Heading out, back east

I am sitting at the Vancouver airport waiting for William to show up at Gate 77 for our flight to Chicago-Indianapolis. Everyone is looking forward to the Symposium which will definitely prove to be a winner. If all conferences were like this it would be a real joy.

The financial crises continues and has me worried on a number of accounts. First banking problems do not get ‘fixed’ by a quick infusion of funds. For those who were around in the ’80s it took time to crawl out from that financial hole. Problems tend to be systemic and are not fixed that easily. When you deal with money and lending, trends tend to be the norm of the day, not instantaneous solutions by simple costly cash injections. Problems in this industry tend to be like tips of icebergs, it takes time to see the whole picture. Secondly the culture of our society in the last 25 years has been one of spending and borrowing. Saving has taken a very low priority. When I hear the ‘experts’ say that the economy will seize up with lack of credit facilities it makes one wonder how much equity there can be when everyone is leveraging what they can borrow for continue. Where is the equity equivalent here? You don’t need to borrow or borrow so much when you have some sort of saved cash reserve. That seems to be the problem, saving or building equity doesn’t happen overnight. It needs to be a way of doing business and a long term approach.

BarCampBankBC 2008 is over

It was a pretty incredible weekend with my brain aching a bit. William Azaroff and Tim McAlpine are to be congratulated for doing a ton of work to get this going. We had a lot of fun preparing and were a little nervous about the things that one does not need to worry about. It all went very well.

When I think about all the different BarCampBanks I have attended, what was the difference with this one? In some ways it was the same. The quality of the dialogue, the energy and passion made by people attending, the challenges served and accepted, what we talked about and what was shared. I was able to get some videos of people who had never attended an event like this. The first one is up on YouTube, Cheryl Doerksen from Currency. This is the usual reaction, excitement about something they had no idea about. It is pretty neat to be able to see this over and over again. You can find more searching YouTube with the tag bcbbc08

Start of the weekend

Just waiting for Mr. McAlpine to pick me up with all the gear for the BCBBC. Hope it is all there. We will probably run out of buttons and T-shirts.

We are meeting up tonight with William, Brent, Denise and Mark, Jeffry, Andrew and Morris and probably others we don’t know about. It has been exciting getting ready and now to think that it will be going ahead. As Tim mentioned, just from comments over a lunch to see this take shape. This will be the 4th BarCampBank I have attended and probably about the 7th BarCamp. One gets used to how things happen and what to expect process wise. But it is always the people and the discussion that give BarCamps a unique colour all their own. I see Jim Bruene has signed up which is super. Lots of credit unions from the Lower Mainland which for me is really a dream come true. IF something like this can be instrumental in establishing a new form, a new process for dialogue and discussion it will be monumental.

I am sure whatever anyone expects will easily be surpassed. Brent and others will be contributing online throughout the day so those not attending can get some flavour of what is happening. My trusty Nikon and newly arrived Texas Flip Mino are fully charged waiting to record the moments for posterity. I envy those who have never attended for all that adrenaline they are going to be using up. Fasten your seat belts, full speed ahead.

One excellent presentation

Today I was at the Doxim seminar at the Waterfront in Vancouver. Jeffry Pilcher was there and delivered his 11Cs of Breakthrough Branding.

I don’t know how many presentations I have sat through in my lifetime. Does anyone? With 30 years in business though it is in the hundreds. Every once in awhile you attend one that puts the others to shame. Today Jeffry’s was in the Top 10. The material was great, the presentation was awesome and above all, the passion about the subject was real. It was outstanding.

The most interesting C for me was Culture. He spoke of how it had to permeate an organization from top to bottom. He gave examples of how this was done. To me culture is like the heartbeat of company. Without it even the best of plans and intentions will usually amount to nothing. The easiest way to find out is have someone who has never visited your branch come in and sit and watch the activity of the staff and the interaction with the member/customer. Ask them what they thought. They will tell you very quickly what they observed and what they felt. If it is there people will notice it. You don’t measure culture, you experience it. Jeffry brought this to play in what he said. It was neat.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of Jeffry’s speaking engagements don’t hesitate. You will not only learn something but he will put into words and patterns what you probably have been thinking about all along but just weren’t able to articulate it as well as this gentleman.

Financial meltdown

While driving home tonight I heard a Texas professor on the CBC talking about what has been happening on Wall Street these past few days. He spoke of a model that was broken and not working. He then mentioned the return to an older model where banks would hold their mortgages until the person having them repaid them. What a novel concept! To actually know the person you are lending to and to hold the debt with a charge on the property for the full amortization period!

For all 66 years of the credit union I work for this is the model that they have and it has served them well. Oh it isn’t glamourous and you can’t grow by 10% per year but it is safe and it is secure and after the last few days that is what a few people on the street didn’t consider very important.

Where it goes from here is anyones guess. The last bad economic time that we had with depleted housing prices, inflation and loss of jobs was the early 80’s. That would mean that anyone who is 40 years old or less didn’t live through that time as an economic entity i.e. too young to have a job. No one wants a return to those times. The problem is that a younger generation has lived in a constant growth and prosperity era. What goes up sometimes comes down. I wonder how most will manage if indeed it does get worse. Aesop had a fable about the tortoise and the hare. It is always interesting to see who won that race.

The miscellaneous Sunday

This morning Marjun and I decided to head down to Commercial Drive. For those that don’t know Commercial Drive it used to be an Italian community when I grew up, well it still is, but it has changed to a very eclectic type of neighbourhood. It had the Fringe Festival years ago and is made up of small, unique, independent businesses. The Starbuck and Subways of the world may exist but wouldn’t thrive in this community.

We took the Skytrain down and had brunch at Wazubees. A great little, well not so little, restaurant that serves good food. Your coffee always comes with a small glass of water on a metal tray. Replenish the fluids you know. After brunch we headed dow to the Fair Trade Shop to pick up a kilo of raw sugar. I’ve become addicted to this stuff over the years. It is brown and not granulated. Marjun picked up a set of the World Community cookbooks there. It is a set of three cookbooks which includes our old favourite “More with-Less”. As we headed back to the Skytrain we ran into the Azaroff and Cottingham families. It was great to see them and we had an ever too brief visit. That is what makes the Drive so different, the people you see down there and usually the people you run into down there.

We said goodbye to William, Amy and Ivan and headed into the Audiophile (used CDs and LPs). This is one of my favourite places to find hard to find music. (Zulu being the other one). Within 5 minutes I had three great finds.

• Sid n Susie Under the Covers – a Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs compendium of some 60’s pop music. They keep the memory of the music in a new age pop style.
• Elliot Smith’s – Figure 8
• 10,000 Maniacs – Campfire Songs

Back to the Skytrain, heading home, we stopped at the Rupert Station and a bicyclist was just getting in the door when it started closing in on his front wheel. There was an attendant standing at the other door who stuck her foot in the door to keep it open. He politely asked if he could get in. She shouted out “No, get the next one.” I figured it must have been the end of her shift and she wanted to get home or she was pissed off at someone and this poor guy was going to be her target. If the Skytrain was a commercial enterprise I would stop buying its product. Free market principle. But this is a public transit system so what is the alternative? Funny there was a small poster on the train that said “Please keep the Skytrain clean, it is your Skytrain.” Yeah sure.