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Learning to “use the minutes” from the banker Siegmund Warburg.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

I always wonder how some business people accomplish so much more than others. Every day has for all of us the same amount of hours. However, we can learn from a banker Siegmund Warburg. Especially his motto – "Use the minutes" - has stuck in my mind.


As you are aware, training young people starting out in their career is particularly dear to me. Where will they draw their knowledge from? Apprenticeship training, business school or university are in my opinion not sufficient . Reading biographies has on many occasions paid off for me. Who, for example, cares about the fundamentals of the banking industry. Two books stand out for me to get a basic understanding.

 

The rise of the House of Rothschild " by E.C.Conte Corti, from 1953. And exactly 40 years later: " The Warburg. Odyssey of a family "by Ron Chernow, published in 1993. Who has the time and energy to fight their way through hundreds of pages, to better understand what it really means to be a banker or an exceptional banker. Just reading old literature opens the mind and broadens our horizons to use today.

 

Siegmund George Warburg (1902 – 1982) was an outstanding personality of the Warburg clan. He came from a rather impoverished branch of the family and worked as a clerk in the Warburg bank in Hamburg. In 1934 he emigrated to London. There he founded in 1946 together with his companions Henry Grunfeld the investment bank "SG Warburg ". The Bank was established in 1995 and sold to the Swiss Bank Corporation and later renamed as SBC Warburg.

 

As a total outsider and newcomer to the City Siegmund Warburg and Grunfeld revolutionised banking in London. They are considered to be the inventors of modern investment banking. At the that time, London was thought of as the center for the old style of Merchant Banks.

The typical partner in a merchant bank used to manage his own fortune, would begin work at 10:30 AM, and after a heavy business lunch go home

at 3:30 PM.

 

The list of achievements and financial innovations by the SG Warburg Bank is long and impressive. The expansion of the Bank was achieved

with an enormous daily workload. Three "points" in the management style of Siegmund Warburg especially impressed me:

 

No employee was hired without obtaining the evaluation by a graphological expert. The report came from an expert in Switzerland.

Whether one believes in graphological analysis or not, is not the point. Siegmund Warburg had his "shop" structured from the bottom up

with emphasis on the assessment of character, strengths and weaknesses of his staff. I am sure we would now be a shocked if we knew what current criteria are used by most companies to hire employees.

 

Siegmund Warburg introduced a system that customers were always received or visited by two employees of his bank. On the one hand two heads are better than one, on the other hand you always find differences of opinion when only one person is involved. In addition, the customer relationship could be continued without difficulty when a customer service representative left the bank or was promoted. Nowadays we see frequent changes of bank advisers or entire teams going from one bank to another, with the corresponding breakdown in communications with the client, it really makes me wonder....

 

When asked about the secret of coping with a huge workload, Siegmund Warburg suggested: "Use the minutes". A simple idea, in itself. During the course of a working day a lot of small time slots are lost. Depending on the profession, there are, for example, unnecessary phone calls that are accepted at the wrong time. Or the call could be delayed. The time wasted waiting for clients who do not show up on time. The slow start until you get into gear in the morning. Appointments that take up more time than planned. Failing to use the calendar and organise travel etcetera. The list goes on, and I think you will notice a lot of this, if you ever go through your own daily routine while keeping this in mind.

 

A simple trick I use which I find helpful: I set my alarm in advance when dealing with business matters which increases my productivity. One can read undisturbed

and without distraction until the alarm goes off, instead of looking umpteen times at the clock or quitting before you are finished.

No hassles, your work will flow seamlessly from one task to another. That is what it is all about. And if you do take a break, then you will also enjoy and benefit 100% from that break.

 

Review your work flow in this way by following Siegmund Warburg's example who used this to completely overhaul the banking culture in London.

You, too, may profit from this.