What is it with airports?

I am getting ready to head back east for a conference and a symposium. You do know the difference, right? At a conference you confer, at a symposium you collect opinions. Anyway you draw up the typical list – clothes (usually too many), toiletries (you usually forget toothpaste or a comb), camera (you usually forget to recharge the batteries), something to read (that you end up not reading but if you don’t bring something you end up reading airline magazines), miscellaneous stuff (work related) and an iPod (that is never a problem because it is important). Stuff whatever into the wheeled suitcase and put the expensive and important stuff in your carry-on. Your set for the next step.

The AIRPORT. Remember when you were a kid and someone mentioned airports. It was like Disneyland. When I was about 7 years old my Grandfather came to visit us from England. Everybody went out to the airport in their Sunday best. It was an important event. Now I consider airports par with root canals. Very, very painful. Last year in London we had a flight on August 10th from Heathrow. Instead of a few hours by plane it turned into a few days by boat and train. (which by the way cost about 500% more – now there’s a brand statement “Pay more and take longer”).

Now I wonder about how the airport situation will be. The wonderful check in event, the hurry-up-and-wait attitude, the seating space that is ample for anyone under 5 feet, the ample refreshment container (not enough liquid to get a Kleenex damp) and of course the food. Five airports. Five different ways to get a root canal. Maybe alcohol will help here.

Do you want a balance with that transaction?

Today we had a meeting with Mobilearth, preparing to develop the next version of MemberNote (MemberNote3). Mobilearth are a local company that have developed a truly intriguing product — mobile banking with the full gamut of features. The first concept to produce is extended alert messaging. Over the past few years this has been the key mechanism that people see of value. If something happens to their account they want a text message telling them that. The discussions with users always moved to “Can you notice me if this happens?” If you take a look at your monthly statement there are more that ATM withdrawals or Interac transactions there. There are deposits, service charges, loan payments, etc. etc. There is no standard set of what members want noticed. By giving choice and self-management (DIY) to what alerts are wanted the end result is then solved. This process is handled admirably by Mobilearth and can easily be married to our current MemberNote product. The end result will be a very robust and powerful alert messaging system.

The next phase will be to introduce short codes to the product. Basically you would send a text message to a pre-determined number which initiates a query to your account. The resulting information is sent back to you via a text message. So you quickly want to know what the balance of your chequing account is. Sent BAL or BALANCE or ??? to telephone number 604-999-9999. You then receive via return text message the amount.

Whereas the alert system pushes the information to you on a predetermined action, the short code method is a push – pull process. You push the query to receive the pulled information. The beauty of being a small institution is the flexibility in technology development based on manageable transaction levels. You don’t need expensive sledgehammers to tap a pin into a wall. MemberNote 3 will maybe have one more component. But that has to be a secret. And it won’t be sending alerts to remind you to pick up the milk on the way home.

Went fishing

Finally went fishing and had just a great day. Got out on the Fraser River about 8:30 am and spent the whole day where the Harrison comes into the Fraser. It was busy out there. We just about caught our limit, 14 very nice Pink Salmon. We threw a lot of male Pinks back or let the line slack to let the hook loose to let them go. We must have had about 40 strikes the whole day. The weather was great, the company full of fishing stories, and the beer cold. Just one of the best fishing outings I have been on. When I came home it dawned on me. This was only 90 minutes away. Makes you realize how lucky you are sometimes.

Just love those planning sessions

Spent the day and will also spend tomorrow at a planning session for STAB. Everyone has been to these – SWOT, visioning, mission statement, etc. Hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years or so. You know what is coming. But this is the first one in awhile that is a little different. The facilitator is facilitating. He is really challenging everyone and getting things moving. We agreed to a certain process and if someone goes off the rails and starts rambling we can send him the signal to cut them off. This is keeping the dialogue short, sweet and focused.

One begins to see that the process is pretty standard with the key differences being the facilitator and the participants. We are a fairly new group and you get the sense that this is going to be a great group to work with. I think the session could have been held in a garage and it would not have diminished what we accomplished today. Tomorrow should even be better.

Innovation as a secret weapon

Ron Shelvin has posted something interesting. I would restate it in terms of “Innovation is a credit union’s secret weapon”. Just the nature of innovation makes it positive, dynamic and well — who wants to be called uninovated?

To innovate means to change, to make changes in something already established, to bring or introduce novelties, to alter or renew. It would appear that the major attribute needed is to be flexible. Now how many FIs could be called flexible? We are painted and stuccoed as rigid, certainly not flexible. This is an industry that has regulators, auditors, SWOT consultants, and inflexibility as part of it’s character. Flexibility and innovation can be viewed as risky by this group. But now is the time we can’t afford to be anything else but flexible and innovative. So here are 4 simple innovative ideas.

  • open the door 5 minutes before the posted time.
  • make sure a person answers the telephone, not an answering machine.
  • make sure the phone is answered by the 3rd ring. That means everyone answers the phone including senior people (who have also been trained on how to transfer a telephone call to another local).
  • phone and attempt to contact a member before you return any cheque.

Not exactly high points of technology. Just small things that have been changed from actions of the past. The key is that we as CUs have the ability to change, to do these things differently, to innovate. We don’t have the monolithic structure that prohibits us from doing this. So somebody please tell me — what is stopping us? Are we afraid to be different?

Bacn (electronic)

I came across this word in Wikipedia. It is the term given to electronic messages which are not spam but are often unread. They state that bacn is email you want but not right now. This started me thinking about how much material other than emails is marked for future reading especially websites and blogs. Those blog entries that are marked for future reading could be called ‘progs’ – postponed readable blogs. Websites are either bookmarks or del.icio.us tags. (I use del.icio.us but would rather use simpy). The easiest is to use the tagging engine of your choice.
So why do we collect so much information for future digestion? It is easy to gather so much verbiage. In a matter of minutes your collection of articles that are specific to your interest are there and the means to prepare this future reading material is possible. The ease to be able to do this was simply not possible a few years ago. (Someone mentioned to me that a family member of theirs still prints every web page off they want to read and has massive paper files for their special interests!) The neat thing about this is that when you get back to reading this suitcase of words it starts you thinking in a focussed manner. The grey matter is really working hard with such a variety of viewpoints. And you can’t find that stimulus anywhere else. These thoughts and ideas are coming directly from the writer without the filtering of any editor or publisher. It’s like getting a mailbox of letters from around the world, everyday.

So bacn is good, spam is not. One is edible pork, the other is a supposed edible pork product. Funny how pig parts have solicited these types of meaning. Oink on!

So Apple has some new iPods

So all the hype is over and the release of a number of new iPods has happened. Besides the 160GB iPod (who has a 32,000 song library?) the Apple Touch iPod (ATi) seems the most interesting. If indeed it is an iPhone without the phone then it is a WiFi handheld computer. And with the ability to use a Web browser it puts the need for standalone applications in the rear-view mirror, but only for a moment. Web app providers could revamp their Web 2.0 application to this screen size. This will hold some interesting possibilities for the future. The more ubiquitous WiFi becomes, the scale of use increases and the evolving of possibilities speeds up. The need for clean, fast, and small size standalone applications for this device will also blossom. It seems to point to one simple possibility – you carry your computer notebook in your pocket so what do you want to do with it?


Currently playing in iTunes: Bombay Beats India (1.FM TM)

Bloggers meetup

Last night a number of us met at ShaShuka on Fraser Street. It was good to see everyone after a busy summer. John had his iPhone with him so the questions began. This is an amazing piece of technology. It is a computer with a finder, terminal, et al. The screen is crystal clear and John was moving through programs and lists in an amazingly fast fashion. This device will change the way we view cell phones, the way iPods changed the way we view music and digital imagery. Mobile banking with this device is going to put people’s financial transactions in front of them with complete ease. The question is what will banking look like when access to your account can be done from anywhere? How did the iPod change us when we could listen to our record collection from anywhere?

The consumer will no longer be a passive viewer but an active participant in realizing their spending habits. Think of it this way. You’ve set up your monthly budget, your using Wesabe to tag and assimilate your financing spending, you are in the grocery store and pay for the goods with your Debit card, the iPhone alerts you “Congratulations you are still within budget for food purchases this month….” or on the other side “Not good news – you are exceeding your entertainment budget by ….” Maybe we can become a nation of savers (more than 2.5% of our income) with a little discipline and technology.

9 days left

Only that many days left of this holiday? There is a song written by Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) called “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”. There are numerous variations of the song but the melody is unforgettable and really does (where’s that English word?) put you into a space of realizing how precious time is. So next week there will be lots to blog about at work but for now golf, reading, and getting used to having our home sans kids.