3 Things You Can Learn About Banking From the 2020 Indy 500

Banking Lessons From the 2020 Indy 500 | Baker Hill

It goes without saying that 2020 has been different for everyone – but May 2020 was especially different for those of us that live in Indianapolis.

The entire month of May in Indy is usually all about “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” From one of the largest half marathons in the country that kicks off the month-long celebration, the festival parade through the city, to the Carb Day concerts and events that kick off race weekend – it is truly a month-long spectacle. To quote Mike Horrocks, VP of Product Management at Baker Hill “The four horsemen of the apocalypse could be in town, but if those horses are not sponsored by Andretti Racing or Pennzoil – forget about it.”

May 2020 was much quieter here in the circle city with the Indy 500 (which is held every year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend) being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to this weekend – August 23. With the race postponed and all other events surrounding the race cancelled, there are several lessons to learn about banking from the 2020 Indy 500:

1. Adaptability Is Critical

Adaptability seems to be a recurring theme in 2020. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway originally moved the Indy 500 to August with hopes that we’d be on the other side of the pandemic by now. They later made the call to hold the race with 50% capacity (which as the largest sporting venue in the world has a seating capacity for 235,000 people with an official capacity of around 400,000 people with infield seating). As they began setting up for this year’s race in the last couple of weeks, the decision was made to hold the event with no spectators in the stands.

Many companies have transitioned to remote work. For many financial institutions, remote work wasn’t the “norm” and adapting to this change has been critical. I’d be wrong to not to mention the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program when talking about how community financial institutions have had to adapt during the pandemic. The new program from the SBA has certainly kept our teams as well as bankers on their toes. As the SBA has been consistently releasing new information and processes over the last few months, financial institutions and solution providers alike have had to react quickly to get needed funds into the hands of small business owners.

2. It Matters What You Do When No One’s Watching

With no fans in the stands at the 104th running of the Indy 500, I can only imagine being the first person to cross the yard of bricks after 500 miles will feel a little different this year. I’m sure that the milk will still taste like victory and having their face on the Borg-Warner trophy will still feel surreal. Even though there won’t be 400,000 people cheering at the speedway, the accomplishment of finishing first with nobody there to see it in person still matters.

To quote Tony Dungy, another Indianapolis pillar, “Remember that what you do when no one is watching matters.” The reputation of a community financial institution is based on trust and the commitment to the communities they serve. We’ve heard stories and seen headlines of how financial institutions have cut corners or taken shortcuts only to break the trust of their customers. The drivers and teams have spent countless hours behind the scenes fine-tuning every aspect of their car and strategy to win the 500 mile race - there’s no shortcut to victory lane.

3. You Can Only Control What You Can Control

My dad and I have been to every Indy 500 (except for one) since I moved to Indianapolis 15 years ago. We usually sit where we can see the cars coming out of turn three, through turn 4, and down the straightaway to the finish line. It’s a spot on the track where drivers aggressively jockey for position to win the lap. In 2017, a crash in turn 4 with 17 laps to go (less than 50 miles out of the 500) knocked out several cars that were in the running for the top spot.

Mario Andretti who won the Indy 500 once but had several near victories said “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” 2020 has proven that there are things that we simply can’t control and many community financial institutions have been resilient in the middle of a difficult situation. Teams have pivoted quickly and bankers have adapted to provide essential financial services to their communities without interruption. Instead of believing that things are simply out of control, bankers have channeled their inner Mario Andretti – working hard to drive success as well as support the communities they serve.

This Sunday, as the field of 33 take to the track and the iconic announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines” is made, there’s no doubt that it will feel different. But as I watch “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on TV instead of from the stands in the 4th turn, I can’t help but be proud of how our clients and many other community banks and credit unions have gone above and beyond to serve their communities over the last several months. Don’t run out of gas now – here’s to crossing the finish line strong!

Topics: industry trends