Archive for October, 2011

And You’re Surprised? Why?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The recent announcements by many of the large National Banks to increase fees seem to come as a surprise to many, and there is a sense of outrage from the customer base.

While these actions are outrageous and ill-timed with consumers struggling like never before, they may actually be beneficial business decisions for those banks.

Let’s face it; the largest banks have never had you, the customer’s best interest at the heart of their business plans. It was always about size and scale and algorithms… The phrase “you’re only a number” didn’t start yesterday, but long ago when banks starting crossing markets and serving customers who they did not know or share a connection with. When you could no longer enter a branch and have someone answer any of your questions, and instead were given an 800 number to answer even the most basic question, you had to know the relationship part of the business was gone…

So, why the outrage today? These banks have accumulated a lion’s share of the market of depositors and now use spreadsheets, algorithms and analysis to decide how to suck every last penny out of each transaction without regard for any individual. It’s all based on math, retention rates, decay rates and profits. But their marketing certainly won’t tell you that…

By continuing to do business with these banks, you are succumbing to the passive inertia that they are counting on as they continue to allow machines to make decisions about people.  

But here is the good news… You have a choice. There are more than 7,000 Community Banks in just about every city, town, and hamlet across America…

They understand relationships, and treat each customer as an individual.

At our own bank, NJCB, we have never charged the types of fees that everyone is outraged about, have always dealt with our customers on a one-on-one, face–to- face manner (in fact, we know our customers by name…) and have never made decisions about our clients using a spreadsheet or computer program.

 

So, don’t perpetuate this cycle of abusive behavior with the big banks.

The choice is always yours… do you want to have a productive relationship with your bank?

 

THE ART OF SAILING: My Lesson in Leadership

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

As summer has turned into fall, and I reflect on my many adventures of the sailing season, it occurs to me that my desire to succeed in business and my interest in sailing are intertwined and indeed based on a few common principles.

As a leader, we must be able to listen and be aware of our surroundings. We must understand not only what we see, but also what we don’t see, and when the wind changes we must adjust course or tack. It is said that the pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, however it is the realist that will adjust his sails…  We must also be confident in not only ourselves but have an unwavering confidence in those around us. A good leader knows how to empower others, and trust in direct reports. Sailing with a team magnifies this concept especially when things get dicey. Leaders need to navigate the quagmire of difficult decisions and be able to make those that benefit the company, employees, and other stakeholders.  

Many books have been written on this subject, and there are many references made to sailing, or nautical terms not only in leadership matters, but also in everyday life…One of my favorite books, “Sailor in the White House” by Robert Cross draws these parallels regarding one of the toughest leadership challenges and jobs anywhere. Cross succinctly describes the qualities he perceives to be necessary at sea: “the necessity to learn how to ‘change tack’ and be versatile in the face of changing weather, the need to understand the tradeoffs and consequences of compromise, the requirement for an explicit chain of command and leadership aboard any vessel at sea, the desirability of confidence in choices and decisions made at sea, the influence good cheer can have on team work, and the ability to withstand and endure bad weather, storms, and discomfort – sometimes outright pain…”

While the art of sailing is “to leave nothing to chance” we have used this concept in our business to help navigate the most trying of economic times by being ready and in the present to challenge conventional wisdom, and even prosper while others rely on outdated methods.

What I find especially intriguing and comforting in my sailing adventures is that when all is trimmed correctly, and everything is going in just the right direction, an eerie silence takes over. It is at the same time exciting and terrifying. One of my favorite Henry David Thoreau quotes actually captures this concept when he says “The sail, the play of its pulse so like our own lives: so thin and yet so full of life, so noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.”

As we have expressed our views on the current crisis of confidence, it is important that we remain focused on those things that we can control, and relentlessly trim our sails to the best position possible, constantly keeping our eye out for any opportunity that may present itself. After all, while ships are safest in the harbor, that is not what they were designed for…

“Sailors, with their built in sense of order, service and discipline, should really be running the world.” Nicholas Monsarrat