Matt Andresen

Former mascot, banker, co-owner of web analytics co. and financial advising co. Currently PR, content and analytics marketing dude with Cleland Marketing.


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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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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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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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Banking on Jackie’s Birthday

In honor of what would be Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) birthday, I wanted to do a very brief spotlight on his bank.  “Robinson helped found and direct the Freedom National Bank in Harlem because he thought black people should have a financial institution of their own. At the time, the bank, which eventually closed, was the largest black-owned and operated bank in New York state.”

Jackie Robinson and Freedom National Bank in HarlemAs a huge Dodger fan (see previously post) and a proud supporter of banks increasing customer engagement around the country, I couldn’t be prouder of a man that by transforming a sport, he transformed a nation.  Go Dodgers!


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Movenbank On The Future Of Financial Services

Alex Sion, President and Managing Director of MovenBank, talks about the future of financial services.  MovenBank is seeking to provide customers with an entirely digital banking experience.  MovenBank is currently in Beta.  Sion says that the future of “banking is going to become less about product innovation and more about innovation for the client experience.”

Click image above to watch the short 4 minute video.

I had the privilege of listening to Brett King, MovenBank’s CEO and founder, talk at the ABA Marketing Conference this last September.  While I didn’t agree with everything he said, Brett provided a much needed wakeup call to banks that are behind the times.  King seemed to understand that banks are slow to change and that time was NOT on their side. King went on to say that in 1995 the average customer visited the bank 2-3 times per month.  In 2011 it was 2-3 times per YEAR!  Going to the bank is no longer defined by walking into a branch, bu rather using the bank’s services including the ATM.

ABA Marketing Confernce - Brett King

Brett King speaking at the 2012 ABA Marketing Conference

In a prior post I quoted Rob Poyhard (professor of business administration at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business) saying that “In today’s world, we are all interconnected. Companies that are thinking about this proactively are the ones that are probably going to have an advantage in leveraging this technology. I’d be surprised if the first few companies that get in there don’t have a lasting competitive advantage.”

So if you are one of the banks that are “behind the times,” don’t panic yet.  You still have time to get in the new marketing game.  I recommend a sound written strategy of what, how and when.  What is your strategy?  How are you going to implement it and when is this going to be put into action?  You don’t need to take a giant leap into this lifeline of social media, just try baby steps like Bill Murray tries to do in the movie, What about Bob?  While a giant leap could just make you frustrated and cause interuption to an otherwise calming experience.


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18 Ways to Engage and Build Teams in a Social Era

Social has taken away numerous connection barriers within the workplace, giving companies more direct access to not just push information out to their employees, but to actively engage in ongoing conversation with them and allow them to do the same. All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.

“Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect.”

Companies often forget about their employees and do not realize that not only are they their most valuable asset from a production, sales, operational standpoint, but that they are and should be their most valuable advocates. Empower those who work for you to create conversation and represent your brand—especially those who have a customer service or customer-facing role.

If they build it, service it or sell it, they’re in a perfect position to communicate with your audience in a way that humanizes your brand, but only if you let them. And the best way to begin this process is to not only allow, but empower communication within the organization. Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect. Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!

“All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.”

Many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees in an effort to control the social conversation. However this conversation is what can add value, create a strong bond with the company and foster relationships that will be the glue that binds, motivates, and drives everyone to succeed.

“Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!”

Companies we need to seize the moment and learn to look forward to the things sitting right under all our noses. It can be the simple things that connect employee to employee and leadership to everyone. That type of thinking will tap into our heart’s posture… unite us, make us look out for one another, and build a loyalty that allows a company to thrive for the long-term. It’s way too easy to miss out on how this can build a powerful workforce there for each other everyday.

Here are 18 ways to empower, encourage, and build a team that thinks of itself as a family…

1. Let them try.

2. Let them make mistakes.

3. Set goals with them.

4. Hold them accountable.

5. Tell them you are proud of them.

6. Fight for them.

7. Let them learn to fight for themselves.

8. Do not let fear dictate.

9. Look them in the eye when they talk.

10. Let them dream.

11. Let them see you dream.

12. Let them create.

13. Let them imagine.

14. Listen, listen, listen to them.

15. Give them grace.

16. Take breaks.

17. Learn to adapt.

18. Embrace who they are.

“Tell a child, a husband or an employee that he is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, that he has no gift for it, and that he is doing it all wrong and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique, be liberal with encouragement; make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it — and he will practice until the dawn comes in at the window in order to excel.” ~Dale Carnegie

Connect with Ted Rubin

Ted is the co-author of Return on Relationship™. Pre-order your copy here. Ted is also the Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias.

Follow Ted on Twitter @TedRubin.