Flag Day 2015

Oh, every heart beats true for the red, white, and blue.

Oh, every heart beats true for the red, white, and blue.

“We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth, peace, security, liberty, our family, our friends, our home. … But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.” - President Calvin Coolidge

Five fast facts for Flag Day can be found here, courtesy of the USO.

Memorial Day 2015

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-symbols-america-image4813009“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” -John F. Kennedy

It is with sincere gratitude that we remember those who gave their lives to obtain and preserve the freedoms that we enjoy today.

A Word to 2015 Graduates

It’s graduation season, and all across the country, members of the Class of 2015 are taking that walk across the stage, beaming with pride and experiencing the thrill of, “I am so glad THAT is over with. Now I can move on to the rest of my life!” Go ahead, grads. Bask in the glow for awhile. You’ve earned it.

We are thrilled for you, Class of 2015!

We are thrilled for you, Class of 2015!

Graduation truly is a momentous occasion, filled with caps and gowns, embarrassing baby pictures, lots of cake, and sentimentality for all of your years of growth and effort. The swirling of hope for the future, which is finally the here-and-now, is in the air. It feels good to take pride in a job well-done. (Don’t worry, we aren’t checking with the dean to see how well your job was actually done. The point now is that it’s over with!)

Meanwhile, parents, commencement speakers, and family friends will be doing their best to sum up their pride in your achievements and all of their wishes for your future in a fifteen minute speech or a scrawl on a Hallmark card. If only it were that easy.

You got your diploma, you’ve earned your degree. Now what? Does true life really start now? Will everything work out well because you followed all of the rules, passed all of the tests, and shook all of the right hands? We don’t know. And neither does anyone else. Irritating, right?

The reality is, this is your journey and it didn’t begin the second you stepped off that stage with a piece of parchment in your hand. You’ve been on it since you got here. There have been twists and turns, and there will continue to be some more. Lots more. But, keep up the effort, work hard and be a success in your chosen career, and try to do some good. You don’t have to save the world, just keep making a difference to someone, no matter how small, every day. Keep in mind this stellar quote from e.e. cummings as you continue on your path, grads. We know you will do just fine. Congratulations.


“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

e.e. cummings


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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