Similarities Define Baseball Managers, Bankers

by Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman

Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman, Guaranty Bank, SpringfieldLike many kids growing up in Missouri, I dreamed of playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Out in the fields playing whiffle ball with my friends, I sometimes imagined my team, the Cardinals, was down a run to our rivals, the Cubs. It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, a man on third, and I was at the plate. Down to my last strike, I crushed the ball and watched it sail over the outfielder’s head as I rounded the bases, winning the game for my team.

My skills on the field didn’t get me to the major leagues — I made it as far as some college ball. After all these years, I still love the game. And this time of the year finds me anxiously awaiting the start of opening day — it’s March 28 this year. The Cardinals take on the Brewers in Milwaukee that afternoon (there’s another team from Missouri that has its home opener that afternoon), and I may take a late lunch to watch the first pitch of the 2019 Cardinals season and celebrate baseball’s arrival. 

In thinking about the upcoming baseball season, it occurred to me that a team’s manager and a bank’s leader have similar attributes. Both oversee the activity and production of their teams as they devise a game plan to reach their goals. The skipper and banker set the tone for their teams and lead by example. All the while, they are responsible for slumps the team endures and for the winning streaks the team celebrates.

To be successful, a baseball team needs all players to contribute. The same goes with banking. A bank leader will assemble a dynamic team with diverse talents and strengths. The team will include veterans — your all-stars who have proven their worth to the organization and who you trust to come through for the team in clutch situations. Alongside the veterans are your rookies … the new faces looking to make their mark with the club. These men and women are brimming with enthusiasm and new ideas, and bank leaders must mentor and encourage these new bankers in their endeavors. These new players will one day be leaders on your team, and you must give them opportunities to showcase their talents.

The Missouri Bankers Association is currently accepting applications for its Banking Leadership Missouri. An individual from my team, Will Cologna, recently graduated from this program last December. Banking Leadership Missouri gave him insights into our industry — from advocacy to organizational culture to communication styles to ethics — that enhanced his role as a leader with Guaranty Bank, our Springfield community and our banking community. Many men and women who graduated from Banking Leadership Missouri are now leading their banks as senior executives. I highly recommend you look at your bank’s team and see who among your staff would benefit from Banking Leadership Missouri.

Both baseball and banking are governed by rules. One of the most universal rules in baseball concerns pitchers and batters. A pitch is either a ball or a strike, and the hitter has the option to swing or watch it go by. An umpire behind home plate determines whether a pitch is a ball or strike. Often, you can tell if a pitch is a ball or strike. Then, there are those moments when you wonder if the ump is blind. That’s when players and managers start questioning the strike zone — they just want to know where the ump is coming from on the calls so they can make adjustments. This may lead to a reasonable discussion with the ump, or it could result in players or managers being ejected from the game, depending on the temperament of those involved in the situation.

At one point or another, we have been annoyed with laws governing our industry. Most recently, our frustrations stemmed from the regulatory burdens imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. However, with perseverance and patience, we shared our concerns with our federal lawmakers, telling them how Dodd-Frank stifled economic growth in our communities. Our persistence that spanned nearly a decade resulted in the passage of S. 2155 in 2018 – a bipartisan measure that implemented substantial reforms to our financial system. 

Right now, our industry is looking for clarification from the federal government on cannabis and banking. More than 30 states, including Missouri, have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Many banks do not offer financial services to  marijuana-related businesses because of the threat of federal enforcement and penalties.  There is growing support to decriminalize marijuana so banks can conduct business with MRBs, as demonstrated by the recently introduced SAFE Banking Act. This bipartisan House bill has more than 130 co-sponsors. When I am in Washington, D.C., in early April for the Washington Summit sponsored by the American Bankers Association, I will be sharing with our congressional delegation the situations we are encountering with our customers associated directly or indirectly with MRBs and why it is imperative for banks to have clarification on cannabis banking.

A baseball manager can assemble the perfect team that plays flawlessly, but fan support is crucial to a team’s livelihood. The best fans in baseball (they’re Cardinals fans) follow their team all year long and proudly wear their team colors. These diehard fans celebrate the team’s victories and stand by their team with moral support during difficult periods. Without these devoted fans, the team is missing its core. 

Our banks would not be where we are today without our loyal customers. Individuals can go anywhere – both physically and virtually – for their banking services. Yet, they choose our banks for a reason. As bank leaders, we must know that reason and ensure that we meet our customers’ financial needs. And, we must have teams that can help our customers achieve their financial goals throughout their lives.

When baseball season starts March 28, every team has the same opportunity to reach the World Series. The same holds true for every bank — your team, working together, can achieve its goals. Now, let’s play ball!

Shaun Burke is president and CEO of Guaranty Bank in Springfield. Burke has led Guaranty Bank since 2004 and has more than 30 years of banking experience. He has served on the MBA Board of Directors since 2012 and has chaired the MBA’s Legislative Affairs Committee and the Budget and Audit Committee.

The Missouri Banker
March 2019