Attract, Convert, Close, Delight – Automating the “Convert” Process

I have almost completed Hubpot Academy’s Inbound Certification (free, valuable, immediately actionable education….thanks, Hubspot!!) and was thinking about the “Convert” part of the process this morning.   I read a FinanceFeeds.net article written by a guest editor about automating the conversion process that had for so long been used in traditional financial services.

Old-school conversion in financial services was cold-calling.  But who even takes cold calls, let alone gets sold?  Am I a complete outlyer in that I have never taken a cold call?  I am polite about it and allow the caller to introduce themselves.   But knowing cold call patterns, I wait for their first question/opening and politely tell them I am not interested and I wish them best of luck in the future with other prospects.  I then ask to be taken off whatever list I am on.  (**There have been occasions when the first few seconds of the pitch is either so good or so bad that I ask the caller about their sales training, but have never listened to the pitch or been closed.**)

However the process described in the FinanceFeeds.net article sounds a lot more like what conversion should be:

“Imagine if 14 hours ago, when Mr X was sitting at his computer, truly interested and engaged, the automated trading platform would have guided him through the onboarding process and converted him. Imagine if a few hours later, the system sent him an automated e-mail or an SMS offering him to download the trading app into his phone so he can trade anytime, anywhere.

Imagine if now that he is registered and has the app, just as he is about to walk into the meeting, the system sends him a push notification advising him of the drop in the price of Gold and directing him directly to the action of the trade in a simple, not-intrusive manner. Is this not a much more effective, less disruptive way of converting and retaining clients?”

Working in a global B2C industry, I have spent time organizing call centers, and I have spent time creating automated sales processes.  The automated processes take a lot more mental horsepower, and set up time.  But once implemented, they are massively scale-able.  Yet most brokerage firms in the retail FX/CFD/Futures industry (Margin Trading Products, or “MTP”) are still spending effort creating and managing call centers.  Call centers are simpler to set up but require constant, ongoing efforts and do not scale easily.  The constant churn of hiring low-level employees or contractors, training on new products, monitoring calls for compliance issues, etc.

Additionally, the intellectual property created by building and implementing automated sales processes (high multiple income) is far more valuable to shareholders than the income generated by cold-calling (low multiple income).

So out with the old and in with the new.  The tools to create an automated conversion process are available.  It is up to management of each company to champion a move from yesterday to today (and tomorrow) for the conversion process.

 

Reminder To Be Good To Yourself & Others

A professional football player form the Baltimore Ravens passed away recently after an early AM motorcycle crash.  The letter sent by his coach John Harbaugh to all his teammates is a good read and reminder to be good to oneself and one’s family.  A great letter from a leader:

An Open Letter to Our Team

Men,

Right now, this moment is an incredibly difficult time for our Team and our Family. One of our Brothers, Tray Walker, is fighting for his life. I know we are showering him, and covering he and his family, with Prayer and hope.

That was the kind of phone call you never want get as a coach, as a parent, as a brother, as a friend. This shook me and all of us. Like some of you, I haven’t been able to rest since hearing the news late last night.

As I focused about Tray this morning, some thoughts came to mind that I wanted to share. What would I say to my own son, if I had a son, in a situation like this? You guys are that important to me.

This is what I would be saying to you in the team meeting room if we were together today: There is a lot going on out there and you are going to be involved in tough and difficult situations. You are making and will continue to make important choices pretty much every day. That’s okay.  That’s our reality. It can even be very good to be put in different circumstances. To make it right, you are going to have to grow up fast. Probably faster than many of your friends and family.

Please remember to…

Lead in your home. Take care of Your Family and Yourself every single day. Think about who you are and where you are going, and what you stand for. Look after one another. Only then can you be your most effective on the job and in every area of your life.

Please consider your actions and choices. There are always consequences. Choose who you allow to advise you. Consider the quality of the council you take. Put yourself in positions to succeed. Turn away from unnecessary and risky behavior. Take care of your physical well-being. Live a healthy lifestyle. Pursue those things that make you better. Rest well. Eat well. Laugh with those who you love and love you. Fulfill your obligations effectively.

Be your own best friend. Do not be an enemy onto yourself. Turn away from trouble and harm. Walk away from foolish behavior. Ignore silly and unwise advice – You’ll know it when you see it.

Get to know those people in your life who manage to walk free from the weight of self-created obstacles. Get close to those who have gone where you want to go, and have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Grow Spiritually. Think about what and who you want to become.

I am asking you to consider what is at stake in your life. Consider what your thoughts, actions and choices mean to those around you. Live your life fully and with purpose. Have fun and share your happiness. Find Your Faith, and allow God to Grow Your Faith.

Let’s look out for one another. Be a great brother and friend. Inquire. Listen. Ask. Investigate. Reach out. Be There. Take a Step. Go For It.

Remember, We are Brothers in Arms. And, again, take care of each other.

McConnell – Hen or Fox?

Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican Senators are either smart as a fox, or dumb as the hens.  The fox is already in the henhouse.  The question is, who is the fox and who are the hens.

McConnell and fellow Republicans are grandstanding and violating their job’s duties and sworn oaths by not even allowing a vote on Obama’s proposed SCOTUS appointment.  And it is actions like this that cause ordinary Americans to be rightfully disgusted with politics and politicians.

So McConnell & Co. are giving reason for primary voters to push for Donald Trump to be the Republican party’s nominee.  If McConnell does not see and understand this, then he is the Hen and Trump is the Fox.

But if McConnell is being double-sneaky and believes that a Republican-dominated Senate can overpower Trump (* & **) , then he is at least thinking like a Fox.

* If Trump can win the general election

** If McConell and friends do not get steamrolled by the cult of personality that is Trump

Speaking of Trump, I would be remiss not to mention the complete disregard of the political rulebook that Trump is using to win.  Below is from Trump’s Instagram account yesterday.  Not an endorsement for the candidate, but an appreciation of the fact that Trump believes that winners write the history books and he will do whatever it takes to win.

View this post on Instagram

Is this what we want for a President?

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Best St. Paddy’s Day Video Ever

A bit of a diversion from my usual subject matter, but this is one of the best video’s I have ever seen.  I have the video tucked away with a bookmark for just this day each year.  The characters (“Who all seen the leprechaun, say yeah!” – guy, “Magic Flute from my Irish ancestors” / traffic director – guy, “Crackhead got a hold of the wrong stuff” – lady) the the “amateur sketch”, the fact that a news station in Mobile, Alabama actually put this on air……it is just tremendously funny.

Fin Svcs: No Rearview Mirror Needed

State Street Bank (NYSE: STT) announced another 360 layoffs today, mostly targeting “executives and senior staff”.  This news comes on top of the 600 staff laid off last fall.

Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley have all announced massive layoffs in the last few weeks and this trend will not abate.  There are a few reasons that come immediately to mind such as a slowing global economy, and increased regulations.  But I suspect there is another fundamental change; the decentralization that comes with improved technology and infrastructure.

The industry of financial services, with banks and brokers acting as middle men, will look very different in 20 years.  And the large, globally recognized names that have sat atop the world’s financial system for generations will not be needed.

Of course there will be a need for the functions those banks and brokers do.  Lending, executing and tracking trades of all kinds, managing assets, providing M&A advice are necessities for global trade to exist.  But the technologies and companies that are harnessing those technologies do not look anything like traditional banks and brokerage firms.

The role of M&A advisor is the safest of those functions but even that role has been changing.  Pres. Clinton and Congress effectively removed the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 by allowing commercial banks and investment banks (in this case Citibank and Travelers Insurance) to merge in 1999.  And the small boutique M&A advisors were crushed.  Commercial banks who had the ability to do the actual lending could now act as advisors too.  And they could use their balance sheets to set up equity trading operations to help make active markets for companies that went public.  But Dodd-Frank has changed that.  In the last 6 years there have been numerous success stories of M&A bankers starting small boutiques that offer advice only; no lending or market making needed.

The other financial intermediary roles (asset manager, lender, custody banking) are starting to look different than a guy in a suit with well-shined, cap toe shoes and a navy suit.  Those roles are being handled by coders who wear Atari t-shirts and ripped jeans, but who can build programs to better diversify a portfolio, or can match a lender’s profile with a borrower’s request (and run a full credit check) in seconds.  Betterment and Smartleaf for wealth management, Kabbage for peer to peer lending, Kantox for global FX transactions, etc.

In the Margin Trading Products (“MTP”) industry, bank wires were the norm for funding as recently as 2012.  Now most MTP brokers and online gaming companies receive the vast majority of client deposits and withdrawals via payment service providers (“PSP”) like Safecharge, Neteller, YuPaay, etc.  There are a few PSP’s that are large and stable, but that industry seems to birth a new PSP every few weeks.  As a MTP broker or online gaming company, you need to be able to connect and work with those new PSP’s very quickly.

So it is no surprise that the largest financial firms are laying off workers and seeing diminished market capitalization.  The benefits of scale that had been present in financial services for a long time are wearing off and the smaller, nimbler companies are taking advantage of that seismic change.

The future of financial services does not look much at all like the past; no need for a rearview mirror.

Agile Workflow Simplifies Life

When I was first introduced to the Agile workflow philosophy, I was struck as how simple this framework was to use.  The below image breaks down the basic steps involved by anyone running multiple projects at a given time.  The workflow is considered a software development philosophy, but I use it for managing all my projects, and each individual project.

Any manager of projects or organizations should understand the basic principles of Agile development philosophies to see if and where they can be used in your project flow.

 

PS – Thanks ThinkStock by Getty Images….sorry I was too cheap to purchase.

 

 

Agile Philosophy Visualized

“You either tell the computers what to do, or…

….the computers will tell you what to do.”

I first heard this line from Jesse Johnson, co-founder of oneZero Financial Systems, many years ago.  I see it proven correct time and time again.  It is why I allow my kids extra time on their tablets if they are on Code.org, or Tynker.com.  I believed it when Jesse said it, and I see it everyday, you either tell the computers what to do, or the computers will tell you what to do.  And I believe those who are succeeding now and will succeed in the future will be those who tell the computers what to do.  That does not mean you have to be a coder (though it helps).  It means you have to be able to understand how to make value out of the hardware and software and those people who can code.

Leaprate.com has an interview with the head of marketing for a brokerage firm that built their own sales/marketing/retention automation kit and now they are selling that to outside entities.  In reading the interview I noted how many time she referred to the “humans” who are acting on triggers which come from the “platform” (read as software).

Another company in the Margin Trading Products (“MTP”) industry gained a lot of visibility and value with their ability to onboard and retain a massive amount of clients and assets with a very small sales and retention staff.  Plus500 (LON: PLUS) was at one point worth more than $1 Billion GBP (approx $1.45 Billion USD).  The company had fewer than 200 employees; I had been told by a reporter in Tel Aviv there were just 86 total employees at the company’s height.

The company has been through a lot of corporate drama since it’s highest valuation in May 2015. The UK’s FCA halted their client on-boarding due to KYC/AML issues but has now been re-instated.  Corporate takeovers have been announced then abandoned.  And C-suite turnover has been high in the last three months.

But the real story is Plus500’s quiet rise to prominence and the lessons other industry firms are working to learn and implement.

Plus500’s business model kept the company focused on a business paradigm that had been all but abandoned in the previous 7 years.  Other brokerage firms had long ago given up the on proprietary trading platform and direct marketing as a business model.  Most brokerage firms were offering and promoting a commonly-shared trading platform; MetaQuotes’ MetaTrader4.  And brokerage firms focused on supporting independent Introducing Brokers (“IB’s”) as a primary means of sourcing clients.  With a common trading platform there was little to prevent a client from switching from Brokerage Firm A to Brokerage Firm B.  So the brokers were engaged in a market share war with the main differentiation being the price shown to clients, and any promotions given to land a client.  The average cost to acquire a user went down significantly, the time and costs to educate a user on how to use the trading platform went down, but the lifespan of a client went down as well since there was an increasing amount of clients lured away by competitors.

But Plus500 went the old school route.  They had a proprietary platform so that once clients learned to use the Plus500 platform, it would not be simple for clients to switch brokers as they would need to learn a new platform.  Plus500 also went after new traders, rather than compete with other firms for existing traders.  This is significant because it increased their costs per user acquisition, but it allowed Plus500 to target users who were not as price sensitive as existing clients.  So while price spreads at most brokerage firms were getting squeezed, Plus500 enjoyed considerably larger gross margins than their competitors.

Plus500 also run their advertising campaigns almost completely outside the lines that the MTP’s traditional brokerage firms use.  And I have not been able to determine where Plus500 advertises, nor what keywords they use.  I read and search multiple MTP industry websites and keywords every day.  Even using foreign VPN’s to access information on firms that do not cater to individuals who reside in the USA such as myself.  But never has a Plus500 banner or search result showed up on my screens.  And when I ask other industry executives these questions about Plus500, they seem to all have an “Ah-Hah!” moment.  They, too, realize that Plus500 is successfully sourcing new clients from non-typical sources.  The only information I have gained as to Plus500’s advertising is from the industry reporter who informed me Plus500’s advertising is wholly data-dependent, and targets the tangential prospects rather than the openly interested prospects.

Finally, Plus500 built and runs a sales / onboarding /  retention automation system that blows competitors out of the water.  Using a foreign VPN, I signed up for a demo account.  I do not know if they built their CRM completely from scratch, or if they used an existing CRM platform as a basis.  But the login they coded into their automation works!  Demo accounts that have a few successful traded get an auto-generated e-mail congratulating them and placing a simple Call-To-Action (“CTA”) in front of the demo user to open a live account.  The pattern of e-mails to my Inbox is not predictable (like most companies use).

The on-boarding process is what got Plus500 in trouble with the FCA.    Simply put, Plus500 did not require full documented KYC/AML documentation prior to allowing clients to start trading.  The requirement to complete all stages of KYC/AML paperwork was not needed until/unless a trader wanted to withdraw funds.  It is important to note that this practice cost Plus500 half it’s market cap when the FCA halted client on-boarding in the Plus500 UK subsidiary (Cyprus-based operations continued as normal).  Plus500 has since changed their on-boarding policies for UK clients and the company has regained much of it’s value.  But by allowing clients to deposit and start trading quickly, and by making it more complex to withdraw funds, Plus500 has been able to generate more revenues from each trader.  So while blatant disregard for KYC/AML rules is unacceptable, many companies are now working to make their on-boarding process as short and simple as can be allowed while maintaining the integrity of the process.

To bring this discussion back to my headline, Plus500 quickly built an extremely profitable MTP brokerage.  And a significant aspect of that growth was because the founders understood the possibilities of successful automation.  They told the computers what they wanted and allowed the computers to determine the most efficient processes, and the computers largely did the work.  Less than 100 employees and a $1.45 Billion USD market cap in just 5 years is quite a feat.

So do not expect me to be creating and managing sales and retention teams of 100 people around the globe any time soon.  You will find me sourcing coders and big-data specialists who can leverage the power of computing by telling the computer what to do.

 

Hackers > Central Bank of Bangladesh

  • Hackers can steal $80 mio from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.  

This story on Reuters from Bangladesh is a good reminder that hackers are smarter and more daring than you think they are.

 

 

ALSO:

Two things about now, the current state of things: 1) Mobile First; 2) Security First.

Yes, both Mobile and Security your first priority.

#Never

This video appeared on unofficialnetworks.com (ski bum website) last week.  I was astonished that these public employees would put their lives on the line and do battle with a large mountain lion in this manner.  It is a rare occasion I am happy to have a “desk job”, but it seems better than having your boss tell you, “Go free that angry mountain lion.”