Michael Diederich, Interview, FC Bayern

Michael Diederich: Risk has to be calculable

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Since 2018 he’s lent his support to FC Bayern as a member of the supervisory board – and in the summer Michael Diederich will become the club's new executive vice chairman. Speaking to members' magazine '51', the successor to Jan-Christian Dreesen explains how he defines the tasks of a manager, what he thinks about transfers of over 100 million and why a “kind of constructive impatience” always drives him on.

Interview with Michael Diederich

Many people are asking why does someone go from a big bank to FC Bayern?
“Well, I was a banker with heart and soul for over 20 years, but my heart was already beating for FC Bayern when I was 10, even though I grew up in Koblenz. Gerd Müller fascinated me – we all wanted to be like him. There are lots of great games that I fondly recall, for example the win in the 2001 Champions League final in Milan with the three penalties saved by Oliver Kahn. Since 2018 I’ve been on hand for the club with help and advice on the supervisory board, and this new role on the board is the realisation of a childhood dream. It’s a great joy and honour for me.”

At UniCredit there was a culture change with board spokesman Michael Diederich at the top, including the introduction of the informal “du” address across the whole group…
“Yes, because direct contact is important to me. On my first day as a board member, they wanted to put me in a single office. I refused and instead moved to a desk in the middle of the trading room because there I could feel the pulse of the team and be a real part of it. I never had to say my door was open - I didn't have one.”

At HypoVereinsbank you led a company with total assets of €300 billion. FC Bayern’s annual turnover is €700 million. Is this an easier job?
“It wouldn’t be right to define complexity or difficulty by size of revenue. Every company has its unique features. I know FC Bayern very well and know exactly what challenges there are in football – and how all our competitors are trying to challenge our club’s position at the top. Generally I’m not the kind of person who underestimates things. In my life I’ve seen too many people around me fail because they thought they could waltz through everything. We’re talking about FC Bayern here – the highest standards!”

Which strategy will you follow in this role?
“FC Bayern is renowned for always squaring sporting success with financial prudence. Everything that’s been achieved must also be the yardstick for the future. I will contribute new ideas.”

This new role on the board is the realisation of a childhood dream. It’s a great joy and honour for me.

Michael Diederich

Could a €100 million transfer be possible at FC Bayern with CFO Diederich?
“There are two aspects here: can we afford such a transfer – and do we want to afford such a transfer? In principle, I rule out nothing in life, but I would always be the admonisher who says: Friends, attention! We also have to keep an eye on the second part of the scale, our profitability. First and foremost, Hasan Salihamidžić is responsible for transfers, but of course we would discuss something of that scale intensively together in the executive board and the supervisory board. Whether we ultimately want to enact a transfer always depends primarily, however big, on whether the player fits into the team and us as a club.”

How much risk should and must a good manager take?
“You shouldn’t shy away from risk, but it must be calculable, controllable. Decisions at a certain level involve certain risks. There will always be forks in the road where you have to consider what and who you give the right of way to. But if we were to lose our economic balance, we would lose a large part of our unique selling point. In the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain, we faced the most expensive footballers in the world – and came out on top. Football is about the team, the spirit and the team spirit. Even I, who’s spent my professional life in a bank, can say that money alone doesn't score goals. And that’s a good thing.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung once described you as “a new type of banker”. Is FC Bayern getting a new kind of director?
“Many people have a certain image of a bank manager in their head, but I don't care about clichés. Because I grew up within the bank, I’ve always known what we are capable of when we act constructively together as a team. As a leader I have to give my colleagues confidence. I'm someone who encourages and supports – but also critically and self-critically questions things when they are not going well.”

Michael Diederich, FC Bayern
Michael Diederich worked for Unicredit Bank from 1996 to 2023 in various leadership positions.

In the newspaper article, besides being approachable, you are said to be conscientious and respectful...
“I always want to understand why we do something and what we can improve. Being respectful and communicative are, for me, the most inherent qualities of a leader. The days of people shouting something from the top of the pulpit are over in our working world. If you want everyone to be eager about a common goal and move in one direction, you have to convince them of you and take them with you. On the subject of conscientiousness, I don't let up when something is important to me. I can be a bit tiring now and then – although it's always about the cause.”

Your career path went from trainee to the head of the group. How important is continuity to you?
“My star sign is Virgo. They are said not to be particularly volatile or spontaneous. Continuity and loyalty have always been important to me. Not because I shy away from change, but I think you need a few pillars in life to guide you – especially when things get difficult or challenging. You should always be able to draw strength from your roots. Consistency also characterises FC Bayern.”

You should always be able to draw strength from your roots. Consistency also characterises FC Bayern.

Michael Diederich

What was your impression of Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić when they were players – and how do you see them now?
“Both were highly professional as players and stood out with unbelievable commitment. Precisely these attributes also characterise them now in their new roles. That dedication, that energy, that commitment to FC Bayern – these are figures who are leading the club into the future. I’m very much looking forward to working with them, and with our board member for marketing Andreas Jung. We all share a friendly and trusting relationship.”

The industry magazine Börse am Sonntag described you as a “team player among the elite bankers”…
“Because I firmly believe in the creative power within a team. By the way, the more heterogeneous, the more efficient. If you stick together as a team, you’re able to move mountains. Personally, I'm also driven by a kind of constructive impatience. You always have to stop and ask yourself: what can we improve, what can we tackle together to become even better?”

In your first year at UniCredit, profits trebled, and you also believed in promoting from within. That sounds like a living example of “Mia san mia”…
“You can’t always choose the situations you find yourself in, but you can choose how you deal with them. I’m someone who tends to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. As a leader I also model that.”

The pandemic shook the banking world – and the football world too. Has the crisis now been overcome?
“The consequences of the pandemic will continue to have an effect for a long time. Sadly we can’t talk about an end to crises – we have a war in the heart of Europe, an energy crisis, a climate crisis and a crisis of trust. More than ever, we have to confront the future with confidence and good ideas. We have to ask ourselves: what defines us? What solutions do we find?”

Michael Diederich, FC Bayern
Michael Diederich takes over the position from Jan-Christian Dreesen, who’s worked for FC Bayern for 10 years, on 1 July.

Are you someone who goes with your gut or your head, and is there a professional and personal difference with you there?
“I think I have a strong head, but I always try to listen to my gut too. I primarily analyse challenge in my head – that goes for my professional and private life.”

You do yoga in your leisure time – does that help you in your working life?
“I do yoga but I also do other sports because it helps me in my job to keep myself and my fitness in balance. Sport is an offset that allows you to clear your head and switch off. After that I find it easier to be creative. I try to exercise two, three, four times a week. I’m trying golf and I run regularly. I run much better than I play golf!”

Herbert Hainer is also a keen jogger. Will we see you both jogging around Säbener Straße on your lunch break in the future, for a chat away from the desk?
(laughs) “I’d have to exert myself there because Herbert, who also likes going into the mountains, has great stamina. Nevertheless it would be a nice idea to do a few laps of the club grounds some time.”

What will be the biggest challengers for FC Bayern in the coming years?
“The challenges for football in general are complex – from investor issues to digitalisation and sustainability, which is becoming increasingly important. There is a lot coming up for the sport, which will change a lot in the next few years. 50+1 is also a big issue. My opinion is that it is not right to rigidly stick to it. Every club should be able to decide that for itself, and involve its fans in the process.”

The challenges for football in general are complex – from investor issues to digitalisation and sustainability, which is becoming increasingly important. There is a lot coming up for the sport, which will change a lot in the next few years.

Michael Diederich

How much regulation does the football industry need?
“The building blocks for regulation are certainly already there. Now it’s about Financial Sustainability being consistently adhered to. UEFA must fulfil its control function and not make concessions for big names in sanctions.”

FC Bayern recently passed the barrier of 300,000 members. What does that mean for you?
“That we have a big responsibility at this club. The fans and members are our most important pillar. At our recent event on the culture of remembrance together with the Jewish community, I met a group of fans who had stayed overnight in Munich after the game specially for our Holocaust Memorial Day. I found that magnificent. It shows that our fans also have a great interest in social issues. I think FC Bayern can be very proud of its huge fan community.”

Jan-Christian Dreesen filled this post for 10 years. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

“Jan is leaving me with a house in good order. He’s done a superb job. My objective is to seamlessly continue this success story – with an open end.” (laughs)

How do you reward yourself after success?
“With a good bit of chocolate.”

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