Sep 18, 2016
CME Group Leadership Series: Heath Harvey, Saracens CEO
Sports and business abound with the successes and failures of organizational leaders. In both examples, the importance of motivating groups of people towards a common goal is the lifeblood of prosperity. This is best exemplified in the world of sports by rugby players doing battle at the highest level. Members of the CME Group-sponsored Saracens Rugby Club have provided insights into the characteristics of leaders, from inside the scrum to the front office.
Q: Saracens and CME Group each share an impressive history dating back to the 1800’s. How do you see the partnership working today, and hopefully into the future as well?
HH: Saracens as a brand is one of the most well-known rugby brands in the world. It’s synonymous with high levels of performance and being very much at the top of our game. We hope that, with any partner we work with, these things rub off both on their staff on the local level and their brand on an international level. When it comes to CME Group, we know that they are a house of brands and they would like to become a branded house, which is the objective that we aim to achieve through carrying the CME brand in a prominent position on our shirts as we travel around Europe playing in the European Champions Cup. And the U.K., of course — we’re a London-based team, where people in the financial district have a love of rugby, and we’re the closest club to the city. We hope we can help CME Group to take their brand forward, more so with every year they partner with Saracens.
Q: What does it feel like to have become CEO of a club coming off such a successful year?
HH: It’s an enormous privilege, first and foremost, to come into the reigning champions, but it’s also pressure. People can say “the only way is down”, but we have unfinished business as a club. Retaining the Aviva Premiership and winning the European Champions Cup was wonderful, but it’s not something you dine out on for the next 12 months, and we don’t rest on our laurels. They were both wonderful victories, and they’ve been put to bed, but the next season comes along and we’d love to be the reigning champions again. When that’s done we’ll focus on the next thing. There was a lot of pressure coming into the job, but it’s a growing sport — putting Saracens away for a minute — you’re going into a sport that people are embracing more and more. People are wanting commercial relationships and partnerships with us, and we’ve got a greater footprint than any rugby club out there in the world. From that perspective, there is great opportunity. We have brands approaching us now from around the world, asking to partner with us. We’ve stopped having to sell ourselves, and now people are trying to sell themselves to us. The focus for me is definitely on building the brand and making sure as we go into the next one-, three- and five-year plans for the business, that we have the best training facilities in the world — facilities that will attract the best players and retain the best players … to use them as a retention and recruitment tool. We achieve amazing things today with incredible people, but facilities [are] a big focus for me.
Q: How do your leadership style and former job at Wembley translate to the world of professional rugby?
HH: On a rugby pitch, everyone has a job to do and you can’t work as a bunch of individuals; you must pull together as a team so as to complement each other. I don’t think my leadership style is terribly different than that. You have to empower people and believe in them — give them the tools to do their jobs. If anything, my leadership style since coming to Saracens has taken a great deal of inspiration from what transpired in our training ground environment and how coaches treat players; you have to take inspiration from that. There are some great leadership examples coming from our training grounds [that] apply in business. We have a business leadership module that we call “The Saracens Way”. The Saracens Way is all of those examples of how to deal with adversity and pressure, and how to utilize leadership on the pitch. We take those examples and use them in business.
Q: What similarities do you see between CME Group and Saracens?
HH: The similarities are enormous. We’re both people businesses. Behind CME exists a huge technological background and years of investment, which is a reflection on how CME has modernized, as we saw from the trading floor downstairs [at NYMEX in NYC]. The world moves on and our game moves on, and we’re incredibly proud of being a very progressive rugby club — which is evident at our training grounds where you’ll see drones flying over the players to see the angles of the lines that they’re running. So we use technology at the forefront of how the game is played today, and CME is very similar in that regard. However, we haven’t gotten to where we are as a club in terms of our level of performance because of how we’ve used technology — we’ve gotten here through quality people. The same can be said for CME Group — employing the best people and looking after them well is what makes CME a world-class business.
Q: With the new three-year deal, it seems like there is a great opportunity for Saracens and CME Group to grow together.
HH: We have an amazing relationship with the CME people. For some reason we just click. We’ve traveled as a team to Chicago and New York to visit their offices. It’s just not a hard sell; there is just something about the cultures of both businesses that sit well with each other. When we go into the London offices, as we did this year pre-Rugby World Cup, we find a wonderful appetite for rugby and everyone embraces us. Like any business, it has to be a two-way street, and the rapport is strong. It’s great to have a partner who is as engaged in Saracens as CME Group is.