Hey, I’m a GonzoBanker.

GonzoBanker of the Month: William Azaroff, VancityWhen I started working at Vancity in September of 2005 I was brand new to the financial services industry. My previous job was working at a telecom, and in my time there I never really learned much about that industry. From the beginning at Vancity I wanted to learn about credit unions and FIs so I could be more useful to the company and craft a more relevant business plan for what the web could do for the company.

So I began looking for good websites and online publications to teach me a thing or two about banking. One of those was the enewsletter, GonzoBanker, which gave me great insights into the industry, full of humour and street smarts. Their writers get to the heart of the issue, and certain posts have become classics – like Steve Williams’ brilliant Y Bank With Us? and Tripp Johnson’s Web 2.0: It’s Not Just for Customers Anymore (which mentions my blog). I have always appreciated that they don’t take themselves too seriously, but have good, informed opinions about the industry.

So I was incredibly honoured when they named me GonzoBanker of the Month for March. As someone who is new to this industry, recognition like this is both inspiring and humbling.

Thanks a ton to the entire GonzoBanker team, and especially Diana Ferguson!

My friend Gene.

I’m a big fan of GonzoBanker.

When I first started working at Vancity, I was brand new to financial services and started looking at industry websites to help orient and ground me in my new job.

I quickly came across GonzoBanker, and it is now one of the only leftovers from those early days of bookmarking. Their irreverent coverage of how IT issues can aid and hinder financial institutions is both useful and entertaining.

So today, I was thrilled to see that they named my friend Gene Blishen as their GonzoBanker of the Month.

Gene is my hero. He is a philosopher, humanitarian, technologist, futurist, banker and a decent, decent man. I look forward to reading his blog whenever he updates it, and his name always comes up when the people I respect the most name the people they respect the most.

It is an honour to be his direct BC credit union peer, be able to access his sage advice and plan BarCampBankBC with him.

So congrats Gene. Well deserved!

See you in Minneapolis.

CUES ExperienceI’m off to Minneapolis tomorrow for CUES Experience.

I’m excited to see so many of my CU alum there, including Morriss Partee, Tim McAlpine, Robbie Wright, Denise Wymore, Brent Dixon, and am most excited to finally meet Ron Shevlin, Steve Williams and Christopher Stevenson in person after months of being eConnected. I hope I didn’t miss anyone – did I?

I’m presenting a Credit Union case study from Vancity, covering who we are, how we show up and how we leverage social media. Should be a good presentation.

It’s also been a fantastic way to procrastinate finishing my chapter for the new Age of Conversation. Truth be told, I’m starting to panic, it’s due in 3 days.

If you’ll be in Minneapolis, please say hi.

Now I gotta figure out how to transport fresh fruit across the US-Canada border, because my son Ivan is expecting tiny apples from a place called Minneapolis (say it aloud).

Speaking at CUES Experience.

CUES ExperienceI’m excited to be going to Minneapolis in May to speak at the new CUES Experience: Immersion Learning for Marketing, Technology & Operations Leaders. This is a new conference CUES is putting on, and they’re planning on mixing a traditional conference with on-site visits to some of the more innovative companies in Minneapolis.

They have some amazing speakers lined up, including Arkadi Kuhlmann from ING Direct, Jeremy Gutsche founder of trendhunter.com, Steve Williams and Terence Roche of Cornerstone Advisors and GonzoBanker.

But, I’m especially excited to meet one of my favourite bloggers, Ron Shevlin.

Plus I’ve never been to Minneapolis, so that should be very fun. I’ll do my best to live blog it as well.

GonzoBanker is amazing, again.

I’ve been a casual reader of GonzoBanker for some time. I think I first got hooked in with their amazing summation of a bank boardroom discussion of Generation Y. So funny and insightful, and it reminded me of a few painful meetings I’ve attended in my short banking career.

Then, more recently, I fell in love with their prophetic piece on the demise of the banking industry. This article actually gave me great hope because so many people (including execs) at Vancity were emailing the link around. Great to work at a place where so many get it.

But today I’m commenting on their newest article, Web 2.0: It’s Not Just for Customers Anymore. The article makes an excellent case for banks to begin using social media, like blogs and wikis, internally as a way for staff to become more comfortable with and aware of these tools before embarking on a public-facing web 2.0 project.

One of the things that’s been interesting for me working at Vancity is the focus on the branch employee experience. I am very head-office-centric. I work at head-office and that’s where I see decisions getting made. But the majority of the employees live in the branch system. It’s what keeps everything running, and is the real centre of the company – where the action is. And yet there are 50+ branches, so it’s a hard world for people to feel connected to each other, share ideas and collaborate. It must be a very disconnected feeling, working out at a branch in Abbotsford, far away from any other Vancity branch, or head-office.

This problem is even greater with big banks. It must be hard to keep up any sense of cohesion amongst employees in such a fragmented, fractured work-place. This is where the future of the intranet comes in – allowing cross-company, inter-employee collaboration, idea sharing, building and communication. Hierarchies need to get flattened (what, a bank with hierarchies?) and everyone needs a voice at the table.

The writer of the GonzoBanker article, Cornerstone Senior Director Tripp Johnson does an outstanding job of putting down the reasons why banks should be using web 2.0 internally:

  • Most employees already know how to use this technology
  • The tools are easy to use
  • Blogs, wikis and/or RSS feeds provide a coherent, consistent way to find, share and leverage information
  • The tools are FREE!

He also provides many reasons why the vast majority likely never will:

  • What the hell is a wiki?
  • We couldn’t determine a tangible, quantifiable ROI
  • Bank executives wouldn’t know what to do all day without committee meetings
  • Leveraging the collective intellectual capital of our organization is something HR makes us say; we don’t really mean it
  • We have comment boxes in all our break rooms where employees submit their ideas on a regular basis
  • We don’t really want our staff collaborating; they might actually come up with new and disruptive products and services

A great article. The main thing I love about GonzoBanker is that they’re on the inside pushing for change and innovation among their peers.

PS: Oh, and I’m not just talking up this article because they unexpectedly linked to my blog as an example of industry folk who use social media (but thanks for the link-love, Tripp)!