Why raising a child is like building a bank.
“Raising children is a creative endeavour, an art rather than a science” Bruno Bettelheim.
My son was 21 months old when I started working at Atom. And as the last seven months have ticked by, the similarities between building a bank and bringing up a small person have resonated with me time after time. I’ll stay away from the trite and obvious analogies about sleepless nights and teething problems – because for me, this journey is proving to be a much more fundamental one.
Like many parents, my wife and I have made a conscious decision to instil strong values in our son – respect, good manners, kindness, empathy. We want him to be a good communicator and a good listener. We want him to care about the choices he makes and to understand that his actions have consequences. We want him to recognise that he will affect everyone he meets in his life, in one way or another – and to realise that it’s more rewarding to make that influence positive rather than negative.
So my time with him is precious. I use it to educate him about the world as I see it, teaching him to embrace change and welcome differences between people. I read with him; I talk to him; I play with him. My time with him really counts, because at the end of my life, my value as a mother – and to some extent, as a person – will be based on how good a man my son has become.
And – strange as it may sound – my feelings about building Atom are similar to this. Rightly or wrongly, I have an emotional connection to this business – I genuinely care what kind of bank it grows up to be. I have a vested interest in how other people view it, because like my boy, some elements of what this bank becomes will reflect the core of my personality.
I lead a small team of smart, engaging, funny individuals. Between us, we’re responsible for designing and delivering Atom’s customer proposition. This means more than just coming up with a suite of products. It’s about the way we connect with our customers – with you – through every interaction we have with you. It’s about making your relationship with Atom meaningful, worthwhile, useful and fun.
And I feel the weight of that responsibility on my shoulders. Atom is still small enough for every single person’s input to make a real difference, which means we’re all depending on each other to not only do our jobs well, but to do them brilliantly. Each and every one of us is shaping what Atom ends up looking like, every hour of every day.
This means that, for me, there is currently a fine line between my home and work lives. Spending time at Atom is challenging, amazing, exciting and exhausting; just like spending time at home with a toddler. As we grow this business – this bank – it starts to take on a life and a personality of its own… or we imagine it does. It is becoming a living, breathing entity in its own right; and as my wife and I hope to pass only our positive characteristics on to our son, so everyone at Atom is trying to inject this bank with the best bits of who and what we are.
This means those values I was talking about aren’t just relevant to bringing up my boy. The Atom team is determined that our values – to be respectful, energetic, sharing, pioneering, joyful and courageous – will be evident in what we do and how we do it. That is a challenge. And some days, staying positive through it all is an even bigger challenge.
Everyone expects difficult days at work and in life. My wife and I had an intense week back in April when we agreed we would potty train the boy in a week. I’m not exaggerating when I say nearly every conversation in our house that week was about the toilet. But our perseverance, our patience and our teamwork paid off. We did it – and with self-congratulatory pats on the back - we went on with our lives (our son in his sparkly new underpants). Then two weeks later and completely out of the blue, disaster struck, as the boy went through six – yes, six – pairs of pants in one day (one of which had to be thrown straight in the bin). We felt as though our world was crumbling round our ears. What had we done wrong? Was he too young? Had we made a terrible mistake?
We talked about what to do, re-read the book, went over and over how we’d approach things the next morning. Then we went to bed, got up with fresh perspective and started over. And he was fine. No more accidents. It was as though the bad day had never happened.
There are crappy days in life (in this case, literally) and there are crappy days at work. But self-awareness, careful consideration, talking, listening, planning and striving to do better really do pay off. At Atom, there is an understanding that we’re all in this together. We all want the same thing – we genuinely want to build a bank that works for customers – so we support each other, we make allowances for each other, we care about each other and we work together to do the very best we can.
My time at home is precious. It is my opportunity to be the best version of myself for my son. But my time at work is precious too. Because every minute I spend building this bank really matters. To me and to you. Maybe it sounds melodramatic to say that to some extent, at the end of my life, my value as a person will be based on how good a bank we build – but that is truly how I feel. I have a place here and I can make a difference.
I hope I make the difference you’re looking for.
Image credit: Vince Rago