Capturing the ‘Wired’ Consumer: Leading-Edge Banking Technology

April 18th, 2013 by Collin Canright

As every business becomes a digital business, to borrow from Accenture’s technology vision for 2013, the leading edge of bank technology seeks to serve customers whose velocity of need increases with the speed and power of their personal digital technology. The digital revolution is shaping banking and providing opportunities for competitive differentiation.

In three recent articles for Independent Banker magazine, I detail three digital business technologies that are, in Accenture’s words, “well past the point where they should be areas of exploration and experimentation and are quickly becoming practical, available tools. . . ”











Payments Proliferation. Is person-to-person (P2P) a valuable canary in the payments mine? Consumers have more ways to make purchases than ever and will have even more choices over the next few years. This is creating a highly fragmented marketplace in which it’s difficult for any single payment option to gain traction. “My biggest issue is nonbank competition. If we lose customers to another payments solution, we will not get them back,” says Bob Steen, chairman and CEO at Bridge Community Bank, Mechanicsville, Iowa.

The Next Step in Mobile. Prepare for the impending shift to mobile, from basic banking to payments on the go. “Increased balance sheet and income pressure, mass consolidation, and heavy regulation mean we need to move fast to correct some glaring holes in bank strategy,” says Bradley G. Leimer, vice president of online and mobile strategy at Mechanics Bank, Richmond, Calif.

Self-Service Technologies. To complement brick-and-mortar storefronts, kiosk stations offer cost-trimming retail growth and customer-driven service. “Everyone is so busy, and people want to bank just like they shop. They want to do anything at any hour,” says Patricia Koczera, senior vice president, Lowell Bank, Lowell, Mass.

API = Freedom

April 5th, 2013 by Collin Canright

The Obama for America Campaign took the technology used to run an election campaign a step or two forward—at least for now—by building an API-based platform to manage the campaign. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama campaign, boiled the reason down to a two-word formula: API = Freedom.

“We needed to build a platform,” Reed said the January 29 Technori Pitch, a start-up presentation event held each month in Chicago. Called Narwhal, the platform formed the basis of dozens of software tools and systems used to run the campaign, everything from a call scheduler to advanced data analytics tools. The GigaOM blog proved more details on “How Obama’s tech team helped deliver the 2012 election.”

“We built an API to have freedom,” Reed told the audience of start-up aficionados and fans. Technori Pitch is monthly showcase of Chicago start ups, which present their companies to the audience and take questions.

The concept the Obama engineering team followed was that a platform with an API would allow the flexible development of integrated products and tools that would help campaign staff and volunteers reelect the president. Reed hacked the first API of Chicago Transit Authority data, which became the data engine powering CTA’s innovative Bus Tracker app.

Reed gave the Obama technology effort a start-up feel by using a suite of systems and tools familiar to most start-up engineers, including Github, Macs, Linux, and Amazon Web Services. In the end, however, it was not the technology that made the difference. As in most businesses and organizations, it was the team, the entire team, from campaign staff to phone volunteers.,

“Technology doesn’t last,” Reed said, “but we had the right people.”


Should the Government Do More to Promote New Technology in the US?

November 1st, 2011 by Canright Communications

Pondering the Future of News at Chicago Ideas Week (Oct. 10-16)

The greatest takeaway from Chicago Ideas Week was something Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of AllThingsD and a leading voice in technology since the early nineties, said: “The federal government has lain down on the job,” when it comes to supporting new technologies within the US. This indictment came at the tail end of a panel discussion called “The Future of News” at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Swisher pointed to China and South Korea as examples of countries that invest heavily in the technologies of tomorrow. She had recently returned from these destinations and was amazed at how far their screen technology has come: They are thinner, clearer, and more interactive than anything she’s seen here in the US. She insisted that our government is not investing in the technologies of the future to the same degree, and she won’t be surprised when we get left behind as a result.

To illustrate, Swisher recalled when her very young daughter reached out and touched the family’s new TV. When the screen didn’t respond, she said, “Mommy, it’s broken!” Swisher agrees.

Her other predictions about how technology will continue to shape media:

1. Media will be promiscuous.
2. Media will be everywhere.
3. Media will be noisy.
4. To succeed in the new media landscape, you will have to be flexible and entrepreneurial.

These intriguing—and conceivable—forecasts from Swisher were not revealed until the end of the talk. The discussion that preceded them, however, did not lack its own enlightening moments.

Music and Media

Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time, guided the conversation after introducing himself and the other panelists: Evan Ratliff, founder and editor of The Atavist; Kara Swisher; Joe McGinnis, author of The Rogue: Searching for Sarah Palin and ten other books; Ayman Mohyeldin, foreign correspondent for NBC News; and James Warren, columnist for The New York Times and the Chicago News Cooperative. The diversity of the panel contributed to a lively discussion about how technology will continue to shape how news is reported, delivered and consumed.

Stengel began the discussion by relating the news industry to the music industry. Indeed, today many people regard the album as an organic art form from which today’s MP3-driven culture has sadly strayed. However, Stengel pointed out that the album itself was the product of a technological innovation—the long-playing record. Before that, music was distributed on a song-by-song basis much like it is today.

In fact, The Atavist’s business model relies on this same purchasing behavior to sell its news stories individually. The stories can be downloaded directly to mobile reading devices like the Kindle or iPad. After lamenting the demise of magazines because they once provided him an outlet for stories that wouldn’t work as books, McGinnis pointed to Ratliff as his “savior” for his progress toward restoring long-form journalism. As more people get comfortable paying for stories rather than entire newspapers or magazines, we could see this model gain popularity.

From an organizational standpoint, Ratliff attributed a lot of his company’s success to its small size. Swisher echoed this sentiment, saying today’s new tools for journalists are allowing her to “do more with less people.” She even claims to pay her writers better than the writers in other departments of Dow Jones.

Regarding the ways in which people will get their news in the future, no one seemed to have any preference. Swisher joked that news will be so ubiquitous we might soon see content printed on salami. McGinnis is a little nervous about how new technologies are making it easier for people to avoid any news and opinion that challenge their beliefs, leading to what he calls “Palinization.” Warren complained about the lack of cohesion on the local level, but he maintained a positive attitude about the future, even if he doesn’t know what it will bring.

Mohyeldin explained that he puts a lot of effort into producing his stories, and it doesn’t matter to him whether you view them on TV or your watch. His outlook was based on one simple tenant that has only recently come into question. He said, “Good journalism will always sell.”

Let’s hope so.

– James

DATA: Open Data, Transparency, and Efficient Markets

July 23rd, 2011 by Collin Canright

Control of information and data equates to control of people and markets. Warnings from Milton to Orwell and the ideological struggle between capitalistic and socialistic market approaches increasingly result in greater wealth and freedom.

At Chicago’s Techweek 2011  conference, the evolution toward freedom and away from control  manifested in Friday talks through the benefits of greater access to raw data, whether government data or market data. Information drives democracy and business, and the internet economy is “democratizing” the data required for both. “Data is the rocket fuel of the internet economy,” said Aneesh Chopra chief technology officer of the United States at his Techweek keynote speech.

Tapping the vast trove of government data to create applications can help citizens get more from their government at less cost while making government operations more accountable. “Simple information transparency can reduce costs,” he said.

The City of Chicago and the federal government are both using public challenges for apps and other ideas. “We’re crowdsourcing ways to make the city more efficient by providing raw data feeds,” said John Tolva, chief technology officer of the City of Chicago, in his keynote.

Data feeds are updated regularly by the city and made available to app developers. To see what’s available, check out the City of Chicago’s Data Portal. It contains thousands of datasets, maps, files and documents, charts, etc. Just fascinating.

Federal challenges include Health and Human Services’ Community Health Data Initiative , listed through the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.

Open government and data transparency in the context of the Obama Administration’s healthcare IT innovation initiative were the major themes of Chopra’s talk. “We will democratize government data,” he said. As I expect of a representative of the Obama administration, he’s a terrific orator and inspiring speaker, focusing throughout his talk on success stories of individuals while weaving in details of program initiatives.

One hope is that the private industry will follow suit and release more data.  That appears to be the case with the Blue Button, which allows individuals to download healthcare data. It started in the Veterans Administration and has been adopted by other agencies and private health organizations and companies.

It was apparent to me that there clearly is money in healthcare innovation if you can mine data for insight into how to provide better health for individuals, less costly payment options, and more efficient operations for the whole system.

The theme of transparency, based on increased access to data, continued in the afternoon session on financial innovation. Moderated by Jeff Carter, a co-founder of Hyde Park Angles and former CME board member, the panel featured four entrepreneurs creating trading exchanges and infrastructure to support for new markets.

All of the firms are based on the premise that transparency is critical for efficient markets. Markets are not efficient if they are not transparent, and markets are transparent when sufficient data are available on sellers and trades. The availability of market data itself can lead to the creation of trading in markets that did not exist.

“With transparency comes benefits. One of those benefits is a lower cost of capital,” said Nic Perkin, president, The Receivables Exchange. The firm’s platform requires companies wanting to list receivables for sale on the exchange to provide public cash flow and balance sheet data updated quarterly, something the small and medium sized business rarely need to do. “We bring transparency and standardization to market that typically has not had it.”

The data available on private companies in the internet space, for instance, led to the creation of an investment market for those companies, noted Adam Oliveri, managing director at SecondMarket, “a leading online destination for accessing market data”. You could easily see things like membership growth so the private exchange had information to work with.

The word “democratization” and the importance of increased data cropped up in Friday’s talks from Chopra’s to Craig Newmark’s and again in remarks from the financial innovation panelists.  As Perkin said, “The internet democratizes everything.”

Chicago Payments Information Exchange (CPIX) Group Forms on Built in Chicago Community

February 8th, 2011 by Collin Canright

The Chicago Payments Information Exchange (CPIX) is live on the Built in Chicago. The group’s purpose is to build on Chicago’s history of innovation in payments and create greater visibility for this financial technology market.

Built in Chicago is a fast-growing community that serves as a “resource for digital professionals working to build great web and mobile businesses and mind-blowing user experiences.” For details, read this interview with founder Matt Moog: (links to Crain’s Chicago Business’ Enterprise City blog).

CPIX is moderated by long-time treasury, banking, and payments writer and communications consultant Collin Canright The group is intended to build a network of financial institutions, payments processors, software firms, and consultants in order to strengthen this niche in Chicago’s technology community through collaborative communication and to help propel its future success.

To join Built in Chicago, visit:

To view CPIX group content, visit

For more information, contact:

Collin Canright
Canright Communications

773 248-8935 ext. 9404 (office)
773 426-7000 (mobile)

Noteworthy Links for 09-07-2010

September 7th, 2010 by Collin Canright
  • “Our investment has created a home for thousands of new jobs and has helped shine a national spotlight on Chicago as a technology leader,” [Chicago Mayor Richard M.] Daley said. “The fast-growing technology field is an essential part of our plan to make Chicago the most competitive destination in the world for new businesses and new jobs.” Chicago on the tech move, from Brad Spirrison’s Chicago Sun-Times column
  • I’m living in the post-PC revolution. I’m in a desktopless world that is about feeds and profiles running in all my browsers and mobile devices, and interacting in exciting new ways. It doesn’t matter if I am in the office, at home, or at Starbucks—I am productive wherever I am. The enterprise is not just going to the cloud, it’s now going social, and it’s going mobile. Facebook and Twitter have shown us the way. Guest post on TechCrunch by’s Marc Benioff.
  • Remember this, though. When you’re reading something here that’s getting you really riled up, stop. It may be that you really should be thinking the exact opposite of what you are. And if you find yourself floating through a post agreeing with all the subtle pandering, wake up! Michael Arrington from TechCrunch
  • Do we really desire Google to tell us what we should be doing next? I believe that we do, though with some rather complicated qualifiers. Science fiction never imagined Google, but it certainly imagined computers that would advise us what to do. HAL 9000, in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” will forever come to mind . . . William Gibson on Google and Google chief Eric Schmidt’s recent interview.

In Our Own Words: Review of 2009+

December 18th, 2009 by Christina Canright

I keep a cartoon from The New Yorker near my desk, which seems to sum up this past year and perhaps the year to come. In the cartoon, Charles Dickens is sitting with his editor, and the editor asks: “I wish you would make up your mind, Mr. Dickens. Was it the best of times or was it the worst of times? It could have scarcely been both.”

Looking back at our newsletter articles from late 2008 through the present, it is both. It’s the best and the worst of times. In the past year-and-a-half, the economy was the worst it has been since the ’30s. Trust in various institutions was undermined. Banks failed. Foreclosures hit new heights. Unemployment reached an alarming high. Entire industries shifted or declined.

Yet, of the many difficulties and seemingly endless bad news, encouraging themes have emerged. Our articles this year focused on three resounding themes: new ways of doing business in a challenging economy; leadership; and networking/social media.

It’s the organizations that get creative and experiment on how to provide greater service that make it. Just as nature experiments following a forest fire, said Dr. Bob Wright of the Wright Leadership Institute, companies also need to try on new ideas, new technologies, new ways to do business in a challenging economy.

It may be more difficult to find the business, but there are industries that do well during recessions—and some businesses use the economy as a time to reinvent themselves. Here is an excerpt from one of our late 2008 newsletter articles:

“‘Innovative’ is the key word. A number of speakers and winners at the Chicago Innovation Awards…made the point that it’s especially critical for companies and individuals to focus on innovation. ‘Try as many things as possible, in as short a time as possible, using as minimal resources as possible,’ said keynote speaker Barry Moltz.” To quote Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Leadership was also an important theme this past year. Companies are recognizing that, to thrive, they must empower their people. Our favorite example is transformational leader Brad Anderson, vice chairman and former Best Buy CEO, who received the 2009 Transformational Leadership Award, sponsored by the Wright Foundation for Transformational Leadership.

Here is an excerpt from our April issue: “In his acceptance talk, Mr. Anderson emphasized that he isn’t and has not been the agent of transformation at Best Buy. Rather, he sets a vision and has created an environment in which employees have the freedom to pursue ideas at their local stores.” People feel empowered by the trust and freedom offered by their leaders. It opens the door and invites creativity.

This is important because “American business faces a crisis in trust,” said Joe Plumeri, CEO of the Willis Group Holdings, speaking at The Executives’ Club of Chicago in October. One consequence of today’s economic climate is that people and companies are afraid to take the risks required for growth and to restore trust.

Yet businesses must be willing to embrace change and new visions, and it’s a shared responsibility for everyone in a company. “Time to stop whining and start designing (the future),” said Dr. Don Beck, a world-renowned expert on organizational and societal transformation, who spoke at the November 20-21 Transformational Leadership Symposium: Staying Ahead of the Curve.

As Brad Anderson said in his address to the symposium, “We’re sitting on something very precious. We’re sitting in a place in time in which we may have an opportunity to do better than we’ve ever done before in our lives and discover a completely new way.”

And, finally, we talked a lot about networking and social media.

Here’s what we wrote in July: “During the course of the spring networking events, one constant in conversations, promotions, and email messages was this: social media. As the conversations suggested, it proved to be an important part of the event promotion mix but not the be-all and end-all it may seem. For promoting an event, the best approach is an integrated approach in which a personal touch predominates.” In other words, it was that final phone call that brought in the extra attendees. People want to connect, whether it’s via a networking event, a seminar, a phone call, Twitter, LinkedIn, IM—the choices keep expanding, because it all comes down to connections and relationships.

From our May issue: “The most critical element of creating and maintaining contact with a network is to use as wide a variety of means as possible—and as often as practical—from emails to blogs to newsletters to social media to phone calls to face-to-face meetings.”

Business happens through effective networks. In our October issue, we wrote that “effective networks are active, living networks.” Networking and social media are part of an entire mix of tools for finding new clients and helping to set up in-person meetings and conversations. All in all, it still is face-to-face meetings—off-line connections, if you will—that remain the goal of most network contacts. It’s important to learn how to be a hub, or focal point, in a network and understand how to maintain your networks—because ultimately, it comes down to relationships. As we wrote in October, “Humans are social, and, in business, it’s always about relationships.”

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