Archives for posts with tag: Wall Street

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Just like many of you, most of my digital life exists in the cloud. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Goodreads – you name it. It’s so convenient, it frees me from owning any equipment or learning something as scary as running my own server.

Lately, I’ve been having doubts about this decision.

While many of us discuss the wisdom of sharing data with advertisers (and the questionable benefits for advertisers), recent reports make me wonder if that’s not just a side show. In the good old days, when somebody wanted to get access to any information in my possession, they had to subponae me personally. In this new brave world of cloud computing, they don’t bother with me. They go directly to the companies I’m storing my information with. (And, once in a while, they do the right thing.)More often than not, these companies don’t even inform me of this legal action and share information based on their needs. Not on mine.

Terms of Service protect the company. And keep me vulnerable.

Nobody ever read the “Terms of Service’ of any platform we’re using each and every day. The latest Apple update was more than 50 pages long. Who bothers with that? We’d rather click the “Agree” button and get excited about the newest feature update. That’s human nature. But, when pushing that button we basically give companies the power to share our data based on their ethical standards and the demands of VC’s and Wall Street.

Look, most of us have nothing to fear. We just want to live our lives, make the world a better place and enjoy the time we have left on this earth. But, we should never forget the famous quote from Pastor Martin Niemoeller:

“They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up”

There are only two solutions to this problem:

  1. We trust our data to a company that creates a cloud server that protects the rights of the users who store data on it. (Problem is, why would I trust this specific company? What track record would they need to gain mass adoption?)
  2. We own our own data. Just like we own our printed documents. Our diaries. Our thoughts.

I don’t know about you: I vote for the latter.

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face it: Nobody is more hated than Wall Street and the banks associated with the financial crisis and TARP. These emotions are based in reality: People feel they are paying for the mistakes of the banks, the banks have escaped punishment, get preferential treatment from the Federal government, and continue to reap benefits/pay bonuses.

Pre-Lehman, all banks tried to build emotional trust by showing smiling employees, happy customers and surround their communications with happy music, inviting colors, babies and dogs. The warm-and-fuzzy path. This might have somehow worked pre-Lehman when we considered banks as partners and service providers.

From partners to enemies

When banks transformed from partners to enemies, people started to look closer at bonuses, at their own bills and the fees they are forced to pay. Each new scandal (can you say Foreclosuregate?) reinforces the negative perception and opinion of banks. And, what do banks do? They continue to travel down the warm-and-fuzzy-path. Instead, they need to walk a mile in the shoes of their customers and understand the daily struggle of private customers and small businesses. They need to stop pretending the financial crisis was nothing more than a little bump on the road to economic recovery. For many people, it was and is the Mt. Everest of financial difficulties.

Stop smiling. Start helping.

It’s time for banks to stop smiling and understand the severity of the situation for many people and businesses. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about the path many people and businesses have to travel right now. Banks need to develop programs and services that help build trust. Stop squeezing your customers with hidden fees and unnecessary penalties. Consider your cusomters as kings and not servants of your marble-filled empire.

In summary, stop talking about how great you are. Rather, let the people talk about the good experiences they had with your brand. Good experiences in the banking system are so rare right now, any shared success story by people could have an enormous impact. Stop advertising a false reality. Start producing a valuable experience for experience.

The biggest opportunity: Credit Unions

Is it the decentralized nature of Credit Unions or the non-flashy nature of Credit Unions that made them not take advantage of the financial crisis and the negative perception of banks? Sure, we have brilliant initiatives but we don’t really experience a unified effort from Credit Unions. They are perfectly positioned for the current mindset of people: local, community-focused and human. Their biggest disadvantage remains that people believe Credit Unions are for specific professions only and have a limited network. Credit Unions need to fight these misperceptions aggressively and continue to tap into their biggest strength: the community of like-minded people.

Financial institutions have to find ways to disrupt the current way of doing business. Clearly, people are not happy with the status quo and starve for disruptive products and services. They have to focus less on delivering profits and focus more on delivering a delightful experience and service. Marketing is much more effective when you have a remarkable product or service. Too many financial institutions continue to focus on their above the line campaigns or the bottom line and not enough on what really counts: the needs of their customers.

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Image courtesy of ‘While you weren’t listening’

My daughter is obsessed with quantity: “How long? 5 minutes? Oh, that’s such a long time.”

“How many days until I go back to school? 2 days? That’s such a long time.”

My favorite:

Me: “You can only have one.” Daughter: “But I want 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19!”

She’s not much different than the rest of us. If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. We get trained early on focusing on grades, sizes, personal records – give me any quantity, people will flock to it. And so they do, at their own peril. Just ask the math wizards on Wall Street who almost brought the economy to its knees with their models, derivatives and CDO’s.

Data linked with analysis doesn’t tell you the truth. It provides an assumption of the truth. Nothing more. Any Black Swan will destroy this assumption in an instant.

We see this pervasiveness and blind belief in data everywhere: Employees are resources that need to be utilized. Brands consider people targets that need to be tracked and hunted down by more and more ads.

It’s time to grow up, my daughter will one day, and learn that quality is often more important than quantity. You can’t compare 5 minutes at the dentist with a 5 minute hug of your loved one. Employees have non-quantitative strengths that are not measurable. We just know they have them. Just like products and services have non-quantitative strengths that transforms a product from a commodity into an object of desire.

Sales people are often measured by the quantity of their calls, not the quality of their interactions. Customer Service agents are being judged by the number of calls they handled, not the value they provided to customers. The list is endless.

Sure, we need to constantly improve our data sets and optimize them. But, the altar of data is not worth praying at. Leaving non-quantitative factors out is a road to nowhere. Integrating measurement into a more holistic, dare I say, human perspective should be the goal. Let’s use data and technology as a tool to better understand, innovate and change the world. Time to grow up. Who wants to be stuck in the “2,3,4,5,6,19” rut forever?