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?
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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.

Designing

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.

Incorporating

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.

Collaborating

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 – #2. Banking as Living: Give us Liberty…Period

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Freedom is part of the fabric of America. It’s what banking customers look for, too.
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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.

The Challenge of Interdependence Day

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How ’bout them fireworks?

 

During a recent client presentation, I shared a great deal of information with a stellar group of professionals in the financial services arena. About half-way through my presentation, I made a reference to a lesson I learned many years ago when I worked for a large financial institution. Here and there, words and phrases that have become a part of my professional advisory process found their way into the conversation. And then it occurred to me. Those ideas were certainly the result of 25 years of my own personal professional experiences, but also the experiences of my former colleagues, managers, and professors.

As a consultant, I have always prided myself on my ability to provide fiercely independent analysis and direction to our clients. And as an American, I am independent down to my red, white, and blue core, right?

But in reality, I’m neither a rock nor an island. From the educators that gave me the facts and insight that opened my eyes to the world of economics, to the lessons I learned when I first started out in the banking business, to the current projects I am currently leading, I’ve learned something new along every step of the journey with the help of so many different people.

So, on this Independence Day 2014, I challenge you to go beyond independence. I call on all those that believe that independence is the ultimate to grab a pencil and piece of paper and follow along. Or not. You are, after all, free to do as you please. Well, I say that knowing there are provisos, and, of course, limitations.

Force is never forceful

Independence is the direct result of having, on prior occasion, terrible dependence on some other force, be it voluntarily or involuntarily. Many have come to understand, unfortunately much later than they would prefer, that force is not forceful. That is, force cannot make a person do what they do not want to do. So, be it with ourselves, our spouses, our children, or our colleagues, force cannot lead to a positive and replicable outcome: trust. The same applies to systems-level thinking, such as religion, political and governmental systems, and social structures. Force does not work. In my readings of late, this concept often crosses my path.

In the graphic below, with force, we seek to contain a person to inside the circle. That simply will not work.

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Independent living demands all of you

Independence and freedom are oftentimes linked to one another. The reality is that both require a great deal from the individual. And both of them require a great deal of focus on your duty to yourself, your family, your community, and then, ultimately, to all beings. Independence comes when you are able to think for yourself, create a new paradigm, and enliven your intellect. It does not mean that you can do whatever you want. For doing whatever you want will ultimately force someone else to live by that paradigm, which we decided is not forceful and is certainly not helpful.

Independence means to move outside your circle, but it still places the focus on person #1 in your life, you.

Interdependent thinking challenges you to go beyond

Change the arc of independence and challenge yourself to think interdependently. Dr. Covey spoke of interdependence in his classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. On this Independence Day 2014, do not think solely on the independent nature of those around you. Thank those around you and honor those that have gone before you for they have provided a  great deal of advantage in the life you lead. More importantly, strive to leverage your independence to advance an organization, a nation, and a planet by employing a culture of interdependence. Go beyond yourself.

Happy Independence Day!

The Terroir of Regulation

© David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Frank Keating, President/CEO of the American Bankers Association, reminded us a few days ago that there is too much regulation of the banking industry. You can find a quick blurb from Bloomberg News here. I echo Mr. Keating’s sentiment, but I believe there is another level of deliberation and, indeed, introspection that we need to ascend. Let’s talk wines, and more, for a moment.

Terroir. In my research on this French term, I find many definitions and descriptions, from references to winemaking, which seem to reign superior, to a broader description in Wikipedia - ”‘a sense of place….which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product.” This earthy flavor that some find fancy and provocative while at the same time very comforting, is, I believe, largely missing from the ways in which we conduct business today. We have lost our sense of place, of relationship, and of morality and ethics.  Because of this lack of terroir, we find our industries burdened with more and more regulation. Much like dogs that chase their tails, we chase after riskier types of assets to overcome the fiscal and organizational obstacles raised by regulation. How do we overcome this Groundhog-Day-esque existence?

The ascension out of this regulation is to move forward to an environment where we regulate ourselves and do so without a great deal of outside intervention. Now, many will say that we have done this. It’s not possible, they’ll exclaim. We have tried to police ourselves and it just doesn’t work. It’s under control, they’ll say. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I think the debacle of 2008 and 2009 proves otherwise and leaves many wondering when, not if, a similar upheaval will occur again. If we go on believing that any extreme – hyper-regulation to absolute laissez-faire behavior – is the answer, then we all lose. I posit the following for us to consider:

  1. Competition, but not decimation, is healthy.
    • It’s important to have healthy competition, but it is not particularly important to decimate other parties.
    • If we focus on our work, others will fade or be folded into our culture and systems. Our greatest enemy is often our own people, process, and performance.
    • This sense of decimation makes regulators look again and again at how we conduct business.
  2. Commoditization is fallow ground.
    • I’ve often written about how commoditization will lead to consolidation. I still believe that.
    • Commoditization, and to some degree, homogenization, makes it easy to self-regulate. Our similarities in this arena are ripe for picking, cultivating.
  3. Rules, mutually agreed upon, lock out unwanted pests and unneeded temptations.
    • Along with overregulation comes useless lobbying. Self-regulation will eject these unneeded temptations from the battlefield, allowing greater focus on the battle.
    • With sound rules that we created, the pests, ahem, regulators, will just not be needed. I know that is a naive statement, but a guy can dream, right?
  4. Collaboration brings freedom of the land.
    • Working together, as traditional farmers have done for generations, means a more fertile landscape for all.
    • If we set out every morning to shrug our shoulders and cross our arms in the hopes that we’ll win, my guess is that will lead to bigger losses for all. We have regulators because some, both suppliers and consumers, choose to game the system. It’s not about the principle of this party or that party, this political philosophy or that one. It’s about what can I get before you get it. In the infamous words of Danny Devito, playing the role of Larry the Liquidator in Other People’s Money, “whoever has the most when he dies, wins.” I think we are better than that.

So, I did say this was about the terroir of regulation and not the terror of regulation. I don’t think it has to be a terror. I do believe it will take a great deal of time, energy, and humility to find this new place. So, grab a shovel. Let’s get to digging.

Reconn Radio: Podcast #23 – Week of 05/26/14

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The Memorial Day 2014 Issue: Economic Review, Abundance and Purpose, and Your Big Screen

Philosophy leads to purpose, purpose ends with sacrifice. Here in the United States, we remembered the mighty sacrifice that men and women in uniform have given. What is this in the context of the organization or institution, the community or the family?

And no, I did not see a movie this week, but I thought about what I might write a screenplay around. It does not involve little yellow men with one eye. That’s been taken.

 

 

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Collaboration. Fun and funner.

dreamstimefree_186042Collaboration. We like team players. Win or lose.

The obvious advantage of collaborating with others is that it’s damn fun. Isn’t it? Come on, admit it. But, beyond the fun, it provides an opportunity to 1) forego your ego for a higher purpose and 2) share a bit of yourself with others without anticipation of anything in return. Life, is after all, to give and not to take. Thanks, Mr. Hugo.

Sharing victory is better with a team. Sharing a loss with your team is a moment to accept failure, build on it, and live another day. Together.

Consistency. It’s the fuel in your engine.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-female-runner-stretching-workout-image25488982Consistency. Go that way really fast, or not. But, go!

Consistency seems to get mediocre billing. It’s sometimes seen as boring and lifeless. At other times, it is the force behind integrity. In our way of thinking, it’s the latter. It is the fuel that propels us all towards an end goal, a mighty purpose.

Whether you run like the wind or crawl like a snail, be consistent in your efforts. And in your reaction to events, be they happy or sad, be consistently boring, for even this too shall pass.

Concentration. It’s what makes today your best day.

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The realization that today is the best that you have is a life-affirming place to be.

Eckhart Tolle said it best when he said, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

There is too much to lose in worrying about what happened and being anxious about what is to come. Prepare? Absolutely. Give birth to an ulcer? Never.

Reconn Radio: Podcast #11 – Week of 2/17/2014

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The Economy, EMV & “The American President”

This week, I discuss the upcoming economic items for this week. I also delve into EMV and remind folks of its pending entrance into the American market. Finally, we close with a timely discussion about “The American President,” one of my favorite movies, and about gaining perspective. Go!

 

 

 

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