How ultra-competitive bankers (and their clients), are keeping fit

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Strava banking

You don't have to be thin to work in finance, but it probably helps. From Andrea Orcel's enthusiasm for running up hills in Zurich, to David Solomon's keenness on kite surfing, skiing, running, cycling, spinning and attending the gym each morning at 6am with his trainer, and Matthew Koder's (at Bank of America) apparent thing for one-armed push-ups on social occasions, senior finance jobs appeal to men and women who like physical supremacy. Fortunately, then, there is a way of establishing just where they stand in the athletic pecking order. That way is Strava, the running and cycling social network which allows users to share journey times and health data with others. 

It's not clear how many finance professionals are on Strava. The company's brand experience director Trisha Nieder says they don't monitor the professions of users. Anectodally, however, the app (which has been around since 2009) is full of finance people competing against each other and everyone else to see whose fitness is supreme.

"Strava is all about competition, like everything in finance," says one buy-side researcher and keen cyclist. "I follow other people in finance, and they follow me. It's kind of addictive." He says organized bike rides are displacing boozy nights out in the City: "I've been on two. The only problem is that you can't control the weather - last time I got soaked."

Strava encourages users to compete for 'king of the mountain' (KOM) titles on its leaderboards. Many of the winners are personal trainers or people with more time to keep fit than the average finance professional, but this doesn't dissuade bankers from competing or using the app. After Jerome Rousel, a former head of interest rate trading at ADG, died following a bike accident in 2017, his Strava account showed him cycling 300 miles each month.

Strava enthusiasts say banks getting with the zeitgeist. Last year, for example, Barclays organized a cycling challenge for clients and employees at Beaverbrook Manor in Leatherhead.  The bank declined to comment on the event, but attendees said around 20 people participated (of whom seven were clients) and that there were no winners. "It was all very lighthearted," said one. 

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