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.

2015′s First 15 – #3. Banking as Believing: Delivery, delivery, and delivery


You’ve take the reservation. Now are you going to provide the car?
Photo © James Hearn | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The classic Seinfeld episode regarding the car rental reservation comes to mind here. Jerry exclaims that it’s one thing to take the reservation, but it’s another to keep the reservation, to provide the car.

Delivery of services, though largely self-service now, continues to be an altogether frustrating exercise for many bankers, and in turn, their customers. Whether it is at the front of the house or in the back office, the continuum of service can sometimes mirror the jagged edges of a T-Rex and not the smooth, nearly flawless curves found on your favorite luxury sports car. Why is that?

Well, I think there are several things to consider:

1 – We believe, in many cases, that all is right with our world. We have done the best that we can do, and that’s just how it is. Take it. Leave it. Sometimes it’s not even about ego or arrogance. Sometimes it just is. Satisfaction with the status quo breeds continued obsolesence.

2 – It’s expensive to get the polymer fiber curves with the supple leather interior and in-dash GPS. Delivering banking services today reminds me of what delivering banking services was ten years ago or longer. It’s not always the case, but when it is, it needs to be addressed. That takes money. It means sacrifices elsewhere. Sacred cows, you have been warned.

3 – We have to all get along. If all the tires on your rental wanted to go in different directions, not only would you be angry, but, well, you’d be dead. There’s really nothing left to say there, is there?

4 – The focus on redesiging delivery systems continues. Too many times we begin with looking inward and not considering the end user. ʺBut, Arp, you just spent three bullets telling us how much we miss the mark by not having great internal systems, teams, and culture. Why the sudden change of heart?ʺ Alas, there’s been no change of heart. If you see the customer as separate from your institution, then, regrettably, it’s all over for you. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.

The reasons above portray some, but not all, of the causes of poor delivery and low trust from customers. The advent of mobile banking and other technologies created enviroments where many of our shortfalls were delegated to systems. That’s fine. I’m sure that will continue. along with the separation of customer and institution. We will continue this discussion addressing that point in the next installment.

To read our first two installments in this series, see post 1 and post 2.

2015′s First 15 – #2. Banking as Living: Give us Liberty…Period


Freedom is part of the fabric of America. It’s what banking customers look for, too.
Photo © Andrew Barker | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Marriage loans. Car loans. Home loans. Commodity, commodity, and commodity. Everyone has them. One might argue that not everyone wants them. Though there has been a surge in lending in the last 18 months, the future remains unsettled when it comes to loan growth.

As discussed in our last post, Banking as Giving, the genesis and every incarnation of your business model should be what are you doing for your customer. Conceptually, this approach demands that senior leadership not focus on the outcome. Put it aside. Focus completely on service. Turn your entire organization’s attention on the life of the customer. And no, this is not a customer-is-always-right post. In fact, even the most informed customer is not always right. Sometimes he is - and you might want to sit for this one – lost as lost can be.

Why? They’re living, ladies and gents. They’re out there toiling, coding, driving, and conducting a myriad of other activities. Banking provides them the liberty to conduct themselves without the worry of financial challenges. This concept of liberty is very near to us culturally. Liberty and freedom from disruption is key. Access, anytime and anywhere, continues to grow as a customer need. When speaking to a human being, they should be professional and personable, whether on the phone or in person.

This sense of liberty and freedom will, in part, be due to your activities as an involved banker. As someone that genuinely cares about their banking customer, the customer will return to you in spades what you have given to them, which is the time and energy to focus on living the way they want and need to live.

2015′s First 15 – #1. Banking as Giving: In with the noble, out with the mobile banking!

Happy New Year! © Pelt69 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Happy New Year!
© Pelt69 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Happy New Year! I say that knowing that the statute of limitations on that greeting expires somewhere between now and Valentine’s Day. So, before the words grow stale, I sincerely wish you all the best in 2015.

Today we are starting a series of 15 blog posts to usher in the shiny New Year. Feel free to add your comments below or send us an email at clientconcierge@reconnconsulting.com with your thoughts.

This year, it’s in with the noble, out with the mobile. Yes, out with the mobile! We all clearly (ʺcrystal, sirʺ) understand that mobile is the cat’s meow, everyone needs to have it, and if someone doesn’t have it, they’re just a dud. They’re a nobody. There is really no reason that they continue practicing the art and science that is banking. We get it. By the way, I don’t necessarily buy into the scenario that 100% of customers have demanded mobile. It was as much a supply-side event as a demand-side fascination, pushed and not pulled. More on that later.

A more important aspect of banking is this missing concept of nobility, of giving more and more of yourself with a focus on the giving and not what might be returned. Now, having just lambasted mobile banking, I’ll return you to that regularly scheduled program. Mobile banking may be part of the act of giving. But, it’s the giving that’s the focus, the end, the coup, and not the cool code and screen shots of the application.

And all this giving of which we speak is part science, part art. However, I think it is more art than science. Think about nobility. Think about the men and women that we serve in the banking industry. Community banking needs to use the opportunity that this period of change brings to supercharge the culture of the industry. It’s likely that we are entering a period of contraction, but options such as mobile banking can remind us to keep a genuine focus on the customer’s well-being. Not just the latest shiny app in front of us.

Let’s do the inventory dance!

Disco feet

Photo courtesy of Alison on Flickr

Your deposits. They’re on the proverbial shelf. They aren’t doing much for you. Deposits are much like inventory. You need to move some inventory. Can you feel the groove? Can you feel it?

It’s a simple concept, right? Manufacturing companies and retailers alike manage their inventory to a tee. They sweat every detail. When, how much, what time, and over what distance will we need to move these shelf killers? Does the banking industry need to add an element of this rigorous oversight to their daily-to-quarterly performance tool kit?

“Well,” you say, “we already watch the loan-to-deposit ratio like a hawk.” True. Throw in some asset-liability management and you’re all over it. It’s more of a mentality of watching versus actingMoving inventory, or converting deposits into loans, should be the eternal preoccupation of every community banker in the land. How much do we have? When is it going out the door? Who is buying? Where are the target communities that want some of our product? Campaign management is a key aspect of converting inventory into product, deposits into loans. Are you leading the charge?

As you think through this, here are some quick steps in the inventory dance:

  • Don’t overthink the process. Realize up front that there will be missteps and, at times, it may sound like the music has stopped. It hasn’t until you say so.
  • Get out on the dance floor. So much of what we do tends to be about guarding what we have, and not finding our groove in the lending marketplace. To do this, you must surveil the landscape methodically, but quickly. It can be done.
  • ALM has a role. The pertinent aspect of this is that you should know at all times what the mix should be; however, there must be some flexibility. The market will dictate what inventory you should move and what the final product, the loan, looks like.
  • Reviewing enterprise-wide risk is a necessary undertaking. Here are the seven categories, neatly arranged by the folks over at the NCUA, upon which we like to shine the light:
    • Credit
    • Interest Rate
    • Liquidity
    • Transaction
    • Compliance
    • Strategic
    • Reputation
  • You’re not selling. Well, you’re sort of selling. What you are doing is engaging others on the dance floor. “This is our song,” you say. “This is our groove. This is our way of bringing the magic of our institution to you.”

The most important thing you can do tomorrow is step outside your office and discreetly inform the staff that it’s time to boogie. It’s time to do the inventory dance. Oh, and don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Do you want to dance?

Photo courtesy of Bob_Doran

Photo courtesy of Bob_Doran

It’s a question that fourteen-year-old teens fear the most after, “Have you finished your homework?”

“Do you want to dance?”

It’s a question that not only strikes fear, but it begs you to check all the key components of your arsenal before saying yes, or even asking the question. How’s my outfit? What about my hair? Are these shoes the right shoes? What about my hair?

As a banker, it is a moral imperative (Where have I heard that before?) that you ask the question each and every quarter at least. You must ask it of yourself, your employees, your commercial partners, and of your customers. As you contemplate asking the question, and certainly before you’re hitting the dance floor, here are some key components you should consider:

  • Marketplace understanding
    • What and where is your market? This needs to get down to the census tract. Okay. Down to the parquet tile.
    • What is your share of the market? This is not always easy to measure, even in an industry such as banking. And what about loan market share? That’s always a tough one.
    • Do you have the right access points as well as the right number of points? How well are your access points doing?
    • Are you willing to exit and enter markets for the benefit of the institution and set aside your emotion in doing so?
  • Operational readiness
    • Have you put effort into making sure that process meets market? Do you have your operational dance steps figured out?
    • Digital technology is a wonderful construct. It can also be an impediment to making a human connection to your customers. Are you using digital technology optimally? In this case, optimal equals efficiency and effectiveness both in your market and for your institution.
    • Are you ETDBW*? After all, ETDBW is so sexy on the dance floor, right?
  • Financial safety, soundness and adventure
    • Have you analyzed the potential financial upside and pitfalls of hurling yourself out onto the dance floor?
    • Safety and soundness are must-have components in your repertoire; however, doing nothing out of fear of loss oftentimes leads to obsolescence, which can lead to obscurity.
    • Embrace a sense of adventure. Yes. Even in your financial analysis and direction, have a sense of adventure. Sometimes you may go to the edge of the dance floor, but that may be the better path than clinging to the wall.

I’d like to add one more thing here. The parents. The board, the regulators, and the auditors are the parents in our little story. They will shroud you and your team in reasons why you should not dance, why you shouldn’t ask the big question. They may even make you so harried that you want to give up. Don’t give up the dance, my friends. Keep the beat. Shuffle those feet.

*ETDBW – “Easy to do business with.”

Veterans Day 2014

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14325905568/in/photolist-nPW1BS-o7ieZm-cze8bf-nPW2hj-nPVFX9-9hXri1-o7ifhW-dN7rKV-9HwxtQ-nPW4gj-nwUNyy-8PvfPD-a5dWtP-mgrfhn-nuQE6d-nwCfPG-nuQDdw-7UzoSM-nfoKpi-kZZBsP-nyEipM-nPVDU1-drNHhP-nwCe7o-7Uzp7D-9bMZfP-ntepCy-6rvyLM-efMUzz-eBpaqV-nMG5oM-4LNeSr-o5nXmA-nvctuq-o2UzDY-nMD72w-bGPx9D-4VCyBZ-hQCJFt-4wkgCT-nfoJUR-f2AuWa-4Dtfpo-nMG2ZD-9oprPQ-7ycycn-7ygnsm-nvcWfr-aAjbxH-7ygwjC

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart.

It is with sincere gratitude that we honor our veterans today. May we never forget the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and their families at home who await their safe return.

To all those who have answered the call to serve our great nation, thank you.

Reconn Radio: Podcast #31 – 10/27/14


The Scary, Love-Continues-to-Rule Issue: Markets, Operations, and Financials

I couldn’t help myself. The word love appears again. Be it your markets, your organization and operations, or your financial outcomes, love continues to rule. Jump into the mix, into the fray. Don’t squander a moment of time in living up to your plan. Cover all the bases. Markets. Operations. Financials.

Mwahahahahaa! (That was for effect.)



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