Sunday, November 07, 2021

Banks Should Avoid Rabbit Holes

We have much work to do, little resources to get it done, and a short time to make it happen. So we should avoid doing things that don't benefit our stakeholders. Even following stakeholder primacy, to the non-believer, thinks it is an unnecessary pursuit that distracts us from delivering to shareholders.

That is what a bank CEO told me recently. My case in my book, Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders, was that pursuing stakeholder primacy mitigates one of the greatest threats to the community bank-relevance. If you matter to your stakeholders, you are relevant, maybe even important, to your employees, customers, communities, and shareholders. And that the disciplined approach to stakeholder primacy should lead to greater shareholder returns. Minimally, not lower shareholder returns.

But we are under pressure to do many things with our business model. Some urgent, some important, some not so much. I was reminded of this competition for our time and resources by my friends at Cross Financial who tweeted out the Eisenhower Matrix, whose namesake came from our 34th president when he quipped: "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." The below chart was elevated in prominence by the Stephen Covey book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


But how do you identify the important? When thinking of this problem, it brought me back to Rotary International's Four Way Test for deciding what and what not to do: 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?


Rabbit Holes

Back to rabbit holes. I propose the Four Way Test of Avoiding Rabbit Holes. A decision tree, if you will.


1. MUST you do it? If you are being compelled by law, regulation, accounting standard, contract, etc. to do something, then you must do it. You might not like doing it, but take that up with your trade association(s). Avoid arguments that you must do something that you, actually, are not compelled to do. Such as we "must" implement so and so because of some "non-compulsory" reason. This is the first decision point, and if you are compelled to do it. Just do it. Hard stop.


2. Is it consistent with strategy? I was recently on a call with a fintech that facilitates international B2B and P2P payments. It was a white label solution that can be woven into the bank's tech stack. It was cool. But is it consistent with the bank's strategy? When my firm discusses the direction of our industry, we make the point that there are fintechs that want to partner with banks for nearly every solution, customer facing or "run the bank" solutions. In most cases, many competing fintechs are available to help you out. But dial up your strategic plan. Is that customer experience solution consistent with the demands of your current or prospective high lifetime value customers? 


3. Will it benefit multiple stakeholders? And ideally, all stakeholders (employees, customers, communities, and shareholders). Today's employee will not feel purpose in their work if your culture is to maximize profit for the benefit of shareholders alone. And that employee will be a short-timer if that's your culture. Leaving you with the button mashers that consider you their nine to five and work solely for a paycheck. Will that employee seek and destroy unnecessary processes, maximize your use of technology, and deliver a superior customer experience? I sat next to a pretty savvy director of a community bank that says he became a customer, and later a director, because the bank commits seven percent of net income to community organizations. It wasn't the bank's technology or its capabilities to serve his business. It was their commitment to community. If you are considering a zero-sum investment, one that benefits one stakeholder at the expense of another, pass on that rabbit hole and instill discipline in those that propose strategic investments to find the win-wins. 


4. Will it protect the bank? Banking is a risk business and risks must be accepted, mitigated, or eliminated. Whatever risk framework you use, be it the Federal Reserve Board or OCC's risk categories, will what is proposed mitigate or eliminate the risks you chose not to accept? This can get murky, as strategic and legal risk are often in a bank's risk framework that the institution would like to mitigate (because eliminate is all but impossible, even for insured risks). So the person proposing you go down a rabbit hole may invoke "strategic risk" to convince you to go with them. For these instances, I propose calculating the likelihood of the risk coming to fruition. If you deem it to be an unlikely strategic risk that will take plenty of resources to mitigate, pass.


Let your competitors go down rabbit holes while you dedicate the resources to execute your strategy and protect your bank.


Here is a picture of the decision tree, as I see it. If you can't download the image and you want it, drop me a request and I'll send to you.



How do you avoid rabbit holes?


~ Jeff



Note: I would like to thank all veterans that stepped forward when asked to step in front of the rifle, drive over the roadside bomb, and sail in mined waters a Happy Veterans' Day.


And please consider reading my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!




Saturday, October 23, 2021

Build Your Own Bankers

A colleague is working with a nearby college to develop a curriculum for a banking minor. They asked us to accept interns from the program as we often have summer interns, at least prior to the pandemic. The program is supported by the state banking trade association.

The professor charged with moving the program forward expressed frustration that banks were not providing enough internships nor commitments to hire graduates. Which is strange because in most strategic planning sessions we moderate, talent availability is a threat, and management below senior leadership is often a weakness.

Sure there are entry level positions that are plentiful. If a bank is naïve enough to think that a college graduate would be satisfied with the same position they could have attained without the college investment in time and money. Other than frequent turnover in those roles, there are not many available. Net interest margins are under pressure. Bankers are watching expenses closely so creating positions for entry level college graduates are not on the community bank priority list. And it's not like college kids are sitting in their Money and Banking class sophomore year and thinking, "community banking, yeah, that's what I want to do."

But here is a college where the students are selecting the banking minor. So, yeah, perhaps those students are thinking that way. Yet, as the program now stands, community bankers are still not interested. 

Imagine if we were interested 10 years ago. Would we now have fully developed branch bankers that are capable of calling on small businesses up and down Main Street talking cash flow management, small ticket lending, and inventory turns? Would we have seasoned credit underwriters that are highly productive, technology forward, and able to teach "green" analysts the ropes? Would we have business analysts throughout our bank that maximize the use of our sizable technology investments and asks "why" without answering "we've always done it this way." Would we have commercial lenders without having to shop for them on the street?

But we didn't. And precious few of the people described above are at our bank.

Now it's time to lament about large banks' management training programs. I will pause here to give you your moment...



Now take total ownership of the situation. Think long term. Fix your "next-level management" weakness.

What are the entry level positions of a college graduate with little to no banking experience, even if they had a banking minor in school? Perhaps junior credit analyst, business analyst, assistant branch manager, portfolio manager, or network administrator.


If you're thinking that you don't have these positions at your bank, or you have no openings, think again. There are people occupying seats at your bank that have little chance of moving your bank forward, executing on your strategy, and keeping you relevant. They are "occupying seats" and mashing buttons. And those seats cost more than what you are likely paying that person. They are blocking you from bringing on others that have greater potential to be future leaders. That creates costs that are exponentially more expensive than bringing the new college graduate onboard that might not have a productive position to occupy for six months. 

So bring on the assistant branch manager and assign him/her to your best branch manager's branch, even though an assistant branch manager position doesn't exist. When ready, replace the seat shiner in your network with the new hire. That sends a message to both your go-getters and other seat shiners.  You will constantly look for bankers that can execute your strategy. 

This might seem crass to the humanitarian banker. But our relevance is at stake. And by creating a culture of continuous improvement within your employee base, your are increasing the likelihood that you can save the jobs of everyone else because your bank, with a superior workforce, matters to your stakeholders. 

That seat shiner won't have a job anyway if you're sold. Right?


~ Jeff



Please consider reading my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!



Friday, October 15, 2021

Bank Customers Lose Real Money

You worked hard, saved money, and reduced or eliminated debt. You've been conservative, preferring the stability and security of bank deposits versus the gyrations of the market. Now, after forty years of toil and delayed gratification, you're ready for retirement.

If this were 2006, things would be good. The Fed Funds Rate stood at 5.25%, and inflation in check at 2.5%. This means you could get roughly 2.75% real interest from your bank savings account. Your money grew.

Then, boom, the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed immediately dropped Fed Funds to a range of 0% - 0.25%. And at that time, inflation was nearly zero (0.1%), so your real interest was still positive. And since it was a financial crisis, no worries. Things would recover. And thankfully since you were nearing retirement your home wasn't leveraged to the hilt and then some. Sure, your home value declined, but what does that mean to someone with little to no mortgage and isn't in the market to sell? 

Heck, maybe there'll be a reassessment and your real estate taxes will go down.

Taxes go down? See that. I made a funny.


Retiree: That's Not So Funny

To the retiree that prefers the safe haven of FDIC insured deposits held at the local bank that lends it out locally, this is a serious issue. If we use the Fed Funds rate as a proxy for what a saver earns at their bank, the chart below is alarming. 





















Source: US Inflation Rate by Year: 1929 - 2023 (thebalance.com)

Things looked good as we entered the 21st century. Sure inflation was relatively high, at least above the Fed's target rate of 2%, at 3.4%. But the Fed Funds rate, as proxy for savings, was 6.5%, a full 3.1% real return. (Note: I checked a few of our strategic planning peer groups to see their cost of deposits at June 30, 2021. One peer average was 36 basis points and the other 37. Although this is higher than the current top guideline of Fed Funds rate of 25 basis points, I feel comfortable using it as a proxy for bank savings rates. Eleven basis points difference to the peer median... c'mon.)

If a saver put $1,000 in a bank savings account on January 1, 2009, less than one month after the Fed dropped the Fed Funds rate to 0%-0.25%, and kept it in that savings account, they would have $1,091 at the end of 2020. That same $1,000, invested in the S&P 500 Index for the same period, would be worth $4,318.

Worse, in 14 of the 21 years from 2000 through 2020, the inflation rate has been higher than the Fed Funds rate. Meaning keeping your money in cash, or at your bank, caused a decrease in your depositors' buying power. 

This caused savers to flee to higher earning assets, driving up the value of those assets. This phenomenon, combined with the Fed increasing its balance sheet from $1 trillion to near $9 trillion since the financial crisis, has kept bond yields low and their prices high. Forcing savers into equities, which has driven markets up. I can't imagine those that seek a safe haven will go into crypto currencies. But never say never.

This is a great environment for borrowers and spenders. Not so much for savers and those that avoid leverage. 


What Say You, Mr. Powell?

And I'm not so sure policy makers have the savers' best interests in mind. The current inflation rate at this writing was 5.3%, well above the Fed's 2% target. Yet they continue to signal that they will keep the Fed Funds rate where it is until 2023. The two Board Governor hawks that are calling to do it sooner are leaving. 

It benefits the federal government to keep rates artificially low because we have $28T of debt to service. That's with a "T". I'm hopeful the Fed makes decisions to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. And ignores politician's calls to continue to print money to keep bond yields low so they can keep swiping the national credit card.

But I'm becoming increasingly skeptical that the Fed is remaining faithful to its mission. So as an industry, we might have to solve for the diminishing value of our customers' deposits. It could be part of our higher purpose (Increase economic well-being of savers).

If you have thoughts on solutions, I would love to hear them.


~ Jeff



Please consider reading my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!




Thursday, October 07, 2021

How to Get Off the Hot Rate Ferris Wheel

I recently spoke at the DCI Annual Users Conference and the ABA Bank Marketing Conference about, among other things, how bankers can get off the the "hot rate" kick. I can think of no reason why a bank would claim the mantel of brand leadership if they must routinely price up deposits or reduce loan yields or structures to get new customers.


As part of the presentations, I had an audience participation segment where attendees suggested how to get off the hot rate addiction and I promised to publish their responses on my blog.


Here were their answers.


How to Get Off the Hot Rate Ferris Wheel

Specialize/Niche- Given by a Midwest banker, the thought process goes that if you're a really good ag lender and understand the needs of the customer and issues facing them, the customer will not put their loan up to multiple bids and dump you for an eighth. Same goes for other niches such as business transition loans, trucking, oil/gas exploration, etc. 


Speed to Close- Given by another Midwest bank CEO, the thought process goes that there is less price sensitivity if you can get to the closing table faster than competitors with as few pain points as possible.


Deep relationships- I suppose this bank marketer used the word deep to emphasize relationships when oftentimes bankers use "relationships" as something they have, yet must be best price to get the business. In other words, they really don't have "deep relationships." The cynic in me thinks instead of deep relationships, this should be actual relationships. But I go with what the banker gave me.


Ideas From My Presentation

Reward Loyalty- Rather than paying the best rates to non-customers to entice them to become customers and then make up the profit difference from your existing customers, why not reward your existing customers to entice them to increase their balances with you? Some do this in terms of special dividends to core deposit customers at the end of the year if the year has been a good one.


Flash Sale to Core Depositors- Along the same lines, give your customers more reasons to bank with you and tell their network to bank with you. Have occasional "blue light specials" to existing core customers as a benefit for their doing business with your bank.


Build relationships- Same as the Deep Relationships above. It's harder to dump your bank for minor rate variations if the customer has an actual relationship with one or more (preferable) of your bankers.


Don't screw your customers- Why torment loyal customers with a 7-month CD promo only to drop it to the lower 6 month rate when it matures because you know 70% of takers will be asleep at the switch. How does that build trust?


Store of Value Vs. Accumulation Accounts- A customer isn't normally 100% price sensitive on all of their accounts. They may be on IRA CD's or their emergency fund account, where they at least will want to cover inflation. But they may not be in their operating account or some special purpose savings accounts where they want the FDIC insurance and efficient transaction processing. Know the difference per customer.


Empower bankers on pricing- This is relating to the Store of Value idea above. It would be very difficult to know institutionally that a particular customer views a particular account as a store of value versus accumulation account. But it would be easier for the banker with the relationship. This implies you allow them to have pricing flexibility, within guardrails of course.


Be part of customers' personal brands- "I gotta have my Starbucks!" "My broker is EF Hutton, and EF Hutton says..." "I'm a member of Lancaster Country Club." If you're brand is worth bragging about to burnish the personal brand of your customers, you don't have to be the best price in town. In fact, being the best price in town might diminish your brand. Like Starbucks going into turnpike rest areas.


Any more ideas on how to get off the hot rate Ferris Wheel?


~ Jeff



Please consider reading my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Bankers Automate! With This Asterisk.

Last week the Virginia Bankers’ Association had a futurist at their annual convention. Among other things, he predicted that the pandemic induced, government supported prolonged labor shortage will accelerate the pace in which society will replace low-level jobs with remote technology, automated intelligence, and robots. He gave an example of McDonald’s experimenting with centralized drive-thru ordering, with the employee that takes the order in some far away locale. And they were working to replace this with chat bots.

I thought of the implications.


I grew up without much. My first job was a paperboy until I was old enough to be a W2 employee. When that happened, I flipped burgers and washed dishes through high school. My first banking job was making microfiche on a Datagraphix 4590 for the local bank, which helped pay for college.

I then went into the Navy. There, along with my primary technical job, I destroyed classified material in a kiln, waxed floors, cleaned bathrooms. This added nothing to my knowledge and understanding of the banking industry and its future.

But without it, would I be who I am today? Worse, would I even have gotten the chance to climb that ladder if the bottom rungs were removed?

We see these trends in entry level banking jobs. At first, it was the ATM taking transactional work away from the teller. Which evolved to cash recyclers automating cash handling. This has led to the decline of traditional branch staffing from eight-to-ten FTEs per branch to four-to-five. And the trend continues with the introduction of the ITM. Indeed, the problem with branch staffing has gone from “how do we handle the transaction volume” to “how do we cover the lobby hours?”

Many financial institutions are looking to auto-decision small commercial loans. Replacing the work of the junior credit analyst with an algorithm. Introductory investment management is going away from the junior wealth manager and migrating to robo advising. In our challenging interest rate and therefore net interest margin environment, banks are working hard to automate as much support processes as possible to increase assets, loans, and deposits per FTE.

These are all good things, in my opinion. As lower-level work is automated, this leaves more challenging work for us humans. Which should translate to better compensation for who’s left, and greater resources to serve the bank’s other stakeholders.

But what of the bottom rungs? When we remove them, are we building a system that provides advantage to those that can make the pivot, or have the time and resources to be able to start at the third rung? I needed to be that dishwasher, floor scrubber, and tape librarian. I could not afford to support myself and my young family, go to college, and elevate up the ladder had I not started at the bottom.

This can play into a bank’s higher purpose. To provide economic mobility to those that can’t start on second base (some of whom thought they hit a double). There must be purposeful employee development to turn entry level employees into higher level and high performing employees of the future. Even if you hire them to punch above their current weight.

Philip Kotler, former Marketing professor from Northwestern University, in describing "Firms of Endearment" from the 2014 book (second edition) of the same name, noted that one characteristic of a Firm of Endearment was that employees were paid more, trained longer, and stayed longer than at peer companies. 

Initially, however, your struggle while they struggle is a journey worth taking if you can build the workforce of your bank’s future from the ground up. While leveling the playing field for those that by their circumstance must start climbing the ladder from the bottom.


~ Jeff




And please consider reading the book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

 


Monday, August 02, 2021

Community Banking According to Andy

I enjoy Twitter because of the relationship threads I have maintained, the good-natured jabbing among friends, and keeping abreast of news I would not otherwise read. One of my tweeps (Twitter friends), is Andy Schornack, CEO of Flagship Bank Minnesota, based in Wayzata. He exemplifies the best of next generation bank leadership, with eyes wide open to the next iteration of banking in our rapidly changing environment.


Andy recently tweeted a string of tweets describing his investor group's original investment, their evolution from troubled to healthy institution, and what it took for him and his team to be successful. It was so awesome I asked if I can reprint here. Andy graciously said yes. Below are the flurry of tweets he sent in his stream. 

Twenty four tweets, and worth every one of them. I suggest following Andy on Twitter.


1/ @Schornack

At the end of July 2013, we invested $1.8MM to buy 49% of Flagship Financial Group, Inc. This was the start of one fun journey that continues today.


2/ @Schornack

The primary asset of the organization was Flagship Bank Minnesota, a Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender with two locations in the Twin Cities Metro Area.


3/ @Schornack

The bank was under a cease and desist order and struggling with a high level of troubled assets. However, it had a great group of employees and was in a market that I knew very well.


4/ @Schornack

In June 2013, Flagship Bank Minnesota had $94 million in assets and $62.8 million in loans in the two locations. In June 2021, we were up to six locations, $327.6 million in assets and $233.7 million in loans. Here's some lessons learned along the way.


5/ @Schornack

Employees in a service business like ours are key. Many of those original employees are still with us. We have added many more along the way but we have found the line is true that people do business with people they like and know. Good people helping good people, always.


6/ @Schornack

Good customers drive good businesses. Invest in improving your client base. You don't have to be all things to all people. Focus efforts on building clients with high lifetime values. Know their tenure and their services/products needs. Invest in what is important to them.


7/ @Schornack

In our bank, one of these client bases was 1-4 family rental properties. In 2013, we had around $11.5MM in total 1-4 family loans, most of which were not investment properties. In 2021, we are up to over $70 million, mostly investment properties.


8/ @Schornack

It is a niche that has only grown over time and one that has shown very little net losses since we started making these loans around the U of M in 2005-2006.


9/ @Schornack

Running a bank is not much different than running a small business. A lot of times this is confusing to many. Basic idea is that sales to a bank are loans. Inventory are deposits. The item is that profit is not made on day of sale but over time.


10/ @Schornack

For perspective, the net interest income + non-interest income (Revenues for 2012) were a total of $4.2 million. This is not a high level of revenues to handle all the expenses involved with operating a troubled banking organization at the time.


11/ @Schornack

A big focus then was to reduce our non-employee related expenses while growing strength in a good client base and reducing our interest expenses by improving our mix of suppliers (changing from non-core funding to core funding of our loans).


12/ @Schornack

So this was my charge. Like any SMB owner doing a new acquisition, I broke down the expense book. We still catalog every expense to every vendor and I sign nearly all the checks. The result was that our non-staff expenses have gone from 2012 levels of $2.4MM to 2020 at $2.7MM.


13/ @Schornack

Our net interest income + non-interest income in the meantime has grown from $4.2 million in 2012 to $12.2 million in 2020.


14/ @Schornack

Strong expense management structures allow the SMB more flexibility then to further invest in strong staff and improved client experiences.


15/ @Schornack

Good client experiences don't necessarily mean high expense structures. It's a matter in investing prudently and managing what using a sports term is called unforced errors, or what I consider are unnecessary expenses.


16/ @Schornack

Picking good partners makes the world of a difference. I couldn't be where I am today without the support of mentors, solid business partners, & great co-workers. Brian Wagner, Flagship Bank's President and I have worked together for 16 years. Jackie Herman, our COO 2013.


17/ @Schornack

They have both played a huge role in growing our bank, executing on two major acquisitions that launch padded our ability to scale across the metro area.


18/ @Schornack

Acquisitions create uncertainty and most people don't like uncertainty. The best way as a SMB to work with existing employees on an acquisition is to be transparent on your plans and your goals. Explain who you are, what your story is, and how it impacts them.


19/ @Schornack

I am a banker so in any SMB acquisition I think it pays to know your numbers. I model everything, I still model nearly everything. The same spreadsheet I used when buying Flagship is the one I use monthly to update my rolling 12 month earnings. Yes each month, I do the math.


20/ @Schornack

The value to me is more than the data entry. It is the process of getting close to the data so that I see where it is coming from and how it flows through our organization. I want to always know my numbers. 


21/ @Schornack

The other item that I fixate around is writing a monthly management report to my board. It covers all the CAMELS components the regulators grade banks on. I have found the process of writing the report to be an important way to organize my thoughts, provide conversation topic...


22/ @Schornack

...and really guide what the items keeping me up at night are within our banking organization. It covers the high risk clients, the cash flow and capital needs of the organization, our employees, and many other items as the come forward to drive conversation.


23/ @Schornack

Writing a report to our board even if you are a small SMB, I believe is a great exercise to organize and validate your management decisions. If we leave them as thoughts, sometimes they aren't fully thought through or maybe something gets missed that is important.


24/ @Schornack

In the end, I am extremely proud of what we have built at Flagship Bank and our company. I am proud of my coworkers, my employees, and all the stakeholders. It has been a blast and I look forward to the next 8 years! Exciting things to come!



Does this read like a banker that builds operating discipline within the bank's culture so it has the resources to invest in the things that matter to benefit its stakeholders? I think so. 

I would say Andy and Flagship Bank Minnesota are Squared Away!


~ Jeff




And please consider reading the book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Banking Nerd Book Tour

As many of my readers know, I wrote a book, Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders. If you don't know, it's because I'm not particularly good at getting the word out to the book's target audience: bankers and the professionals that serve them.

Pretty niche group, so you think my targeting would be spot-on. Not so for a spreadsheet wonk!


But I have been out and about letting as many people know and engaging with industry friends and their audiences to get the word out. Not that I went on the late-night circuit like Matthew McConaughey promoting his book. Because my face was made for radio, except for one video (Ned Talks, linked below). Otherwise I kept my face behind the microphone in podcasts.

Here is the list of appearances with the appropriate links in case you want to listen or watch. I tried to bring something different to each one, as each of the podcasts' listeners are somewhat different and the podcasts' subjects varied. Try out one or more. Let me know what you think.


~ Jeff


The Squared Away book tour appearances:


Banking With Interest podcast hosted by Rob Blackwell (formerly managing editor at American Banker) and Interfi: ‎Banking With Interest: Why Banks Should Be Focusing on Building Core Deposits on Apple Podcasts

 

A live book review session with CULytics, a Credit Union focused consulting firm: Book Review Session - Squared Away: How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders | Jun 18 (culytics.com)

 

Financial Experience podcast hosted by Hunter Young of the HiFi Agency that serves banks and fintechs: The Keys To Staying Independent | Podcast | HIFI Agency

 

Street Talk podcast hosted by Nathan Stovall of S&P Global Market Intelligence: Stream Ep. 78 - The case to grow deposits when the world is flush with cash by Street Talk | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

 

This Month in Banking podcast (my own company did one featuring me and the book): Squared Away – How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders - The Kafafian Group, Inc.

 

Ned Talks: A video blog discussion between Ned Miller of 3rd Act Consulting, a bank sales consulting firm: https://youtu.be/ryHQF-_QoG8

 

Banking Transformed podcast with Jim Marous of The Financial Brand: Is The Future of Community Banks at Risk? - The Financial Brand



And please consider reading the book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Bankers: Seven Questions to Determine If You Have a Strategic CFO?

Ajit Kambil of the consulting firm Deloitte, in one of their Perspectives articles, asked seven essential questions to determine if the reader was or has a strategic CFO. I thought it provided great insights for Jeff4Banks readers, and I've accompanied the description of the seven questions with how it pertains to banking.


Seven Essential Questions for Strategic CFO's

1. How does your company plan to grow: M&A, organically (that is, by driving new or existing products to new or existing markets), or both? "The first and most straightforward question involves knowing the current strategy: What combination of these growth choices is your company currently committed to? The CFO's role then is to make sure that capital is available at the right cost for these choices to be profitable, and that the company has processes and decision making rules for capital allocation to support that growth." 

J4B Take: Many financial institutions that are large enough to be a buyer include organic growth and M&A in their strategic plans. It is natural to do so in a consolidating industry. And the true strategic CFO will bring ideas to the executive table that efficiently leverages capital to deliver the greatest risk-adjusted return on capital (RAROC).  At this writing, many bank balance sheets are flush with cash. Which could provide an opportunity to put significantly more cash in M&A transactions to stoke earnings accretion. But does your institution have enough capital to put another bank's assets on its books with issuing only 50% of the consideration in stock? The CFO could critically look at the balance sheet of both their institution and likely targets to recommend moves that could lead to a compelling offer to the target while maintaining a strong capital position. That would be extremely beneficial to the executive team trying to grow their balance sheet without having to turn away from acquisition opportunities. 


2. What are the dominant constraints that hold back your company's growth, and how might you overcome them? "The dominant constraints are the issues that prevent a company from reaching its potential. Consider a company with a heavy debt burden that was paying an interest rate more than twice the rates available to its competitors. Here the cost of debt capital was a critical constraint, given that competitors could finance growth through M&A and other strategies much more cheaply. In response, the CFO enabled a sale of a large stake in the company to a strategic investor, rasing capital and relaxing the 'finance constraint.' Other types of constraints include the lack of a needed or key product in the pipeline or simply the mind-set and culture of the company. Of course, some constraints are virtually impossible to overcome. For example, regulations in financial services impose new constraints on banks. Other than finding the efficient ways to comply, CFOs can do virtually nothing to change the regulatory constraint. Still, determining the dominant constraints is the first step for a CFO to take in order to relax or overcome them."

J4B Take: In this low interest rate environment with low loan demand, so many financial institutions issued subordinated debt at their holding companies to either downstream into their banks to support the next leg of growth or leave in the holding company to buy back stock trading at a depressed price. Or both. This debt is usually five years fixed rate, with attractive rates because of the interest rate environment, that flip to floating after the fixed period. How many bank CFOs created a plan to be in a position to redeem this debt once the five year period expires? Because it could serve as a constraint if interest rates rise, which they are likely to do, and we've used up the capital either for buybacks or to support growth. Did we keep the dividend steady so we can accumulate ever more retained earnings? Did we undertake a bankwide process improvement to ensure as we grew the bank achieved positive operating leverage that accelerated earnings and therefore capital? The strategic CFO, as captain of the capital planning ship, should have had a plan in place with multiple options to redeem this debt before it was ever issued.


3. What is the greatest uncertainty facing your company, and what can you do to resolve or navigate it? "Say the company has potential asbestos liability because the chemical was formerly used in some products, and the uncertainty around that liability is constraining the company's share price and keeping it from making aggressive growth plays. That doesn't sound like something a CFO can fix. But what if you were to go to the legal counsel and say, 'Let's figure out what it would cost to settle this potential litigation, and see, given our current cash flows and the low-rate environment, whether it's worth that price to get rid of that uncertainty.' Alternatively, CFOs can ask their finance, planning, and analysis (FP&A organizations to model the consequences of different outcomes, and then decide if they want to insure against risks arising from the uncertainty. Uncertainty can 'freeze' decision-making; CFOs can 'unfreeze' those decisions by gathering information to resolve the uncertainty, instituting a structure to navigate the uncertainty while managing risk through insurance, or developing a step-by-step approach to real-option investment as uncertainty is resolved."

J4B Take: The greatest uncertainty facing community banking is relevance. Change is happening faster than any other time in our careers, requiring quicker action, change implementation, failure recognition, and strategic investment. Yet we fall back on old habits such as submitting budgets that include the strategic investments to drive business model change, and the CFO, after aggregating departmental budgets during "budget season", pushes them back to department managers because they suspect "wish listing." Instead, the strategic CFO evaluates areas of the financial institution that consume operating expense and capital that are not central to strategy or profit generation, and recommends cutting them in order to invest for a long-term future. Don't send the budget back asking managers to sharpen their pencils and cut their wish list. Find the lowest return and least strategically significant areas and make recommendations to "stop doing this, so we can invest in that."


4. What is your greatest area of spend where there is a lot of uncertainty about return? "For example, a CFO of a consumer packaged goods company with a big chunk of spend going to advertising and promotion should ask, 'how can I get greater bang for my buck in my advertising and promotion spend, and how do I make headway on measuring returns from promotions to guide future spending?' Creating clarity and better disciplines on spend are often a source of quick strategic wins." 

J4B Take: I have written on these pages about building discipline and accountabilities around achieving the hoped-for economies of scale from mergers here, and building metrics and trends around achieving pricing advantage for what should result from that brand building budget your marketing executive says you need (read this). The CFO can be critical in taking hard to measure strategic initiatives and boiling them down to "what success would look like" so the management team can track and be accountable to themselves in making those investments pay off.


5. Are your company's financial and growth goals ambitious enough? What would we do differently if the company were an order of magnitude bigger? "Say your company's goal is to double its revenues, from $2 billion to $4 billion, and you're looking at a variety of projects to achieve that growth, but some entail a lot of risk because of the dollars involved. The CFO might look at this challenge and say, 'A $400 million project blowing up is going to do some serious damage to a $2 billion company, but not so much to a $20 billion company. So maybe our ability to invest in future growth is enhanced by increasing our scale not by two times but by 10 times through a series of rollups or acquisitions.' If you bring that option to your CEO and board, you've started a conversation that could be truly game-changing for the company. It is easy to get trapped in the present. But thinking substantively beyond existing constraints and limits can sometimes help identify plays that create dramatically new strategic options." 

J4B Take: I actually have two takes on this. 1) A strategic CFO should calculate and know a bank's "strategy value gap", which is the difference between the present value of the bank's strategic plan and what the bank can reasonably achieve in a sale. Aside from the straight math I just described, you have to add an "option to sell" on top of the present value of your plan because if the management team does not achieve plan objectives then the board still has the option to sell and that option has value. But the difference between that should be relatively small and within a board tolerance level. Calculating and communicating this number will keep a management team aspirational in strategy development, and focused in plan execution. Because a large strategy value gap may cause the board to hand over the keys to a more capable management team (i.e. sell the bank). So the financial and growth goals should be ambitious enough because the CFO knows what "ambitious enough" means. 2) What size must the bank be to make the human, technology, and other infrastructure investments to bridge a strategy value gap and remain relevant to bank stakeholders? That depends on the needed investments. The strategic CFO should be the arbiter of that conversation. Because if it's your investment banker, the size you have to be would be double what you are. No matter what you are. :) 

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6. What could disrupt your company, and what can finance do about it? "This is about envisioning a competitor's move, such as a merger or a new industry entrant that changes the nature of competition or a new technology that dramatically changes product offerings. Again, CFOs can ask if they themselves could use the likely playbook of a competitor to disrupt the industry and also leverage FP&A capabilities to model out disruptive scenarios and help frame responses." 

JFB Take: The market leader in mortgage origination in my home state of Pennsylvania is Quicken. Imagine if in the late 1990s bank CFOs projected a twenty year decline in mortgage market share driven by a piece of technology? Would we have made the investment to have a similar piece of technology and deliver an end-to-end paperless experience if the CFO made the right call or alerted us into making at least some call? We didn't. And we still may not have. We are not good at long-term strategic bets and we may not want to lay this at the feet of the CFO. But strategic CFOs should be running capital plans with "what if" scenarios such as "if we project multi-year declines in mortgage originations, how will we replace that activity, balances, and profit?" Much like they should be asking, and therefore running scenarios, "what if disruptors spark a multi-year decline in retail deposits?" I'd love to hear the head of retail refute or describe how you would replace that funding. But the conversation should start with your strategic CFO what-if testing.


7. What would you like your company to stop doing? "Finally, are there underperforming business units or a part of the company that does not generate required returns, or customers who are not profitable? If there isn't a way to scale the business to increase returns, it may be best to dispose of it and free capital and management resources to grow more high-potential businesses. Similarly, choosing not to serve unprofitable customers or to increase prices to them may increase long-term returns." 

J4B Take:  Many financial institutions evaluate the size they must be to make the investments discussed in "5" above to be relevant to their stakeholders. But what are they doing now that they can stop doing to pay for strategic investments? And when evaluating where to invest, what has the greatest potential to generate profit? Perhaps it's something you are doing now that you want to do 4x more of that is generating excellent ROEs. The where to invest and how to fund it are key questions that the CFO should take the lead in answering.


After reading the seven essential questions for strategic CFOs, and my take as it relates to banking, does your bank have a strategic CFO?

 

~ Jeff


Note: If bankers do not have the management reporting to answer "7" and know which lines of business, products, or customers are delivering the best profit, they should give me a call. My firm does that for you.


And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

 

 

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Bank Customer Lifetime Value

Who are your target customers? Answer: XYZ
Why are they your target customers? Answer: They are our most profitable customers.

May I see your profitability reports that show this? Answer: *crickets*

Is "most profitable" the right answer? Aside from my skepticism that the financial institution actually calculates who their most profitable customers are. But in doing profitability reporting for decades, I feel comfortable saying that most commercial-focused financial institutions' most profitable customers are commercial real estate investors. Not small mom-and-pop real estate investors. The ones with the big balances.

Targeting them would likely yield a very profitable bank. But would it be a valuable bank? It is highly competitive in the large commercial real estate space. Not only are there community financial institutions chasing that business, but large banks, conduits, insurance companies, loan brokers, etc. The competition is, well, not very "blue ocean" like (compete where the competition isn't). 

I'm not down on commercial real estate. Any balanced balance sheet should have its fair share of investor CRE to boost profits. But to boost value, I ask again, who are your target customers?

In comes what experts deem "lifetime value" (LTV). Can we categorize, and generalize, customer segments to predict what segment delivers the greatest LTV? Because if we consider spot profitability, we should target CRE. It is likely the reason why so many bank balance sheets have concentrations in this product. 

Let's take a doppelganger customer segment: Recent college graduates with high earnings potential. We're not talking philosophy majors here. I already have enough of them fumbling my coffee order. I'm talking the docs, engineers, accountants, cyber security, et al. The customers that SoFi targeted out of the gate.

See the table below for our recent engineering major grad, who is working as a junior engineer for an environmental engineering firm. Four years after becoming our bank's customer, he/she breaks out on his/her own. 





As you can see, the Total LTV in the top table shows a pretty profitable customer, and likely customer segment. But if you look at the spot profitability in Year 1 of the bottom table, our doppelganger customer doesn't look so attractive. Profits actually decrease in years two and three. THIS is why estimating LTV of identifiable customer segments is so important to strategic decision making in financial institutions. Not only must we calculate LTV by segment, but we must also compare to external data to ensure there are enough of these "households" in our markets so we can build critical mass.

There are business models that span the country for their targeted customer segments. In addition to the already mentioned SoFi, Live Oak Bank comes to mind. They started as an SBA shop focused on business segments that were recession proof, like dentists and veterinarians. And searched the entire country for them.

Most of us are geographic focused. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't build our infrastructure: the people, technology, and physical locations, to differentiate ourselves with those customer segments that deliver superior LTV and are in abundant supply in the markets we choose to serve.

Do you calculate LTV?

~ Jeff


And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!





Saturday, June 19, 2021

Banking's Execution Imperative

Announcer: Spain had 85% possession against Sweden and did not score.

The strategy drawn up by the Spanish side played out... mostly. What Spain didn't do is execute in their attacking third to put one in the net. It doesn't matter if you had 85% possession. The scoreboard matters.

So it goes with banking. So often management teams put in the work to design a winning strategy. They march out of that planning retreat energized. And when their strategy consultant re-engages next year to see where they are on execution, there is disappointment. The economy, interest rate environment, or their "day job" held them back. And the institution didn't move forward. They didn't execute in the attacking third.

I realize the irony about me writing on execution when one segment of my book, Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders was "No amount of good execution will help a bad strategy." But if we don't get serious about executing on the well thought out strategies we worked so hard to develop, the scoreboard will reflect it. And we can't expect our competition to put up a zero so we stay level at nil-nil. 

I'm working this soccer analogy to the fullest.

Here is what I mean. Schmidlap National Bank, our hypothetical community bank, researches their markets, customers, competitors, strengths and weaknesses and determine that they can distinguish themselves as the best business bank for businesses between $1 million - $10 million in their markets. So they set out to make it so.

They debate what success would look like. To be the best business bank, they must baseline what their current business customers think of their bank, its products, and its service. So a strategic initiative is to baseline through survey, and repeat at least semi-annually. To align strategy with culture, they make executive and mid-level performance reviews within the departments that serve businesses dependent on continuous improvement in how your business customers view the bank.

Additionally, the strategy team thinks they should be paid for being the "best" in terms of pricing. As such, they identify top-quartile (among market peers) yield on loans to be their aspirational goal. And again, executive performance reviews and/or bonuses are linked to achieving top quartile yield on loans while achieving market average credit quality metrics. In other words, they can't deliver yield by chasing poor credits. 

But there's more. In order to align the organization with this strategic aspiration, lender bonus criteria is changed from volume to continuous improvement in the individual lenders' spread. So now, lenders' incentives are closely linked with strategy. They demonstrate continuous improvement in customer satisfaction scores, and continuous improvement in their portfolio spreads, and they have a good year. 

Each strategic initiative, inextricably tied to strategy, serves to set the table (i.e. culture) for successful strategy execution. And the initiatives are strategic. Not "replace the departing loan assistant" or "upgrade phone system." These are business as usual "to-do's". They are someone's day job.

But for bank executives, strategy execution is your day job.

Don't be Spain.


~ Jeff


And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to K9sForWarriors.org, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 

And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Memorial Day: Remember Maurice "Maury" Hukill

In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in the country of Lebanon between Palestinian and other Muslim guerrillas and Christian groups. During the ensuing years, Syrian, Israeli and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting and the resulting instability and bloodshed. 

In August, 1982, a multinational force, including 800 U.S. Marines, were ordered to Beirut to help coordinate a Palestinian withdrawal. They left in early September, but the vacuum that resulted from their departure culminated in a massacre of Palestinians by a Christian militia. So the international peacekeepers returned in force at the request of Lebanon by the end of September at the objection of Syria and Iran. For the next year the peacekeeping force was peppered by snipers, improvised explosive devices, and suicide bombers.


Maurice "Maury" Hukill was born and raised in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. A hamlet in the Scots-Irish settled area of western Lancaster County and epicenter for the Mars Chocolate Company's North American production of Dove Chocolate bars. 

Maury attended Virginia Tech, and in 1981 received his degree in forestry and wildlife management at VT's College of Natural Resources and Environment. Although he did not go on to make use of the degree. Instead, he followed his father, Hank Hukill Jr. into military service. Hank was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a nuclear engineer and a submariner. After his naval career, Hank went on to serve at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, and was part of the team to restart the plant after the 1979 mishap. TMI was near Elizabethtown.

Maury chose the Marines, and went to officer candidate school to earn his commission. A regular suburban kid from my hometown volunteering to serve his country.

He was a 2nd lieutenant in the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was dispatched at the request of Lebanon to Beirut to keep the peace in the midst of factional fighting, religious zealotry, and regional strife.

At 0622, Sunday morning, on October 23, 1983, a non-Lebanese, terrorist driven stake bed truck loaded with explosives equivalent to 21,000 pounds of TNT turned onto an access road leading to the Marine airport compound. It crashed through a barbed-wire fence. The truck passed the sentry post and since the sentries were operating under strict rules of engagement, did not have their firearms magazines loaded, and therefore could not fire upon the truck until it barreled past them. 

The truck, driven by an Iranian national, did not stop until it drove through the front entrance of the BLT building, which was housing 2LT Hukill's unit. Most were still asleep. The blast occurred almost immediately. One survivor said "I don't think there are words in the English language to describe the magnitude of the blast." It was the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The building collapsed.

The explosion killed 220 Marines including the 25 year-old Hukill, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making it the deadliest single-day death toll the US Marine Corps had seen since the Battle of Iwo Jima during WWII, and the deadliest single-day death toll the Armed Forces had seen since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack on Americans prior to 9-11.

Minutes later, a second suicide bomber drove another truck bomb into the nearby Drakkar building, where French troops were stationed, resulting in the deaths of 58 paratroopers and six civilians. 

A Beirut Monument dedicated to the U.S. service members who lost their lives is located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where Camp Lejeune is located. 

"Our first duty is to remember..."


While you are enjoying Memorial Day Weekend finally getting together with family and friends, I ask you to remember Maury Hukill and all of his comrades that gave their last full measure of devotion on that terrible day in 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon.


~ Jeff




Research

Beirut Memorial:

8A894694CA09D74F48E5AF790B15DA11.beirut-memorial-program-new-.pdf (beirutveterans.org)

Marines of Beirut video from the Marine Corp Reserve:

https://youtu.be/pqfnJptZEV0

Virginia Tech honors 2nd Lt Maurice Hukill:

University to honor U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Maurice Hukill at Pylon Dedication Ceremony | Virginia Tech Daily | Virginia Tech (vt.edu)

History "This Day in History":

Beirut barracks blown up - HISTORY

Patriot Connections:

1983 Beirut Bombings – Deadliest day for Marines since Iwo Jima | Patriot Connections

Defense archives listing the fallen:

DefenseLink.mil - Special Report - Beirut Barracks Bombing

Beirut Remembered video:

https://youtu.be/iOqZz_oEdig



Thursday, May 13, 2021

Excess Liquidity, Low Rates, and Branching. My Answers to Jeff Davis' Questions

S&P Global Market Intelligence Principal Analyst Nathan Stovall recently interviewed Mercer Capital's Jeff Davis on the Street Talk podcast regarding the thorny banking issues of the liquidity glut, persistently (or perpetually?) low rates, and the branch costs millstone. I highlight Jeff's comments, and offer some solutions in this video blog.

Enjoy!

~ Jeff





Here is the YouTube link to my comments in case the video does not play on your device:

https://youtu.be/8erI7qDMb2g

Street Talk podcast link: 

Excess liquidity, low rates leave banks between a rock and M&A | S&P Global Market Intelligence (spglobal.com)


And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Squared Away- How It Happened

March 11, 2020: The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. I attended the Pennsylvania Bankers' Association Women in Banking Conference the next day. And I wouldn't attend another for a year and three months. I will be attending the Financial Managers Society FMS Forum this upcoming June.  

The first few months were a haze of helping clients navigate the uncertainties in their business, and the uncertainty in our own.


And then we began settling into a routine. When the U.S. tried to open up in the summer, we actually embarked on a 10-day business trip to Texas to work on a project. And then the second wave hit. Back in the work-from-home (WFH) saddle again.

Do you know how much time a traveling consultant recaptures when they no longer travel? Sure, road warriors try to be productive on phone calls and in hotel rooms. But when all travel is paused, you suddenly have much more time to get things done and be productive.

It was with this newfound time that got me thinking in the summer of 2020.... write a book! 

Annually I would review my most read blog posts for the past year and all time. I've been writing since 2010. Some made sense to me. Others surprised me, such as the amount of views expended on board composition, or on deploying bank capital. And I thought, well, readers know what they want. And viola! Idea! Write a book curated by readers of Jeff For Banks. 

So in the summer I drafted a summary, and an introduction chapter, and solicited the usual publishing suspects for business books. The challenge was that it was a book designed for community financial institutions. Very niche. Not a large audience. No worries though, I could build my own publishing house. So I did, building off what I learned when my then 10 year old daughter published a pre-teen book.


Editors Rule

My first hire was an editor. Here I leaned into my connections. I have written many articles for multiple publications. My best editor, as it turned out, was the ababankmarketing.com editor, Kate Young. She tore up my articles to sometimes unrecognizable levels. Yet they were better, much better, than what I submitted. Could I keep my ego in check by submitting myself to so much red ink again? You betcha.

If you want to write a book, have a great editor. Kate was great, and I think the product shows her skills.

While writing we quickly realized we needed permissions to include references and graphics. Since the book includes blog posts in their original form, I had to ensure every graphic was royalty free or I had to substitute with royalty free graphics. Also, if I included slides from conferences and presentations that I attended, I asked the firm if it was ok to use their material. The last permission was a cartoon on page 57 of the paperback and hardcover, the work of a commercial cartoonist. That one required a royalty payment. Most of the tables and graphs in the book were done by me. I gave myself permission.

My theory behind the book is that serving all stakeholders can be the next best version of my readers' financial institutions. While seventy-five percent done with writing, I read Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey of Whole Foods Market and Raj Sisodia. They put hard numbers behind it in their appendix that shows "Firms of Endearment", i.e. those that serve a higher purpose than solely delivering to shareholders, outperform the general market. That was my theory. Stakeholder primacy is not a zero-sum game. You can deliver value to all stakeholders at the detriment to none. It was good to have confirmation in the form of analysis. I do favor spreadsheets. Oftentimes success is measured by them. 


What's In A Name?

I naturally had a few book names knocking around in my head. And I bounced a few off of Kate, my editor. But for this exercise, I leaned on my family. It was January, and my college daughter was home. It was the pandemic, and my LA daughter's family (fiancée and child) were riding the pandemic out with us. Boom! Naming team.


We sat around the kitchen table and knocked out possible titles. We started with banking specific possibilities, until my daughter's fiancée suggested we link other aspects of my life into the title.  That ended up being the last three titles in the accompanying picture (third from the top offered by my daughter because it's what might have come out of my mouth as a result of teenager hijinks). Obviously we started out less serious. But my wife actually came up with the last one and the winner-Squared Away. It's a typical military term that has widespread civilian adoption. If you're squared away, you got your sh*t together. 

The subtitle came from a virtual conference where Jelena McWilliams, the FDIC Chair, said those words. Actually, I did not attend the virtual conference. You know how I heard of what she said? Several tweets from my Twitter friends. My subtitle came from a tweet. You read it here.


Graphic Artists Drool

Once written and edited, now is the time to bring more professionals onboard. First, a typesetter. Publishing houses and international book standards require certain formats. You'll hear more on this below, but do you know there is not supposed to be any blank pages? That is why some books have This Page Intentionally Left Blank. So it's not blank. Publishers do this to manage where the Table of Contents rest, and each chapter starts on the right side of the book, etc. 

Did you also know that the book title with author and publisher must appear immediately prior to the copyright page. Who knew? At any rate, I hired an experienced typesetter that knew all of these things and promptly formatted the interior of the book for Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover. She was great, and quick. I had minimal changes.

The cover artist was a bit different. And the cover, as it turns out, is very important to book sales. More important for fiction, but still important. So I researched the most experienced in design and found my Nigerian artist via Fiverr. His design was great, in my opinion (see picture). He gave me a couple mock-ups to choose from but I liked the symbolism of the squares. Each different book format required a different cover (Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover). And for paperback and hardcover, I had different publishers (Amazon and Lulu). Amazon does not do hardcovers. 

As great as the graphic artist was in art, he was a bit challenged in delivering book cover formats correctly. The Kindle version went off without a hitch. The paperback had a couple revisions. The hardcover was a challenge, including putting the wrong barcode on the back. Did you know that each format has a different ISBN number and therefore barcode? Also, did you know, that the barcode on the back of printed books needs to have a white background and be in the exact same spot on every book? 

My graphic artist struggled with this. And ultimately my daughter's fiancée finished the last five yards of the hardcover design. 


Marketing

I'm now in the book marketing business.

Before release, I noticed that two of my social media contacts that served financial institutions and financial technology companies penned their own tomb: Beyond Good. And I worried that much of their thesis was similar to my own. It is similar in that they encourage capitalism's evolution to be more balanced in serving stakeholders. But it is not as targeted towards micro issues facing community financial institutions, as was mine. Phew! I encourage you to read both!

No matter if you use a publisher or create your own, you are ultimately responsible for book sales. My first move was to order author's copies and send pre-release versions to industry insiders. I did so, but only two weeks prior to release. It wasn't like I gave them tremendous time to read, opine, and help promote. But hey, I'm a newbie. 

This led to me being on the Banking Transformed podcast, and be scheduled for a few more. It was a great conversation with Jim Marous. And I look forward to others.

Before going public I e-mailed all of my banking contacts, letting them know before others that I wrote a book specifically designed to bring value to them. And that really started the ball rolling. That was only two weeks ago, so we'll see how it goes. So far the feedback has been positive. But who calls out the author and says "this is crap!" I worked hard to make it valuable, so I'm hoping nobody feels that way. But ya never know.

My LA daughter is helping me with marketing. She works for a marketing agency that specializes in health care and has been in the marketing agency biz her whole professional career. Knows more than me. But don't tell her I said so. If you see an ad on LinkedIn or Amazon, likely done by her. She also guides me in content and pushing out to the world. 

I wonder if she'll like this blog post?


At any rate, that's how my book came to be. I hope you enjoy it. Order by clicking on the below links or go to wherever you get your books:

Kindle

Paperback

Hardcover

Thank you for your consideration!


~ Jeff