TORONTO - There are more transferable skills between freestyle skiing and banking than most would think.
That's especially true if you've competed at a world-class level and endured the constant struggle of trying to cover the costs — a life three-time Canadian Olympian Jeff Bean lived for more than a decade before retiring from the sport in 2007.
"You don't do it for the money," Bean said Friday. "I had a good working knowledge of the banking system because I had to go in to ask for lines of credit to be able to ski. Some years (cost) $40,000 — when you're gone 10 months a year and trying to make this work it's hard to generate that kind of money."
Since putting away his skis, Bean has learned quite a bit more about banking and currently serves as the manager of an RBC branch in his hometown of Ottawa.
It's an unlikely career path that opened up to the 34-year-old because of RBC's sponsorship of amateur athletes. On Friday, the bank officially renewed its commitment to the Canadian Olympic Committee along with Hudson's Bay Co. by signing new deals that stretch past the 2012 Games.
Gord Nixon, the chief executive officer of RBC, jokingly apologized to Bean during Friday's announcement for not being able to offer him a more exciting career. In reality, the company has given him exactly what he was looking for.
"If you'd asked me when I was competing — or even three years ago — if it was something I would do, I probably would have said 'I don't know about that,"' said Bean. "But RBC just opened up the doors. ...
"(I like) the people part and the actual coaching part of it. There's a real coaching culture within the bank, it's a word that's used throughout RBC. They've really taken on a sports model of management."
Bean earned 17 World Cup podiums during his freestyle skiing career and finished second at the 2005 world championship behind fellow Canadian Steve Omischl. He also competed in three Olympics, narrowly missing the podium in Salt Lake City by finishing fourth.
Burned out by the travel and training demands required by the sport, he decided to walk away in 2007 while still among the top five in the world. It was a decision some questioned, especially since it meant passing up the opportunity to compete at the Vancouver Games.
"I was ready for something new," he said. "I mean, you give so much of your life to be an athlete — you give up so much being away from your family, being away from everything."
He initially enrolled in an undergraduate law program but that was interrupted when he and his wife started a family. The job opportunity with RBC grew out of a relationship that began during the torch relay ahead of the 2010 Games.
Bean, now a father of two, will celebrate his one-year anniversary as a bank manager next week.
"It took a lot of work," he said. "When you hear it, it sounds like I just stepped off the hill and into a job with the bank. You know, it was a lot of planning and a lot of hard days figuring out what I wanted to do."
His first career as an aerialist took him around the world and left him with debts he's still repaying. But he wouldn't change a thing.
"It's been a stressful time, but now I'm in a really good place," said Bean. "Life is good."