From Lehman to London 2012, Hockey Player Targets Olympic Gold

Great Britain Field-Hockey Goalkeeper Nick Brothers
Great Britain field-hockey goalkeeper Nick Brothers, center, is seen, playing in Great Britain's 6-4 win over Japan in the 2010 International Men's Four Nations Tournament in Nottingham. Photographer: Ady Kerry/Great Britain Hockey via Bloomberg

As Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, Nick Brothers was left ruing past decisions.

The Great Britain field-hockey goalkeeper had sacrificed a chance to try out for the Beijing 2008 Olympic team to concentrate on his banking career at Lehman, setting his sights instead on the 2012 London Games.

Brothers, who worked in the middle office supporting equity derivative traders, watched from the bank’s Canary Wharf office as the Olympic Park in east London was being built. On Sept. 15, 2008, when the 158-year-old firm crashed in the biggest bankruptcy in history, Brothers worried that his Olympic sacrifice was in vain.

“On the day Lehman went down, just after the Olympics had finished, I thought I made the wrong decision,” said the 28-year-old, who’s representing England this week in the European championships in Germany. “That month my old team-mates were visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace while I was attached to a firm that had just filed for bankruptcy. Sport became just a hobby. Everything else in my life was threatened.”

Brothers had pulled out of the squad after the 2006 World Cup, missing Beijing two years later where the British team came fifth. “To play in both Games would have meant another six years of training, and I had no real chance of progressing in my professional career while continuing to play international sport,” he said.

Change of Role

In 2010 that conflict was resolved. Nomura Holdings Inc., which had bought Lehman’s European, Middle East and African equities and investment banking businesses, let Brothers move into a part-time role as an equities derivatives analyst, allowing him to combine his career and his sport.

“I’m in quite a fortunate position, mainly because I have such a supportive employer,” said Brothers, who has represented England and Great Britain more than 30 times. “I went to them to say I was going to concentrate on hockey. I was going to offer my resignation, but they were very understanding and offered me the chance to change roles. I tend to train three to five days a week, and on the rest days I go into the office.”

This year, Brothers was part of the Reading side that won bronze in the Euro Hockey League, the first English club to get a medal in the European competition. He’s targeting gold with England this week at the EuroHockey Nations Championship in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

Brothers watched from the sidelines yesterday as the 2009 winner England, ranked fourth in the world behind Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, began its title defense with a 4-2 win against Ireland. Today England plays its second group game against the Netherlands, a side it beat 2-1 in the semifinals of the 2009 tournament.

Potential Disappointment

“The Euros are a very big challenge for us,” Brothers said before the tournament. “It’s the last big test before London, the last time we’re playing the best teams for a trophy in a high-pressure environment. We’re also all playing for our places for the Olympics. The Great Britain squad has 25 in it now but only 16 can play in London. We won’t know if we’re in until the week before.”

Brothers says he’ll do “a lot of work on the field this year, but perhaps not so much in the office.” Still, he’s sure he’ll want to return to finance after London 2012, where the Great Britain men’s team will aim to add to the four medals, including one gold, it has won since the British Hockey Board was formed in 1948.

“When London is done and dusted and we’ve hopefully been successful, I can start full-time again in September 2012,” he said. “Investment banking is the closest environment you can get to professional sport without playing it. It’s much more enjoyable to be outside running about, but it’s still great going into the office knowing no two days will be the same.”