FNB is just another big bank after all

It is admittedly my fault for buying into the FNB Innovation story and wishing that there really was a success story where a large services company, in a traditional sector like banking, could turn on the Innovation Gene and change the way they provide value to customers. We were trying to do exactly the same thing at my company, at the same time, so it was a source of hope. To be fair, I think the Innovation was real and did drive them to produce some real products and services, like the Mobile App and the Paypal integration. Not to forget the eBucks and ability to buy devices and connectivity. In admiration of what they achieved, we studied the ‘FNB Innovation Model’ and broke it into down into 5 key pillars:

  1. Leadership – Simply put, Michael Jordaan, the man at the top, leading the way in terms of culture
  2. Reward and Recognition – Creating the incentive for everyone to pitch in
  3. Communication – Keeping everyone on the same page, distributing the culture and energy
  4. Process – Making sure that it survived outside of normal processes where necessary and integrated where required
  5. Platform – Tying it all together on a portal which facilitated everything above

So, after being a customer of Standard bank for more than 15 years, and after several “promotions” to a different account types, each of which did not deliver on the promised value-adds, I jumped ship. The migration was simple, debit orders included and all was well. For a while.

Personally, I suspect that the most important pillar, pillar number 1, Innovation Leadership collapsed when Michael Left. Shortly thereafter, Paul Steenkamp, head of Innovation packed his suitcase for Standard Bank. I suspect he knew the importance of Customer First focus that drives Innovation. Innovation would not have collapsed immediately, but I think customers like myself that had a pulse on the Innovation coming out of FNB will be feeling the Innovation void in the last year. One would need to be on the inside to comment on the culture, but that would have been the 1st to disappear.

Sadly for me, I’ve got to experience 1st hand how quickly the customer focus can degrade. With my past experience at Standard Bank, I have no faith in the “personalised service” value-adds sold with higher-end packages. This at best translates to a smaller team of call-centre agents that are dedicated to taking your calls. There ability or willingness to solve your problems however is no better than the rest. And that is when you actually get hold of them. So when FNB interrupts my Internet banking login process to inform me that I qualify for an upgrade, I annoyingly click the “No thank you”, every single time. A month ago though, I logged in to increase my credit limit, I was again offered the opportunity to upgrade my account, or my limit or both. I respectively, and consciously clicked on the option to increase the limit only. Many annoying clicks later, and I’m congratulated on an account upgrade!?

One would assume that the upgrade to Private Client status would mean undoing this would be a breeze. A dedicated banker, as advertised, would be on the case and get me back to a common Silver card in no time. Many phone calls later, emails, tweets, threats etc. and I am sad to say that I am sitting with two credit cards, neither of which can be used. Customer centricity has failed. The product is not as advertised, in fact it’s just the opposite. And without customer centricity Innovation will have failed.

Does that mean though that Standard bank will start upping it’s game soon? I have my doubts. Yes, Paul is there, along with many Innovation experts in the field. But what about the CEO? Our theory suggests that pillar 1 is about the CEO, the one person in the organisation that can set and change the culture of the organisation. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m placing my bets and wishes on industry disruption. And I hope it comes from a garage somewhere, where some genius with a true Innovation mindset, see’s this frustration in all us customers, and brings a blockchain to the party. (Or maybe it’s time to visit Capitec?)



Google Launches Google TV – Sponsored series and Movies

After watching 5 minutes of a pathetically produced news bulletin on SABC 3 the other day, I allowed my mind to drift away into a possible future where we could get quality free broadcasting. The headline that came to mind is the title of this blog post. No, they haven’t launched Google TV, yet, but it would be awesome if they did. I think it would be relatively easily done using what they already have, Youtube, Google Video etc. All that would be required is licensing agreements with producers and broadcasters and some creative thinking on how to insert ads.

Its wishful thinking, but its a win-win waiting to happen and Google hasn’t let many of those slip by in the past!

Poem dedicated to an Israeli soldier.

To the Israeli Soldier

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
For we are one people, whether you like it or not
You are a Semite, A son of Israeel (Isaac)
I am a Semite, A son of Ismaeel (Ishmael)
Our father, the father of both you and I
Is Ibrahim (Abraham)
Or are you one who will even deny his own father?

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
We will die on our feet
But we will not live on our knees.
You know how to kill, But we know how to die
Hitler gassed 6 million of you, But he could not kill your spirit
Those who died only made stronger, those who remained alive
Why then do you imagine; that if you become Hitlers
The results of your ‘gassing’
Would be any different?

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
Just as others silently watched you going into the gas chambers
Others silently watch us burying our children, the children that you continue to kill
But we remind ourselves
That the blow that does not break the back, only strengthens you.
So O! You who used to be the People of Musa (Moses),
But today you have become people of the Firawn (Pharaoh)
Remember we are the real people of Moses, for we believe in his message; not you
Remember that when the fight is between Moses and Pharaoh
Moses always wins.

We say to the silent watchers, the cowards,
We say to those who sit securely in their homes
We are the frontline who are holding back the enemy
When we fall, it will be your turn.
Remember O! Arabs
The story of the White Bull (Al Thawr il Abyadh)
Who said to the world when the tiger finally came for him
Listen O! People, I do not die today,
I died when the Black Bull died.

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
We did not come into this world to live here forever
Neither did you
One day we will all go from here
Whether we like it or not
What is important my brother, son of Israeel
Sons of a Prophet, O! What have you become today?
What have you allowed them to make you?
Kill us, if that is what you want to do
At least we die at the hands of our own brothers
And not at the hands of strangers

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
We laugh as we see your Apache helicopters and F-16 jets fly overhead
We laugh because we can smell your fear
Why else do you need Apaches and F-16s to fight children with rocks?
A battle of honor is between equals
We challenge you, you who have sold your honor
Come to us as equals; so that we can show you how to die with honor
We laugh at you because we know, that not in a million years
Will one of you ever have the guts to stand up to one of our children
Without hiding behind an array of weapons that the American tax payer gives you
We laugh at you, because that is what every warrior does
When he faces an army of cowards.

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
It is not whether we live or die that is important
It is how we live and how we die
Ask yourself: How would you like to be remembered?
Without respect, despised and accursed through the centuries,
Or blessed, honored, your passing mourned.
Allah is our witness: We lived with honor; begging for no favors
And He is our witness: That today we die with honor; on our feet
Fighting until the last breath leaves our body; even if all we have in our hands are stones
He is the witness over us both
As you kill us and as we die
And to Him is our return

Listen and listen well
O! One who could have been our brother
On that Day, my little baby who you killed last night
Will ask Him for what crime she was murdered
Prepare your answer, O! One who could have been our brother
For you will answer to Him
I swear by His Power: You will answer to Him.

~ Mirza Yawar Baig

My Engineered Universe

I’m going to attempt describing my Universe. In my Universe, the Creator, is the ultimate Engineer. The 1st thing ever created was a Pen and Writing Material according to Islam. In my Engineered Universe, where nothing existed, a detailed paper design would be the perfect starting point. The 1st thing that needed to be designed was the host environment and with it a scaled down testing environment. The live environment OS, Heaven (UNIX based) would run on 7 servers, of increasing power and the test environment, the known Universe could be run as a virtual machine. The 1st applications developed after the OS, were some device drivers, API and hooks to the OS and hardware. These were called Angels and were written mostly in c(fire).

The 1st user-space application, also written in c was the Jinn. It included some cutting-edge non-Artificial Intelligence and were able to make decisions based on their nAI engines. Pretty cool, but they ended up writing into each others memory spaces and causing general havoc on the Earth virtual machine. Meanwhile the nAI engine was modified and re-written using a new programming Language c++(clay) and was called Adam. So impressed was the Engineer that He ran a demo of Adam on the directly on the live platform with an instance of the Jinn called Iblees (a.k.a Devil). Iblees and the Angels were asked to give up some CPU in awe of Adam. The Angels obliged, but the nAI engines of the Jinn kicked in, in particular a variable called
Pride and Iblees refused.

Iblees was taken off the live platform and run in one or other virtual machine and another instance of Adam, codename Eve was run on Live. Iblees somehow managed to spawn a trojan horse (worm-snake) that accessed the memory space of Adam and Even, causing them to access a read-only Apple file (iTunes?). The Engineer, upset that the new nAI engine was not behaving, decided it was time to do some real capacity testing with Adam to see if the nAI engine could self-correct and withstand attacks from other malicious c code. Adam, Eve, Iblees were all put onto the Earth VM (with some Jinn instances already there) and given the ability to spawn multiple instances. Each instance was given a max time-to-live and assigned a logger Angel.

A time was set for the capacity test afterwhich the logs will be examined. Each instance of Adam that withstands the malicious attacks of Iblees and his Spawn will be put onto the Live platform, the rest together with Iblees will be put onto a Windows based VM called Hell.