Your Friends Reflect Who You Are

On a bright Wednesday morning, the Chemistry teacher herded us like recalcitrant goats into the Chemistry lab, handed over the second term Chemistry exam sheets and asked each of us to call out our scores so that he could tabulate them. Everyone called the usual numbers; most got Bs and As. When it was my turn, my tongue felt like lead. I walked up to the teacher timidly to complain in the lowest cat meow voice I could muster (so I won’t have to shout out the impossible number).

I got 45%. Never felt more ashamed in my life.

Growing up, I wasn’t a particularly bright kid; but because I was inquisitive, everyone felt I was smart. I could wing my way around; but since I was also supremely lazy, it was mostly misses than hits.

After the unfortunate event in my SS2 (year 5 of high school), I went groveling to my two good friends for help. These guys were freaking smart, not kidding. Femi Gbonjubola was the king of Chemistry and Physics. Femi Olajide lorded over Further Math. They taught me Chemistry like I was a toddler.  A few months later, I did my General Certificate of Education (GCE) and got a few As and that was it. Life was made!

So, what was the point of that story and why should you care?

You can’t be better than your friends

Your friends are an indication of what you value, and you can never be better than them. Psychologists and sociologists have done tons of researches on peer pressure and mob action. Everyone knows the company you keep can push you to greatness or infamy.

Friends affect your career and success more than prayers!

Growing up, I was lucky to be friends with people who took pride in challenging themselves to get better grades. That progressive rivalry made everyone to sit up, and it helped.

But then I remembered old schoolmates who didn’t care about grades and just wanted to wear the latest designer labels and shoes. Unfortunately for those old school mates, trying to be the social bee and getting bad grades seems to have a strong correlation.

But then, if your friends are the happening types and they network a lot professionally, hanging out with them increases your chance of bumping into a beneficial contact. Some of those serendipitous encounters have transformed lives significantly. Of course, if you have no friends and you hide at home after work every day you may not go far!

On the flip side, if your friends are the lau lau type, spending beyond means to impress everyone; raking up debt to buy business class tickets to watch Champions League when bills are crying to be paid, the end is usually not very good.

Ditch your friends; they are no good!

Do you have a friend who seems to have a negative attitude about life? He never sees the good in anything and always talking about how life is unfair; the weather is shitty, Donald Trump is the president of America (wetin concern agbéró with overload?), etc. Dump him; he’s no good!

Is your boyfriend insecure about your progress and always dissuading you from reaching your goals? Is he always preaching the how a woman should behave and must be seen not heard? (Fake preacher). Jilt him! There are too many good guys out there than for you to sacrifice your life to a sorry ass you met just four months ago.

If your friend doesn’t know how to save, is always envious of rich folks, loves to put up appearances, borrows money for parties…get LAWMA to take him out of your vicinity. He’s worse than dirt.

If any of your friends or side chicks wear fake designer labels or carries fake designer bags, dump them fast. The inferiority complex will rub on you the wrong way

If your friends don’t treat their drivers, house helps, office assistants, etc. with respect, run from them. It’s easy to know the values that people carry within them by the way they treat those less fortunate. You don’t know your friends until you have gone through a misfortune or two.

Choose your friends like you choose your underwear

I know some people are annoying, but if they have good values that you admire, choose them as friends or mentors. The positive attitude they impact on you would transform your life.

Pay attention to those who respect others and are considerate. Be close to very ambitious and driven people but want to use only legal means to achieve them.

If your friends love to read and be up to date about their environments, even if you fight, don’t lose them! They are worth more than their weights in gold.

Hang out with those who have self-confidence and let them boost yours as well. Many smart people have lost good opportunities because they were too self-conscious to seize them.

My friends are my heroes

I wouldn’t be where I’m today if those two scallywags, Femi and Femi, didn’t teach me Chemistry. It gave me the confidence to tackle the other subjects, and here I’m today, I finally got to be an electrical engineer (don’t ask me to fix your light though, we could both get electrocuted)

Femi Gbonjubola, unfortunately, left us Christmas day of 2002. Femi Olajide, on the other hand, has devoted the rest of his life cleaning dirty teeth and improving public health all over the world.

May you never lack good friends!

Dropbox banking: The backbone for Fintechs and a probable model for banking in the future

The argument about if Fintechs and Banks are frenemies would never end. And it’s justifiably so.

Retail banks have a model of providing checking, savings, investment account services. Of course, they layer that with credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, etc. Fintech showing up on the scene means one thing, banks would be losers. There isn’t any clearer way to say it.

Think about it this way, banks earn money from these services and would want to continue that way. Fintechs showing they could do it better means they also want to gain something as well. So, any of these could happen: banks would lose, and Fintechs could gain; Fintechs and banks would gain from increased service cost and customers would pay more; Fintechs would lose, and banks would be cool.

There is also the friction that comes with who owns the customer experience. Most banks loathe to see new players sandwich between them and the customers and would prefer to control every single data point. On the flip side, when customers start to use apps for Personal Financial Management and their bank accounts, they start seeing the banks as a repository of their funds or provider of loans.

Retail banks don’t even trust Fintechs as their services tend to aggregate and disintermediate. None of the banks want to be a bucket for storage.

But wait, why not?

The traditional model makes losers out of the retail banks for Fintechs to win, maybe the only way would be to have a new type of bank, modeled from grounds up to take away the arguments of retail banks.

So imagine a bank, fully licensed but whose interaction is via APIs that Fintech and others can use to connect to it. Fintechs are the actual customers because the banks help them to hold their customers’ funds and loans in compliance with the regulation.

Dropbox was happy to become the programmatic storage for many apps, and that cemented its position in the world of cloud storage. Of course, Google Drive, Box, Microsoft OneDrive, etc. support the same approach but nothing represents personal commodity storage more than Dropbox.

A bank, fashioned after Dropbox, could have the same model and would face no pressure to compete with Fintechs but be the backbone for them. Such a bank, with no direct customer interface, would be barebones to run with the most minimal of operational overhead.

Could this be a viable model?

If this model works, then it’s possible that the future of banking will be the gradual transformation to the utility company providing services to the Fintechs who will own the customers. Nevertheless, there may not be a total elimination of the traditional model though, or one where all banks become a full-scale utility.

The harsh reality for Fintechs is that banks still own the customers’ trust for now and that counts for a lot.

Being a utility player offers no room for differentiation, and it simply becomes a case of the best bank offering ease and variety of API integration (across the various requirements of the Fintechs – Risk and Regulatory Compliance – i.e.  KYC, AML, security of deposits, etc.).

What is likely to happen is more of a gradual acceptance of the Fintechs services as options for customers in areas where the banks may not have the capabilities. For example, Santander is selling SME lending via Kabbage or providing Personal Financial Management via Meniga, The ultimate Fintech bank that will provide an integrated suite of all the customers’ required financial services may just not be on the horizon yet.

But it will be interesting to see how this pans out for the future of banking.

#Note
Contributions from Ladi Asuni

Multitasking is Good, Focus is Even Better!

I almost freaked out when I found out that I could cut steel and concrete with just a bottle of water, or simply by shining a torch light. Wait, with my bottle of Nestlé PureLife, I could cut down the Eiffel Tower?

Ok, I know that sounds dramatic and impossible, but the real gist of this is that you can cut steel or concrete with a water jet or laser. It sounds like science fiction, but that’s the power of focus.

Taking it further, I remember a very razz proverb from my grandma that says that you can make your pee foam – if you aim it at just one spot.

Science fiction or razzness aside, there is so much you can achieve in life and your career – just by the power of focus. It allows you to put together your mental, financial, and professional energy on what is imperative. Hopefully, you can have the superlative success that nobody would have imagined you are capable of.

The power of focus also goes into the everyday things we see around us. Think about how a small push of the brake pedal can stop the humongous SUV we are using to harass innocent Fiat Punto drivers on the roads. The little force from our spindly legs is multiplied by focusing it on a small area of the brake mechanism.

So it boils down to this: if you are trying to do many things at the same time, you may be praised as the master of multi-tasking, but the chance is pretty high you won’t achieve anything.

How this affects your career and your life
I once mentored a young woman. Bright and intense nonetheless, she was never able to break into the big league because of a major problem – she wanted to do so many things. From project management certifications to doing ACCA (sorry, accounting sucks), to running a hair salon side gig. Ultimately, her attention, energy, and intensity stretched thin. It was simply not enough to achieve success.

So, if you need to have a transformation that lasts and gets you there, the first big question would be – what would you rather be successful in… if you had just one chance?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find an answer to that deceptively simple question easily. No wonder it has been hard to be successful as well. Sad.

So let’s say you are one of the few who knows what they want to be, the next thing would be to focus on it like a religion. Act like your life depends on it. The focus does the magic!

Run the distance
Focus is magic; but every magician will tell you, if you don’t have the crowd, you don’t have the magic! You need to run the distance for the focus to show its effect.

This reminds me of the few times I did some sit ups, then I gingerly touched my pouch, feeling for anything that looks like the start of a six pack. Of course, once I fell off my schedule after a few days, only the one pack stayed behind.

Simplification is deceptive
Before sauntering into the evening, I need to warn you that simplification is a façade. Yes, you need focus, and then you need focus to run the distance to achieve anything. Errm, that isn’t all to succeed. You need to run smart; you need a dose of luck.

Gosh! We need many things just to get a chance to succeed.

Online Banking without Offline Annoyance

The drumbeat for payments and all things digital has been beating loud and long (and annoying, almost like a banshee!). At face value, this seems to be one thing customers and banks can agree about.

Banks don’t want customers in the branches anymore (because it cost more to serve them in-branch) and customers don’t even want to go to the branches to do transactions. It cost more to get there; the tellers aren’t as pretty as before; you could spend the last years of your life stuck in traffic and lastly; woe betide you if your favorite branch got robbed, a junior thief could use your pot belly for target practice.

Unfortunately, while it seems there is an agreement, almost every bank seems to struggle with getting customers online.

Many issues are to blame.

The processes are designed by sadists who don’t understand what customers want or able to even let the customers know what needs to be done online.

Even when the processes can be decrypted by the CIA and NSA, it mostly involves a trip to the banking hall.

But then, good news is, sadists are getting a change of heart and banks are seeing the light. Hallelujah.

Curiosity killed the cat

In the age where Zenith, Wema, etc. let you open an account with your USSD code, I was wondering if these banks won’t let me have internet banking without seeing their shops. So huddling with a friend, we trolled banks to find out the current processes of getting customers to register for Internet banking (hey, we didn’t touch mobile, don’t beef!) and whoa, we have an intriguing result.

Summary

Out of the 21 banks surveyed, 57% or 12 of them allow you to start and end your registration for online banking. However, most would want you to view just your balances. You must still ferry your backside to a branch to get token.

Of the lot that really understand the perspective of the customer, 50% of them allow you to complete the end-to-end enrollment and start doing transactions without any branch visit. Kudos to their product management team – you guys have balls!

Full Data

Bank End-to-end self-enrollment? Self-enrollment allows transactions? Authentication method
Access Bank Yes No Valid account number to register; an activation code is sent to registered email and mobile number via SMS
Diamond Bank No Not applicable Download and fill form and submit at branch
Ecobank Yes Yes Valid account number to get OTP via SMS
FCMB Yes Yes Use valid account number, use Debit card information to validate
Fidelity Bank Yes Yes Use account number to get OTP, fill online form, use debit card information to validate, download a token app and start doing transactions.
First Bank No Not applicable Call FirstContact to begin registration or visit a branch
Guaranty Trust Bank No Not applicable Download and fill form and then submit at branch for activation
Heritage Bank No Not applicable Register online, print and take to branch for activation
Jaiz Islamic Bank No Not applicable Download and fill form and then submit at branch for activation
Keystone Bank No Not applicable Download and fill form and then submit at branch for activation
Providus Bank Yes Use valid customer ID, OTP sent via SMS
Skye Bank No Not applicable Register online, print and take to branch for activation
Stanbic IBTC Yes Yes Use valid account number and phone number; set up secret questions, OTP is sent via SMS
Standard Chartered Yes Yes Use Standard Chartered ATM, Debit or Credit card information to validate to get OTP sent via SMS, alternatively get

Temporary ID (Received via Email)
Temporary Password (Received by SMS)

Sterling Bank Yes No User valid account number and Phone number
SunTrust Bank Yes User customer number, identification number, e.g., Passport or National ID card, date of birth and branch name
Union Bank Yes No Use valid account number to get OTP via SMS
United Bank for Africa Yes Yes Use Valid account number, use Debit card information to validate, use OTP to consummate instant transactions
Unity Bank No Not applicable Download and fill form and submit at branch
Wema Bank Yes No Use valid account number
Zenith Bank No Not applicable Download, complete, and submit request form at any branch or via email

TGIF but one last thing

I know the stories won’t hit the headlines but banks still get shafted, once in a while, by fraud. However, I’m very sure that the ease of onboarding, the rapidly ramping revenue from transactions and even the demand for modern banking would force everyone to be at parity within the next 2 years. Mark my word, time would come when the last bank to get onboard self-enrollment would be beaten up by the horde of irate customers.

Get your private email, with custom domain, free!

Whether you are bootstrapping a small business, fought your boss and launching into the deep on your own or just side-hustling, there are some key things you need to do so people can take you seriously.

It could also be that you have a political activist group or running an NGO for orphans (I’m one, please help me!), you still have needs for certain work tools.

Having your domain name for your emails is sacrosanct if not people will think you are a joke. If you don’t think a custom domain email is important, trust me; you are probably a joke. But when Google Suite and others cost about $5 per user per month, being a joke could be less evil.

For small companies and NGOs, cash is always hard to get. And if you happen to be in Africa or especially Nigeria, many of the services you need: such as emails with your domain name, file hosting, etc. would be priced in US Dollar, something so rare to get these days. As rare as pink elephants.

Recently, while working on a project, I bumped into Zoho Mail, awesome email service but with a twist; there is a free plan!

With the free plan, if you can register your own domain name ($10 per year), you can get up to 25 users with 5GB of space for each of them for free. Your own myname@myfancydomain.com! As space is limited to 5GB, you won’t be able to keep a lot of junk in there. But then who cares? After all, once you have landed the big project and your magas have paid, you can always upgrade to the paid tier.

Years ago Google allowed anyone to create customer domain for up to 50 users free and then gradually reduced it until it became zero. This is how we host our Olowe.com email. Microsoft did the same thing with Outlook.com but bad belle people; they offered 500 users and then yanked everyone off!

By the way, if you are as vain as me, and you want your own myname@mysurname.com type email, Zoho Mail free plan will be OK for you, your siblings and your parents (if you still have them around). Being your family email administrator should make you relevant for the first time in your life; the feeling is awesome!

Getting them high: Challenges of onboarding customers to digital services

Digital services, which include cards, online banking, mobile apps for finances, USSD for transferring money you don’t have, etc., are essential services. In fact, financial inclusion has been elevated to the level of fundamental human rights. However, unlike things we derive joy from using – Whatsapp, Tinder, Facebook, to mention a few, digital services are like toothpaste; nobody gets too emotional about them – you just want them to be affordable, available, easy to use and then get them out of the way before you lose your mind. That is if you have a mind to start with.

Challenges facing purveyors

But then, the horror eating at digital bankers, the unloved purveyors of FinTech (Ok, I want to stop using this buzzword, it’s no longer cool) products and other financial thingamajigs, is the low onboarding or usage rate despite a captive market. When I say captive market, I’m talking about banks with large customer bases but whose customers just don’t sign up for electronic services. You would think customers love going to those crowded and nightmarish banking halls. Hell, freaking no! They continue to complain about having to visit branches to get things done. To make matters worse, even the tellers in the branches aren’t smiling or friendly, so what’s the point?

What customers want

I know quite a bit about what customers want with digital services because I’m one of them. As crazy as it sounds, I’m a customer, so I’m speaking for the hordes of ill-served and hapless customers.

The average user isn’t a techie, but yet products and services are designed such that you need to be a professor to figure things out. How to get the products is never clear; the screen flow is more complicated than flying a space shuttle, and the error messages leave you scratching your head. I can imagine how hard that is going to be for bald customers. For example, the password instructions about using special characters, upper, middle and lower cases, etc. can drive even the most patient Moses impersonator to tears. Why can’t I choose a password I’m more comfortable with? After all, if I use a complicated password and my money gets stolen, the bank still won’t be doing a refund.

By the way, using passwords such as Password123, for example, is like painting a big fat red ‘X’ on your back and then taking an evening stroll through a war zone.

Customers want convenience so asking me to visit a branch to request internet and mobile access is just, pardon my language, insane. Until someone explains why Facebook and Whatsapp never set up offices to sign up users, but my bank has to force me to endure the unfriendly Customer Service Officer, I won’t ever understand this. The pseudo-professionals talk of security and risk management, I only see mental laziness. While the risks have not disappeared, banks have launched USSD services, virtually all via self-enrollment, and the world is yet to end. Why the same approach can’t be used for all other electronic services baffles me.

My accounts have simple ten digit numbers, but the various digital banking services require different profiles and credentials. The multiple systems don’t talk to each other or even know my preferences. Does it make sense to have a different username and password for the internet and mobile services? Why can’t I manage my cards within these applications?

And the most annoying thing ever? – Even after I have taken Keke Marwa to visit the branch, endured the overzealous security guard, prayed through 10 chapters of Psalms that the branch doesn’t get hit by robbers on the day I visit, complete a form that stretches over a thousand pages, made to fill all my information over and over again, sign in 10 different places and then, oh, the customer service officer says “you have to come back to get your token as we have to make a request to head office.” Darn it!

Why digital initiatives and products have failed

Of course, customers aren’t idiots, so they rebelled against the products, come to the branches to cause trouble and continue to add to the blood pressure of digital bankers when they have to explain their weak numbers at monthly performance meetings.

My opinions on why things failed are few:

It starts from the top. Senior management and executives don’t understand the retail customers. In their rarefied offices, they practically get everything done for them. If you don’t walk in your customers’ shoes, you can’t get things done for them. In fact, let’s take a bet; if you work in a bank and 50% of your senior management use digital products regularly, I’ll give up my salary for next month.

Many products are developed by techies, who obviously have orgasms making complex products than serving dumb customers like me. The world has moved beyond digital products being hobbyist items; experts in customer experience and human computer interaction need to work on the flows and processes that are simple and a joy to use. Banks and FinTech (oops, I used the word again!) have to start doing product management and not product delivery.

Risk management is essential but isn’t everything. Every business has an element of risk; if you don’t want to get bruised, don’t play games. Many of the processes and product requirements are designed by sadists who think risk avoidance is the same as risk management. Not to be hard on them, if you have ever seen a massive fraud once in your career, you could be worse than them. Trust me, EFCC cells don’t have air conditioners.

Data practice is poor, and customer information is scattered everywhere in database silos. The silo data means the customer’s phone number on the card management system is different from the one on that of internet banking; the address filed on the mobile app request form was never updated into the core banking application; the madness goes on and on.

Making life easy for everyone

It’s not all doom and gloom. The strides made by some banks, especially those leading the USSD trail (GTBank, Fidelity, Access, Zenith, etc.) have shown that when the right mindset is applied, magic can happen. The simple workflow and self-service options for USSD banking have been so successful that it has led to over 200% growth for interbank transactions in 2016 alone.

Banks should develop integrated products or make efforts to integrate what they already have. Let the ATM know that I have the mobile app; let the mobile app be able to change my card PIN (yes!), set limits and allow me to make requests from my phone.

Processes that involve branch visits should be streamlined; Forms should be designed by humans (not sadists) and for humans; requirements should be clear and reasonable.  For instance, setting up a company online banking profile, with various mandate instructions remotely, will always be difficult but not impossible. At least, that process shouldn’t be an attempt at mental genocide.

Banks should clean up their data and also implement a single-source of truth. It’s never going to be done in a flash, but the process can start now.

FinTech and banks should understand what risk management is. Instead of making things too loose (FinTech) or too hard (Banks), elements of quantitative and qualitative risk assessments should be applied, and banks should learn to set a portion of income aside for fraud and loss compensations.

Things can change

The frenetic pace of changes over the last few years is an indication of things to come. I honestly believe that many of the issues outlined above can be resolved. After all, we didn’t get here in one weekend.  Additionally, the regulatory demands of Cashless would drive the banks, financial service providers and the average Nigerian towards more robust digital services.

Fixing the PTA Palaver with Technology

There was a collective sigh of relief when the Central Bank of Nigeria recently decided to clear the backlog of travel allowances pending with banks. Nevertheless, a lot of well-meaning Nigerians could also see the opportunities for arbitrage and abuse. Of course, bad boys being bad boys, it quickly turned into a bazaar.

The Personal Travel Allowance, PTA, is a carryover of the ancient Nigerian command and control FX policies where the government, acting as the national nanny via the CBN, hands over FX at a subsidized rate of $4K per quarter. Never enough to build a mansion, yet the margins are sufficiently fat enough for anyone to do a quick deal. For example, the difference between the CBN rates and the alternative markets is about N120; that’s about N480K per quarter and N1.9M per year. Even the angels would be tempted.

Meanwhile, that’s nine times the annual minimum wage specified by the Federal Government.

Instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth by blaming the CBN, who could have turned the other way and let everyone roast with the BDCs of this world, some friends and I thought we could come up with ideas on how this can be managed with technology. Our sole object is to help those who need the FX to get them easily while ensuring the opportunity for abuse was minimized. After all, why blame the government for a poor policy if we don’t have clear alternatives.

After bashing our heads against the wall for some hours, we came up with the following:

FX Nanny Online 😊

The interesting thing with the Nigerian traveler is virtually every one of them has a bank account, and with that comes the dreaded Bank Verification Number, BVN. The BVN is probably the best invention to tame financial recklessness in Nigeria, but we are not utilizing up to 5% of its capabilities. That’s a story for another day.

To get FX for travel, the intending traveler would apply online at some random web app to be put up by the CBN. Let’s say it will be at www.fxnanny.cbn.gov.ng.

Travelers will specify the usual details: travel dates, airline ticket reference, travel document details (scanned copy of their passport), bank details, BVN, etc.

At application time, the web app will indicate the likely rate at which the FX will be sold.

The processing team can then review the application and if approved, make FX available by debiting the traveler’s account using the cardholders’ bank process. The processing must be automated, if not, it creates an opportunity for tingodism.

To ensure that abuse is kept to the minimum, travelers’ passports will be automatically validated with the immigration system, tickets checked against airline APIs, and when the traveler returns to the country, the travel records will be automatically checked against immigrations airport database (does that even exist?).

And here comes the kicker. The FX will be available to a specific prepaid card which can only be used in the countries the travelers have specified and verified via their airline tickets. Additionally, the card or FX will only be active from the date of travel and cannot be used in Nigeria at all.

Travelers will need to buy the prepaid card from any bank, or their bank, and automatically, those cards will be tied to their BVN and be available for automatic loading. They won’t need to visit any bank branch.

Anyone found to have abused the system should be banned for half of eternity and made to spend two weeks with EFCC, washing plates and detention cells.

Service could cost about 1% shared between banks, the platform provider and CBN. Someone has to keep the lights on!

Benefits to the Central Bank

  • It can finally have peace of mind and stop chasing banks around, hustling them to provide data about FX usage. That sucks a great deal.
  • The majority of PTA abuse can now be curbed. Of course, someone will always find a loophole, but that can be addressed when CBN gets to that bridge. Hopefully, not River Niger Second Bridge.
  • CBN will be able to have a real-time overview of the PTA market. It will be easy to ferret out insights into which countries people love to traipse to, which airlines love PTA users, which banks are playing games, etc. without issues.

Benefits to Travelers

  • With the assurance of a level playing field and the demystification of the man-know-man Nigerian problem, the regular traveler can have hopes of a decent PTA without sucking up to a raggedy teller in a bank branch.

Benefits to Banks

  • Earn commissions from processing the debit of travelers’ accounts and crediting the travel card. Should 0.65% be a good incentive?
  • The only source of temptation which has killed many budding careers would be taken away. Trust me; bankers regularly get steamrolled for FX infraction. In fact, it’s an existential risk for branch managers.

Apparently, our solution has glossed over many key issues. For example, who is going to build the application and maintain it? Is the CBN going to be allowed by card associations to issue cards? Will it issue MasterCard and Visa cards only? What will it say to Verve, Freedom and Genesis cards?

If the site crashes or slows down, who is going to be held responsible?

What happens when a card is lost, stolen or blocked? What happens when a traveler needs to change his travel plans?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but hey, the world is full of smarties. Anyone can contribute opinions below.

 

Dreamers are losers. Ideas are worthless.

I grew up lacking so many essential things like Lego toys, common sense, understanding further math, etc. but I never lacked dreams or ideas. I had them by the dozens. After all, dreams and ideas are free and require no permission from hawkish parents or even from the government. I tucked into them and generated dreams and ideas like a real dream machine.

Unfortunately, dreams and ideas didn’t get me anywhere because everyone had them too. And the dreams were getting them nowhere. Dreams are free; ideas can be plucked from anywhere; both useless and worthless.

Sounds counterintuitive, isn’t it? Everyone says, follows your dreams! Guys with ideas are courted and loved. So why the gripe?

My rant isn’t to diminish dreaming or ideas but to put them in their proper perspectives. So before you start wondering who stepped on my toes this morning, hear me out.

Dreams and ideas aren’t constrained by physics or reality and would never be. If you ever watched Tom and Jerry, you will understand that.  Additionally, ideas and dreams are free, anyone with half a brain can conjure them up. I spent the majority of my childhood imagining myself as a superhero, and it was an excellent time – I can bet you spent yours with similar ideas.

But why are dreams and ideas so useless if we need them for innovation? Why am I valuing them down to nothing when to be called a man without a dream or ideas is worse than being called impotent? I mean, if you are not actually impotent.

There are also good and bad ideas – bad ideas being so many out there so why isn’t the good ideas worth something?

Let’s check out what happens in farming.

Send down the rain!

Rain and moisture are so important to agriculture that without it, a nation is imperiled. Just ask the Mayans, an ancient culture of South America, that was destroyed because of drought famine. But then, rain itself isn’t food! The fact that it rains doesn’t mean crop would suddenly appear in farms. For there to be food, farmers must till the ground, plant appropriate seeds and then let the rain do its job.

The value of rain to agriculture is so important that sometimes some fly planes to seed the sky with silver iodide, just like the way applying Robb or onions to your eyes let loose some crocodile tears. Gosh, I hate the kitchen!

Follow your dreams

In all the time I have spent mentoring others, I haven’t met a single mentee who doesn’t have dreams or ideas. We all have them by the dozens. What sets many back, however, is that they dream on and never wake up.

Many people find it hard to believe that dreaming itself means nothing and ideas are worthless if they are not put into use.

For example, I know gazillion friends who want to improve on their careers, yet they would never fix their CVs, network with potential employers or even take the time to understand the new roles they would love to play. That’s dreaming, and it wouldn’t amount to anything.

Not taking action to actualize dreams applies to me too – I have been talking about different side businesses that could bring little income each month. I have planned, discussed and ideated. Of course, if I don’t start it, risk my savings, it would never come to fruition and by January 2018, who am I going to blame for it?

Ideas are worthless

I recently asked a few friends who run their businesses what they could do to take their companies to the next level – I mean, who doesn’t want to achieve unicorn status. Even though I talked to them at different times, they all have the same ideas.

The sad part was, none was putting any of those ideas into action.

We complained about customer service in banks – for any banker reading this, do you know any bank who doesn’t tout customer service as a strategic imperative? Every bank does, but not every bank puts it into action. What a meaningless exercise.

The Conclusion

Dreams and ideas are only useful when combined with action and purpose. Do you want to be successful? Stop dreaming, start acting on the few nightmares you have had, and even the sky wouldn’t be able to contain you – just ask Elon Musk at SpaceX.

Those damned resolutions

I have talked about it before, you have heard it too many times, nobody cares about it again. Yes, new year resolutions. We all made a few and like the years before; we have probably forgotten them by now.

We made resolutions knowing we weren’t as good as we wanted to be. Careers are stalled, bad habits run rings around our sensibilities, some want to be better dads, wives, husbands, parents, whatever! So we made tons of good-intentioned resolutions and without malice, forgot them as quickly as Donald Trump could fire a tweet.

For me, I’ve decided that this year would be different. At least, even if I don’t get to achieve all the items on the short list, it won’t be because I forgot them. Some are proving to be hard enough because of the additional shots of vodka in my cocktail when I wrote the list.

Nevertheless, I honestly believe that resolution items can be achieved, and even surpassed. I don’t even think it requires so much apart from a set of few tricks.

The methods are simple – I’ve people and myself, holding me accountable for the items on those lists and I’m committed to reviewing my progress every month. Also, there are things I would do/or not do, as a means of self-flagellation, if I don’t achieve specific results.

 

What self-review does

For those who have been unfortunate to work in banking, you would know the circus bankers do each month where sales guys and gals are grilled or sometimes pulped. That excruciatingly painful experience is called Monthly Performance Review. Many at times, there would be carnage and people never make it to the office the next day. Bankers gave it a bad name but a regular review of performance is important for every organization, and if you run your life the way you run your job, it is something you must do if you want to succeed.

Commit, either to yourself or with someone you look up to, to review your 2017 resolutions each month. Maybe the first Saturday of the month? Be honest, assess your performance and ask tough questions about if you are getting nearer or not. If you are, give yourself a nice pat on the back. And if you aren’t, you have work to do. Do it.

 

Set Delivery Dates

By the way, I assume your resolutions have delivery dates. That you would repaint your living room without putting a specific time to do it is as good as not writing it down in the first instance.

We know that a pregnancy lasts for nine months and even without setting a delivery date or preparing for it, the baby would compulsory pop out, all things being equal. Your dreams are a special type of pregnancies, though, if you don’t set an EDD, they will die in your womb.

 

Goodbye Devialet Phantom Gold

I have been lusting after Phantom Gold for about few months, and I promised myself one this year. As much as I love to have that audiophile’s dream machine, I would never get one unless certain items on my resolution list are knocked off as done.

So for example, if you don’t fix your CV, making it look like Bill Gate wrote it, you shouldn’t allow yourself get any Coldstone ice cream or Shawarma from Ebeano. If you don’t start that small side business to augment your salary, you can’t travel for summer (in this economy?). If you don’t save 50% of your salary each month (assuming the economy hasn’t wiped you out), you shouldn’t allow yourself to visit Hard Rock Café.

It sounds pretty silly, but it works. After all, who are you helping if not yourself?

 

A Moment to Reflect

There isn’t a better time to review a year than just at the start. January is gone already and February is already on its way. Trust me, before you can say, Jack Robinson, the year is done. Success isn’t usually some dramatic thing that happens in a bang but a series of normal things that stack up down the line.

Wouldn’t it be extremely sad if you procrastinate through the whole of 2017, when the economy is bad, Donald Trump is president, students are joining gangs, etc. and then reach 2018 to regret 2017? Meanwhile, your boss would continue, every month, to harass you about meeting set performance threshold. You will work your sorry ass out to achieve your team or company’s targets, your boss would get a fantastic bonus, probably go to Harvard/Stanford/INSEAD for a random executive course (which probably looks good on her CV but does no one any good) while you have nothing to write about.

Think. Act. Be disciplined.

Kennedy Uzoka is Nigeria’s coolest bank CEO

Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s Group Managing Director, is the savviest bank CEO in Nigeria, as far as social media is concerned. Or so says an informal study by me.

He loves social media and practically hangs out there. While he won’t be allowed into the YMCA, he probably knows a thing or two about where and how to appeal to banking’s emerging core customers, Millennials. Based on the outcome of my, perhaps, dubious analysis, I decided to crown him a social media kingpin. He won’t be getting any plaque or prize money or anything. I don’t even know if he’s going to brag about it.

Recently, Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank was crowned the Twitter Lord by Business Day but as a tree doesn’t make a Zambisa forest, so also Twitter isn’t enough to rule the social media world. But then, that may be wrong, after all, Trump will rule America and the rest of the free world using nothing but Twitter.

So here’s how the CEOs stack up.

Nigerian banks will forever jostle for the eyeballs and minds of Millennials. I mean, social media was hot, digital banking is even an inferno now. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to know why; Millennials are the next target market as baby boomers start to die off gradually. Millennials live in the social media world, so no better place to hang out with them, pander to their whims and hopefully, find a way to make some money off them.

In five years, Millennials, also known as Gen Y or those born in the 80’s and 90’s, will form the majority of the workforce. That means salaries, bonuses, shopping, car loans, mortgages, credit cards, DSTV, Netflix, chills, etc.

Unfortunately for banks in general and Nigerian banks, in particular, it has been mostly misses and few hits. At first glance, you wonder why because worldwide, 11 Nigerian banks are in the top 100 banks using social media. But we all know that you can’t run faster than the boss (let someone shout Hallelujah to that!).

So I wanted to know if the bosses are running in tandem with Millennials. After all, wouldn’t it be a strategic failure not to understand the life and time of the age cohort of those who would be banks’ greatest customers in the next few years?

Do the CEOs lead their banks by example? Do they even, on a personal level, understand social media, the platform on which the next generation of banking wars would be fought? If they lose out on Millennials, how do they plan to run their retail banking game?

Having little to do over the holidays, the devil in me played with some data and ranked Nigeria banking CEOs. Luckily, I’m out of banking else I could have found my sorry backside out of a job.

Methodology

  1. There are bajillion social media platforms out there and even the craziest of us all can’t keep up with the madness. So I look at the presence on just Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Having a profile on each gives a score of 5 or 0.
  2. Anyone can be on social media, being active is the real deal. So engagement is critical. Having an activity within the last 1 month gets 5 marks, last 3 months gets 3 marks and nothing in 6 months gets 0
  3. Many CEOs got there in the last few years, but it doesn’t take minutes to update profiles. Having a current profile gets a score of 5 and none gets 0.

You can download the original data here.

Note

This report isn’t a real scientific study but a random ranting from an armchair boffin. So take whatever you’ve read with a pinch of salt. Don’t ever ever ever use it as a reference for your school assignment. Be warned!