OPINION: The All-Black Ethos

Shanny Basar

New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup at the weekend after deciding to completely change their culture. They have been dubbed the best ever rugby union team and a big part of their success has been put down to their humility and grace – qualities not usually associated with a team of burly rugby stars.

In 2004 after the All Blacks came last in the Tri Nations championship they decided to reboot the team with the motto: “Better people make better All Blacks.” For example, after every game they now clean their dressing room and during Test weeks have a “rugby club night” when they wear their original club jerseys.

The All Blacks also proved that bonuses are not the best motivation. The English players were due to receive £100,000 each if they won the tournament while each member of All Black squad got a smaller £66,000. England ignominiously became the first hosts not to make it out of their group into the knockout stages while the Kiwis lifted the trophy.

The New Zealand ethos was perfectly illustrated by Sonny Bill Williams. The player gave his World Cup medal to a 14 year-old boy who ran onto the pitch at the end of the game and was tackled by a security guard. Williams told the New Zealand press: “I was walking around doing a lap of honour with the boys and a young fella came running out and he got smoked by the security guard, like full-on tackled him. I felt sorry for the little fella.”

James Kerr has written a book, Legacy, on what the All Blacks can teach business. The lessons include picking people with character as well as talent, or as they say “no dickheads”, and having a higher purpose, or “leaving the jersey in a better place.”

Just imagine if the financial industry had cultivated a culture like the All Blacks before the financial crisis. State Street have a chart on the progress of 14 separate pieces of regulation currently working their way through the European markets. Looking at the chart you can’t help but notice that many of the new rules are self-inflicted. For example, legislation on benchmarks would not have been necessary if traders had the common decency not to rig Libor, or any of other benchmarks that relied on trust. The classification of investors has been changed so that, for example, local authorities are treated as retail investors because banks cared more about selling products that made profits rather than those which were suitable for their clients.

The markets would be much healthier if we could rely on self-regulation rather than the regulators to protect consumers and investors. However, that will not happen until there are clear signs of cultural change which win back public trust.

The All Blacks proved that nice guys can come first and that money isn’t everything – a lesson that the financial industry should have heeded before 2008 and should definitely take to heart now. The new motto should be “better people make better business.”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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