FEATURE1 July 2009

Double Lives – Roger Banks


Researchers reveal how their out-of-hours pursuits impact on the 9-to-5. This month it’s Roger Banks, managing director of Incite, and also a gliding instructor at the London Gliding Club.

Tell us about your day job
I’m managing director at Incite, an agency specialising in branding, segmentation and innovation research for a range of clients from FMCG to technology. Most of our work is international and I’m writing this in my hotel room in Delhi. I work mainly with technology, financial services, household products and alcoholic beverage clients.

Now tell us about your other life
I fly gliders for fun and I’m also a basic instructor at the London Gliding Club. I’ve owned a number of gliders over the years, but my current one is a two-seater machine, as I like flying with others. I also fly competitively with my syndicate partner, Phil.

Which came first?
Gliding. I’ve been doing it since I was 14 and went solo at 16.

How do you fit the two around each other?
It’s sometimes hard, especially given my travel schedule. Basically going gliding takes a whole day, so it can eat into your weekend. Luckily I have a very understanding wife who plays golf while I glide.

Are you ever tempted to go and teach gliding full time?
That would be great, but it’s something you do for the love, not the money - I’ve still got one more son to get through university! Full-time instructing is a retirement dream.

What does being a gliding instructor offer you that research doesn’t?
It offers a complete escape from day-to-day work pressures, because it requires total concentration. It also gives me a real appreciation for the natural world, whether it’s looking for heat sources on the ground or soaring in a thermal with buzzards.

What does research offer you that teaching gliding doesn’t?
Gliding can be pretty solitary. Although there is a great sense of community at my club, most of the time people fly by themselves. Research, on the other hand, is far more collaborative and social.

What does research teach you that you can use as a gliding instructor?
There’s a strong intellectual thread running through both research and gliding. There’s a lot going on when you’re up in a glider, whether it’s keeping an eye on the weather, avoiding restricted airspace or working out how much height you need to get to your next turning point. Research provides you with the analytical rigour to help you make quick decisions when you’re in the air.

What does being a gliding instructor teach you that you can use as a researcher?
Patience! It never ceases to amaze me that young guys think it’s going to be so easy, and that they don’t need to listen. They get into a glider and suddenly they think they’re in some sort of Top Gun dog fight, failing to appreciate that Maverick is actually my alter ego. Give me female students any day.

What do your research colleagues say when you tell them about your other life?
They tend to think it’s really nerdy. That is, until I take them up and demonstrate some aerobatics.

What do your gliding students say when you tell them you’re really a researcher?
Most of them assume I’m a full-time instructor, so they’re surprised to hear I do anything else. Those who do ask what I do for a living generally glaze over when I mention market research.

… And if you had to give up one of your two lives, which one would it be?
Now that’s like asking me which of my limbs I’d like to have removed! But having said that, at some point I will give up research and still be flying gliders…