OK, all you GonzoBanker freaks. Let’s get real about what’s going on out there. It’s late December. Your 2005 goal report is in, the bonus is bagged, the desk is clean, nobody’s really working, the newest hideous tie/scarf is under the tree, the family is waiting and getting surly, and you’re ready to dive into the chemically enhanced eggnog like a dehydrated hound dog sniffing out root water.
But one hole remains in your psyche. One piece of the puzzle is still AWOL. One thing must complete you. And we all know what it is – the 2005 GonzoBanker Awards!
Welcome to our annual awards issue that celebrates what we love, decries that which we detest, and pokes fun in every direction. Thankfully, there was again no shortage of topics to base this year’s awards on – good, bad, or completely baffling. Frankly, we think this year’s offering compares well to previous editions. For those of you that are new to the awards, let us detail the stringent criteria we use for inclusion. They are….oh, come on, who are we kidding? We don’t have standards or criteria. Our only deal here is that you’ll like some, you’ll hate some, you won’t understand some, and we’ll get e-mails for all three reasons.
So complete your year, friends. Enjoy.
THE BANK AWARDS
Mongo Gonzo Organic Growth Award (three-way tie)
Iron Guts Award for Performance Beyond the Call of Duty
This award goes to our friends at Hancock Bank in Gulfport, MS, and all the other financial institutions that were impacted by the series of hurricanes this year. The war stories and long hours from these banks have truly been inspiring. Please, bankers everywhere – at this time of the year, make a donation to Hancock or other banks that have set up funds to aid their employees impacted in the disasters. Let’s see some bankers helping bankers.
Mongo Stock Winner of the Year
Vision Bancshares (ticker VBAL.OB), a fast-growing, $600 million holding company in Panama City, FL. Who among us doesn’t wish we’d socked our Christmas money last year into Vision’s stock – it’s up a mere 60% in the past 12 months!
Mega Consolidation Award
Credit card companies. In one short year, we have seen MBNA go to BofA, Capital One buy Hibernia Bank, Providian sell to WAMU, and a host of other large portfolios changing hands. We’re talking oligopoly at this point – maybe things are ripe for some upstart payments innovators.
Greatest Initiative Shown by a Regional Manager
Julie Story of Riverside National Bank in Florida has, on her own time, designed and built performance dashboards and reporting tools for her branch managers. Combined with her own leadership skills, this creativity has leveraged Riverside’s branch managers with the tools necessary for 2006 growth.
Darren Stevens Award for Outstanding Branding Campaign
Bank of America. Even though a bunch of the cool technology in BofA’s TV ads is pure vapor, the bank is solidifying its perception as a leading, innovative bank in the minds of consumers. Who cares about reality? It’s marketing!
Irony in Regulation Award
ACB strongly supporting a credit union’s God-given “right” to be a bank in two high profile Texas cases. This is as bad as watching Newt and Hillary rub elbows.
Wolf Guarding the Chickens Award
Can someone tell us how the NCUA got the power to deny a credit union the right to change charters?
The “God I Smell Like a Rose” Award
Alan Fishman, Independence Community Bank Corp. While he may be associated somewhat with the Sovereign controversy, no one can deny that Independence’s stock went up, up, up under Fishman’s reign.
The Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s Award
Bob Roth at Capitol Federal Savings for his intense due diligence of two core system products to finalize the bank’s system selection.
Déjà Vu Trend of the Year
Banks actively spawning Internet-only bank subsidiaries. This is a shameless grab for funding with high cost deposits, but hey, with branch real estate as expensive as it is, maybe its worth a role of the dice.
Next Gen Banker of the Year (tie)
Jacob Mays, AVP, Stillwater National Bank. This 23-year old kid makes databases, interfaces and Web pages sing. Any bank in the country would love to have his talents.
Bank Mergers that Actually Made Sense Award
Retail Banking Innovation of the Year Award
Bank of America’s Keep the Change. Peter Drucker would be proud. This “rounding to the nearest dollar” for debit card transactions is simple, appeals to customers and has a clear business purpose. Someone please write us concerning the individual who actually thunk this up – there’s a Gonzo T-Shirt waiting for you.
Commercial Banking Innovation of the Year Award
Wells Introduces Desktop Deposit. This Check 21-based remote business deposit capture is similar to other offerings, but Wells has packaged it so well and delivers it nicely thoroughly the increasingly successful CEO portal for business.
Nostradamus Award for Dire Predictions
Hovde Financial. This investment banking group scores points for its consistent and well-researched warnings on the U.S. housing market. Everyone from U.S. consumers all the way up to Fannie and Freddie are acting fat, dumb and happy with exotic mortgage products and loose credit, but our money says the pessimists/realists like Hovde will be proven right.
Demonized by Bankers Beyond Belief Award
Wal-Mart. Guys, its called capitalism. It’s supposed to be competitive. We can’t keep someone out just because we think they might actually be good. Maybe we should spend less time whining and more time innovating.
The Biggest Buzz in Products, Pricing
Combined business, personal relationships with blended pricing. Everyone’s trying to crack the small business nut. This might be the answer.
The Biggest Industry Mystery
The exact nature of all the “other interests” so many bank and vendor managers are leaving banking to pursue. Are they fun?
The Line from Bankers that Desperately Needs to be Nailed Into the Coffin
“Our branch people are order takers – they need to become proactive advisors.”
The Line that Bankers Desperately Need to Replace the Sales Culture Babble
“We’re investing in systems, simplifying processes and providing the product training to give more support to our branch staff.”
Biggest Waste of Time in Banking
Mindless customer profiling. There are way too many half-completed customer profile forms doing a great job gathering dust but doing little else.
Biggest Productivity Killer in 2005
Question Most Likely to Start Fisticuffs in the Lunch Room
Should branches or deposit ops do address changes?
The “Keep Your Sales Management Systems, We Have Something Better” Award
At Idaho Central Credit Union, management puts the daily sales reports on all the bathroom doors, which guarantees that every employee sees them at least once every day… or twice… or more, depending on coffee intake.
Funniest Lines Uttered by Bankers This Year
THE TECHNOLOGY AWARDS
Technology of the Year
Two-factor authentication. It started early in the year with a techie hum and ended up in a regulatory roar. Vendors and bankers are now scrambling to build “stronger authentication” for a 12/06 FFIEC deadline.
Missing in Action Award
Large banks conducting check image exchange. Whatever happened to all these billions that we were all going to squeeze out of the payment system? The damn law was passed 15 months ago – let’s roll, amigos!
NORAD Award for the Slickest Bank Data Center
MB Financial, Chicago, IL. CIO Larry Kallembach and his tech team have a rack-mounted, color-coded masterpiece that you could eat caviar off of. Nice upgrade, boys!
Best Technology in Search of Cost Justification Award
Natural language speech software
The Bank Technology That Needs 100% Deployment Right Now
The Technology That’s Getting Real in 2006
Document imaging integrated into loan and deposit workflow
The Solution That Needs to Get Real in 2006
Enterprise information management
The Technology Front-Line Employees Would Vote to Fund Before Anything Else
Integration of delivery systems, contact management, profitability, and sales/CRM. (Note to vendors: no e-mails saying, “We’ve got it!” You’re definitely getting closer, but you’re not there yet. We know, because we’ve been in the branches.)
THE VENDOR AWARDS
The Core Vendor Big Mo Award
Open Solutions Inc. (for credit unions)
The Vendor No Mo Award
Bank core vendors
Best Bank Core Processing Win
Comeback Player of the Year
Digital Insight. While the halls of Gonzo commonly railed on DI for its hefty per-user Internet pricing, this company’s future is looking brighter every day as disaster recovery fears and pending stronger authentication regulations are making the idea of a rock-solid Internet ASP sound warm and reassuring. A recent record revenue and earnings performance for the third quarter seems to confirm this. Plus, the gang from Calabasas gets extra points for the great strategic thinking SVP Katherine Jansen brought to the table over the past few years.
The Mouse that Roared
Yellow Hammer. Amidst a lot of chatter this year surrounding fraud, this little company lit up the demos with its state of the art fraud detection platform. Hats off to Jack Henry for picking this little gem up and adding it to its coffers.
Check 21 No B.S. Award
Endpoint Exchange. While all the large banks have scratched their beards and reviewed PowerPoints of how they will dominate the future image exchange environment, Endpoint has actually been doing things and moving along with a pragmatic, dirty-fingernail approach.
Vendor Arrogance Award
Oracle, for early comments that adding its name to the i-flex product was the thing that would break the U.S. market open. Here’s a clue – this will make about as much of a difference as announcing that the box it comes in has been blessed by the Pope. i-flex, or any other product, will win in the U.S. based on its merits, not a name.
Put an Acquired Company Out of Its Misery Award
OSI takes BISYS. This deal really put OSI into the big time, however much we all want to squabble about price and synergies. What’s ironic is that, after touting BISYS as a legacy system beyond its useful life for years, suddenly this platform has become strategic now that it’s part of the family. Go figure.
Most Bizarre Acquisition Trend
Credit bureaus buying loan origination providers. First APPRO gets nabbed by Equifax and then Baker Hill sells to Experian. What’s next? CRM software providers selling to online dating services?
Core Systems Resurrection Award
Harland’s Phoenix System. This once promising server-based system crashed and burned five years ago, but, under new ownership, this scrappy team is starting to win deals and raise eyebrows with nice look and feel and a .NET roadmap. It’s great to have another competitor back in the core systems battle.
The Technology Still Missing in Action
Enterprise CRM systems. Although big players like S1, Seibel, WebTone and ARGO were peddling their “end-to-end” channel wares all year, we saw scant buyers in 2005. Could this bloated idea be on its way out?
The Vendor Sales Celebrity Death Match We’d Like to See
OSI’s Gary Daniel and Fiserv CBS’s David Ladic in a no-gloves street fight for who has the best core system. It’s hard to imagine either one admitting defeat.
Acquisition of the Year
Fidelity merges with Certegy. After the announcement of this proposed deal, just about all industry observers agreed that this is a huge strategic move for Fidelity that will strengthen the company’s credit and debit processing capabilities (which needed beefing up) and open even more prospects’ doors for the combined giants.
Golden Cufflink Award
Jimit “Are you on my bus?” Kapadia, Fidelity MISER. Jimit has shown that not only is he one of the most entertaining presenters in the business, but he also has deep product knowledge and instant rapport with his audience. There’s nothing subtle in this guy’s presentations. Great line that will be copied by many: “I’m a teller, not a seller.”
Grand Canyon Depth in Strategy Award
Slide at an annual sales planning meeting from a national bank/CU IT vendor:
Sales Initiatives for 2006:
- Prospects – Sell more new products
- Existing Customers – Increase cross sales
- All customers – Improve satisfaction
Great Moments in Demonstrations, 2005 Edition
Nothing can beat the unrehearsed, impromptu utterings you can hear at vendor demos. Our 2005 batch holds its own, we think. Some offerings, with our modest analysis:
…Which you simply haven’t completed, apparently
After several questions all directed at the system’s lack of several specific capabilities, the exasperated vendor replied, “Guys, this is all a simple matter of programming.”
Well, hey, you’re probably right about the first two, anyway
When asked whether his CRM system was integrated with the core system, the presenter replied, “You won’t like my first answer. You probably won’t like my second. But I hope you’ll like my third.”
Our confidence is soaring
Asked about the ability of her system to perform detailed account analysis, the presenter responded, “Well, I’m not really a business person, so the business part of things isn’t really my best area, if you know what I mean, but I would definitely say that the answer to all of your questions is absolutely yes.”
Is this the same as “No”?
When pressed about whether the system had all required reports, the presenter said, “Yes. Absolutely. Well, there would be some changes or modifications needed, obviously. Then, after that, there would be everything you need.”
Quote from the president of a bank/CU technology firm:
“Now, wait one minute. You’re asking a question about product direction, and the head of our R&D department gave you an answer that I wouldn’t agree with. Clearly, the head of our R&D department is not the best person to ask about product direction.”
And, just to show that consultants can match vendors stride for stride on overselling, we heard this during a presentation (thankfully, not from us):
“Our methodology really can apply to anything. Sales, systems, process, planning, risk, you name it. It’s really all the same to us.”
THIS AND THAT
The Worst Co-Branding Award
Cornerstone Advisors/GonzoBanker. Our Web sites have each other’s logos on them; the GonzoBanker newsletter has Cornerstone’s logo plus a tag line that explains the collaboration; we eke out countless, shameless (but subtle) Cornerstone Advisors cross-sells in our GonzoBanker articles; we throw GonzoBanker T-shirts around when Cornerstone speaks at industry conferences… and still we hear in meetings with clients, “So YOU’RE the GonzoBankers!?” Who knew.
For Best Use of an Old Prom Picture
American Banker, for displaying Terence Roche’s younger self in the December 2005 Retail Delivery article. Terence, aglow with the reminder of what a striking young man he was, alerted the USPS to a flood of fan mail.
Best Benchmarking Publication that Missed All the Benchmarks – Again
That, Fair Readers, would be this year’s Cornerstone Report. For reasons too numerous and heart-wrenching to describe, this year’s Cornerstone Report: Benchmarks and Best Practices for Mid-Size Banks is well past its promised delivery date(s), and for that, We Are Sorry. But, we’re back on track