What a week

Sometimes you get just one of those days where it seems the day begins and ends in one quick and sweeping motion. Then it begins again and again. Pretty soon it adds up to a week. It was busy for the 7 days and now I realize no blog entries or even time for writing. But summer seems to have arrived here on the West Coast and everything moves outside. So from the patio and thanks to wireless blogging gets to be easy.

My wife listens to CBC religiously every morning and has done so for years. From 6:00 am until we leave for work at 8:00 am every morsel of the Early Edition is taken in. On Tuesday Marjun went to help her class at a camping site. So I thought to break the habit, no CBC while she is gone. Then an e-mail arrives this morning from a colleague saying “it was great to hear you on CBC at 6:25 am this morning!” Aaaarghhhh… Tod Maffin had recorded some of the presentations at last week’s DemoCampVancouver and I guess I was a small bit of the 4 minutes he presented. So the one time I could have really shocked my wife passes. But maybe it’s a good thing. I would probably have been shaving and who knows how much damage a razor can make when one is startled.

The dollar is getting stronger and there is talk about an interest rate increase. Looks like the mortgage rates have already factored that in. Given the high cost of real estate in our area a few hikes are going to have a greater effect than in the past. That along with higher gas prices should start to have some effect. But people usually take some time to realize changes like this. Someone once told me that a long freight train will take a mile to stop. Our economy is very much like that. Whatever changes now takes some time to have any effect. It would seem that this time the effect will be much stronger than the past given the higher real estate debt more people are carrying.

Dates for BarCampSeattle have been set at July 21 and 22nd. This should be a very interesting event and from the list of people coming there is going to be some great stuff coming out of it. BarCamps are intense, sort of like the Olympics of Seminars. If you have never been to one it is well worth it. What did Jimi say “Are you Experienced?”



Went to the DemoCamp this evening and like Nancy twittered, half the blogging meet-up was there. It was enlightening to hear and meet so many people with a true passion for what they are doing. There was such a positive tone set with each presentation. And the questions to the presenters were quick and to the point. And it all happened in Gastown. Boris and Kris announced the next one will be July 7th with possibly a different format. Boris promised a write up of the event, something Rebecca has already done an excellent job of.

James Sherret, Vince Hodges and I had a quick discussion on managing ones cash flow by incorporating different accounts into one projection. We arrived at a similar ending, every finanical institution has some different gatekeeping method to make it almost impossible as a one-click method. Account aggregation is like the never ending story.

Rex = King

Here is something new that I have not seen before. Rex & Co. have an agreement where you convert home equity into cash. The “loan of cash” is paid back when you sell your home or in 50 years whichever happens first. You pay no interest or make any payments, you pay at the end of the agreement. You are selling a portion of your equity in the home. That could amount to much more than what you received in cash at the start of the agreement. What would you call that?

William brought up Seth Godin’s “Blow up your homepage” entry. What do people expect when they click a URL? First and foremost it would have to be information. Either that page sign.gifmoves them through an entry point or they can click/search for further information. It would seem to be like an encyclopedia. You look up the entry, get the volume and start scanning the information to see what is relevant, look at the acknowledgements and proceed. Using the Oxford English Dictionary on-line gives you a similar experience without turning pages. You can just search and click. There are two keys here.

  • A focus on what you want, exactly. They say that to get the answer you have to form the proper question.
  • A good search facility for your site. The best sites have search results highlight the phrase when you move to the different pages.

All of that said Seth has said something that won’t go away easily. What should a homepage look like?

The eternal quest for an algorithm

There is an interesting article on Improving New Account Opening that has some great points, all valid. But we seem to be talking in circles at times. We develop something and the bad guys develop something that defeats what we have built, then we develop something and the bad guys develop… well you get the message.

Maybe we need to step back a bit. We are always attempting to develop some solution that is a complete algorithm for our problem. If we can synthesize or boil down the problem into a totally logical fashion then we can program it and this technique will solve the problem. Most times this works but then the problems occur with the exceptions. Those things that we haven’t thought of in a totally logical fashion. There is always the random point of existence. That is life. Personally that is the beauty of life. Business wise that may be the problem you end up dealing with.

Can we handle problems only through algorithms? Yes but only to a certain point. For larger organizations it is vital to do this, for smaller ones they have an advantage in using the human factor. We need to use our human facilities to handle what the algorithm can’t. Now if we are dealing with costs we choose the least cost method, business is business. But if we are building a business on relationships, on word of mouth marketing, on giving service that one can be proud of, then the least cost method doesn’t work. We need to be able to manage those situations on a personal basis. Without the intervention of a person when needed, people will say you are just like the rest of the businesses that they have had to deal with and don’t care. And that doesn’t make them very happy. Maybe that new account doesn’t have a great credit rating but instead of summarily rejecting the application call the person and ask the reason. I remember asking a young person that question. Her answer was that she broke her leg at work and between Employment Insurance, Workers Compensation and the insurance company she didn’t receive any money for close to 6 months. Her credit was “bad” but all her reasons were “good”.

So when you begin to build your model to manage risk consider this — include the human component in the process and in dealing with the exception. It may cost you a little more but you will be building something that people want, appreciate and respect. And they will tell their friends.


Saturday stuff

Verity Credit Union has a great blog with a new look. I can see this being a model for other credit unions. They also have a flickr site. Ingenious! Open Source CU has a podcast #8 done by Shari Storm who explains in detail Verity’s blog. This has some very practical advice to give to CUs about blogs. I haven’t heard anything better. But you know what will happen in some circles. It will be viewed as a fantastic idea, then the sudden fear begins to occur and the naysayers will start and the idea about have a CU blog will slowly die. Death by risk aversion.

Today went over to Foto Fun in New Westminster and picked up a Nikon 50 mm / 1.8 lens. This is a beautiful lens. After using so many zoom lens you have to realize there is a bit of a change in the way you are going to take a picture. It reminds me of the old rangefinder setup. Attaching it to the D50 and snapping away brought great results.

Fish mobile

Good news

It has been announced that a BarCampBankSeattle is currently being planned sometime later in the year.


Credit Union Central of B.C. has announced its proposed new name for the entity that would be created later this year between the Centrals of BC and Ontario. Central 1.  Different but not very original. One can be an adjective, verb, pronoun or noun. Which is it to be?

Control and balance

Mitch Joel from Twist Image made a presentation recently speaking about customers and control. Businesses control the message, product and channels with consumers controlling the rest. This is the healthy balance that really needs to be apparent in our credit unions. Nothing is worse than being called ‘arrogant’. Then he moves into stating that trust economies have to be built.
I think trust is more than building. It is created, and it is created at the person to person level. I have always found the name Customer Relationship Management a bit of a farce. Quick question– how long have you been married? Is that how long you have managed that relationship? It is not management. It should be called Member Relationship Building. (We have members, not customers). This is the long term focus. This is a dynamic focus and one that is created, nurtured and kept careful watch over. It is the opposite of a sales culture. MRB will allow you organic growth and it will make you distinct and different.
And here is the key and pivotal point. You can talk about it, you can do whatever you want with building a trust economy, you can even market it. BUT you must live it, your actions must speak louder than the words you say. Talk is cheap but the “doing”, the action of creating trust, now that takes time and a lot of hard work. Everyone has to actively think to the point of honestly being a relationship builder.
I forget what course that was at university. Anyone remember?

Politics, religion and business

The Globe & Mail had some letter to the editor speaking to the issue of the division of state and religion. We have all heard it before, not much new. But this got me to thinking. If citizens of a democracy demand the separation of church and state then it would come naturally that citizens demand the separation of business and state. Neither the church or business are given ballots to elect representatives so why should they have any influence greater than a single citizen?

Surveys, are they satisfying?

There is an excellent post at the blog modern marketing today. I agree that the word ‘satisfied’ is not a very good description when you are talking about “experience” being your differentiator.

I thought about some surveys so here is a list of 5 choices on a survey and what a person really means when asked:

How has the service been when dealing with the credit union?

  1. Great – which usually means – I don’t want to tell you the truth or offend you.
  2. Normal – which usually means – Why are you asking me this? Do I get to win something if I say it’s better?
  3. OK – which usually means – I put up with you guys but boy if I found a better place I am out of here.
  4. Not very good – which usually means – This place sucks! I don’t know why I am still here, probably because my mom opened an account here when I was 3.
  5. Bad – which usually means – I am a disgruntled ex-employee and want to make you guys pay or I am getting paid for some competitive intelligence from the guy down the street.

The Filene Report Denise mentions is excellent and is a great starting point in measuring the Net Promoter Score which is the benchmark we all should be paying attention to. At the end of the report it talks about the next steps for improving member experience. You can spend a lot of time measuring, you can view and chart the results but what are you going to do to improve? One suggestion is that any effective strategic plan will require “Leadership practices that instill customer focus, passion, and values.” Voila! A key ingredient. Leadership.

So in large part bad service can easily mean bad leadership. Not paying attention to something that is hard to measure in any realm. But instilling customer focus and passion and values? That doesn’t happen overnight. Leadership needs to create the ability of the people working in the organization to what I call “make meaning” in their workplace. The environment must be right. Values statements are a long and arduous process. Values are discussed, debated, argued. Values must in some way be part of the individuals own personal make up. (You’ve arrived when you can say to everyone that when they make any decision that is true to these values they have always made the right decision). And when you do arrive at a common, published values statement made up from all individuals, there is a commonality that as a consequence begins the passion. When someone can make some meaning in their job they are quick to become passionate. Now, how do you measure passion?


I have been using a Mac program for the last while (sorry PC users) that is proving itself more and more interesing and useful. It’s called NoteBook by Circus Ponies.

At first glance it looks like a typical ‘student taking notes in a classroom’ program. Pages turn, the format looks very much like a notebook and it looked ok. But there are some features here that I have not seen gathered in one program anywhere else. And they are simple to implement and easy to follow.

There is a clipping service that you can setup with by using a choice in the menu. From there it resides on your services menu. Pretty normal. But one of the options allows you to clip with an annotation added and a drop down on the choice of where you want the clipping to go. For example, I use NoteBook as my digital inbasket. When an e-mail arrives that adds additional information to a project I can clip the text into this in basket with a notation heading. When I switch to NoteBook I can easily move the clipping to the specific project page but have the added feature of the annotation heading to pinpoint any details quickly. There is also a number of attributes that show me the heading and sender of the email automatically. This keeps that email inbox as empty as it should be.

Another feature that I use is to tag various entries i.e. @Waiting for, @Errand, etc. (Using the GTD context here). Notebook has a feature that automatically creates an index from these Keywords so that I can now work and review the way I want, again using the GTD process. Quick and easy and everything is in one file.

The more I use this program the more I like it and the more there is to learn. Another interesting point, the originator of the program e-mails periodically to see how you are doing. Not bad.

What it comes down to

These past few days I have been thinking about how social networking has been discussed and my experience of being with two groups of people.

On Saturday the church I belong to (Lutheran) holds a neighbourhood BBQ. Everyone comes together to put the food out, BBQ the burgers and hotdogs and serve whoever shows up. There were between 150 to 200 people served. (we are really too busy to actually count so we take the number of items BBQed and figure out how many had more than one hamburger). The location is kitty corner from Vancouver City Hall. It’s like a block party for a few hours. The variety of people that show up is unbelievable. The gamut ranges from people driving up in their Mercedes or BMWs to guys living at a shelter looking for work. The food is free but I can’t see that as being the big drawing card. Everyone had time to sit at one of the tables and converse with the people around them. They talked about everything from Elvis Presley to why the Canucks lost. It was people socializing around having something to eat. It was great to be a part of.

The next day another BBQ at home with friends and family. The conversation moved into who was on FaceBook and what they thought of it. Most began to wonder why they were being invited by people they had vague memories or associations with. One person said they hardly new this girl who was at her school but 3 years younger and couldn’t recall even talking to her. They all felt it was sort of neat but were a bit overwhelmed by the number of contacts they all maintained. We also talked about how men and women communicate and the number of words each gender tends to use. I will not comment on that discussion.

The point here is that human interaction is so unique and seems to be such a random type encounter at times. When you think you can understand how and why people react you suddenly realize you are farther from the answer than you thought. Maybe its the variety of individuals, maybe its the environment of the meeting, who knows — maybe it’s the weather. Social networking and the communcations around it are so varied. It seems that the face-to-face communcation brings people together that no other way can. It isn’t a process, it is being able ‘touch’ or connect with that person in some human way. Someone said the eyes are the windows to the soul. You can’t put those things into a box.

An ordinary day

Originally uploaded by Photo Love.

This picture sort of typifies a day we sometimes have. The lines of authority and what we must do. The clothes pegs (don’t see them that often) our contact points with whatever we do. And us, the dirty sock, stuck right in the middle. Where’s the bleach? I’m going to use this as my desktop wallpaper.

An attempt to answer William

William asked me to expand in this blog on an entry he made May 2 with Robbie Wright and I commenting.
We should not view the competition as other FI’s but as ourselves lacking the development of a website as a relationship deepening tool.

  • Maybe it isn’t only the website but the products that could be an integral part of the website. This is important in the DIY process.
  • This is constant (because nothing will stand still on the web) as we leap frog to better technologies. That is the development domain we now live in.
  • This pushes us to a re-invention of product and service needs in attempt to marry relationship and technologies. It needs to be a virtual human touch or virtual human experience (VHE).
  • Can we create these products and services? YES, but only if we are constantly vigilant to keep tech development along with a VHE. Without this we become a common process, a commodity.
  • New products by the nature of being new will create a uniqueness which can be identified as personal (who else is using this?)

Advantage us, the credit unions!
Just by our nature and history we have a sound base on which to build. Our brick and mortar can only serve to enhance, in the member’s mind, our personal and ongoing relationship as it comes to product and service. These are the elements to clone in the VHE. As William pointed out and Robbie commented, e-tail experiences are to be as entertaining and amusing as personal experiences.

Products need to be built from the person out.

Start with the person, define their wants and needs. You should be able to create products fulfilling their needs invisibly by delivering it the way they want.

  • 24/7
  • DIY (customization). If a product has 12 variables to choose from, then the number of possible ways the product could be ‘developed’ or seen would be a factor of 12 = 78. With enough variables the end results could be close to unique for every member.

Incorporating the Products/Services into personal networks.
This is really new ground and will take some ingenuity on our part. Services that would be appreciated when viewed by others i.e. text messaging and would happen outside the realm of the branch could be one objective. Something that would touch that member in their own world which could be shared through common experience or through a shared virtual site would link to others to create dialogue and discussion. When we arrive here (The Wisdom of Crowds) the innovation and creation will take shape.
All this time the individual person keeps their products and services shaped their way (DIY).

Is this possible? Yes.
Where has it happened? If you have read this far you have some idea.
Where could this begin in earnest? Like minded CUs sharing these sentiments and discussion in a non-political atmosphere.

Well William I hope I have expanded enough. I think the time is coming when like minds need to discuss this around a personal event, like lunch.

The bridge has been crossed!

This morning we brought up the QA site for the XML bridge and it worked! It was amazing to see data updated from a secure web page to your SQL Sybase server both ways. This creates a myriad of new products, enhanced products, member management of products and services 7/24, with much cheaper and quicker development times and unbelievable possibilities.

Any member interaction through the web can now be made in a completely secure fashion without touching the banking system. No security breaches. With our MemberNote product (text message alerts whenever you use your plastic at a merchant or ATM) our enhancements that are completely member controlled are:

  • Turning MemberNote on and off
  • Not getting messages between certain times (then getting all stored messages after your latest time)
  • Choosing a value minimum value for messaging i.e. don’t send any messages less than $10
  • Adding the balance of the account as part of the message
  • Etc.

The beauty of this is that the member controls all of these variables. They can play around with them making the product fit to what they want. Sort of like DIY (Do It Yourself) account alerts. The staff don’t manage any of this. We are calling this MemberNote 2 and have kept the choices simple in order to keep development times to a minimum. There are a ton ideas for MemberNote 3.

What’s next? By combining text message alerts, a secure internet banking site and the creation of DIY products it will probably be left to whatever you can imagine. What does this cost the members. Nothing, gratis, free. The benefit? Creating a niche with products and services in a highly competitive market. This establishes a stronger relationship.

So how can a $38M credit union with 1832 members do this? That’s something for another blog entry. A key point is this — with all the reasons for merging (see The Tiger or the Monkey?) there are just as many reasons for not merging. I always thought monkeys were smarter than tigers? And that is something for yet another blog entry.

Context for change in CU system

When asked for a quote here is what I said for a recent CUCBC publication.

“We can mould a new financial reality for credit union members. We need to be as vigilant with technology implementation as with lending risk. It is imperative that we are aware of the ever unfolding technologies to see how they can be used to better serve our membership. We can continue to exist as small and nimble entitites. Service should be based on trust from knowing our members. You can then manage risks instead of risks managing you. This new financial reality is ever moving and paying attention to the owners who we serve will continue to bode well for all of us.”

There are a tremendous discussions going on now about Web 2.0 and the families of services it has created. Cole Camplese says it best: “I guess that is part of the answer though — people are listening (not thousands) and they are trying to engage. Without us making the time to provide the first conversation starter it wouldn’t be going on. I am becoming more and more amazed at how open and transparent the community I live in is becoming — blogging, sharing photos on Flickr, sharing tags on del.icio.us, and Twittering — all of it is changing the way we interact.

This engagement, this interaction, is creating and changing the way we do things. But will we take the next step? Will we risk changing some core pillars in our institutions? Those that don’t will be left behind.