The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

laughing all the way from the Bank

August24

so…

now we have the rumor JP Morgan could acquire Bank of America. read a bit more about that, here.

Why this can only fascinate me is that it’s Constitutionally unfeasible.

…another thought is one could argue that Bank of America currently is part of the “axis-of-evil” (I’d add Facebook to that list), and led Wall-Streets melt down in 2008.

however, if it does happen, and I don’t have any information (but, its unlikely), it signals the Federal Governments willingness to operate outside of rules that are the foundation of law. there is now, essentially, no discipline. this signals open-season on rules of policy, and the rule-book. It’s also another “bail-out”, just under another description.

but then, look what the Obamacrats did with the debt ceiling.

…sigh…

Jamie Dimon becomes not only the single most powerful man on the planet, but also, potentially (ironically?) emasculated because everything he does will be watched through a completely new and different lens. the meeting at the White House, and it would have occurred, must have been historic with it’s import.

pause and also consider the fact that the United States still does not have a “super bank” that can play with the big boys in the mountains of Europe (and, watch for what’s going out of Hong Kong – you did read about that first, here). and, you now have the majority of United States households financial snapshots under one lens.

could this be a precursor to imminent domain to sage the country in Obama’s twisted view?

but, now, perhaps, we have insight into the rumors I am aware of that have Dimon being names as Secretary of the Treasury.

save this post. you did learn of this, here, and first.

peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork

bank on Brian

August25

Nicholas Johnson is often found in-and-amongst the companies I’m working with to change the world. I’m not clear what it is he is doing most days. But, some times he’ll haull-off and come up with a pearl worth sharing. For example, in a recent meeting with an uncertain conclusion, he announced the existence of an on-line service called www. billfloat.com. Apparently if you need to pay a utility bill, for example (and entrepreneurs, just like most people, do that) you can convince this shadowy organization to pay your bill up to thirty days in advance for a transaction fee of a mere five dollars. All you need is a viable bank account and the best hopes of the funds being in it by a later, albeit pre-determined, date.

This is different.

Voila!

I feel billfloat is an example of: “being part of the solution, and not the problem”. Five dollars is a reasonable fee for a greater peace of mind. Obviously living paycheck-to-paycheck is living on the veritable edge. But, that is the reality for a growing segment of our national population. Here, someone clearly came up with a solution that is not, in my hardly humble opinion, userous like many of those strip-mall situated paycheck loan (shark) services.

Or, the current banking system, for that matter.

I’m often asked something along the lines of, “If you weren’t running your current business (this is assuming they understand what it is I do), what would you work on, or be doing?”

There’s not a single answer to this question; it can change day-to-day. As I’ve stated on this blog, and through a great deal of public speaking, I could never have planned or anticipated my own career-path. But, in light of our global economic situation, and Johnson’s research, I think if you asked me today, I’d say I would like to start a bank.

There are very few people who really love their bank. I use a private bank and this means I don’t have to suffer the same inconveniences realized by most folk. For example, many are dealing with overage fees that stack up, misleading fine print, and a general malaise born of an apathetic sense of fatalism. However, there’s a unique opportunity in that mainstream contempt for financial institutions. And, concurrent with this is an incredible amount of government backing that essentially makes it a no-risk environment. People are simply hungry for anything different, something contrarian.

A David to the Goliath banking industry. If you will, something heterodoxal. This is where I often realize my best potential and opportunity.

The name of my bank would be something supremely boring, like SmartBank or bank on brian (In my businesses, I typically use small caps for my name because it’s not about me, it’s about what I do). The idea behind it is that bad behaviour in the banking – which is in truth, aligned with Wall Street – world has been largely inevitable because their compensation structures incented people to do overly risky things. the Bank of brian would maintain a reserve level 2-3x higher than Federal requirements, and any other bank. I’ll aspire to World Bank status as well and align myself with European protocols (have you bothered to wonder why the US doesn’t have any World Banks?). Bank of brian would have no bonuses unless goals such as preserving mortgages were met or exceeded and loans made to emerging culture companies based on best practices, carefully monitored milestones and accountability proliferated. I suspect critics would say this would make it impossible to attract top-shelf talent. But, every time the bank gets attacked we’d turn it into an advertising opportunity to emphasize why we’re different.

To wit:

“We can’t attract top-shelf talent? Go on…We take your money and put it in a vault. We don’t need the million-dollar bonus geniuses on Wall Street to do that. SmartBank. Bank, smart.”, would say I.

Bank on brian.

In fact, the first few years of SmartBank would be largely focused on acquisition through every trick in the book. At the very beginning pull a Gmail/WordPress.com strategy ,and make it invitation-only. I’m confident this will create a buzz and also allow you to give amazing white-glove service to the initial customers that want to catch that glassy-fronted wave, who will in turn tell their friends and create a tsunami. That’s called “viral” marketing and that always works when people like what they see and experience. Ironically that would represent a novel experience with banking today where the objective appears to be lining the pockets of bankers while stripping down customers. You can also target certain profitable segments and ultra-safe depositors at first, like Gmail users in San Francisco (using Firefox with an ad-blocker) who make six figures a year. There would be only one style of checks and debit cards and they’d have a distinctive design so if you saw one you’d say, “What’s that?” a-la the American Express Black or Plum card (I have both and everyone’s follow them through every transaction) products which would then start the whole conversation again about how SmartBank is different.

For the first two years you could also do things like not allow accounts larger than the FDIC-insured limit. No one has ever heard of a bank turning away money (unless you, ironically, have poor credit). But, you’d say that although everything SmartBank does is risk-free, it’s still a startup, and if people have more than the insured limit (today it’s 250k for single and 500k for couples) in an account, they should put the extra somewhere else. Again, statistically (and, those types of numbers in the right hands [like my own] never lie) this will impact a very low percentage of customers… And, everyone; everyone, I say, will think it’s naught less than remarkable. This tactical growth can be phased out after a few years; in fact, it would be yet another PR opportunity:

“We’ve been in business now long enough that we feel comfortable with larger accounts.” Boom, free coverage.

I’m not defined as a “tech guy”, but I am more often identified with successful technology, and the associated leadership. So, of course a lot of focus would be on the Bank of brian website. Imagine, if you will, something along the lines of an old-time vintage design aesthetic combined with a Google-like (web 2.0?) simplicity and attention to speed. All logins would be two-factor, with the default being SMS’d  to you with a one-time code to log in when you gave your email address (Just so we’re clear, I’ve given this a lot of thought, for good reason, done my home work, and already using consultants). A significant part of the website would be the blog. It would have a strong Ben Franklin-like common sense voice, with a Thomas Jefferson oriented pragmatic tone with a few cool savings or home management tips each week. And, in-line with my own cultural architectural views, it would cover at least one financial industry story a day that was relevant to historical examples alined with current events for perspective.

For example:

“Bank of America spent forty million dollars on airplanes last year. We spent forty thousand to develop an iPhone application so you can check your balance from anywhere.”  (the average useful iPhone app costs $2.99.). NOTE: Not Android, at first. I say this because quality control is crucial here – and Apple defines that, while Android is working on it.

“Here’s how to block advertising when you browse the web with Firefox; it makes the web faster and less annoying.”

“So-and-so Bank’s website requires you to use Internet Explorer. We insist that you don’t because there are way cooler and faster browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari. Here are links to those open source browsers you can switch to today.”

“Goldman Sachs just paid out sixteen billion dollars in bonuses to their employees. If we had an extra sixteen billion dollars lying around, we’d put it in the bank for a rainy day. By the way… If Goldman Sachs had never paid out bonuses they never would have needed government intervention.”

Sixty eight Million Reasons Your Bank Sucks. That’s the amount Bank of America collected last quarter in needless ATM fees.” …well, needless to customers, any way.

That’s all made up, for now. The headlines would almost write themselves, and every time a financial institution is in the news it’d be an opportunity to contrast why SmartBank is different, and what the underlying philosophy is behind why it’s different.

I’m a Social Historian. I study and consider why things happen. And, then I do something about it.

As trumpeted above, all of the marketing would be on the web and viral the verbal, or word-of-mouth part would follow (like eBay and Amazon) – because it’d be an online-only bank like ING Direct. No storefronts (brick-and-mortar) where people have to wait in line, or risk a bad interaction with a disinterested teller, or get robbed and need insurance.

To be clear…Basically, a lot of the historical risk of running a bank could be eliminated. When you sign up it would have a: “tell your friends about SmartBank” address book (like LinkedIN) feature that would connect you to them if they signed up for an account, give you both money (I should make the point that Bank of America actually does have something like this, so I have to keep thinking about it because of the karma thing), and also make it easy to send them money, PayPal-style, if they have an account.

I’ll pause here and offer that you might see a trend in my thinking… I’m picking, showcasing and reflecting products and services that appear to be working, and adopting them as my own for your benefit. This can be referred to as “best practices”. And, we need o be all-in on that.

I suspect SmartBank would make money and reward shareholders and customers alike, which just might separate it from the likes of Bank of America, for example. So… How would the Bank of brian make money and also provide terrific customer service, you ask?

I think it wouldn’t touch anything risky on the financial side. However, it would be a data company. As it turns out, data is a hot industry as evidenced by hiring and investment trends (and, I’m a subject matter expert in both areas). The first three years the focus would be entirely on customer acquisition, marketing, PR, and establishing a world-class tech team building a rock-solid infrastructure. SmartBank would likely make less money than non-customer-centric banks currently do, but it would be more than enough to build an amazing product in a sustainable way, like Craigslist did with newspaper classifieds. After a certain milestone, say one-hundred billion in deposits, I would buy or clone Mint. SmartBank would have more (and accurate) data about its customers than almost any other company in the world other than credit card companies, so the online interface would have Mint-like lead generation offers that are based on accurate information. For example, if you spend one hundred and forty dollars a month on electricity, but if you switch to this new solar provider you’d save two hundred dollars a year. Think of it like Gmail (By the way… I’ll admit to referencing Gmail, consistently in this post, to honor Nicholas Johnson and his possibly being a catalyst for much of this) contextual advertising but based on where you spend your money rather than the words in an email. There also might be aggregate data opportunities for economic research or targeting, but I’m not sure if I like, or have a firm understanding of, the privacy implications there.

SmartBank probably couldn’t, and I wouldn’t want to raise Venture Capital, or anything like it, because having any sort of exit expectations, and the predatory influence that would reflect Wall Street, would completely kill the “safety story”. Like most of my businesses today, I would want to bootstrap, and after a few years would be hugely profitable. I understand the irony in this vision coming from a felon. But, there is yet another example of my being Jeffersonian, a heterodox, and the contrarian, eh.

By the way… The existence of bank of brian would also put significant pressure on existing, more traditional, banks and the Federal Reserve,  because depositors would be leaving in droves, putting pressure on their reserve requirements. Existing banks couldn’t compete in a traditional way because they have such a sordid history of customer apathy and bad PR. SmartBank wouldn’t be trying to capture their profits, so-to-speak. However, we would reflexively be unhinging them while driving much more revenue, but in smaller amounts, but a larger end-result.I think this would end up looking something like a credit union, but for the masses.

Thanks Nicholas. And, the rest you readers can thank us both, at some point.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

the thomas jefferson health care plan

February23

Allow me to begin this post with an important qualifier: I’m not a Republican. I am a Jeffersonian. And, a patriot. Most of this colored by my views as a heterodox. So, I read between the lines for the truth. I use historical precedent for my clear-eyed perspective.

There is a good amount of sophomoric chatter permeating the internet these days around an election year being a great opportunity to influence policy-makers.

However, I think the truth is more likely found in the harsh light of reality when you understand that lobbyists for behemoth interests such as banking and health care prefer status quo. Billions of dollars have been spent pinning down incumbent members of the House and Senate to steer legislation in favor of bigger business.

In other words, incumbents are going to focus more on filling their campaign war chests with lobby money so they can stay in office (and, keep their own platinum benefits and pay checks) than focus on the mundane needs of ordinary citizens.

Here is something of an example:

There are grandstanding headlines the last 48 hours around Barack Obama bravely fighting an uphill battle for a last-ditch effort Health care reform Bill.

Making a last-ditch effort to save his health care overhaul, President Barack Obama on Monday put forward a nearly $1 trillion, ten year compromise that would allow the government to deny or roll back egregious insurance premium increases that infuriate consumers.

The White House immediately demanded an up-or-down vote in Congress on the plan, or something close to it. But it’s highly uncertain that such sweeping legislation can pass. Republicans are virtually unanimous in opposing it, and some Democrats who previously supported a health care remake are having second thoughts in an election year. After a year in pursuit, Obama may have to settle for a modest fallback version of what once was his top domestic priority.

“Last ditch effort”?

That’s it? After all the talk and the promised change? The most amazing thing, in terms of “change” and speed has been poor Obama’s unique ability to use Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream as a door mat.

Mind you… It’s not actually Obama’s fault though. He was set up, and never really had a fair chance.

Read the next few paragraphs carefully. I’m putting it this way because this is where truth sheds it’s glaring light…

Release of the plan on the White House Web site comes just four days before Obama’s one-of-a-kind, televised health care summit with Democrats and Republicans. The White House said the plan would provide coverage to more than thirty one million Americans now uninsured without adding to the federal deficit.

…without adding to the federal deficit. Those are key words.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats cautiously welcomed the proposal, while Republicans gave a thumbs down.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement she looks forward to reviewing the plan and discussing it at the summit. She told me: “We must pass comprehensive, affordable health insurance reform, and I am hopeful that Thursday’s meeting will help us achieve this goal”.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio dismissed the proposal, saying, “…the president has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said it was “disappointing that Democrats in Washington either aren’t listening, or are completely ignoring what Americans across the country have been saying.”

It takes some real effort, but you can read the eleven page plan in advance. It likely represents Obama’s most detailed proposal since he took up the health care overhaul effort a year ago. At the time, he sought to avoid the problems former President Bill Clinton encountered when he issued Congress a detailed prescription in the 1990s – a plan that was driven by Hilary, as you recall, and ultimately failed and contributed to the Democrats catastrophic loss of Congress in 1994.

Now, ironically, Obama is being criticized for having been too deferential to lawmakers.

White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the plan is an: “opening bid” going into Thursday’s summit. It would cover more Americans – but also includes a new tax on investment income that Republicans object to.

So… That’s the hidden scam. This has been naught but a set up. A sleight of hand for the Democrats to tax the crap out of everyone else that actually works for a living. They will take fat government jobs and then bring in friends and family and pillage entrepreneurs.

I repeat my opening statement for this post: I’m not a Republican mind you. I am a Jeffersonian. And, a patriot. Most of this colored by my views as a heterodox. So, I read between the lines for the truth. I use historical precedent for my clear-eyed perspective.

“The president is coming into the meeting with an open mind,” said Pfeiffer. “If the Republicans do, too, our hope is that we can find some areas of agreement. If the Republicans bring good ideas to the table we will find ways – look for ways to incorporate those into our proposals.”

In summary, health care reform, fashioned under a plan to benefit the majority of Americans will be scuttled because heightened taxes are the only way we can pay for it. However, I believe what most of the people on Capital Hill don’t want you to understand is that the banking industry is actually, and inadvertently, undermining those efforts. Banks are taking away Lines-of-credit and unhinging small business. This makes big business maintain a market-share advantage. This makes stocks go up. That makes Wall Street Barrons powerful (with inside trading that Capital Hill pretends to take umbrage over and then quietly bury change legislation). They fund lobbyists – who don’t want change. So, we are going to pay a lot more taxes while getting reduced benefits. Along the way, corporate America will continue to get tax benefits to subsidize their efforts to outsource jobs to India. The banks will take your house in foreclosure and then make up the difference with other subsidies financed under The TARP plan.

Feel free to prove me wrong. …but, I’d rather you helped me start rallying thought leadership around reducing an incumbents sustained influence on Capital Hill. If they only have two years to make a difference, they won’t care about simply trying to stay there. Our Founding Fathers, led by Thomas Jefferson, meant for citizens to take a short break from their personal lives and business and serve briefly in government to drive change and progress. We need that type of person back in office.

Then you can keep your house, pay less taxes, and live a happy balanced life.

That’s what Jefferson built the Constitution around.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell





photos by John Campbell

 

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