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How Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Can Make You A Better Analyst


There are very few characters in fiction that can compete with John "Jack" Ryan. This history guru makes it big on the stock market, saves the Prince of Whales from a terrorist attack, is ceremonially knighted, and prevents another terrorist plot against himself (and the Prince of Whales) by the end of just the first book about him. He works his way up in the CIA as an analyst. The man literally goes on to be the President of the United States. And he is a character with morals, devoted to his wife and his family.

James Bond and Jason Bourne cannot compare to Ryan's character. Bond is cold while Bourne spends a lot of his time just trying to piece his identity together. Both are trained killers. Ryan is an analyst, though he is thrown into fighting situations in the various series.

So, I'm on this Ryan kick. The Amazon Prime series leads me back to the movies which leads me back to the books (most of which I haven't read since high school). There is a ton of content and characters in Clancy's stories. That being said, the books are dated in politics, technology, weaponry, and other current events. Initial books focus on the Cold War with the up-and-coming Ryan new to his intelligence work.

Jack Ryan's success as an analyst has a lot to do with how he handles the information he receives. Every bit of intelligence says something about the situation he is navigating. All that information is contextualized to the person or people it corresponds with. In an early book he hypothesizes a Soviet defection based on the circumstances surrounding a 'missing' submarine and the character of the man operating it. There is a lot to be learned by this.

Here are five things that John "Jack" Patrick Ryan Sr. can teach us about analysis:

1. Follow the data - Jack operates on the information available to him. He draws conclusions from it. The more data he has, the better the analysis is. Just one additional piece of info can take guesswork out of the scenario.

2. Scope in, scope out - The big picture of the Ryan series is the world stage at a time of great uncertainty. Ryan has to work with specific bits of information that have to fit into the big picture. He has to toggle between these views to solve the issues he is facing.

3. Forget or minimize the politics - Though he must take politics into consideration (especially as POTUS), Jack is not driven by politics. It isn't about who he can align himself with or which way he needs to lean in order to get ahead. He responds with his analysis and his morals.

4. Get a mentor - Despite the initial hostile attitude towards one another in the Prime series, Jack Ryan has a boss and mentor in Jim Greer. Greer offers Ryan a path forward in the intelligence community, supporting him with guidance when needed and allowing him to develop on his own as well. Ryan eventually takes Greer's position in the book series as the CIA director eventually succumbs to pancreatic cancer.

5. Stop the bad guys, save the world - no pressure or anything. Jack has a lot to deal with. He does what he can to make the world a safer place. He responds to some nefarious schemes, some of which brink on nuclear devastation. You will not deal with that in your career (unless financial crimes goes nuclear in which case we are all done for). But even if you are not saving the world, you can save somebody's world. Fraud, scams, and other financial crimes can wreck a victim's life. Stopping those who commit the crime is saving their world. This would make Ryan proud.

The term "analyst" does not always get the best rap. Many analyst positions are lower level, but the skill one can learn in such a position cannot be overstated. The power of analysis can influence a financial crimes professional's career at higher levels because they can span functions. Analysts at heart can see the big picture while understanding the individual level. This navigation is crucial for a financial crimes shop to succeed because it links functional groups. So, whether you are an analyst, have been an analyst, or think like an analyst, keep on analyzing.

When you find time, grab a Tom Clancy book, and see what Jack does. You won't learn about financial crimes, but your view on analysis might change.

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