Archive for October, 2009

Halloween Financial Headlines: Trick or Trick

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

1031 markets

Federal bank regulators issued guidelines allowing banks to keep loans on their books as “performing” even if the value of the underlying properties have fallen below the loan amount.

The $2.3 billion in taxpayer money spent to save CIT is likely to be wiped out, as the lender prepares to file for bankruptcy protection in a high-stakes restructuring plan.

President Barack Obama said Saturday that reports the economy is growing again and that more than a million jobs were saved or created by his stimulus plan show “we are moving in the right direction.

You be the babe: who needs a spokes-model for shopping satisfaction

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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when you can be your own. This 22 October 2009 article in the New York Times, section E1, by Ruth La Ferla, describes how many shoppers get their kicks in virtual worlds in much the same way as they do in the genuine shopping mall. I recall last year being advised by an exec of a major television shopping network that 30+% of packages that they shipped were never opened by the buyer, mainly because the buying experience is one of association with the hostess on the show, i.e. buy this and be like me or be my friend, more than a genuine need/want for the item.

I think that improvements in overall virtual world experience due to faster update rates and improved user-interfaces will dimish dramatically the need or want to go to the mall to buy something to feel special. I suppose that the mall serves the purpose of bringing us together, but who truly values that experience?! I am not looking forward to virtual exercise or pixel-offspring and feel that shopping in Second Life, for example, and being the handsome hunk or more likely, the fashionista, will be a lot healthier and less expensive than relying on a celebrity spokes-person flogging some product that they don’t use themselves. In short, who will need them to trick us; we’ll shape our own shopping fantasies, thank you.

Complete article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22Avatar.html

USMA-USNA Leadership Discussion Series 16 Oct 09

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

John Moellering, Chairman of USAA and former commandant of West Point, spoke to us about USAA’s impressive achievements over the past 50 years and more. 13,000 of USAA’s 21,000 employees engage the USAA membership. They are trained, educated and motivated to solve the member’s problem. They are not measured to get a caller off the phone as fast as possible. Member service is the mission of USAA.

Although the average insurance company lost 38% of the value of its assets in 2008, USAA gained 1%. The average USAA employee receives an average of 100 hours of training per year; even the Board of Directors are trained in their roles for the company.

And USAA continues to expand its markets. On November 11, 2009, membership eligibility will be expanded to all who have served honorably in US Armed Forces.

General Moellering discussed changes to the Board of USAA. The Board of Directors have the explicit mission to set strategy for the company and to assist & to ensure that senior management is able to execute this strategy. No longer – and many global corporations are coming to the same conclusion – is the USAA Board headed by the CEO and expected to serve as an approval mechanism for the CEO’s vision. Corporate Operations and the Board have unique missions which are best executed in support of and separate from one another. If only the former fiefdoms in the financial sector had instituted such a principle.

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Preparation is the foundation of heroism

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

October 14, 2009 article in Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Zaslow discusses What We Can Learn From Sully’s Journey
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“We need to try to do the right thing every time because we never know what moment in our lives we’ll be judged on.”

The Science of Business & the Business of Science: shall the twain meet?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Participated, and fortunate to do so, in the annual Fuqua Business School’s High Tech Conference on Wednesday and attended, gladly to do so, the Summit on Nano Technology and the Environment, program here on Thursday. My guess is that even though the Fuqua School and the Bio Tech Center, host of the Summit, are separated by 8 miles of distance, their purposes and perspectives keeps them miles apart. Yet, each expressed an interest in meeting more of the other. A recurring theme of the nano conference presentations was not to let the capabilities of the science get too far ahead of the ‘public’s acceptance’ of this science. Lessons from the hysteria of genetically altered crops, aka Franken-science, remain vivid.

Forty percent of the Fuqua MBA program comprises international students and ones who are ambitious, accomplished and clever as well courteous and purposeful. Deflating for me is that 90% of the Hi Tech Club comprises international students. I guess that my fellow Americans who join the Retail, Finance and Energy Clubs at Fuqua don’t feel comfortable in the HT Club, or worse, maybe don’t feel that technology will have much bearing in their future roles. Cannot be true! Even though the average age of an MBA candidate is 30, meaning that they have plenty of work experience, they are eager for tips and secrets and leads for employment. Is there a science to the adult, working world? Which made me ponder the notion of a Masters of Business Administration. Do we need business administrators? Can leadership be taught ’cause this is what we need. Is not the essence of leadership selfless service or sacrifice? Here’s a B-school promo: come to XXX for $120k in real cost and learn to sacrifice or help others to perform better. I’d like to change the name of the degree to Masters of Business Innovation or is this too close to Tom Wolfe’s masters of the universe image in The Bonfire of the Vanities?

At lunch, I asked if the business school curriculum taught business development or sales. ‘Not really’ was the table’s reply. What business is there to administer if there is no top-line or revenue?! Reminds me of my transition from the Naval Academy to the fleet or real Navy. At Annapolis, we learned a lot about ship design and missile intercept solutions. Didn’t get too much insight into how to manage a division of 15 to 18 sailors, most older, some smarter and all more worldly than me. This was my first assignment as I didn’t do much ship driving or any missile firing until much later. OK- it’s not news now that the adult world’s concept of management and organizational behavior is about as fragile and outmoded as, well, as is our banking system.

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Governor Hunt welcomed attendees. Did you know that he was governor twice, twice = 16 years.

The highlight of the Nano Summit was the presentation by Dr. Joe DeSimone, reknown chemist and entrepreneur. Yes, Virginia, one can be both. He spoke adeptly about his vision for nano technology and even though he pitched his latest venture, Liquidia, his presentation was interesting, informative, well substantiated (meaning his charts aided his talk; his talk did not furnish color commentary for the charts as we too, too often suffer). Dr. Joe knows how to make a business of science and has a keen sense of the science of business. I learned more about the potential of nano technology in his 20 minutes than I’ve in 3 years of trying to read the occasional article on this topic.

My conclusion from these two days is that there is enormous opportunity for those with an aptitude, if not the scholarship, to discuss the business value of technology. How can we shorten the distance between our RTP business schools and our RTP scientists?

China’s 60th anniversary parade.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

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What to make of this event? Same week that Olympics refuted President’s solicitation of Chicago as venue for 2016. I guess that we should take solace that we owe them so much money?! Why is the stock market behaving as though we’re back on track?