August 08, 2016

Jeff Pamplin: On his sporting achievements

Jeff Pamplin

In the first of a series of interviews with some of our employees from around the world to discuss their sporting achievements, we interviewed Jeff Pamplin from BNY Mellon’s Alternative Investment Services team in Dublin, Ireland. Jeff joined BNY Mellon three years ago and has a fascinating past having represented Ireland in three different sports, played for Derby County Football Club, competed in Nagano in the winter of 1998, and even represented the Cayman Islands.

Congratulations on your athletic achievements! What sport did you compete in?

Thank you very much. This might come as a bit of a surprise given Ireland is not normally associated with winter sports, but I competed in Nagano, Japan in 1998 where I was the driver of the Irish two-man and four-man bob sleigh team. 

That’s incredible, what attracted you to bobsleigh?

This is all a bit ‘Cool Runnings' but back in 1992 when watching the winter events  on television, I was interested to see an Irish bobsleigh team competing in France, sporting luminous green suits and hurtling down a track at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour. What I found even more baffling was the discovery that one of the crew, Terry McHugh, was a good friend of mine and I had no idea that he was competing. I also thought to myself, has he gone completely mad? He was the Irish record holder in the javelin at the time and I knew him through the athletics circuit; I was the Irish 100 metres champion back then. 

Six years later and it was me sharing a two-man and four-man sled with Terry, hurtling down a track in Nagano. And trust me when I say it’s not as mad as you might think. I was 24 years old and I fancied trying something new. I heard they were putting together a new team and contacted Terry to learn more about it; he said, ‘come along.’ We went off to a bob school in Innsbruck, Austria, where we all learnt to drive – and we just took it from there. We lived in Calgary for a number of months each year, and travelled between Europe and Canada/US during the winter season. We finally qualified through the World Cup circuit in 1996/97 season

What was it like to compete in and experience the events in Nagano? 

Well it was quite a process to get there. To get insurance, each driver must compete a one-week training programme in Innsbruck. So the journey started there, when on day one, I was brought to the top of the bobsleigh track, shown a bobsleigh, shown the steering column consisting of two bungee strings, and encouraged to sit into the lump of tin before being gently pushed off the top of the slope.

There is no way to explain the noise of the runner blades on the ice as the speed increases to a point where you are pulling approximately 3gs and contained in such a small space. The track consists of 15 various bends with varying degrees of difficulty, some of which will have you up to 20 feet up the side of the track, upside down looking to slide carefully out of the curve and into the next.

The margins are tiny between crashing and going faster, generally the closer you get to crashing the faster the line you therefore take and the faster the time. Indeed on my second trip away with the team I managed to crash and break my jaw in 14 places and ended up eating from a straw for five months.

The overall experience of Nagano in 1998 was as exhilarating as sliding in a bobsleigh. We spent 10 weeks in there. The initial couple of weeks involved travelling to the track and practising, learning the nuances of the various curves. We then competed in the two-man competition followed by the four-man.

The speeds we travelled were up to 140 kilometres per hour. To put into context the small margins, the winners in 1998 had a cumulative time of 3min 37secs over four slides. We had a cumulative time of 3min 44 secs – so the margin seems small (7 seconds between us and the gold) but in reality we finished 27 out of 44 starters!

We hear you have quite a diverse sporting history, can you tell us more?

I began my sporting life as a soccer player. I played from Under 15 up to Youth international for Ireland, and I spent two summers with Derby County Football Club in England, training with them and taking part in their pre-season.

Showing my age now, I played centre half alongside Mark Wright, Peter Shilton was our goalie and Dean Saunders the centre forward. So it was a good team but it was during my second summer there I decided soccer was not a sport I wanted to continue in.

Simultaneously, I also took part in athletic competitions, where I won several Irish under age 60m, 100m and 200m titles. I participated in the 1990 World Junior Athletic championships and I guess my finest athletic achievement was when I won the Irish title at senior level in 1994.

It was a couple years later I took up bobsleigh as a sport and after Nagano I moved into a banking role for Deutsche Bank. I was seconded to the Cayman Islands in 2000, where I took up the obligatory Irish sports within the Irish community and began to play some tag rugby. Because I was fast I got taken into the Cayman national squad where I ended up playing for the Cayman national 7’s team. Funnily enough, my first ever game of ‘contact’ rugby was an international against Fiji. That was certainly an eye opener.

How did/do you juggle your sporting activities with your career in financial services?

I gained my college degree by going to evening college in University College Dublin. By this time I was focusing on athletics, and for the first three years of my five-year course, I worked in retail banking five days a week, four hours a day.

In between work and college I trained for athletics. As I wound down my athletics career, I went full time into retail banking. The bank I was working for gave me plenty of time off as the bobsleigh career developed and I managed to juggle college, training, travelling and competing.

I still have a passion for keeping fit, but with no other goal other than justifying my food intake! I train at 6am each day, start work any time after 7am and love to keep pushing myself in various directions. Within the Alternative Investment Services business there is always scope to learn more, and I still try to make sure I compete well at the work I am tasked to do.

Have you been able to apply any of the skills you have learned in sport to your business life?

I firmly believe that a sporting background gives an excellent platform for stepping into ‘the real world’ of business. Many of my sporting mentors have said ‘control the controllables’ and I do think that sporting clichés like this are perfectly transferrable to a working life.

Athletics is a very insular, sometimes lonely, sport where you train alone, compete alone and you learn a lot about how to handle situations, work things out yourself and succeed. Whereas team sports like soccer are all about teamwork, and working as a collaborative group. And every team needs leaders, people who lead by example, make the right decisions and commit to those decisions.

I really believe that every day we come to work, we each get an opportunity to succeed at something, it could be minor, it could be major, but each circumstance should get a consistent treatment, aim to deliver as best you can, do it with integrity and honesty, and you can rest your head on your pillow at night and sleep well.