Date: December 31, 2013
They never even saw it coming
I handed the driver my credit card as I exited the taxi. He grabbed an iPhone with a peculiar white dongle attached. He slid the card through the white node and as I asked him for a receipt, my iPhone chirped and a text-messaged receipt appeared.
This impressed me as reminiscent of my experiences in the Apple store (or more recently Nordstrom). It also evoked a barrage of thoughts, the most prominent being if you sell or repair cash registers; you better update your business plan or resume.
That thought led me to ponder “category killers”, a marketing term used to describe a product, brand or company with such a distinct sustainable competitive advantage that competing firms find it almost impossible to continue operating profitably.
Date: April 2, 2013
October 26, 2012
Dear friends and clients of KaneCarlton,
As many of you may know, the Mid-Atlantic area of the country is poised to be hit what is being hailed as an unprecedented weather event.
Hurricane Sandy is forecasted to collide with a Nor’easter and a blizzard forming in the mountains to the west (up to a foot of snow) creating an explosive, slow moving storm affecting up to 50 million people in the most populous part of the country.
“Frankinstorm”, as it is being dubbed by some, is likely to wreak havoc on communications and power grids potentially causing disruption to our ability to serve you. In fact, as I prepare this note, I am watching the weather channel, which has a bulls-eye on Washington DC area.
First and foremost, we send our hopes and prayers that none of you are affected; that your homes, property and loved ones are safe.
While we are preparing as best as possible, we wanted to take a moment to make you aware of this event in case it creates a disruption in our ability to respond to your communications or delays in any project deliverables. Read more »Scridb filter
Date: October 26, 2012
For some reason, I found a vastly renewed interest in our national pastime this summer. It could be, my team, the Washington Nationals are winning and winning big. That simple fact surely doesn’t hurt matters, but in a moment of repose, it’s not solely what is fueling my increased interest in the sport. Perhaps political theater has grown old, or talking of the economy and Europe has staled; or maybe it is a part of a midlife crisis, yearning for the days of a simpler past. Most likely it ‘s these conscious factors coupled with those hard to put your finger on-it gut feelings that brought me back to the game in a big way.
Baseball has deep roots, its own set of rules and its own way of keeping score. There are runs, not points or goals, and, unlike most sports, there is no time limit or clock. There are over 160 games in the regular season, compared to American football with 16.
So, what does this have to do with wealth management at banks? Read more »Scridb filter
Date: August 13, 2012
Each month a networking group of consultants from the financial services industry meet for lunch at a picturesque restaurant in a historic Tudor structure surrounded by lush gardens. This group of roughly a dozen has been meeting in this little oasis outside of Washington DC for over a decade.
I am thrilled to be a part of this band of friendly and intelligent professionals. Our meetings our informative and productive; an opportunity to swap best practices, share war stories and help each other on both a business and emotional level. Think group therapy, particularly as we went through the 2008 and 2009.
While all this is nothing extraordinary, what happened at our last two meetings struck me as a huge, in your face, message, which continues to linger (translated, is still stuck in my crawl).
On the first occasion, our waiter refused our regular practice of taking the bill and dividing it evenly among our credit cards. He simply stated it was against policy and we would either have to use one card or pay cash. We shared with him several detailed accounts of our extended patronage, our use of this practice through the years, and of our annual holiday party. He was unfazed by our continuing support of this small business and staunchly stood his ground.
While the test of wills escalated, he informed us the cash registered was unable to perform the necessary functions to honor our request. He grumbled and beefed about how cheap the owners were and about how outdated all of the equipment at the restaurant was.
Grudgingly, he finally figured out a way to make it work, but clearly demonstrated through his demeanor, he was none too happy. Since the tip was included for the group, I suspect he figured his less than polite service would not affect him personally.
Our next outing in a similar fashion. On this occasion the group was half the size of the first. When we asked about splitting one check four ways, the waiter simply took his pen and pointed to a newly added line on the menu stating the maximum number of cards excepted was three. He didn’t say word, just tapped his pen on the menu a few more times before finally saying the register couldn’t handle it.
As those who follow these posts know, I am a nut about service and managing the client experience. These stories obviously illustrate two clear examples of abysmal service, which I would like to briefly dissect
While there are many self-serve, “subway-esque” alternatives to full service wealth management most of you reading this post have built your businesses on service and advice. It is clear you are in the service industry. While I highly doubt any of you would ever treat your clients with the level of surliness we encountered, it is worth asking if your policies and other business practices are supporting the message and model you want to deliver. At $17.50 for a salad, I would highly expect a level of service above what I would get ordering a half smoke at 7-11.
It is also clear to me this enterprise is resting on its laurels. They have obviously gone a long way to create and maintain those sumptuous gardens and to fill the establishment with antiques and other small touches (making the setting quite splendid). The food is delicious as well. Yet, with all this investment they are failing to arm their staff with the tools necessary to serve their clients in a manner expected in the 21st century. It’s critical for your practice that you keep up with the times and that your business isn’t merely a false façade, alluring on the outside, but falling woefully short when it comes to effectively using the latest tools available. Ignoring social media, having an outdated web site, no inbound client portal, forgoing an automated email messaging system, pooh-poohing a blog and otherwise using outdated technology and not being sensitive to the impact it is having on your business will be detrimental to your survival
Finally, realizing how much a customer is worth over the long haul is a critical tenant of successful businesses. These waiters looked at the transaction, not the relationship. Management, unwilling to invest in the proper tools is creating a business model that will at first atrophy and then, ultimately die, as less revenue (they lost our business) means less money to invest in the business, which means less satisfied clients… – you get the picture.
Everything that transpired became crystal clear in an instant when I was leaving from our last lunch. There it was, hanging as plain as day on the wall – a payphone. I guess asking for a free Wi-Fi connection is totally out of the question.
Date: June 18, 2012
On a sunny April afternoon I am walking down a cobblestoned street with the president of a mid-sized community bank when he casually mentions his wealth management division is not contributing much to the bottom line.
This was not news to either of us, since KaneCarlton recently completed a benchmarking and performance capabilities assessment of their Trust and Brokerage units. However, it did lead to an open and thoughtful lunch conversation on how the results of his bank were not unique.
We’ve been hearing for years how wealth management’s contribution to the bank’s total net income is nothing more than a rounding error. And while recognizing the many intangible benefits derived from being in wealth management, the need for tangible financial results has never been greater.
Non-performing/underperforming assets coupled with the inability to find qualified borrowers and overregulation has changed the face of banking, heightening the need to generate more income from other lines of business. Wealth management, requiring little coveted capital, seems poised to be that business.
Yet, while they try, and they try and they try, most banks are still a long way from posting satisfactory financial results.
And then, it came – The Question: “What are other banks doing?” Of course, my initial reaction was to launch into a medley of best practices, benchmarks and performance metrics; however, I caught myself, thinking instead, that maybe, just maybe, the opportunity lies more with the question than it does the answer.
Dr. Stephen Covey in his “Seven Habits” books reminds us to make certain as we climb the ladder of success it is leaning against the right wall. Emulating what other banks are doing, when they are consistently underperforming their non-bank counterparts might not be the best strategy.
According to Chip Roame, Managing Partner of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, “wirehouses and regional broker-dealers still have the biggest market share of industry assets under administration by far, controlling 58 percent of those assets compared with 35 percent for independent advisors and a mere 8 percent for banks and insurance companies.” It’s critical to note however, the wirehouse/regional and bank assets are falling as the independents gains ground.
After more than a century of operating trust departments and three decades of brokerage, banks control less than ten percent of the market. On the other hand, the independent channel, a relatively nascent upstart controls over quadruple the market share of banks.
So instead of giving him some useless information to fire his imagination, I posed a question to him; “What do your peers from other banks say about their wealth management businesses?”
“They try and they try, and they try, but they can’t get no…”
The irony of this is banks would appear to be better positioned than their competitors when it comes to gaining and controlling market share. In it’s simplest terms, the bank referral opportunity conjures an image of Amway on steroids. Banks have existing client relationships, built in cross-sell opportunities and multiple distribution channels. Yet, with all of this at their disposal they have failed to capitalize.
As a start, banks may want to begin to emulate those firms gaining market share not those losing it. While identifying best practices at other banks is a logical approach, it is somewhat akin to the adage, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man rules”.
Date: May 26, 2012
But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasy
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…
Styx – The Grand Illusion
The air was abuzz at the BISA Annual Conference after James Bowen’s presentation “An Optimistic Perspective”. His positive outlook seemed to lift a heavy burden from shoulders tired of worrying about the future of America, her economy and the markets.
Several attendees commented on the encouraging prognosis, with smiles broadening as they recounted highlights from the First Trust CEO’s talk.
One such comment, however, really stuck with me. An old colleague simply stated, “I don’t know about you, but my portfolio certainly isn’t up 100%”. “Mine either”, I replied, adding “I guess I wasn’t smart enough to replace all my Citi with Apple and, even so everything I put into those Lehman bonds is gone forever.”
We both lamented a bit longer, while wondering if there were plenty more suckers walking around thinking the same thing.
The markets have rebounded nicely from their 2009 lows, and perhaps all of the gloom proffered forth by the soothsayers was really uncalled for pessimism creating unneeded turmoil and chaos. Or was it?
Only time will tell if the negative sentiments of these self-acclaimed prophets will prove out, but closer to home, I am guessing what many investors experienced is more akin to my colleague and I than a portfolio which doubled in a few short years. Read more »Scridb filter
Date: April 7, 2012
Having just entered the final waypoint to a new anchorage into my chartplotter I now eagerly await the beginning of sailing season on the Chesapeake Bay. What’s really cool is that I am at the airport, killing time before my flight back from BISA’s Annual Conference. You see, this highly sophisticated piece of software, one that can actually steer my boat to a preprogrammed destination, is on my phone – sitting right next to the BISA 2012 Conference app.
As I thought about sharing the highlights of the conference with Wealth Biz Buzz readers, I immediately conjured up images of existing press stories trying to recount passionate keynote addresses and information-packed breakout sessions. I felt so, been there, done that, I decided for us both to pass on summarizing (in eight hundred words or less) three days of intensive interchange.
Yet, as I stare down at my smartphone, that little blue BISA icon continues to occupy my attention.
While I couldn’t put my finger on it at first (figuratively, not literally), it dawned on me; this one seemingly innocuous application represented a sea change for our Association and, for our industry. Read more »Scridb filter
Date: March 13, 2012
Wealth Biz Buzz’s fascination with those obscure folks, who truly made a difference in the world, continues. Seldom lauded, history typically relegates these heroes to living in the shadows of their more celebrated counterparts. And, Smedley Butler is no different. While Grant and Lee, Patton and Eisenhower, McArthur and, of course, the iconic George Washington, are each household names, Major General Smedley Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) likely didn’t make your list of top American generals.
Yet, at the time of his death, General Butler was the most decorated Marine in the history of the United States.
During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. By the end of his career, he had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to twice receive the Medal of Honor, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only man to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.
And, while these most deserved commendations are impressive, what captured my attention was his involvement in the seldom discussed and highly controversial plot to overthrow the U.S. government in the 1930’s. Read more »Scridb filter
Date: February 19, 2012
This is a big year for bank brokerage. While it’s difficult to authenticate the official birth certificate, most industry veterans agree 2012 marks the thirtieth year of banks’ move into “nontraditional deposit products”.
And, like most birthdays, it’s an apropos time to reflect upon the past and look toward the future. For me, these have been extremely rewarding years, full of growth, challenge and promise. During these three decades, bank-based brokerage provided me with countless opportunities to get to know and help others, while making a good living in the process. Read more »Scridb filter
Date: February 13, 2012