Keeping Your Dribble—On the Court and In Banking

Industry Insights by Bryan Kendrick, Kendrick Services

I love basketball. In my youth I played it and now I watch it. And it’s that time of year for basketball junkies. March Madness, the Big Dance and the Final Four just wrapped and the NBA playoffs will be here before you know it. I love it all. So, how does that relate to banking? Well, it’s all in how you handle the ball.

When my grandson, Jace, was around 3 or 4, off to the driveway basketball court we would go. He loved shooting at the basket. I loved being with him. Before long, he began learning how to dribble the ball, then came horse and around-the-world and, eventually, one-on-one with Poppa (yours truly). In the beginning, our rules allowed him to foul, travel and double dribble. It was all about offense.

But pretty early on, Poppa began forcing him to play by new rules: no fouling, no traveling, no double dribble, playing defense. That took some fun out of the game. Jace did not like losing control of the ball—i.e., passing. But he soon found out that if he traveled or double dribbled, the ball automatically went to Poppa. If he stopped his dribble, he had to pass or shoot. If he fouled, Poppa got a free throw. Those were the rules of the game. So, Jace had a choice: he could abandon the game or learn to play by these new rules. Because he loved the game, he chose the latter.

Then it got complicated. Jace’s mom signed him up to play basketball at the Y when he was 5. The rules at that age—and for years to come—allowed players to travel on the court and double dribble all they want. Jace was back in basketball heaven. At first, it seemed a bit awkward and even wrong to revert back to double dribbling alongside the rest of his teammates and opponents. But it didn’t take long to pick up those old bad habits again and reap their rewards, temporary though they were. He took advantage of the lack of rules, at least until Poppa intervened.

“Jace, I understand that the game is easier to play now when you double dribble, but would you do Poppa a huge favor? Would you play by the new rules—the real rules—and stop double dribbling?” To my amazement and pleasure, he agreed. Once again, the game got harder. Jace found himself being the only person on the court passing the ball. When he picked up his dribble, he heard it from his team mates, the crowd, even his coach “Dribble! Dribble!” But he knew Poppa was in the stands, so he would pass the ball.

Then something interesting started to happen. Jace realized he could once again retain control of the ball and the game if he could keep his dribble going. He began learning how to dribble better. Mostly on his own, he taught himself the crossover dribble, behind-the-back dribble, between-the-legs dribble, left-hand dribble and 360-reverse dribble. Now, when his opponent pressed him, he kept his dribble going by going around defenders with one of his newly learned skills. The game was more rewarding and fun than ever!

Do you ever feel pressed in any way as you play this game of banking? Ever feel like you’re getting double-teamed? The megabank across the street…the new chairman of the House Banking Committee…Dodd Frank regulations…technology…CECL…and many additional outside forces and investors pressing in to “steal the ball” and take control of your game. They come upon us with such strength and force that our response is to “pick up our dribble” and immediately give up control of the game.

Don’t you do it! In this current environment, the worst thing you could do is to “give up your dribble” and relinquish control of your game to outside forces that, quite frankly, have very little interest in the needs of your customers. Yes, you may have to learn a crossover, behind-the-back, between-the-legs or off-hand dribble to stay in control. So be it. Your bank and your customers are worth it!

Sure, the game was once much simpler, the rules much more lax. But you simply cannot play the banking game by those rules any longer. The rules have changed. Interest rate risk, liquidity, technology, markets, capital management, margins, TRID—the list of new rules is almost endless and daunting. But instead of allowing the current environment to snatch control, learn what Jace learned: Keep your dribble going and keep control of the game.

You watch any great point guard in basketball and you will find that he or she never gives up the dribble until the play, called from the bench, has developed. What is the opponent’s goal? Try to get you to give up your dribble before the play develops. In the NBA, you have less than 24 seconds for that play to develop. In banking it could be 24 years. Can you keep your dribble for that long? Longer? Keep your dribble going until the play has fully developed. Then, take the shot, drive the lane, make the assist, start the play. You will find the game is now more rewarding and fun than ever!

Published in Bankers Digest May 6, 2019