Monday, April 25, 2005

Am I George Costanza?

Am I George Costanza?

I used to watch Seinfeld all the time and can remember pieces of just about every episode that was made. One that struck me as I was working on this was when George got a new job and was asked to read a book about Risk Management. When I first saw that episode, I thought it was hilarious, never believing that most of my job would eventually be Risk Management. Running a financial institution, especially from the finance side, is all about managing risk. A few of the biggies that I deal with are Credit Risk and Interest Rate Risk.

When we make a loan, we hope that the borrower will pay us back. The risk that they won’t is credit risk. We have an entire department whose main focus is dealing with borrowers who haven’t held up their side of the bargain. That department is right outside of my office and it is interesting to ‘overhear’ them doing their work. As you might imagine, they spend a lot of time on the phone talking to people who don’t want to hear from us. It takes much more patience than I will ever have to be successful in managing credit risk from the front line.

Interest rate risk is more up my alley. All credit unions are basically in the business of arbitrage. We borrow money from our members at one rate and package that money into loans at another (higher) rate. The difference is our spread, which is used to build branches, ATM’s, computer systems and the like. We just hope that we add enough value with that spread to keep members coming back with their deposit and loan needs. My job is to make sure the spread is not too much and not too little, but just right for solvency and future objectives.

Unlike George, who had an assistant/protégé to read the Risk Management book for him, I am left to understand it myself. The upside is that I love my job. Does that make me crazy?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Coming Together In Food

A typical food week at the Northgate Headquarters location:

Monday: the Mortgage department delivers Girl Scout cookies to each department.
Tuesday: Rootbeer floats for a birthday.
Wednesday: Pizza party to celebrate one-year anniversary of our computer upgrade.
Thursday: Potluck to raise money for something, or just because it's been a two-week break.
Friday: Strawberry shortcake for combo birthdays. Or a shower. Or just because.

Should you need to get your sugar game on during unscheduled eating events, keep in mind the best places to get well-stocked candy are from Lynn in Member Relations (she changes out candy almost daily and keeps reserves in the drawer under the candy basket--FYI), Connie in Lending (ditto on the frequency, I haven't explored her supplies) or someone in Member Services/Ops Support--they have stocks in their drawers that bail out any sugar craving. The location of these supplies makes for a perfect circle on the second floor. As Napoleon Dynamite would say...sweet!

There are two hidden mini-refridgerators located under certain desks in the building as well, but I can't reveal my sources.

Personally, I think the candy you eat says a lot about your personality. For example, Randy in Accounting: Peanut M&Ms--countable yet delicious. Justin in HR/Training: Gummy Bears--he keeps it light and fun. The fact that he bites off the heads first--inner rage. (Just kidding...sort of). Personally, I like Baby Ruths because they have a little bit of everything that is good in this world in them.

Yes, I am a member of two health clubs.

I attribute this culture to our CEO. On his daily rounds of the credit union, you may believe that he is stopping by to say hello, talk about the Husky loss, or get an update on a project. You would be wrong. He's just checking out your candy dish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bankruptcy – Brace for Impact?

Driving home yesterday (I saw the Fulks van again, man, that van rocks), I was listening to NPR. They had a segment on the impending bankruptcy legislation. The attorneys they interviewed predicted that personal bankruptcies will rise 25% over the next six months. Wow. That could really hurt us (Verity Credit Union). Bankruptcies are so expensive for businesses such as ours. I am torn on the topic. As a consumer, it bugs me that people skip out on paying their bills and then I have to pay more for my products and services. As an employee of a financial institution, it really bugs me that people ‘go banko’ (as we call it in the industry) and then we don’t hit our income numbers and I don’t get all of my bonus. But as a person, I know that bankruptcy is the only option for some folks. I read stories of families devastated by medical bills or other disasters and I am glad we don’t have debtors’ prisons anymore. But then I see people who have simply bought too many shoes and too much car and call it quits on paying people back and that is just wrong. Can’t they make legislations that only allows only deserving people to default on their obligations? Probably not.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Conference Calls: We can’t see you, but we can still hear you

Nowadays, you don’t have to be in the room to attend a meeting. Thanks to speaker phones and the Internet, you can participate in a seminar from your cozy computer chair in Seattle while the seminar is hosted in Chicago,Illinois-- all without the expense or trouble of travel.

This morning, I was at my desk and I could overhear a webinar going on in a nearby conference room. Not a big deal-- I’ve developed the skill of tuning out activity outside my cubicle walls. But, suddenly, there came the sound of coughing so deep and phlegmy, I stopped typing and gulped. I regrouped, went back to work, and 10 minutes later heard “hack, hack haaaaack.”

This wasn’t coming from a person inside the conference room—it was another caller that was in on the conference call! And, to make matters worse, everyone on that call from coast to coast could hear it, too. I’m sure a few of the featured speaker’s words got lost in that phlegm-fest.

Now, if I were having a coughing fit, I would excuse myself and leave the room to spare my colleagues. Why would it be any different if you were on a conference call?

Perhaps the person didn’t realize she was making a disturbance. But then, it made me think about etiquette. There’s etiquette for email and instant messaging (DON’T USE ALL CAPS, IT MEANS YOU ARE YELLING). Isn’t there etiquette for conference calls?

I think the only rule of etiquette you would need for conference calls is this: Turn on your mute button. If you wish to speak, turn off your mute button. When you are done speaking to the group, turn your mute button back on.

With one push of the mute button…
  1. If you’re sick and your coughing, sneezing, wheezing, etc., we won’t hear you.
  2. (Sneakily typing an email or doing a little work on the side?) You’ll be even sneakier when the mute button is on and we can’t hear you “click-click-clicking” on the phone.
  3. We won’t have to hear the construction that’s going on next door to your office.
  4. You can repeat what the speaker said to the person who’s sitting next to you, and we won’t have to hear it, too.
  5. You can keep your snide remarks and commentary to yourselves.

If it sounds like I’m venting, I am. I love technology, (ecommerce is in my job title after all), but technology should not overshadow common courtesy and respect for others physical (and aural) space.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I Think I Broke Something

I tried to post a photo of my daughter from when I went to a conference in August. It was a work related conference, so the post was kind of work related (mostly I just liked it because it was a cute photo of my 22 month old red-head). However, it didn't post right and now I can't delete it. I think I broke Verity's blog. Figures.