A Special Mother’s Day Tribute

"I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them." ~ Phyllis Diller

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.” ~ Phyllis Diller

A not-too-silly, not-too-sappy, recognition of the moms trying to keep it all together:

Is there anyone out there who is:

- nursing a future opera singer

- changing a heavily soiled diaper

- threading a needle just in time

- helping with homework due tomorrow, but assigned in the last decade

- making decadent brownies. From a box.

- wiping down the counters

- curing the common cold

- burying the third goldfish this week

- wondering how 13 socks each have no mates

- sending just one more email

- dashing between after school events on a bad hair day

- memorizing Shakespeare while being given stage directions by a would-be Spielberg

- trading recipes for exploding volcano lava (moms, color is important)

- crying at the big recital because, well, that’s what you do

- shopping for formalwear

- spoiling the grandkids while laughing your tail off

- looking for a place to put your head down for just one second, or

- juggling the many other acts of heroism, kindness, totalitarianism, tenderness and love in nothing but a bathrobe, worn-through house slippers, and age and weight appropriate foundational garments?

If so, we love you and thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

2015′s First 15 – #8 – Banking Performance Management

Performance management is always a tough one. There are so many numbers. There are so many models. When we add data visualization and the neverending discussion about Big Data to the mix, it’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it? Mine is spinning right now.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-to-do-list-concept-post-illustration-design-image29879760Instead of going into which metrics you should be tracking, I’d like to highlight several items that you should have on your to-do list, which will eventually make it to your ta-da list. By the way, I’m not a big fan of lists, but the home office makes me create them.

Financial versus non-financial

Financial metrics are certainly important. This is especially true in a financial services company. However, we can’t neglect metrics about time, quality, and culture.

When it comes to time, measuring and reporting on duration within certain processes is relevant. Also, how many times we were on-time, early, and late is also important. This sort of Pareto analysis gives us an understanding of performance from a different perspective. In terms of quality, institutions often turn to surveys and other forms of input from customers and employees. We like to consider quality in terms of how well are we meeting the requirements of various stakeholders from a marketplace, operational, and financial perspecitve. Finally, measuring culture may be the most imporant aspect of non-financial measurement. However, you cannot neglect the way in which your culture is or is not performing to the standards applied by leadership and the board, and even by customers.

Creating a performance culture

“Creator,” starring Peter O’Toole, is a favorite movie of mine. In it, the protagonist defines love like this: “Love Formula. Add up the number of times that you think about the lady each day. Subtract from the total the number of times you think about yourself each day. If the remainder is more lady, and less yourself, then it’s love.” I suggest we are not thinking about our culture as much as we should be. Moreover, the elements of culture that we need to operationalize, we often neglect to do consciously. You hope that culture is realized. Don’t hope. Create.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-time-to-do-what-s-right-saying-clock-quote-words-illustrate-moral-choices-positive-features-such-as-image31478236Incentive versus initiative

I’ve often written about incentive versus initiative. When embarking on a performance management project, start with initiative. Get people excited about doing what they ought to do and not necessarily by what they will get out of it. I think you will find that the performance that is ultimately measured will be dramatically different than what you ever imagined.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve talked about process, people, place, and performance. How and where are you addressing each of these key elements of your organization? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

2015′s First 15 – #7 – Banking on Place

I like to go to places tall, and places small. I’d rather be in a place of my own, but one that doesn’t own me. Place caters to my sense of accomplishment as well as a disturbing cultivation of attachment. We have a tough time letting go. Banking is the same way.

In the financial services world, place underscores the marketing element of distribution. Where will my customers get the goods and services I can provide them? Is it a physical location? Is it a virtual one? For many, this has been the rigor-mortis-making banking discussion of the last year, or two, or five; however, I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Any change in an FI’s place strategy, included planned or urgent obsolecence, involves more than just pulling the plug. Here are some items we should keep in mind:


Bank interior

This is the most illiquid form of place we deal with when making strategic or tactical maneuvers in the marketplace. First, whatever you are doing now when it comes to place (and some would have you jump ship at the next port,) please make sure that you do not overlook an exit strategy. Second, and closely aligned with the first, develop or modify a facility so that it is flexible both in terms of design and construction. Finally, don’t pay too much for flash, and don’t pay too little for function.

Mobile banking, online anything


Get out there. If you’re not out there, get out there. It’s the ante these days. I’m not a technophile, so I will not go on about what you should and should not have. Security is important. Ease of use is important. Round-trip process is key. For example, don’t have customers download a Word or PDF loan application that then needs to be faxed into the “loan department.” That’s just wrong. Reporting is vital.



I like to talk on the phone. That is my confession of the day. Just ask Beth, our marketing and account maven. However, some of us don’t like to talk on the phone. For those of us that do, make sure your telephone experience is crisp, professional, and competent. Crisp requires a stong grasp of the language. Professional demands that your contact center representative speak clearly. Finally, systems, processes, and training should provide the representative every opportunity to deliver a competent call.



I understand that in the social/antisocial environment in which we find ourselves, we often don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, or truly engage anyone unless there is an input/output device available, so long as the device is not a handshake. However, in those rare circumstances that you find your place is in front of the customer, on their turf, make sure the presentation is equally crisp, professional, and competent.


Create a place management toolkit. As part of your annual planning and execution process, you should review these components of place to see where they stand individually as well as a complete offering. Don’t forget…you are banking on being in the right place.

Community Banks: Shift to consumer lending must involve a shift in culture


Last week, BAI | Banking Strategies published an article on consumer lending (find it here) essentially stating that community banks are not well-prepared to deal with originating and, in general, dealing with consumer loans. The article suggests that community banks need to return to consumer lending. I absolutely agree. I would suggest that some credit unions also need to streamline their technology and adapt their mindset to a new way of doing business. Not all of them have received the memo that faxing paper applications to centralized lending is out. Kudos to the author of the article for developing sound reasons for the current state of affairs. In my opinion, however, there is a critical element missing.


How do we get there from here? First, we need a culture change in consumer lending.

That element is a change in culture.

Community banks, typically run by commercial bankers, subordinate consumer lending and most other activities to commercial lending. It is all about commercial. Everything, or most everything, is wrapped around that culture. It’s not a bad thing, but it does nothing to gain market share in the consumer space. If you are going to make the journey to consumer lending prominence, three key changes must be made before you contemplate the operational details described in the BAI article above. These changes are:

  1. From the board and executive management, there must be a rallying cry that commercial and consumer are equal partners in the advancement of the institution’s lending business.
  2. Management must them make the organizational and process changes to transform the battle cry into a full-fledged attack. This includes equality in terms of roles, compensation, and strategic input.
  3. Marketing who you are must change. It can no longer be a “we-do-consumer-loans-too!” approach. If consumer lending does not ascend to being a true equal in the marketing effort, staff and customers will discount the validity of the first two changes.

It’s important to state that consumer lending is not for everybody. That’s okay, too. However, if you are going to make the shift, pay consumer lending more than lip service in your culture and get down to the business of making loans.

Before beginning a branch project, plan & prepare.

Now that we’ve gotten beyond that gripping headline, let’s talk about what you should and should not do before starting a branch network realignment project.

What you should do:

  • Write down, as best you can, why you are embarking on this project. What is the purpose? Who will be involved? What other areas might it affect?
  • Create a spreadsheet. The following columns should be on it:
    • Name of branch
    • Location
    • Open date
    • Number of employees (in FTEs)
      • Management
      • Tellers
      • Platform
      • Loan officers
    • Number of teller stations
    • Number of platform stations
    • ATM – yes/no
    • ATM location – drive-up, walk-up in, walk-up out
    • Document product levels
      • Deposits – $ & #
      • Loans – $ & #
      • Ancillary products – $ & # (insurance, investments, etc.)
    • Number of transactions
      • Teller
      • Platform
        • New Accounts
        • Loan Applications
    • Revenue
      • Interest income
      • Noninterest income
      • Total income
    • Expense
      • Interest expense
      • Noninterest expense
      • Total expense
    • Net income
  • Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm.”
  • Write down, as best you can, why the organization chose each branch location.
  • Form a committee with a critical guideline in place: no decision will be made until the data has been reviewed. There are no favorites, although there may be some obvious candidates.

What you should not do:

  • Get emotional. Always remain objective.
  • Decide before you abide by the rules and data collection methods above. There is no room for sentimentality in this process.
  • Alert the media. Branch network modifications can be a sign of internal panic and external weakness. This should be a confidential project.

A third party can help you keep things objective. To that extent, we would love to help you with your branch project. When it comes to your business, “Objective, unbiased, and discreet” is our middle name. Imagine that on a birth certificate.

You can reach me at 908-368-1270 or via email at arp@reconnconsulting.com.

Go where the grass is taller: lawn care for the banking business

Photo © Jon Helgason | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The grass may always be greener somewhere else, but we really should tend to the tall grass in our own backyard first.
Photo © Jon Helgason | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I know. That’s not what we typically hear. “Go where the grass is greener,” tends to be the norm. Or, something like, “sort out your life and the grass will always be greener for you, miss,” tends to emblazon the pages of self-help books and fly from the hallowed talk-show pulpits. Organizations don’t need us because the grass is greener. They need our help and our acumen because they are typically in the tall weeds, in the uncut grass.

The weeds occur in several different areas. Where we see them the most are in the following areas:


  • Markets are poorly defined; therefore, everything from messaging to products is not clear for each market.
  • Messaging is more about us, and less about them, the customer.
  • There is tons of data, Big Data if you will, but most of it is chaff. We need get to the grain.


  • Simple is better sometimes. Start there with the design, and see where it takes you.
  • Check that. Start with the customer and work backwards.
  • Operations is a means and not an end.


  • Start with the customer and work backwards. That is, do what you ought to do to serve while ensuring you can pay for it.
  • Work toward streamlining performance management, both financial and non-financial.
  • Let finance be a tool to drive initiative.

These are just some of the items that crop up where the grass is taller. Another big issue is the disconnect between these three essential functional silos. You must do everything you can not to let that lack of collaboration be the overarching, life-killing weed.

So, don’t always opt for where the grass is greener. That’s not a life worth living. Go where the grass is taller, the challenge is greater, and see if you can make a difference. Also, go because it’s what you know, inside and out, that’s what you want to do. There’s no need to starting cutting with a dull blade.

Cue the lawnmower.

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2015′s First 15 – #6. Banking on People…and Process


The intersection of people and process is work.

Process sometimes comes first, like the egg. Or is that the chicken? Or pot pie? I digress. People, invariably known for the love of process, oftentimes come second. And that’s okay. Having a simple, elegant process in place helps an organization find the ideal people to fill the roles identified in the process. It makes sense; however, process is chaos without good people.

There are several things to consider about the people component, including:

Concentration on the goal

Goals, as defined by organizations, become secondary during the course of our normal workweek. We often list from one side to the other, never finding a focus. The ability to focus on the work at hand and the process in place is a difficult matter, especially in these days of electronic stimulation. Therefore, we must teach ourselves and our stakeholders the skill and art of concentration.

Consistency of operations

The nail. The hammer. Hit the nail with the hammer and there is energy, there is force in a direction. There is work. Consistency lends itself to making change and keeps things from becoming stale. Now, undoing the deafeningly boring and humdrum in life for the sake of doing so doesn’t seem right. It isn’t. Making a difference through the consistency of the actions of your people leads to work.

Collaboration and respect

Work is great. Great work is even better. The nail without the hammer is diecast steel. The hammer without the nail is a lonely instrument without a harmony, a cadence. And, without both, there is no hole, and without that there is no support born of two pieces of wood joining forces. Do you see? Our greatest gift is not our own work, but our ability to work with others tirelessly, focused on the goal, and marching toward it, with what one might say is effortless intensity. We do it because we must, together.

As a simple litmus test for when you seek new players or to make adjustments with current staff, ask yourself about the player’s potential in the areas of concentration, consistency, and collaboration. Where do they stand? More urgently, where do you stand on their importance in your organization?

It is with much gratitude that I write this post. The ideas and the concept above come from A. Parthsarathy and can be found throughout his works. They are simple and elegant concepts. The intersection of process and people is work. Great work, work that you enjoy and don’t think about as work, transcends just about everything. Finding people that enjoy the work and the process can make all the difference.

2015′s First 15 – #5. Technology and Banking as a Process

In the Wrong Place

With today’s ever-changing banking technology, are your processes in the right places…at the right time?
Photo © Georgios Alexandris | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Technology continues to be the rainmaker in society. Inputs. Processing. Outputs. It all begins with an assessment of the marketplace to gain a thorough understanding of customer demands. As part of this next series – Process, People, Place, and Performance – I believe process represents the headwaters in the delivery of great service and great product to your  customers. Yes, I know, technology and banking processes have been beaten to death. That’s just it. First of all, we don’t need to beat anything or anyone. Well, not in the physical way. We need to design a simple and elegant process. Second, process will drive the subsequent three components. Finally, let’s not overcook it. Complexity breeds job security for those who create it, and in a world where we need more and more jobs, this appears to be rational. Let’s ensure that we aren’t being complex just for the sake of complexity. Instead, let technology be your friend in this phase of work.


To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Covey, ʺBegin with the customer in mind.ʺ This is the most important thing you can do in process design. Any process design. Now, there may be subcomponents where all paths do not lead to the customer, and that’s certainly reasonable. As the design continues, let it do just that. First drafts are written for a purpose, and that is to get all the thoughts and ideas on the table. Second and subsequent drafts are for clean-up. Finally, use a reasonable mix of written-word and graphic elements. All of it should be done with the ʺsecond creationʺ in mind: employee training and customer instruction.


If you are fortunate, the inclusion of people, place, and performance will happen without much thought. Who will function at which point in the process? Where – in which place – will the process prevail? How much did it yield? Yield should also be measured in terms of the customer, balanced with a healthy bit of yield for the institution.


We started our discussion talking about technology. Technology, as I first learned about it, is the presence of a catalyst that converts inputs into outputs. End. Full stop. Digital technology, cat plus meow, enables us to bring disparate components such as process, people, and place, together in a particularly efficient and effective manner. This collaboration, which before tended to be sequential in nature, has come a long way. But, development is still functional in nature and not process in nature. Code it wisely. Use it wisely, I say.

Process review and reformation, which is sorely needed, begins and ends with the customer. Through better design, incorporation of the principal components of service delivery, and collaboration across functional components, firms can bring about better process, and indeed, a better world. Well, maybe not right away, but let’s see where it takes us.

2015′s First 15 – #4. Banking as Reviving: Can I get a witness?


Reviving the community financial institution through giving, living, and believing.
© Steve Mann | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Giving. Living. Believing. As you can see from the key words in our recent posts, we are into gerunds here at Reconn Consulting. Our last one in this series, reviving, encapsulates the first three. Let me explain.

What is a revival? You might describe it, as some dictionaries do, as a time of reawakening or a sense of restoration. The community financial institution is evolving as it continues to provide a sense of place and people in communities across the country. It also needs a bit of reviving. This exercise does not discount the effort put forth by community FIs across the country. Not at all. It begins to understand and calibrate the challenge that awaits, and where our focus should be.

The community changes. Moving from a terrestrial community, defined by physical and environmental boundaries, to a virtual community remains a fundamental component in the massive shift in the industry. Along with growing regulation and unheeded consolidation and scale economies, community financial institutions seemingly don’t stand a chance. Some, admittedly, will not make the journey. However, and with an eye to optimism, some will make it and continue to be successful. Reviving banking is a journey that begins with the following three steps.

Give it your all. Give it without expectation. It’s not charity, but it’s work. Raise the social consciousness of your institution and I firmly believe you will be rewarded, having never asked for anything. And, as I said, it’s not charity. Do what you have to do and move on. You are the catalyst for good in your communities and not just by the checks that you write and the dollars that you raise. Your work is your gift. Your work is your revival, and it matters not whether it is bricks and sticks or bits and bytes.

Freedom of expression and freedom of motion. Customers out there live for these things. Enhancing the life of our communities should be a paramount goal for your financial institution. The measures change now, too. So, it is not about how well you are doing, but it is about well the customer is doing. Beyond that, how is the life in your community-at-large changing? We say this understanding and appreciating that there are other factors in play beyond the community financial institution’s influence in any given area. We believe that your influence is part of your revival.

Delivery is the culmination of your work and your influence. Recheck systems. Update your people, and in most cases, your systems. Better your process. Scale will be an important ingredient in your long-term survival. To build scale, you need more customers. Not only that, but you need your customers, the ones you feel you can best serve. Their belief in you aids in your revival.

A final thought is this: don’t let them see you sweat. In the classic religious sense of the word, revivals, and the tent or temple in which one gathers, are oftentimes places where incredible journeys take place. They are not easy. There will be failure, there will be success, and there will be many days of, well, a whole lot of nothing. Steady yourself and your team through it all, which, in turn, is an altogether different revival.