sport is, then just one set of experiences we can mine for life lessons – not necessarily one that should receive any priority or preference.

Moreover, our current financial crisis speaks to the inadequacies and risks of the “work as competition” model, especially with regard to managing other people’s investments. The average person needs their investment companies to take a more long term and less of a self-centred view of finance than the sport as work analogy allows.

Responses
Kimberly D. Overman 13 years ago

Thank you for noticing the lack of work when it comes to building financial well-being and the enormous unhealthy competition among investment companies. Many investment companies have focused on competitive sales models as a means of selling products rather than serving the needs of investors by truly managing as a fiduciary the resources of their clients. They have sold features and benefits instead of due diligence and the importance of learning of how to discern how to manage opportunity versus risk.

Rob @ Cynic 13 years ago

FYI … I copped a fair bit of abuse in Oz when I brought up my viewpoint there.

Not exactly surprising eh …

Frank Rees 13 years ago

Yep, this proves it. You have been away too long. How could anybody possibly question the all-pervasive power of sport to enrich and undergird all of life?
You are fortunate you can express such blasphemies from a distance!

Good thoughts, mate. Thanks for all your great posts.

But really, when are you coming home, to bless us with all these goodies in person?

Toni 13 years ago

“Obviously, it sends the message that the image of people at work in a modern office is neither compelling, interesting or reassuring. More disconcertingly it makes the conceptual claim that dedication to sport is somehow an analogy for dedication to the financial well-being of others, as in you, if you have invested your money with this company.”

It seems to me that there IS nothing visually compelling about the image of people at work in a modern office: really, are there many more places less stimulating? And therefore to sell their product through a visual medium they took the easy way and chose the Australian fixation. And showing sports implies a level of dynamic effort that can’t be captured by a person (even an attractive person) in a suit sat at a desk, even with a Mac in front of them.

Attitudes to money vary, but in and of itself it is an intensely boring subject. I’d see this as an attempt to inject a little popular interest with maybe some good visuals, and not much else. Or maybe I shouldn’t have a viewpoint as someone that’s not owned a TV for nearly 30 years.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

My comment was more about what the advertising said with regard to Australian popular culture than the investment industry per se. But, Kimberly makes a good point about the selling of products versus the meeting of customer’s needs. Unfortunately, I’m such a small fish that I always feel like I’m being sold something when I talk to an investment person and it’s not a nice feeling.

Rob, I’m not surprised you “coped some flak.” It’s a populist mantra that Australians are different to Americans because they can laugh at themselves and “take a joke.” That’s usually true on a personal and organisational level, but when it comes to national and cultural identity, Aussies are (in my experience) prone to sense of humour failures.

I loved your comment Frank. Yes, I blaspheme from a distance – at least fore the foreseeable future.

Actually, Toni, I find any place of work stimulating if the work is stimulating. I’ve been in plenty of offices that are really compelling places and I would say that if we don’t see places of work as interesting, then something is wrong with our culture, because that’s where we spend most of our time.

As for money being boring – well, when it’s my money it’s far from boring!

toni 13 years ago

I’d say the key in this was the visual stimulation aspect. Yes, work-places can be stimulating if the work is stimulating, but that is the work and not the environment. I’ve done terribly tedious things in spanky places and exciting things in mundane places, and after a while in either direction I quickly stop noticing the environment. Maybe a great cameraman and director could have made it look exciting, but there will be few ordinary members of the public that will be set alight by it. Rather like Patek Philippe adverts, no matter how many sexy women, hunky men, shiny cars or black backgrounds they use, at the end of the day it’s just an over-priced watch with hands that anyone could wear. Which I’d say is another good point – if their office were a trendy designer place, all expensive furniture and marble floors then people might want to know why the hell they were wasting the profits from their money on all that stuff.

I’m writing this from the cramped corner of the scruffy office I have to share.

On money I guess we’ll have to differ. As long as there’s enough money around to cover needs and the odd luxury (we could argue what they are all night, I’m sure) then I don’t really care.

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