Twenty-four years this month Roberto Baggio stood alone on the soccer pitch of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Baggio, the star-forward for the Italian soccer team had just placed his penalty kick in the finals of the 1994 World Cup several feet above the crossbar, sealing Brazil’s 4th World Cup victory.
A dejected Baggio staring into the ground in disbelief remains an iconic image from the World Cup archives.
Roberto Baggio was no slouch on the soccer pitch. In the early 1990’s Baggio’s deft ability to score goals made him one the most talented players of his generation. Prior to the 1994 World Cup, Baggio had led Turin-based Juventus to both Italian and European championships, and was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or as top world player in 1993.
Beyond Baggio’s goal scoring prowess was his effectiveness in taking penalty kicks. In fact, before he faced Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel, Baggio had assembled an impressive track record scoring 59 goals on the 65 penalty kicks taken as a professional. To put the impressive 91% conversion rate into perspective, present day soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have only managed 83% and 77% penalty conversion rates respectively.
The very obvious distinction was this was not any ordinary penalty kick attempt. Baggio was in the World Cup final and if he converted on his attempt it would allow Italy to continue its shootout battle against Brazil. The pressure of the moment was immense. The weight of a nation rested on his shoulders. Unfortunately, on this day despite Baggio’s immense skill and courage he failed to score.
The story of Roberto Baggio’s journey to the World Cup Final and the shootout reminds us of the path that many families endure prior to engaging us as their financial advisers.
We work with men and women who have achieved significant career and financial success by directing their time and energy to their respective professions. Their passion, drive and vision are instrumental factors behind the success they’ve achieved as entrepreneurs, leaders of public corporations or world recognized academic experts.
Also like Baggio our clients on occasion need to deal with stressful financial situations. Volatile markets will expose their portfolios to uncomfortable swings in value, and cause them to question the validity of their investments. Government regulators are constantly raising the validity of tax shelters that require families to defend their investments. Life events like the sudden illness of the family patriarch will raise questions about succession plans, and launch the need to make decisions to transition the family wealth to future generations.
The key difference however is that when dealing with high pressure situations our clients have the time to plan and consult with advisors who have the expertise to help them make the right decisions. When markets face turbulence we can access investment options and take action if it aligns with our client investment objectives. When clients are thinking of selling their businesses we provide them with the facts of what the financial situation will look like in the next stage of their careers. This partnership with clients reduces the stress and complexity of managing decisions that impact for their family’s future.
The World Cup and other sporting events often provide us the opportunity to witness elite athletes experience the joys and anguish of competition. As was the case at the World Cup in 1994, too often the deciding factor between winners and losers comes down to the slightest touch of a ball. Fortunately, when it comes down to your financial health, carefully drawn out plans alleviate some the complications and reduce the likelihood of having to live with the regret of decisions made under difficult circumstances.
We will be attentively watching the World Cup this upcoming Sunday. We’ll be looking for a hard fought match and hope to see a clear winner by the end of regulation time, because as Roberto Baggio wrote in his autobiography Una Porta Nel Cielo (A Door In The Sky) “Is it right that four years of sacrifice are decided by three minutes of penalties? I don’t think so. Losing that way isn’t right and neither is winning that way”.