Posts Tagged ‘Ron Shevlin’

The Shevlinator is back!

September 16, 2009

Marketing Tea Party

Marketing Tea Party

I am very excited that Mr. Ron Shevlin is back and blogging again, and debunking more marketing myths than ever before. I always appreciate the analysis and dose-of-reality he brings to his topics.

There are two reasons that I love Ron’s blog: Ron’s excellent, and usually humorous posts, but equally important, the outstanding conversation he elicits from some really smart, quality people. Ron is a lightening rod because of his own keen analytical mind, and well-reasoned, thoroughly thought-out blog posts, whether or not you agree with them. Because Ron is posting quality stuff, he attracts quality commentary.

So here’s a tip for those who are looking to gain more traffic and more conversation on their blog: feature your readers comments PROMINENTLY. Put “Most Recent Comments” near the top of your blog’s sidebar. I will visit Ron’s blog often, even when Ron hasn’t written a new post, just to see what new conversation may have happened there. (His old blog had reader comments featured in this way, and he’s working on adding it to his new blog.)

P.S. I am beyond flattered that Ron uses Maurice Purdue as one of his target reading audience members. Looks like I’ll have to create a new Google Alert for that guy.

Confessions of a reformed wallflower

April 8, 2009

When I was a kid, I was painfully shy. Those of you who have met me in person would probably not believe it, but it’s true.

When I met William Azaroff of Vancouver in Manchester, NH a couple of weeks ago to tour America’s CU Museum, and then later that same night went out for dinner and drinks with Matt Davis of North Carolina and Ron Shevlin in North Reading, MA, we discussed that one of the criticisms leveled at us “social media” types who attended and presented at the 2008 Partnership Symposium in Indianapolis was that we didn’t mingle with others. I hadn’t consciously realized that, but looking back, it was true. And I am sad about that.

And though there is no excuse for that, there is a reason for it, and l will explain and tie paragraph one to paragraph two. It’s human nature to greet friends warmly, and not to walk up to strangers to introduce yourself. I try to greet people at most opportunities, and say hi to those I pass in a hallway. When given a choice between giving a handshake or a hug to an old friend, and introducing yourself to a stranger, it’s human nature to greet a friend first, because that’s much easier.

And that’s the amazing thing about social media and social networking. Sometimes you give an especially hearty greeting to someone you are meeting in person for the first time if you have already gotten to know that person online. Because, as Ron Shevlin has pointed out, you can get to know, online, a person who lives 3,000 miles away better than your colleague down the hallway who isn’t online in any meaningful way. When you get together, you already “know” that person. Especially given the conversational nature of twitter, you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about them on a personal basis. When you meet, you don’t need to use small talk to find common interests, you just naturally pick up the conversation that you’ve already been having online, and will continue online later.

I remember my first PodCamp Boston experience; it was the second of the PodCamps that they have held. I missed the first day entirely, but arrived in time to catch the tail end of the official evening party. I met a couple of folks who I had connected with online previously, but felt very much the outsider. It seemed like everyone else already knew each other. Undaunted, I continued to meet people throughout the second day and learn more about what this social media thing was all about.

And so I write this blog post to encourage everyone who is a.) relatively new to social media, b.) naturally shy, or c.) both, to put aside that shyness and to do your best to overcome that feeling of being a social media “outsider” when you come upon a group of social media people hanging out with each other, such as that which occurred just two weekends ago at PodCamp WesternMass. Bear in mind that most people involved in the online social world are exactly that: fairly social. Please understand that although it’s human nature to hang out with friends that you already know, most of us involved in the field really WANT to meet new people. Sometimes we just need a nudge of encouragement.

Remember that everyone in the world of social media was an outsider at first. If you introduce yourself, the folks worth talking to will be more than glad to have met you.

Finovate NYC

November 13, 2008

A month ago I had the privilege of attending Finovate NYC, as a guest blogger. The event is hosted by Jim Bruene, President of the Online Banking Report and NetBanker, and features short 7-minute presentations from 24 leading innovators in the financial world. It’s a wonderful format, featuring twelve presentations in the morning and twelve after a lunch break. The brief duration of each presentation forces the presenters to be very clear about what their product is, who it is for, and how it is useful and different. Props to the event organizers for fading out the presenter and fading up the music right at the time limit to keep things focused, moving, and on-track for the audience.

Read my event tweets here.

Because of twitter conversation, I knew that Mark McSpadden and Lisa Randolph of Banktastic were going to be there, as well as Ron Shevlin and Parisian Jean-Christophe Capelli, who I first met at BarCampBankSF. What I didn’t know until the morning of the event was that Apoorv Dwivedi, who I met at BarCampBankBC, came down from Alberta.

A pleasant surprise was that there were also several other twitterers who I had never met before in the audience of approximately 200 people. Read the entire Finovate twitterstream here.

Is there value to all the twittering of one event? You betcha! Just one benefit is that finance professionals from all over the world got a sampling of the important information being presented. This creates additional exposure and added reach for the presenters as well as the conference itself. My favorite tweet reply is this one from @mrsmcj, who at the time was attending the Love at First Website conference in Portland, OR: “@mmpartee, @rshevlin. Thanks for the finovate tweets! It was almost like being at two conferences.”

My favorite presentation at the event was from Carlos Cardilli of mFoundry. He did his entire presentation without slides, just showing what he was doing on his iPhone. mFoundry has created an iPhone interface that banks or credit unions can give to their members to enable banking transactions. It’s much more than just online banking brought to a mobile phone however. At it’s core, that is what it does. You can schedule bills to be paid in advance, using the elegant date sliders that the iPhone employs. You can also make transfers between accounts naturally. Where it REALLY gets fun is the ATM and branch locator. Since the iPhone “knows” where it is, and has access to map data, this mFoundry application can locate the ATMs and branches nearest to you. You can then follow the directions the iPhone provides to get you there. Not only that, but it provides you with a phone number, so you can call the branch right from your iPhone if you so desire. This may not be mainstream yet, but with so many companies coming out with iPhone wanna-bes, this is clearly the wave of the future. I’d recommend that all credit unions hop on board as soon as feasible.

I was impressed with many of the other presenting companies as well. Also worthwhile are: Vidoop, SmartHippo, Credit Karma, Lending Club, FiLife, and Loanio. It was particularly interesting to see the FiLife and Loanio presentations since both of these companies were in pre-public release stages at BarCampMoneyNYC just a few short months ago in April.

36 Credit union social media do’s

July 15, 2008

This morning I saw that social media sage Chris Brogan had put together a list of 50 social media strategies. Without peeking at his list (honestly!), I decided I should put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for social media as it pertains to credit unions. I’m sure that I left out plenty, so feel free to add your additional ones here! And here’s a nice buttoned-up, three-page PDF version of the 63 CU social media do’s and don’ts.

Oh, and by the way, I’m delivering a webinar on Building Relationships with Social Media on EverythingCU on Thursday. I’ll be discussing 7 case studies, among other things. I’m really looking forward to it, and am very excited we have 36 credit unions signed up so far.

Because this list is long, I’ve split up the Do’s and the Don’ts into two entries:

Do’s:

  1. Do become well-versed with all of the available social media tools before diving in. (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting are great starting points.)
  2. Do start your social media marketing strategy planning by thinking about what your TARGET AUDIENCE is interested in.
  3. Do make sure that your social media strategy reinforces your CU’s overall business or branding strategy, and is designed to, at the least, create awareness of what your CU is great at.
  4. Do feature your online initiatives in a computer kiosk in your lobby. That way your members will not only learn about what they can do remotely, they’ll also associate what they see online with a tangible presence.
  5. Do learn the basics of how RSS and blogs work.
  6. Do give guidelines to anyone who will be contributing to your CUs blog.
  7. Do put your rates into RSS format.
  8. Do comment on your members’ blogs. They LOVE that, and will share the love in return. That’s the best way to increase readership of YOUR blog.
  9. Do put valuable information that is currently in your print letter ALSO onto your blog so that your members can comment. Feel free to inform that online commenting is available at the end of the print newsletter articles that are also featured on your blog.
  10. Do feel free to blog your newsletter articles before they appear in the print version. Many people aren’t paying attention to your blog, and will be reminded to go there when receiving the print version in the mail.
  11. Do write down your social media strategy so that the rest of the management team can see the cause and effect chain from your marketing efforts to how its helping the CU generate awareness, leads, new referrals, new members, and new sales, or in general reinforcing the CU’s brand.
  12. Do start with the overall campaign concept, then figure out what social media tools are the best fit.
  13. Do reinforce your traditional marketing campaigns with your online efforts and vice versa. These are not separate silos.
  14. Do build up a network of friends among your members BEFORE you start trying to “market” to them.
  15. Do use social media to start conversations among your members about your CU and ask for honest feedback.
  16. Do monitor discussion about your CU on third-party sites using Google Alerts.
  17. Do create a business fan page for your CU on Facebook.
  18. Do be a real person and use real language in all social media venues. Be as polite and professional as you would face-to-face.
  19. Do always make sure your blog posts are attributed to the author, and not to the faceless credit union.
  20. Do only write a blog post when you have something important to say to your members.
  21. Do put your fun and interesting CU events onto Facebook.
  22. Do write your blog posts in a way that invites your members to comment on it. We’ve been so used to one-way communication with our members, that we have to retrain our brains to write in a way that invites dialogue.
  23. Do realize that for the most part, your members are more interested in other members’ comments on your blog, than on the article you originally wrote. Feature comments front and center.
  24. Do optimize your web site and online banking to work on mobile phones, Blackberries, Treos, and iPhones.
  25. Do call your core processor’s rep every day until she gives you a mobile banking offering for your members.
  26. Do attend the nearest PodCamp to you to learn more about what this social media thing is all about.
  27. Do understand that your members expect you to be present in the online conversation about you. They’ll interpret a lack of presence as a lack of caring about their concerns.
  28. Do understand that you’ll have to hold many of your members hands if you want them to participate in your online efforts. But each time that you do, you will be earning their gratitude, and perhaps loyalty. Everyone likes to learn how to do cool new things, without being made to feel like they are stupid.
  29. Do read web sites and books about it: The Cluetrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble, and The New Influencers by Paul Gillin
  30. Do read blogs about it: this one right here, OpenSource CU by Trabian, Marketing Whims by Ron Shevlin, NetBanker by Jim Bruene, Currency Marketing by Tim McAlpine, CU Hype by Tony Mannor, and scores more.
  31. Do realize that your members know better your CUs strengths and weaknesses than you realize.
  32. Do realize that your front line staff are your best and most important allies in social media marketing. They are far more familiar with it, and trusted by their own friends than you are.
  33. Do involve your front line staff with your social media efforts every step of the way.
  34. Do involve your members at every step of the way with your social media efforts.
  35. Do realize that the relationship your members have with each other is often as important, and sometimes more important, than the relationship they have with you or your credit union.
  36. Do involve your members in competitions and let them see how they stand. Members love that, and will check back often if you do!

Here are the 27 Don’ts.

Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking?

July 14, 2008

Ron Shevlin wrote a post this morning about why the iPhone isn’t going to revolutionize banking. His point is that there may be some evolution, but not revolution. My counterpoint is that when talking about degrees by which these things happen, it can be difficult to draw a line between these two. And waiting for that line to become bright is a risk that some might not want to take.

Ron thinks that there are too many people rushing in to these revolutionary technologies. I actually think it’s the opposite: there are far more people in the financial world who are taking a wait and see attitude than those who are claiming there is a revolution and jumping in feet first. It’s just that the feet-first types are the vocal ones who make the noise and get the attention. Because, really, who wants to admit they are going to take a wait-and-see approach? I give props to Charles Bruen for taking a hard-line wait-and-see stance on mobile banking.

But let me back up to Ron’s bigger issue; what is revolutionary and what is evolutionary? While it is indeed hard to determine what is truly “disruptive” and “revolutionary” (yes, these words are used too often) at the time they are occurring, nevertheless, some of these things DO take root and create significant change. As one example, in 2005, Facebook had but one million users. Hardly a disruptive revolution, right? But it had momentum and was growing fast, and now has 80 million users. That would make Facebook the fifteenth largest country in the world if it were a country. Three years ago, most people had barely heard of it. Today it’s a part of the culture. When exactly did it go from a blip on the radar screen to mainstream?

I believe the same is true for mobile banking, P2P lending, and PFMs. Yes, these revolutions are not happening violently because banking isn’t sexy. But if there were any way I could get off the sidelines and do something with these technologies, I would be in the game. I give huge props to Gene Blishen for being light years ahead of the curve on what mobile banking can be and do.

Dan Dickinson, in a response to Ron’s post, asks if there is anyone on twitter who does NOT use an iPhone, and states that he will never buy anything made by Apple. As far as the game-changing nature of the iPhone and mobile connectedness, this misses the point.

The point is this: for those of us who were tethered to a desk in order to use our PCs and access the net, laptops were a revolution. Now you could go anywhere with a laptop, be connected/do your work, but you could only connect to the entire internet when you found wifi, which was rare or expensive and often both. With an iPhone (and to some degree any smart phone) you can connect to the net ANYWHERE you have a cell phone connection, which these days seems like just about anywhere. That’s powerful, game changing stuff, and also not as clunky and bulky as a laptop.

But again, here’s the real reason why people LOVE their iPhones, and why it’s indeed a paradigm-shifting, disruptive, revolution (he he!): Because it’s so FREAKING PERSONAL. iPhone owners feel that it’s “my” internet on their iPhones, it’s MY connection to MY friends and MY music and MY phone and MY pictures and MY contacts and MY address book and MY calendar and MY videos and MY games and MY apps! I can customize it with pictures of MY friends and MY kids on MY home screen, and take a photo ANYWHERE I am and instantly email it to my friends. Try wrestling away any device (no matter whether its an iPhone or something else) that has so much personalization and connection… it can’t be done. And to the extent that BlackBerries and Treos do this too, well, yes, that’s why their users love them just as much as us Appleheads love our iPhones.

P2P Lending and market leader advantage

June 26, 2008

Twit/blogger friend Mike Templeton, online manager of the Iowa CU League’s The Members Group, a payment processing CUSO, tweeted this morning that another twit/blogger friend, Ron “The Shevlinator” Shevlin was just quoted in an Aite Group report about large banks starting to have success with marketing online. This report reminded me that Ron recently commented on Open Source CU that he was secretly skeptical of the future of P2P Lending sites, (like Prosper), because someday banks will wake up and smell the coffee, and simply do it themselves.

Woah, Ron, hold on there. You may be right, but I think you are wrong on this point, and here’s why: Why haven’t banks and credit unions gone running to develop their own P2P Lending solution as of yet? For most FIs, there are many reasons: 1.) They haven’t heard of P2P Lending. 2.) They don’t see why lots of people would jump on this. 3.) They aren’t legally able to do it. 4.) They don’t see it as significantly different than what they are currently doing. 5.) It would canibalize their own lending business 6.) Their field of membership/geographic reach is too small to make the investment in technology infrastructure worthwhile 7.) Most FI’s don’t have the resources in time, expertise and dollars to invest in such an effort.

But say you ARE a huge bank, and do have the time, expertise, and resources to roll your own P2P Lending solution. You still have a number of strikes against you.

1.) Prosper has a multi-year headstart on you. This headstart is significant in customers, transactions, reputation, and expertise, both technological and tactical.
2.) Why would people choose you over Prosper? This is where reputation is all-important. If you’ve been fee’ing your customers to death, they’re not going to come running to you just because you announce you have P2P Lending.

I can hear the counter-argument now: “Prosper is a niche presence that most Americans have never heard of.”

Indeed, while the current membership of 725,000 is a small percentage of all Americans, it is nevertheless big enough to make it the fourth largest credit union in the nation if it were a credit union. And Prosper is growing fast, and is now starting to advertise. Also, while this membership is still relatively small, it is composed of the early adopters. While the mega-banks have advertising budgets that may exceed Propser’s entire operating budget, for the most part, the people who would go online and use P2P lending are not the ones that would be influenced by television and other mass-media. The people who utilize P2P Lending are the people who are involved in social media, such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Brightkite, etc.

Prosper has what I call the eBay advantage. eBay is not the best auction technology that exists. I’m sure Christie’s and Sotheby’s have superior auction sites. But eBay is where everyone is, which is an upward cycle. All the buyers are there, which means that all the sellers go there, which means that all the buyers go there, etc. And the other thing which continues to make eBay the place to go for your online auctions is the issue of reputation. Hundreds of thousands of people have carefully managed their reputation in online buying and selling on eBay, and this reputation is not transferable. All these folks are not going to leave behind their reputation on which they’ve expended huge effort. And now that Prosper has community reputation features in P2P lending and borrowing, all the more reason why Prosper will remain the place to go in P2P Lending.

Okay, that’s my two cents, tell me why I’m wrong! :)

Interviewed by Mr. McAlpine

June 18, 2008

Credit union innovator Tim McAlpine, President of Currency Marketing, conducted an interview with me a couple of weeks ago, and he’s uploaded it here on his blog. Tim asked me some really terrific questions that I enjoyed answering.

Shortly after completing the interview, I turned the tables and interviewed Tim. I very much look forward to hearing that as soon as Tim has a chance to edit and upload his own.

Tim also has another audio clip the includes part of a presentation that I gave at CUES Experience in Minneapolis. This 14-minute audio clip also includes Arkadi Kuhlmann of ING Direct, Ron Shevlin of Aite Group, William Azaroff of Vancity CU, Tim McAlpine, and Steve Williams of Cornerstone Advisors. Tim recorded this in-person, and the audio is nice and clear.

P.S. YES! The Celtics win NBA Championship number 17! It’s been a twenty-two year wait for me since I watched them win number 16.

BarCampBank New England – Intimate equals awesome

April 7, 2008

America's CU MuseumWell, BarCampBank NewEngland finally happened. It was an incredible occasion, and a huge thank you to the 15 people who made the event everything I’d ever hoped for it, and then some. Fifteen people from all corners of New England, and other parts of the globe (Ontario and British Columbia), made the trek to America’s Credit Union Museum. I’m glad we held the event here, because prior to it, all but one camper did NOT know of its existence. Which is especially surprising considering that the CU movement in the U.S. originated here in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the first CU law, the first CU league, etc. were all established in Massachusetts.

Since this was a small gathering, I’ll say a few words about each of the special people who came.

Peggy Powell gives the tourPeggy Powell – Director of America’s CU Museum gets major karma points on at least four counts: 1.) normally only official CU orgs get to hold events in the museum, but she made an exception for us; 2.) she came in on a Saturday because she’s the only employee; 3.) she gave us a tour despite earlier having a bum wheel requiring ice and elevation, and 4.) she put up with us temporarily converting the 3rd floor into a concert arena for a game of Rock Band on the dual projector multimedia system.

Lunch CrewRon Shevlin contributed wonderful insights as always, and wrote a terrific blog entry about BCBNE here. My favorite quote from Ron came at dinner afterwards when we were discussing bankers in the CU movement: “Just because you change churches doesn’t mean you change religions.” During the day, my favorite insight was that it’s not about your story (meaning the business or organizations’ story), it’s about the story that members/customers tell themselves, and how you fit into that story. And social media is about creating new stories with them. Ron is writing a chapter for the book Age of Conversation Two, and I can’t wait to read his contrarian take on web 2.0. I am eagerly devouring Ron’s first book, Everything they’ve told you about Marketing is wrong.

The wisdom of GeneGene Blishen – I heard about what a great person Gene is from following BCB Seattle remotely, tweets, and blogs. Now I understand why. Gene is a treasure of the CU movement, is genuine, profound, and walks the talk. His blog is called Tinfoiling. Gene also wins the “furthest travelled” award since he came here on the way back to British Columbia via vacation in Denmark. A really cool thing that Gene shared with us is that Mt. Lehman CU has two event tents available for members to use (for weddings, parties, etc.). It’s a small way that Mt. Lehman gives back to its membership and also weaves itself into those important events in its members’ lives.

David - The Man of a Thousand TabsDavid Inverarity – I didn’t know of David of Ontario before BCBNE, but I am very happy to have met him. Ron nailed it when he described David as a Tour-de-Force. He’s a whirlwind and provided the funniest photo of any BarCampBank EVAH. I love that David not only brought his PowerBook, but also his Macintosh Air and iPhone. (And made use of air-quotes frequently.) I’m still not sure what to make of his challenge to try to remove his MacBook Air from the building and he wouldn’t make a move to stop them. Perhaps it de-materializes if someone other than David tries to touch it? Ron thought it would make an excellent frisbee if thrown from the third story window.

Andy LaFlammeAndy LaFlamme – I had been looking forward to meeting Andy ever since his outstanding blog, The CU Loop, came on the scene. Andy has a cogent write-up of the day as well. A special thank you to Andy for so many great photos and recordings of the day.

Adam Lueb & Andy LaFlammeAdam Lueb – A special thank you to Adam for making the journey to Manchester from Western Massachusetts despite not feeling 100%. Adam keeps EverythingCU.com humming despite our best efforts to overwhelm him with new stuff to make that resource even better.

Ginny & LouiseGinny Brady – Ginny continues to delight me with her progressive thinking, and to be the beacon of truth and justice for board members to truly represent the members’ best interests. After a full year of blogging via The Boardcast, still the only board member to be creating online dialogue with members via a blog as far as we know. I hope her example paves the way for more board members to engage in dialogue via this avenue. And don’t even get me started about how awesome this photo of her and Louise is. Shout out to Ginny, Linda, Jody and UFirst FCU for sponsoring breakfast. Ginny gave a great description of the events at The Credit Union World’s Best Kept Secret.

Charlie Kroll & Peggy PowellCharlie Kroll – Came up from Providence, Rhode Island, representing online account opening and funding operation Andera. Charlie had outstanding questions and insights throughout the day. Here is Charlie’s blog entry on being pleasantly surprised by BCBNE.

On the TourDave DelVecchio – Thank you to Dave for coming to the camp, also from our area of Western Mass. David saw me give a talk to the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the MA CU League and does tech implementation and support for many F.I.s in the region. He gave us some insight into the big I.T. issues organizations are wrestling with.

In the "Waiting Room"Mark Vautour – Another young CU marketing professional learning more about the movement every day, who was not aware of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire CU movement’s origins the existence of America’s Credit Union Museum despite working at a Boston area credit union. I got to visit Mark at halftime of my first-ever in-person Celtics game at Boston Garden because we both have the Celtics fan Facebook application. Props to Mark for setting up and handling the event’s registration on Eventbrite.

Deb and the topic/schedule wallDebra Trautman – Was the only camper who was aware of America’s CU Museum before the BCBNE event because she had received an award there for her work for the Maine Credit Union League. Debra, like many of us outside major cities on the East Coast, was not familiar with the BarCamp format, and now that she’s experienced BCBNE, is eager to share it with more Maine credit unions.

Jeanine PerroneJeanine Perrone – Represented Marquis software. It’s great to know there are people who work for CU vendors who are this interested in the movement. Jeanine is also formerly an employee of a credit union.

Christian discusses CU mergersChristian Mullins – Provided wonderful and detailed insight into credit union mergers, and why they are happening at a rate of about one per day. (46 so far this year alone). He had detailed knowledge of a big one happening in his former area in Madison, Wisconsin

Morriss Partee, Jeanine Perrone, Joe Mello  & Andy LaFlammeJoe Mello – Arrived in time to catch the second half of the day’s topics. I had met his brother, Steve Mello, in San Francisco the previous Saturday at BarCampBank SF. Joe and Steve are doing some exciting work in the world of wireless banking.

I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves, learned a lot, were re-inspired about this crazy CU movement experiment, and made valuable new connections with like-minded people. I know I did.

If you are an employee of a credit union or league, and want to continue this conversation with thousands of other CU professionals, check out EverythingCU.com. (Full disclosure: we created EverythingCU.com as a resource for you to connect with your peers nationally and worldwide, so we might be biased.)

Shameless self-promotion, part two: I was agog when I first visited America’s CU Museum nearly two years ago. I have since discovered that many in the CU movement don’t know about it, or the history of this amazing movement. To do my part in stamping out ignorance everywhere, I am available to deliver a concise, relevant presentation that connects the dots between this movement’s humble origins and how we came to be where we are today. Send me an email if you’re interested in having me deliver this presentation to your credit union, league chapter, or league.

For more photos of the BCBNE event and the museum, visit the BCBNE group flickr pool.

Please share YOUR thoughts on the day, and what you got out of it, here and on your own blog/twitter/flickr/facebook/crowdvine/wiki.

Prosper turns two; P2P Lending accelerating

March 17, 2008

I’m a little bit late in blogging a happy second birthday to Prosper, but hey, better late than never. It’s interesting to me that there are many (perhaps even a majority of) people in the financial world who talk about Prosper as an interesting “experiment” that may or may not work. Let me attempt to blog yet again, that Prosper IS working, and growing at a rather stunning rate, right at this very moment. (Sadly, many financial professionals are probably still not familiar with P2P Lending, two years after its U.S. launch, and three years after its British launch.)

There are many who are skeptical, and rightly so, about making unsecured loans to strangers via Prosper. But let’s look at the facts. At Prosper’s current growth rate, they will probably surpass 1,000,000 members before the end of the year, which, if it were a credit union, would make it the third largest in the United States. When Prosper celebrated its second birthday on Feb 13, this year, it had 580,000 registered members, and has done $117 million in loans. (At that membership, Prosper would already chart in at sixth on the list of largest credit unions, behind Navy FCU at 3 million members, SECU of NC at 1.4 million members, Pentagon FCU at 770,000 members, and The Golden One CU at 680,000 members, and Security Service FCU at 630,000 members, and ahead of Boeing Employees CU with 530,000 members).

Clearly, there ARE people who are embracing online P2P lending, whether it’s Prosper, Zopa, or Virgin Money.

Last month, Jim Bruene of NetBanker blogged a new development at Prosper, which aims to cut default rates through social capital, namely personal recommendations. This looks to have proven successful so far, and is a clear example of direct monetary value associated with social capital.

The idea that national credit unions could exist with a defined target market is one that Jesse Robbins indirectly voiced with his Building the Black Rock Credit Union blog, and later Tim McAlpine at Currency Marketing articulated, and Ron Shevlin and the CUSkeptic satirized. Well, in a certain sense, Propser has already brought this concept to life via its borrowing groups. Just a cursory glance at the community reveals groups for entrepreneurs, Harvard alumni, Vietnamese Americans, musicians, military veterans, artists, teachers, restaurateurs, personal financial advisors, health care professionals, and even Apple fans. (Here’s one for folks who are LGBT). In other words, just about every type of group that credit unions were created to serve, but with a much deeper and richer variety, and with a national horizon.

As a side note, in researching this post, I discovered that Javelin Research says that online P2P lending may reach $159 billion by 2012.

Props to Doug True for working with Zopa to offer NCUA-backed P2P Lending.

Rock and Roll, Baby!

February 6, 2008

Ron Shevlin, Ben Rogers, and Tim McAlpine are writing about P2P lending. For those new to the P2P lending concept, know that it is already well-established, and growing rapidly. I will repeat: If Prosper keeps on its current pace of membership growth, by the fourth quarter of this year, it will have a membership north of one million people. That would make it the third largest credit union in the United States, if it were a credit union. This is happening NOW. I will write more about why P2P lending is so powerful, and what Zopa needs to do to have a chance against the Prosper juggernaut in a future post. But now I turn to rock and roll.

It’s time for credit unions to stop playing copycat and come up with completely new avenues of awareness and revenue generation. As Tim mentioned in his post, in the music world disrupted by sharing technology available to the millions of people, innovation came in the form of iTunes, Rhapsody, etc. Did you know that iTunes has sold 4 BILLION songs? At 99 cents per song, you do the math on total sales. I don’t know how much money the record studios ever made, but I’m guessing Apple would have a seat at the table at the least.

However, we don’t need another iTunes. Wal-Mart tried to copy with a lower price competition, and that effort has failed to put a dent in the Apple behemoth. What credit unions need to do is invent the financial equivalent of the video game Rock Band. Did you know that 2.5 million add-on songs were sold in the first 8 weeks of the games release? That’s double platinum, baby! This is a classic example of a razor and blade business model. And in this case, the razor isn’t even being given away for free, it’s at a reasonable price. (Side note – I recently learned that Guitar Hero and Rock Band come out of research into better learning methods at MIT’s Media Lab.)

Because of the runaway success of Rock Band, real bands are now clamoring to get their songs included. Not only for the notoriety, but I would wager that sales of included songs are significantly increasing. I just bought a great song (I’m So Sick by Flyleaf) from iTunes last night that I was not aware of until playing it in Rock Band.

Let’s find the financial services equivalent of this new phenomenon. We have all the ingredients. We just need a new recipe. Srsly.


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