It’s worth pointing out that this post is one that should be ongoing. I’ve tried, over the past two weeks, to get it into a shape I’m happy with. And I can’t. Because each day my view changes. Sometimes more than once a day. So, I thought it best to get it out there now. I can always change my mind at a later date.
I like a good challenge, particularly intellectual ones. Getting my brain to exercise is something I do on a daily basis – it’s one of the things that, as an advertising creative, I get to do a lot; but I also spend time reading about big brain stuff like economic theory or Chaos Theory or quantum mechanics. I’m not big on physical exercise, never have been. Running, throwing, gyms and all that – they’ve never appealed to me. But making my brain hurt from thinking hard, that I can get behind as a concept.
And right now, my brain is hurting a lot. It’s all to do with understanding one of the most complex sectors I’ve ever come across: finance.
What you can say and what you’re definitely not allowed to say: those things are, relatively, easy to get my head around, even if they’re difficult to apply. Even the rules and regulations governing the sector are fairly simple. The products and how they work, these are too.
For the average person these intricacies are of no interest. But if you’re going to talk to people who do understand them – as I have to – then you have to fully understand them as well. So I’ve been reading, a lot. I’ve been to seminars, watched videos, pored over graphs and charts. And I get it.
What I don’t get is the why. Beyond making massive profits, why would you bother?
And here my liberal heart bleeds profusely. I’m perpetuating (or at least helping to perpetuate) this motivation to be greedy, and often at someone else’s expense.
I keep telling myself that I’ve helped sell a lot of undesirable things in my time, from oil companies to cigarettes to luxury items that few can afford but are advertised as must-haves. But this is new to me, this feeling of… ugliness?
And it’s not that anyone here in my office is horrible; on the surface they all appear to be lovely people. But this intellectual challenge of being bothered by the product I’m being asked to sell, it’s one that may take me some time to get my head around.
Then I realised it’s not necessarily me that could be driving these thoughts.
I’ve begun to notice that the over-arching reaction I’m getting about my new role from friends, social contacts, and ex-colleagues, is mostly negative. One or two have praised me for making such a leftfield move; a few others have asked pertinent questions about why I took the job and what I think it offers me. But overall, it’s mostly been dirty looks. Again, I can only assume this is because of the product I’m helping to sell, not the fact I’ve moved out of agency life and into a client-side role. Perhaps it’s both?
Since I started writing this post, I’ve had a good think. And this is the conclusion I’ve come to: the innovation that was required to start a spread betting company says a lot about why I took this role.
An unemployed stockbroker called Stuart Wheeler began the company I work for during the dark days of the early 1970s. He borrowed money. His idea took off so well that the Bank of England forced him to change the company name to its present form. It’s actually a really interesting story of innovation trumping circumstance. Who can deny that’s a good thing?
So, I’m starting to think about the real reason(s) I took this role: the true intellectual challenge it offers me. I have some ideas outside of my role that I want to bring to life and understanding the financial side of that would be useful. I want to use innovative ways of working to do this (namely using the Agile Manifesto to do this quicker, along with other new approaches to bringing products to market). The role also offers a more strategic approach to content creation and idea generation, which is something I’ve been interested in for some time now and where my role was already going at my previous employers.
And it’s not easy, this writing for such a regulated industry. Not as easy as I thought it would be. Nor is it as easy to write for as it is for automotive, or electronic equipment, or even pharmaceuticals. I think it’ll make me a better writer and creative. Even if I don’t stick with it, I will have learned some valuable lessons.
And the first of those is never take the easy option, it will rarely yield longer term rewards.
After all, I do like a good challenge.