By Frank J. Diekmann
With 2019 rapidly approaching––meaning we're a year away from being bombarded with news headlines, reports, Powerpoint graphics and more all sharing "2020 Visions"––it's time to start cleaning out the 2018 Reporter's Notebook.
So, in that spirit, here is some of what I found:
What’s a ‘Friend Request?’
How quickly does time pass? Seth Mattison, the founder and chief movement officer of Luminate Labs, reminded CU Student Choice’s Empower U Conference in Nashville that it wasn’t that long ago when the conversations inside CUs went something like this: “Should we get this Facebook thing? It is a fad or what?”
“And now that seems ludicrous,” he observed.
He added that in 2003/04 many didn’t take Facebook seriously because it was primarily kids who used it. “Who is using Facebook today? Grandma.”
How else have things changed? At one recent meeting a speaker asked who in the room didn’t have a cell phone? No hands were raised, probably because many of them were on their devices checking Facebook.
Now That’s a Takeaway
Speaking of the Empower U meeting, CU Student Choice marked the 10th anniversary of the conference with one of the most unique gifts I’ve seen: It gave every CU in attendance $1,000 to take home to award as a scholarship.
We’re Waiting for Rates to Rise
At one recent meeting a speaker asked a large crowd of credit unions what was the one thing they or a competitor were doing to capture loan refinancings? Sorry to say, not a single hand was raised.
Not a Demographic Study
As you may have read in CUToday.info, PenFed recently announced it had acquired White64. I initially thought PenFed had bought a demographic study on the average CU board member but, in fact, it’s an ad agency, as you can read here.
In the story on CUToday.info, incidentally, PenFed–which is one of the biggest spenders on marketing and advertising among credit unions–CEO James Schenck observed that Capital One “spends more on marketing by noon on January 1 than I spend the entire year.”
How to Fix Washington
Government agency boards and commissions, like appeals courts, all have an odd number of members in order to avoid any ties on decisions. Yet the NCUA board has had an even number of members for years now and many credit unions will tell you (as will the board members themselves in their public remarks) that the board has never been more productive (since nothing goes on the board agenda unless Chairman J. Mark McWatters and Board Member Rick Metsger and their staffs have already agreed to it). So perhaps what Washington really needs is more even-numbered boards and commissions.
Are You Reading This on Your Blackberry?
Luke Williams, a professor of innovation at New York University who has appeared on the agenda at a number of CU meetings, offered this observation: “The old recipe was cellphones. The new recipe is smartphones. Ten years ago three companies owned 64% of the cellphone market: Motorola, Nokia and Research in Motion (Blackberry).”
When Williams asked for a show of hands of who in his audience was carrying a Blackberry, no hands were raised. Why does that matter?
“It wasn’t that long ago we were talking in business schools about running your business like Blackberry,” he observed.
Williams also offered these observations:
- “We never think we’re going to reach the end of the path, but we should know by now that is never the case. By the time you get to the end of the path your customers have forsaken you for a new path no one saw coming.”
- “We are talking about the Millennials like aliens. And the Millennials are going to have conferences about the next generation, Gen X and Z.”
- The generation of kids who are one-to-four-year-olds are being called “Generation App,” he said, adding that for that generation, “Steve Jobs has coded a part of their DNA.”
- I also learned this piece of trivia from Mr. Williams that had nothing to do with credit unions (except perhaps for that one CU that serves the Amish. The reason men’s suit jackets have buttons on the sleeves (even though they don’t serve any function) and vents is a vestige of the days when men rode horses (they rolled up the sleeves, and needed the jackets to hang more freely).
Sweet Lessons on Management
Cat Cole, who dropped out of college and was opening Hooters restaurants around the world at the age of 19 (which she used to mention in her remarks, but in a recent speech she didn't mention the restaurant) and who was running a national brand, Cinnabon, at age 31 when it had approximately $500 million in sales, is now the president and CEO of Focus Brands, which owns food brands that include Schlotzky’s Deli, Auntie Anne’s, and Jamba Jam, along with Cinnabon. You can read the whole story on Cole here.
Cole offered a number of interesting insights into her own thinking around leadership, including:
- “I learned from a few places that one of the most powerful capabilities a leader has is to figure out what is the one thing I can do now to make everything else more powerful? What is the rising tide that would raise all ships?+”
- Cole is a proponent of what she calls “the power of checking in,” which she said is all about “staying close to what’s happening in the business. “
- Cole said she practices caution by applying the “Hot Shot Rule” to herself. The Hot Shot Rule means she asks herself what if a “hot shot” was hired to replace her. “What is the one thing they would see and immediately take action on?”
- As for the best leaders, Cole observed, “The greatest of all humans have two characteristics above all: a deep degree of humility and curiosity that is harmonized with courage and confidence.”
A Scary Story & A Funny One
Here is an interesting piece of history (with an unintended touch of irony) you don’t hear or see often. Andreas Weigend, who was formerly Amazon’s “chief scientist” and who worked on building many of the algorithms that company has pioneered in online shopping, shared with the recent BAI Beacon Conference a copy of his “Stasi file.” That’s the German abbreviation for theMinistry for State Security, the secret police that terrorized the citizens of the former East Germany, where Wiegand was born. For younger readers, yes, there used to be an East Germany—guess what the country to the west of it was called?
The secret police kept a file on his father, who had spent many years in prison because it was believed he was a spy, and as he would discover, had also kept a file on him (and so many others. I would recommend the movie “The Lives of Others” if you want to understand what it was like).
I am not comparing Amazon with the Stasi, btw, but if any entity has increasingly detailed files on all of us, combined with the AI to predict future behavior, it’s the company with that sly smile in its logo.
During his formal remarks, Weigend said the 1980s were all about building computers, the 1990s about connecting computers, the 2000s about connecting pages, and the 2010s about connecting data. The 2020s will be all about connecting sensors, he said.
He added as an aside that he had recently given a similar talk in China where more than one person said the 2020s would be all about “censors,” although few in the audience seem to get the observation.
What everyone did get, once the secret was shared, was this story shared by Weigend, who said he was recently walking in his neighborhood when he encountered a dog walker. Nothing unusual there, but the dog walker had an armful of watches. Unlike a previous generation when there would have been a trench coat involved and some knockoff timepieces for sale, in this case in addition to walking the dogs the dogwalker was also walking the watches, which allowed the watch owners to qualify for discounted health insurance, since the data showed they were apparently exercising.
Frank J. Diekmann is Cooperator in Chief at CUToday.info and can be reached at frank@CUToday.info or @FrankCUToday.