Team player Frank Lippitt

Prague, pucks and passion.

Frank Lippitt learned to play ice hockey at the age of ten and has been hooked ever since. His jersey with the number 13 has never failed him – in all those years, it has never brought him bad luck. Standing almost two metres tall, Frank Lippitt cuts an impressive figure even among former Czech ice hockey stars, which he was recently allowed to join on the ice.

In an interview with the Insight editor, Frank Lippitt, chairman of the board of Bank Gutmann AG, explained why ice hockey is so special to him and why he warmly recommends this sport to children.

You recently had the opportunity to join ice hockey legends on the ice. How did this happen?

This was in fact quite a spontaneous idea that came up when I held my speech at the Christmas party of our office in Prague. I wanted to underline the good relations between the Czech Republic and Austria and remembered one highlight event in Czech ice hockey history.

In the first World Championship after the end of World War II, which was held in Prague in 1947, Austria played a very significant role. The Swedes had practically already won the world championship when they lost their last match, which came as a complete surprise. As a result, the team of Czechoslovakia became World Champion, which gave rise to an enormous euphoria not only for sport, but also to enthusiasm for Austria.

For Austria? Why?

In that last encounter, Austria was Sweden’s opponent and actually paved the way for the “miracle of Prague”, the unexpected victory of Czechoslovakia in the World Championship. The Swedes probably just started celebrating one evening too soon (smiles). Anyway: one of the colleagues in Prague had good contacts to a few star players of days gone by. At the same time they knew about my passion for this sport.

So with one thing leading to another....

Exactly, I was invited by goalkeeper legend Dominik Hašek to play a match on the ice. An unforgettable experience.

And did the Bank also experience some kind of “miracle of Prague” thanks to the efforts of the Gutmann men and women?

We don’t need any miracles (laughs). Only challenging, but realistic goals. One always has to ask oneself the question: how do you become unique? Like Budapest and Salzburg, the offices in Prague, together with the Vienna headquarters, make substantial contributions towards the achievement of one of our core goals: becoming and being perceived as the leading private bank in Central Europe. We have been working on this goal for 20 years. And we are on the right track, as the latest Fuchsbriefe Report and Dachfonds Awards prove. Gutmann combines the two most important elements in the world of wealth management in a very special manner: excellent advice and excellent investment strategies. And this is what we are going to need in order to hold our own in a region with 50 million people with different cultures, languages and aspirations.

How did you actually get into ice hockey?

When I was a boy I went to school in the Engadin. In Switzerland, ice hockey is a popular sport and children are therefore much more encouraged to take it up. At the age of ten, I played the first time in a team.

When you were sitting on the bench back then, would you have ever thought that you would be the CEO of a bank one day?

Yes, of course! Who wouldn’t? (laughs)

Do you today also regard yourself as the Bank’s coach? What instructions would you like to shout at the players on the ice?

The comparison does not quite fit, since I would be one of the players myself!

Let us nonetheless stay with the image of the coach: in your position as the CEO of a bank, what do you think is more critical to its success? The right kind of training or the right line-up?

No question about that – both are important. You will, however, find the right combination only if you know what you want. Only when the goals are clear can you take a decision on how to pursue them. There are a lot of important things between the definition of a goal and achieving it, but defining a goal is always the start. And this is something I also learned in ice hockey – what can be done when you are truly focused on your goals.

As a Bank's CEO you are always in the middle of the action, never sitting behind the boards and a Plexiglas screen just looking in.

Team spirit

So what has the contribution of ice hockey been?

If you want to have a fixed place in a team, you have to realise that the others are also willing to work as hard as they can. Only those who do another practice session when they are already completely exhausted will win a permanent place in the team. At ten years old, ice hockey taught me what “going this extra mile” means. And then the whole thing started to become fun. I am therefore more than pleased that at Heumarkt – not far away from Schwarzenbergplatz – an initiative is seeking to make ice hockey popular with children. I can only recommend you go there and visit and get an idea of what this sport is about.

Is the meaning of “the extra mile” the reason why you recommend that children should take up this sport?

I recommend that children take up this sport because it is fun. I think there is no other sport where physical fitness combined with mental agility and team spirit have such a critical impact on success or failure. One of the ice hockey super stars, Wayne Gretzky, once said: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

I think this also applies to one’s working life. The ambition to engage in lifelong learning is a prerequisite for the ability to shape the future. The professional world and our everyday lives are changing at an ever faster pace. The earlier we, i.e. Bank Gutmann, anticipate new developments, the faster they will drive our success. And, of course, it also depends on the answers we come up with. This is the challenge that I – like everyone else at Gutmann – face day in and day out. And I do so quite happily every day!

Frank W. Lippitt, lic.oec. HSG, is partner and chairman of the board of Bank Gutmann,

husband, father of two daughters, an enthusiastic golf, ice hockey and bridge player.

Having spent his youth in the Tyrolean and Swiss Alps, he studied at St. Gallen, where he acquired a solid knowledge of the banking business. At the moment, the perfect centre for his family and working life is Vienna.

He is a keen listener in talks about careers, growth prospects and goal definition. His focus is in particular on the ongoing development of innovation that benefits the client. It is last, but not least by promoting projects of this kind that sustainable success can be achieved. Errors are an accepted part of the process as long as they are used as inputs for continuing development.
He takes pride in the high quality of the services and the steady drive to improve competencies and expertise, for they are a key part of the Gutmann spirit. He is also happy about the continuity of the staff, the stability of the Bank itself and the ongoing change of generations in the team.

Since a business trip he has been fascinated by China, which has strengthened his conviction that Europe should not be satisfied with mediocrity. Where a thirst for knowledge, long-term planning and the creation of opportunities for growth are concerned, says Lippitt, there is still substantial room for improvement in our part of the world.

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Partners entirely private: Matthias Albert