Matt Andresen

Former mascot, banker, co-owner of web analytics company and financial advising company. Currently social media content dude staying Brassy. www.brassmedia.com


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Bank Spotlight: Mascoma Savings Bank – Culture, The Feeling’s Mutual

mascoma bank color logo

“Ask a group of community bankers what worries them and they’ll come up with similar answers – credit union and Farm Credit System competition, regulatory burden, and concerns about the viability of community banks,” according to Jeff Plagge, President and CEO of Northwest Financial Corp. and ABA Chairman.  While I agree these are areas of concern, I would be more concerned with culture, something that Mascoma Savings Bank has had figured out since 1899, with the help of Senior VP, Samantha Pause.

In Samantha’s words, “We don’t have stockholders, which means our number one focus is not the dividend we are going to pay to stockholders.  Instead our number one focus is our customers and our community.  Mutuality drives everything we do.  It drives how we react to our customers and community.  It drives the types of products and services we offer.  It drives our approach to sales and service, and it drives how we market ourselves.  Are we concerned about the bottom line? Of course we are. We are a business.  But, because we are Mutual, we can focus on what is best for our customers and our community, long term.”

At first I thought her bank was very unique, which in many ways it still is, but then I did some research on their origin. The first United States savings banks were envisioned as philanthropic endeavors, designed to uplift the poor and working classes. The banks were started by philanthropists, who took on the positions of savings bank trustees, managers, and directors as opportunities to teach the lower classes the virtues of thrift, and self-reliance by allowing them the security to save their money.

While a huge reason why Mascoma Savings is able to act in this way comes from the savings banks’ origins, another big reason is because they get the full backing of their CEO.  Samantha says that, “Our CEO is dedicated to the mutual structure of our bank and understands that our main purpose is to be a true community bank.  Because of this, he wants to ensure that everything we do is centered around the level of service we are providing.  A lot of the marketing and advertising that we do is centered around providing information to the community.  Whether it is information on products, services, financial education, or information about community events, our main focus on advertising is being a provider of information.  When we focus totally on what is in the best interest of our customers and community, sale happen.  Our customers know who we are, they know how we contribute to the community and they appreciate that.  They choose us as a bank because of our culture.”

 
Zappos Loyalty Team

Zappos Customer Loyalty Team

Culture?!  Who knew?! Your culture is who you are as an organization.  I had the privilege of listening to Alfred Lin, the COO of Zappos speak a while back and he said Zappos is a service company that happens to sell shoes.  Now why does this stick out?  So many other organizations claim to stand behind their service, but end up just adding to the white noise.  Zappos walks the walk.  For instance, they put everyone, I mean everyone, through the same 4 week training process. About a week into the training, Zappos makes what it calls “The Offer,” telling the potential future employee, “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you have worked, plus a $2,000 bonus.”  What a buy in! Imagine if banks started to do this?! They focus on the customer so much that ROI is an automatic by-product. 

So if ROI is not at the core of why you do something, how do you measure success and profit?  Samantha says that, “We measure success by the response we get from the public on our advertising efforts.  We aren’t measuring success by ROI.  Instead we gather feedback from community members and local businesses to find out if our advertising is effective.  We do so through word of mouth, surveys, and focus groups.   We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding these efforts.”

This really seems to work.  Now, I am not saying that banks with stockholders are bad, I use to work for one, but without a shift of culture and really walking the walk, you will continue to do the same things over and over, sounding like every other bank out there.  As Mr. Einstein stated, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think it’s time to try something different…really different.


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4 New Year resolutions for consumers to try, in order to save money in 2014

Another year is over and it’s time to start on a fresh note again. We are a week removed from New Year’s day and it’s high time to start following the resolutions rigorously. Every new year provides you with an opportunity to boost finances and live healthy and wealthy. It’s all about how well you grab the opportunity to keep your finances on track. However, it’s a general habit to make new year resolutions and leave them in midway. Saving money should be a habit too!  So I pray you get back in the habit or start a habit of saving money.  Think of it as paying yourself to stick to your resolution.

4 Resolutions that you must follow rigorously in 2014 to save more

Around 54% of Americans consider financial resolutions to be extremely important. Well, financial resolutions are important and you must follow them to keep your finances healthy. So, here are 5 most essential financial resolutions that you must follow to keep your savings growing. Have a look at the 4 resolutions below:

401(k)1. Be resolute to save enough for your 401 (K) plan: Apart from your liquid savings account and emergency fund, it’s important to save in 401 (K) plan as well. 401 (K) is a specific retirement savings plan provided by most of the employers. This is a great way to secure financial life after retirement. So, this year make it a point to max out your contributions to the 401 (K) plan. Talk to your employer and start savings on a regular basis.

Credit cards2. Make it a point to use credit cards as little as possible: Be more resolute this year to manage your credit cards carefully. Take care of the cards and it’ll be easier enough to tame the bills. Keep checking your account statements every month, don’t shop beyond 30% of the credit limit and pay all the bills in full before the due date. These habits are essential to make the most of your credit. In this way, you’ll be able to control your credit card debts and your credibility will increase along with your savings.

Debt-blocks-3. Get rid of the habit of debt accumulation: Neglecting debt is something that can ruin your finances beyond your imagination. Many people are there who come up with the resolution to eliminate debts every year but right after a few months, they start falling behind. If you’re also a part of that group, then make sure to change your habit. Consolidate your due bills or arrange a settlement with your creditors. These are the most effective ways to eliminate debts gradually.

Coupons4. Be a bit more responsible as a consumer: Apart from everything else, the best new year resolution can be controlling your spending habits. When it comes to saving money, nothing can be more effective than controlling your expenses. If you’ve already spent a lot for your New Year bash, then make it a point to keep your expenses low for the coming months. Pay off your due bills first. Only after clearing your dues you should think of spending. But never spend beyond the limit of your affordability.

So, with the arrival of a new year make it a point to follow these 4 resolutions and save money to secure your financial future.

 

 

Author Bio- Andrew Jackson is a financial writer who loves to analyze personal finance and credit card relate issues to help consumers manage their money. He regularly contributes to numerous informative blogs and financial websites.To get the more information on personal finance & credit card debt issues you can join the Google+ Page of Ovlg.


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Wake Up! It was just a Debt Nightmare.

Debt Nightmare

Click on the picture above to see an awesome and short Brass Media DEBT Trailer.

Not too long ago I remember having bad weekly nightmares.  I started writing them down when I woke up and I struggled to understand their meaning.  The good dreams made more sense or at least had a higher meaning with a possible life lesson, but the nightmares didn’t seem to serve a purpose, other than to lengthen my anxiety…until I looked at what might be causing them; my debt.

According to a Huffington Post Article, “Not all nightmare triggers have to be traumatic, however. Everyday stressors, such as job or financial anxiety, or major life transitions such as moving or divorce, can also cause nightmares.”

I remember having one dream so real and scary that I still remember it vividly, but when I woke up the first thing I thought of was my debt.  The dream was about being forced with others to enter a gladiator type ring with very unstable bulls.  I guess that is what debt feels like; having to fight off unstable bulls constantly.  From my personal experience, the only chance at survival is to come up with a plan and find help.

Since I work for a company in the field of financial education (Brass Media), I get to see a lot of what is out there in attempt to make people more aware, which is why so many groups target middle and high schoolers.  It should be understood though, that while teaching those how to handle their money (that don’t yet know any better), it’s equally important (if not more so),  to teach those who learned the hard way…like me.

This nightmare of mine translated into a small nightmare for my bank (there will be a future blog post just about this), since I was no longer a “sticky” product customer. When my debt started getting out of control, the last thing I thought about was getting a loan or starting a savings account (let alone worrying about direct deposit or bill pay – yikes!), yet my banker would ask me all the time about both, without targeting the real issue: my debt nightmare.

Dreams are literally wounded by debt and until others understand how debt can enslave and starve a person, there may never be a good cure.  Living within your means may be trying and painful at times, but it is better than living with debt.  If, like Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs said, “It’s all about the Benjamins,” then maybe it’s best to look to Mr. Franklin to get some sound advice: “Rather go to bed with out dinner than to rise in debt.”

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Along side this blog post is a relevantly parallel article (below) taken from the Brass Media Archives on the good and bad of having a Credit Card (Click on the image below to enlarge the article for reading).

clutchesofcredit - Original


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Hazing the ME ME ME Generation

Time Magazine 2013 - ME ME ME

Growing up, my dad had a sticker on his music entertainment center that read, “If It’s TOO LOUD, You’re TOO OLD!”  What it didn’t say is that if I tried to play Tupac, my dad would turn it off and say it sounded like “just noise,” that my generation was trying to pass as music.  When I got older I asked him if his parents thought the same of his rock and roll music, he just laughed and reluctantly agreed.  The point is each generation seems to look down on the one following, like one brother would treat his younger one.

Millenials are a very popular topic right now. Back in May, Time Magazine ran a cover that read: The ME ME ME Generation. Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.  Why they’ll save us all.    Here are some quotes from Time Magazine:

“What worries parents, teachers and employers is the latest crop of adults want to postpone growing up. At a time when they should be graduating, entering the workforce and starting their own families, the 20-something crowd is baulking at those rights of passage.  Companies are discovering to win the best talent they must get a young workforce that is considered overly sensitive at best and lazy at worst.  They would rather hike in the Himalayas then climb a corporate ladder. They have trouble making decisions.  A reluctance to embrace the dying work ethic of the former generation left this generation sounding like whiners,”  echoed Brad Karsh of JB Training Solutions on his very informative webinar (for which I base this post) on Millennial Retention at work.

Here is the funny thing, it’s not from the time magazine above, dated May, 20, 2013; It’s from this Time Magazine below, dated July 16, 1990.

Twentysomething 7-16-1990

I think we like to haze the new generation. It would seem that it has become a time honored tradition. If you back a little farther, say 1985 (Newsweek – The Video Generation), you find complaints about how this generation is so obsessed about taking videos of themselves and a decade earlier in the New York Magazine in 1976,  where it talks about the baby boomers and the “Me Decade”.

Newsweek-NewYork-Millenials

While every one is quick to focus on the here and now and what technology is doing to the current generation, one needs decades of perspective before just calling the current generation selfish with eyes out just for ME ME ME.  In the end it’s partly the culture to blame, making each generation seem so selfish.  Pop culture cultivates an entitlement mentality by steering kids towards immediate rewards. This immediate reward makes it easier for marketers and advertisers to forgo the work of the relationship they could foster.  All we try to do to help is create rules, but rules without a relationship lead to rebellion from a good financial foundation amongst other things.


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Customer Service Twits

Bird-Gang-Big

As my grandmother told me often, we have two ears and one mouth, so by design we should listen more than we talk.  I used twitter for a while without ever tweeting anything.  I listened to what my competitors had to say and what people were saying about me.  Then I slowly started tweeting.  The important thing is to decide how you are going to use twitter.

When I was at Banker at Chase Bank , they were pretty early adopters of this type of social media.  I believe they used it primarily to monitor their brand and then started using it  as a more swift customer service tool.  They say that every complaint is a possible opportunity, and Twitter allows you to exploit this.  They started seeing better customer service scores and while bonuses were always based solely on checking accounts open (campaign), they started realize Twitter played a part push branch bonuses more toward service. Every single bank I talk to says that it is their service that makes them stand apart, yet so few are using the ONE tool that can exponentially make this a reality.

Still don’t believe me?  Well, at Chase,  I tested to see if they were paying attention (which previously they were not).  I made a facetious comment about getting moving walkways into branches so it would force the confused customer into more efficiently ‘get in and get out’ strategy.  I was later written up by my boss for inappropriate use of technology because this made it all the way up to Jamie Dimon, the Chase CEO. It was like watching a blooper reel as my boss sat me down to “write me up”; he couldn’t stop laughing.  He was also in disbelief.  I just sat back, smiled and exclaimed, “Wow, they really ARE paying attention now!”

So…if this type of medium can get the attention of the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, how do you think it will work on your current and potential customers.  Give it some thought and stop being a twit and start with reading a tweet.


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Financial Education: A Bank Do-It-Yourself Project

Me at CV1

Repping my Brass T-Shirt during a financial education discussion at my alma mater, Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis, OR

Benjamin Franklin said, “An Investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”  Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), furthered this sentiment with bankers at the American Bankers Association’s annual convention on Monday, when he told bankers to “push for financial education for young people at the state level in order to bring up a new generation of responsible borrowers.”

This is all well and good, but how many times do speakers stand up in front of a crowd and inspire them, yet only give very general and unspecific solutions?  I would say most of the time.  Here, Cordray went on to say that, according to a recent article by Philip Ryan, an Associate Editor of Bank Innovation; “Financial responsibility, fostered by education, is far better. Bankers should realize, however, that not all participants in the financial system will receive financial education in the home, and that, therefore, an effort must be made to get this education into the schools so that young people learn the virtues of saving and responsible borrowing early in life.” This may still seem general and unspecific, but it’s a start.  The solution lies within the commitment of the banks.

There is a very specific solution, but it only comes from consistent action.  At Brass we have one such solution; the Brass Student Program, but don’t think we are the only one.  If anything it serves as an example of a program that works by creating a stronger relationship between the bank and local high schools. When looking into other programs or when you are looking to create one yourself, make sure you understand that, for a bank, there are NO SHORTCUTS to being involved yourself.  This is not like doing a home project yourself to save money.  Curing this problem comes down to relationship building, something that was stressed every hour of every day when I was a banker. I think millennials are starving for banks to put in more authentic time with them to foster a relationship and to help them with money, as seen in this short case study of 6 young adults.

American Author Napoleon Hill once said, “It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. ” So if you, as a bank, are really serious about relationships, make sure the only shortcut you take is not waiting half your life before realizing the obvious…with help of course.


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Money Talks: Your Kids and Money

So 73 percent of parents keeping their kids in the financial loop…big deal. It shouldn’t be much of a celebration. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education only about 75 percent of students earn their high school diplomas nationwide.  Are we celebrating that too?  During my VERY brief stint as a personal trainer in college, I had very a hard time working with clients because while they listened to me in the gym during their workout, they didn’t when they got home.  They didn’t have someone at home willing to keep them accountable. My point is that kids may pay attention in class, but without the parents help at home, we are going nowhere fast!

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