Another BarCampBankBC advertisement

Tim and William have done recent posts about BarCampBankBC which amply speak of what it is about. I can only repeat what they have already said.

This will be my 4th BarCampBank and one that hopefully will start “to foster innovations and the creation of new business models in the world of banking and finance.” in our geographic area and beyond. This direction is long overdue.

I have repeated numerous times that the ability and opportunity for financial institutions to create new products and services has never been better. All of the building blocks are there. The only hampering item is ourselves. We have created structures that make it difficult to foster innovation. We fail to keep our eyes focused on the end event and get caught up in the mundane and minuscule processes. Yes the devil is in the details but that should not be the excuse to limit our ability to be creative. This event is going to have some very interesting people attending. There are a few that I don’t see listed that will also be mentioned.

• Tim McAlpine – the creative genius of Currency Marketing.

• William Azaroff – the man behind Change Everything at Vancity.

• Morriss Partee – the New Englander whose CU Everything is a wealth of knowledge for CUs.

• Nala Henkel – another smart cookie from Currency

• Nancy Zimmerman – one of the most energetic and outspoken bankers I know, and she has heart.

• Stephen Akhurst – a very intelligent Central 1 consultant, he puts together the Innovation Awards for CUs in BC.

• Denise Wymore- Watch out when she starts talking about her pet peeves.

• Matt Vance – who wouldn’t like anyone from Bellingham?

• Boris Mann – the Drupal guy who makes things happen.

• Tripp Johnson – don’t know Trip but know about the Gonzo Banker people.

• Wendy Lachance – Coast Capital’s mobile expert.

• Kate Dugas – the other half of Change Everything at Vancity.

• Andy LaFlamme – another New Englander whose points of view are articulate and insightful. (Don’t get him and Morriss together for a Guitar Hero event!)

• Brent Dixon – one of the most creative people I know of.

• Dana Dekker – he was the force behind MACUs success.

• Roland Tanglao – if you want to know anything about mobile phones ask Roland.

• Caleb Chang – Caleb wears Hawaiian shirts on Monday, need I say more?

• David Drucker – a GUI expert and an ex-Bostoner (Bostonite? some one help me here).

• Laurel McJannet – she is from Verity which says it all.

• Mark Sadowski – Anyone from New Mexico has to be mentioned.

• Jeffry Pilcher – if you want to talk to Jeffry make sure all your ducks are in a row.

Who is missing? Ron Shevlin, Charlie Trotter, anyone from the Garland Group, Christian Mullins, anyone from Indianna or the Carolinas and a number of others.

Seriously if you haven’t attended a BarCampBank before this is your chance. You will not regret it. Don’t let the $35 registration fee paint it as a non-event. You will come away with some truly invaluable insights you won’t find anywhere else. It is an international event.


Another week has passed and the events continue.

Our youngest son returned to his home in Copenhagen last Saturday after a great one month visit. As well, a friend returned home to Powell River who had been boarding with us since January while going to school at UBC. It is always an adjustment in a home when the total inhabitants decrease by 50%. Our oldest son and daughter are here for a visit for the next 2 weeks and after that we are home alone again. At least I won’t have to watch or hear the PS3 with Grand Theft Auto blaring away. That is another story.

The iPhone is working out very well. The phone has been dropping calls once in a while out here in the Valley but in Burnaby-Vancouver there hasn’t been any problems. The ability to have one device deliver all of the applications you connect with is really unbelievable. All of us at work have now had iPhones for a month and the glitter still has not worn off. There is only one minor issue, the inability to have your SMS mesages use ringtones instead of the stock alarm sounds. The best and most used downloaded programs for me would be:

• Evernote – Great synching with your Mac desktop.

• Comic Touch – Just add some humour because who doesn’t need it.

• Exposure – decent Flickr app.

• Jott – very usable app with the notes feature.

• BoxOffice – never have to look for a newspaper to see what movies are playing.

• Stanza – the best book reader. Great classics for free.

• Shazam – I finally know the names of some songs after hearing them for years.

• Facebook – a very decent interface.

And the two best!

• Twitteriffic – much better than any other Twitter client.

• OmniFocus – the absolute best program for to dos, projects, etc. Done in the GTD style with synching to your desktop.

As it turns out there are 10. There are a few more that are useful at times and of course the web sites that have a great iPhone interface.

I have started planning for the two presentations I am doing next month. It is always amazing when you start thinking about what you will say, how you will present it, thinking that there ins’t enough material. Then you get started and you have to hack it back because there is too much material. You could probably spend an infinite amount of time always tweaking the end result. One talk will be at Forum Solutions Partnership Symposium in Indiana. The other is at the CUCC 2008 National Lending Conference in St. John’s Newfoundland. After looking at all the other speakers I feel like a lightweight in a heavyweight division.

I have just started a book by Susan Jacoby “The Age of American Unreason”. In it she analyses of the intellectual condition of the US. She does not pull any punches. It has some great writing with inventive and sharp cynical humour. Rationalism at its best.

Have a great weekend everyone! The dog days of summer are upon us.

It just makes one wonder

This is the stuff that drive me nuts.

Credit Union Central of B.C. merged with Ontario Central to form Central 1. Here is something from their homepage:

When the merger took effect on July 1, 2008, the combined organization had more than $7.5 billion in assets, with 475 employees based at offices in Vancouver and Mississauga serving nearly 200 credit unions with some 2.8 million members

Good stuff. But when I click on the following

C1 __ Central 1 Credit Union-1.jpg

I get this message:

Our server has detected that you are not using the MS Internet Explorer browser.
Unfortunately, this service is not available for your type of browser. Please use Internet Explorer (version 5 or newer) to access this service.
Explorer can be downloaded for free at: Sorry for any inconvenience.

That means Safari, Camino and Firefox don’t work. If you have a Mac good luck.

You would think an organization this size would create web pages that wouldn’t have to have Microsoft as the only company that could produce a browser to use the site. Yep $7.5 billion in assets with all those employees (who never use Macs) serving 200 CUs with some 2.8 million members (who never use Macs). I thought those days were over. The ones where you had to get Microsoft tattooed somewhere to get a job. There must be a good reason, right?

Small is beautiful to some

Ron has a blog post about the downside of being small. Great post with some definite statements about how small is not the panacea for everyone.

First, small and large are relative terms. They are labels we place upon items in order for us to gain some semblance of order. What is small to some will be large to others and the opposite, what is large for some is small for others. Remember the end of the film Men in Black II?

There is another aspect of an organization’s size that is of a prime concern. How it is managed. You can have any size FI and if it is managed well size, though a consideration, is part and parcel of many other goals and strategies. A badly managed organization doesn’t need size to fail.

Small to me means keeping the organization flat, tight, and productive. It means being able to move on a dime. It means ‘fighting’ with 3rd party suppliers that create expensive products that would force you into a strategy or product that is not even a 50% solution. It means quit ‘whining’ and do what you are supposed to do. Small means have staff meetings where the contribution is from everyone so you formulate objectives that are understood and agreed upon so you don’t need a marketing department to push anything. Small means you don’t have to structure meetings to decide on the colour of the toilet paper in the washrooms. The list could go on and on. It is important that the term small does not get translated in the terms most employ. Small by its nature in today’s society looked upon as an anomaly because so much that we are shown (big) is the antithesis of small. That is why I think ‘small is beautiful’.

Ron and Jeffery are right. You need more coming in that going out. A very simple rule of business. But not all mergers have delivered that ideal and so merging sometimes clouds the issue of what is really necessary – changing the management to at least begin to move forward. Sometimes I have seen mergers to build larger empires of senior management. FIs live and they die, nothing continues forever. Try as you might there may be conditions and reasons that are no longer available or valid to continue.

It would be very easy for the Board to say “we need 10% growth and nothing else matters!” Piece of cake. But when they say “we want at least 5% growth, keep the community happy with at least a 7% dividend, make sure donations are 7% of net income, be sure to continue to contribute to the social capital of the CU and the community, and deliver innovative products that are useful, as well as no line-ups in the branch, etc…well that gets a bit more difficult to manage. Keep the bottom line healthy and you can realize all and more of these goals. That is the tough part. Fine tuning all the aspects of what makes you successful. Growing in all of these aspects makes for a difficult and at times impossible situation. But man is it ever rewarding and satisfying when everyone contributes to making it happen. The biggest enemy of being small? Thinking small.

Innovation and where it comes from

People ask me how we handle development work at the credit union. There is no simple answer or formula that one can recite as to how ideas flourish into a product, a process or a service. You wonder if they sometimes appear out of thin air.

Today was a prime example. Our e-statement project is finished, done, complete. Next Wednesday the interface will be in place for actual use by the members. All the components were developed in house except for the web site interface which was done by Central 1’s MemberDirect people. What does it do? It puts a link on the web site to a monthly PDF which is an exact duplicate of what the members have been receiving in the mail in paper form. For all the benefits it saves money and paper. But then as we talked about it, something happened.

Why not have a link for an up to date, real time PDF statement? If it is the 10th or 20th or whatever date in the current month, why not just click and a PDF created on the fly and delivered. Your transaction of 1 minute ago would be included. That means besides the depository of a few years of statements on your account, you could get a real time version statement anytime. As all of the methods and code were built, it looks like it would only take a half a day to do that. That means before Wednesday of next week this added feature will part of the launch.

But where did that idea come from? From a simple suggestion that with our ability to trigger real time transactions we could move that forward to being part of triggering real time statements. Was it valuable? I spoke to a few people and yes it was valuable. In fact it would make some businesses very happy in reconciling their accounts on a daily basis. The beauty of the whole function is that we aren’t using an outside supplier to do this on a month-end batch basis. What has been built is real time in-house the ultimate IT mantra. Expanding what we can do in real time gives us the idea for another product. If statement processing had been done by a 3rd party we would have been stuck in thinking in a ‘batch’ mode and never contemplated doing it differently.

I believe that innovation comes from dynamic thinking. Thinking how something can be done now and not later is important in what you have to offer. In today’s instant age much is possible by keeping everything fluid. It is important that you work in the environment you want to live in. There is always another step. If I ever have to get into a lifeboat I want a life preserver now, not pink plastic water wings later.