Ashes to assets – financial planning and the gentleman’s game

17th October 2019

At Fortitude we like to keep you up to date – with developments in the profession, with new ways of thinking and with your own progress towards your goals. We’re your guides, your advisers and your professional service providers.

But we’re people too, and how we use our free time both illustrates and shapes who we are as individuals and professionals. It teaches us about ourselves and helps us to build the skills we need, sometimes without us knowing it.

In this blog we’re training the spotlight on Director Chris Bowmer. With the Ashes just behind us and Ben Stokes now probably chasing a knighthood, it’s a good time for Chris to share why cricket matters and what it’s taught him.

On village life

21 years ago, Chris relocated to Greens Norton, a Northamptonshire village of little more than 1,500 people, with a pub, a post office and an enduring love of cricket. Since the Second World War the village has heard the sound of leather on willow[1] and as an avid fan and long-time participant (45 years, always as an opening bowler) Chris was keen to make contact with the club straight away.

With Greens Norton Cricket Club Chris realised a lifelong dream to play cricket with his eldest son, Daniel, also a bowler. But his passion goes further than playing the game. He’s been involved in all areas of the club since 1998, through good times and bad, particularly enjoying their promotion this season. He’s been captain, secretary, groundsman, fundraiser and fan, and he’s even persuaded Fortitude to sponsor the club, with our name adorning its shirts for the last decade.

‘Howzat’ and ‘Kaizen’

The thing about sport, any sport, is that being good is hard, but staying good is even harder. Success requires talent, skill and experience, but you also need determination, the ability to stay humble and a lifelong commitment to asking questions and chasing continuous improvement.

Every match-winning performance takes many hours of preparation and not just on the mechanics of the game. Teamwork, psychology and fluid intelligence – the ability to adapt and improve ­– are all essential components of sporting success and they’re just as important at Fortitude.

In cricket, fielders often shout ‘Howzat?’ to query a decision. It’s a catchy little phrase with a ‘z’ in the middle that makes sure things aren’t taken at face value. Another catchy phrase with a ‘z’ in the middle is ‘Kaizen’, which is really important at Fortitude. It does a similar job, because when we stop asking questions, even about processes that already rub along quite well, we stop learning. If we stop learning, we lose our edge and if that happens, we stop giving our clients the very best service.

In cricket or finance, metaphorical or literal, it’s important not to take your eye off the ball, and continual improvement is key to that.

Inspiration at the highest level

Every now and then a sporting name transcends a discipline and finds its way into the mainstream. It happened last month during the Ashes, when the name of Ben Stokes was on everyone’s lips and Twitter feed. With England bowled out for 67 in their first innings and chasing an unlikely 359 to win, Stokes made a superhuman effort, with his innings described as the “greatest ever played by an Englishman.”

Now, let’s be careful to avoid the word ‘comparison’ – Chris isn’t comparing himself to cricket’s man of the moment, but does he take inspiration from him? Definitely. On the one hand, Stokes’ display of digging deep and shouldering responsibility is something we all face in life and in our professional capacity. Whether it’s keeping spirits up in the team or helping a client to achieve the life they really want, we all need to go that extra mile sometimes.

But despite seeming like a one-man effort, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t – not really. Amazing as it was, cricket is still a team game, just like Fortitude is a team and, by extension, our clients form a powerful team with us. We work together for the right results, we celebrate success and we back them up, even when it seems hard to stick to the plan.

Care at grass-roots level

Taking care of the game at grass-roots level is just as important – building awareness and equipping future generations with the skills they’ll need to become winners. In the same way, we work hard to help clients build a full awareness of their financial picture, why it matters and what it could mean for them.

But Chris finds literally taking care of the grass roots is important too. Since he joined the club he’s learned a lot of practical skills, including how to prepare the wicket, an ongoing education to which Chris suspects there is in fact no end (still, it’s a great example of continual learning). But it’s not all about work. Chris may give a lot to cricket, but it gives a lot back too. It keeps him active and healthy in body and mind, and it’s a chance to switch off, as he notes, there’s something therapeutic about cutting grass with ear defenders on – you can’t think beyond what you’re doing right now. Sometimes just stopping is good.

And that’s an important message too, because as committed as you are to meeting your goals and as hard as we work to help you, we all work to live, not the other way around. Resilience, ingenuity, determination and grit matter, but so does the ability to switch off and relax. Sometimes the greatest lessons you’ll learn about yourself happen outside the workplace.

Perhaps the reason that sport is often used in analogies for life is that, with all its ups and downs, with its tests, trials, setbacks and victories, sport will teach you who you really are.

[1] Studies show it’s impossible to write an article about cricket without using this phrase, so for your reading pleasure, we decided to get it out of the way early.