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December 22, 2014 by Gonzo

The 2014 GonzoBanker Awards

GBguyGonzoBankers, the moment we know you have all been waiting for has arrived. It’s time for the 2014 GonzoBanker Awards! We could hand you a load of bull about skewering the guilty and praising the exalted, etc., etc., but let’s just dive into it!


GonzoBanker of the Year – We have to give this to Banc of California CEO Steven A. Sugarman. It’s been a busy year integrating recent acquisitions, purchasing $1 billion+ in Banco Popular deposits, hiring former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to advise on community relations, and having former President Bill Clinton speak at a major financial literacy event. Banc of California went from $900 million in total assets five years ago to nearly $5 billion today.

Bank Acquisition of the Year – BB&T Corp. takes Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. The pickup of 240 branches for BB&T gets this acquisitive company into the Northeast. Nice community bank culture fit between the two as well.

Bank Merger of the Year – California United Bank and 1st Enterprise Bank in Los Angeles. A great merger of equals among two commercially focused institutions that have experienced strong relationship growth during tough times in Southern California, proving that the basics of relationship banking are still alive and well.

The Quiet Pervasiveness Award – Goes to financial education programs. We are seeing it show up lots of places, it’s real and it’s great for this industry. With so much buzz around mobile apps with budget bubbles and alerts that only a small group of consumers ever download and try, it’s great to hear about shops like $3B Tinker Federal Credit Union, which has quietly grown to provide financial education to 20,000 people a year.

141222aRise of the Analytics Organization in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Brush off your resumes Gonzoanalysts, at our client roundtables we heard about analytics organizations being formed and analysts and managers being hired to head them. At one of the major conferences this year, a vendor touting the need for dedicated chief data officers at banks had a write-in audience poll on who was filling that role currently. “Dog” was listed as frequently as any CDO in the responses.

The “How Twitter Can Advance Your Career” Award – Bradley Leimer. A keen industry mind who banks the highest tweets-per-minute ratio of anyone out there, Bradley departed his VP digital strategy position at California’s $3B Mechanics Bank to be North American head of innovation for $77B and Top 20 worldwide bank Santander. That’s one helluva move up. Buena suerte, Bradley!

The “If We Build It, Will They Come?” Award – In an interview with an EVP in a holding company headquartered in a rural area, discussing whether they should build out their I.T. and Operations center in a building they recently purchased as they look to double in size over the next five years:

Cornerstone: Do you think you should build out your I.T. and Ops center here in the building you purchase?

EVP: I definitely think we should build here as long as we can be assured that we can get the talent that we need long term.

Cornerstone: Okay, let me back up a second. Do you think you can get the talent in this small town that you need as you grow to over $10 billion?

EVP: Hell no.

Why Build What You Can Buy Award – With new disruptors putting pressure on the pace of innovation, this award goes to BBVA/Compass for its acquisition of Simple. The question is, what happened to the buzz once the deal was complete?



$4 billion dollars …

The Third Annual Matt Taibbi Too Big to Jail Award – While the Wall Street megabanks again had a banner year of screwing their customers and the markets, the six banks that were fined $4.3 billion for attempting to manipulate foreign exchange rates win this year’s Taibbi Award handily. Congratulations to Citi, JP Morgan, HSBC, UBS, RBS and Bank of America for truly separating yourselves from the pack. Interesting how these bankers are not prosecuted criminally for fear of “disrupting the financial markets,” yet they were caught actively trying to disrupt the financial markets in this case.




Retailer of the Year that Caused the Most Project Heartache in Bank I.T. Shops – Target. A slow, measured conversation and approach to EMV was in place. Then … the breach. Then … the conversation that we have to do something. Then … the push to accelerate the timetable to get to EMV. Which won’t solve the problem that caused the breach. And won’t address the biggest area of fraud growth, which is card-not-present. Makes you wish that everybody had paid with some damn cash money!

The Unsung Hero Award – To the security analysts and officers who actually discovered and escalated the breaches at Target, Home Depot and other institutions that have been hacked. One can only imagine the sense of panic that these guys felt upon discovering the breach and realizing they had to make the most difficult call in their careers.

The Technology Company that Caused the Most Project Heartache in Bank I.T. Shops – Apple and Apple Pay. We understand that use among early adopters is good and that this could be a long-term game changer. But, nobody had this on the 2015 list until … Apple announced Apple Pay. Then, everybody had to have it, particularly all of the customers who have an iPhone right now. Except that’s a majority of mostly nobody. But they are going to pay the merchants who are all ready and eager to take Apple Pay in 2015. A majority of which is … well, um … mostly nobody. So banks all rush to get in line to get Apple Pay installed with their available 2015 resources. Which is absolutely, positively nobody. But, as one bank executive said, “The cost and effort of this, even if adoption is slow, is of less importance to me than the negative customer perception I’ll get if we don’t do it.” Man, it must be nice to have that kind of clout.

141222cThe Bill Moyers “Johnny, we hardly knew ye” Award – Bitcoin’s short but brilliant and colorful life. The downfall of Bitcoin did to online narcotic sales what the decline of online porn availability would do to the Internet in general.

141222dThe Monty Python “I’m Not Dead Yet” Award – This one goes to the never-say-die branch hardware vendors that still dominate the halls of retail banking conferences nationwide. And who can blame them? We still have way more cash counters in the branches than we have iPads. We still have eight pens for every branch sig pad and four copy machines per driver’s license reader. Bring out your dead!

The Throes of Death Award – If personal financial management (PFM) continues to follow its recent trajectory, very soon we will never have to see a demo with a spinning budget chart EVER AGAIN.

The Big, Fat, Juicy App Award – MCX’s CurrenC app. The app is in the private pilot phase now with 10,000 downloads on the Google App Store (albeit with a one-star rating), with plans for regional and national rollouts in 2015. While MCX has been all hype to this point, we had better listen … but it won’t go anywhere until it stops asking for our friggin’ Social Security numbers!

Execution Matters Big-Time Award – Data warehouse. Doing this right is easier said than done. Beware of buzzwords and prepare to get gritty.

The “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Big Data Because Small Data Works Just Fine” Award – Loan pricing engines. We’re seeing growth and solid industry noise out there from niche providers like PrecisionLender in commercial and Optimal Blue in mortgage. They focus on one aspect of small data and stick to their knitting.

The First Annual Report on Progress Made by Mid-Size/Community Financial Institutions and Vendors to Get a Real, Viable Omnichannel Solution Working – Nothing to report. (Note: we worked through our gagging to get that word into this tome.)

Toxin of the Year (Make that Decade) Award – Lack of commercial automation at most banks. Beyond the six-pack-a-day Excel dependency in commercial lending, don’t forget the sticky note and file folder chasers, not to mention redundant data pummeled into a bruised doc engine. We are hearing horrifying turnaround times on loans. For most community institutions that put their stake in the ground around commercial and “great customer service,” it’s time for a gut check.

The “Wait, You Can Be a Laggard” Award – With all the buzz about virtual channels and shrinking branch footprints, why not go all the way? Hologram banking is coming to a branch near you. Not only lifelike, but the ability to have all your bankers look perfect all the time: great smiles, good eye contact and a nice (albeit somewhat limp) handshake. They might have a challenge accepting checks, but who cares? That’s what the interactive teller machines are for! Think of the expense savings … no human staff required. Then again, maybe not …

The Carbon Dated Award – Runners-up: Shared Drives, PST files, Pensions. Winner: Check Digit. In its heyday the check digit was used to keep proof operator keying mistakes from causing downstream process issues in the form of rejected and non-posted items. Today the check digit is the root cause of inefficient loan origination processes. Loan numbers are still managed with Excel spreadsheets and assigned at document prep time. Because we can’t get a loan number assigned early in the process we end up scanning loan files on the back end after we have handled the documents three times. We don’t proof items much anymore but we do data-enter that loan number with its check digit a bunch of times and never once calculate the check digit.

Title of Tomorrow Award – Chief Process Owner. By day the CPO is known as Silo-Buster, Change Agent .999999, Doctor Fix-It, as well as the ultimate hero moniker, Techno-Geek. By night the CPO is envisioning customer-focused processes that make us easy to do business with. Processes where the performers are educated and incented to deliver customer-focused results, not compliance-driven requirements. Processes where the ball is not handed off, so therefore it is not dropped. Processes where metrics are part of the process’s performance, not an Excel tally sheet. Find those CPOs. Don’t be fooled by that old Jedi mind trick: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”


Bank Core Deal of the Year – FIS signs Umpqua to IBS. A nice pickup of a progressive client.

Credit Union Core Deal of the Year – It’s a tie. The Gonzo team originally named Fiserv for retaining the Space Coast Credit Union relationship with DNA. Space Coast is a hard-charging high performer that will make DNA better in the future. However, the Gonzo team missed a ground-breaking deal early in the year when San Diego based Corelation signed Phoenix-based powerhouse Desert Schools Federal Credit Union. All industry eyes will be on this implementation as Corelation founder John Landis and his team work to prove the system’s scalability into larger credit unions.

141222eThe Second Annual Rob Ford Award for Bad PR – In a story that generated one of the better headlines in the financial services industry, NCR blames Intuit data centers for the service outages in the Digital Insight online banking product. Note to NCR: If you buy a product with full knowledge that it is being hosted by the product’s former parent company, you really can’t in good faith blame them when things go south.

The Big Mo Award – Salesforce. Last year, we gave Salesforce the Big Buzz award and it moved well beyond that in 2014. Building on its acquisition of marketing app provider Exact Target and high profile deployment at Huntington Bank, Salesforce expanded aggressively into the midsize bank and large credit union markets in a mega way. Even if a big-bang CRM deployment is not your thing, lead and pipeline management is hotter than ever. It’s hard for us to recall a conversation about lead/pipeline management in 2014 where Salesforce’s name didn’t come up.

The 2015 Future Herd-Thinning Award – All of the “branch of the future” vendors who are touting location redesign, hardware and other infrastructure solutions for branches that are part, but not the big part, of the solution. There will be less of them to salute next year.

141222fThe Second Annual Vendor to Watch if You’re a Vendor Award – This goes to nimble Des Moines, Iowa-based startup CardByChoice. CBC’s product allows issuing banks to provide integrated cards and fobs for Apple Pay users who want the flexibility of Apple Pay but do not want to give up their cards.

The Father Time Award – This one goes to Yodlee: 15 years from start-up to IPO.

141222gGolden Cufflink Award:

For 2014, there is one of you that stood head and shoulders above the rest. This solutions consultant proved to be:

  • Unflappable, or better yet “Un-stump-able”: Handling curveball questions from prospective clients and consultants alike with ease. We heard from prospects that they particularly liked his ability to adjust his presentation based on the questions he was fielding. There was no set script.
  • A good listener: Allowing the client to finish asking a question before beginning his answer (many of you could take a lesson here).
  • Deeply knowledgeable: The depth and breadth of his product knowledge coupled with real world cases AND client references really increased his street cred with prospects.

Congratulations to Q2’s own Joe Cody.

Cross-Sale Attempt of the Year – To the solution consultant for attempting to sell his own, personal application development services business during the technology review portion of a system selection. We had to look up the definition of ballsy to make sure it was sufficient to describe this recklessly aggressive move. It sounded and felt worse than any creepy uncle ever has, and fell completely flat with the prospect, irreparably jading the overall impression of the product.

The Buttsmoochio Award for Employee Dedication
– Symitar’s Kristie Peterson takes the cake with her core-inspired vanity plates. Niiiice. (As of publication date, GonzoBanker could neither confirm nor deny rumors that Kristie has integrated Symitar’s “Find a Restaurant” PowerOn into her Jeep’s navigation system.)


Great Moments in System Demonstrations
  • A banker asks a sales rep about a pending lawsuit at the vendor regarding the product not working as promised. “I can’t really comment on that, but suffice it to say we are making sure that our clients perform better due diligence on us going forward.”
  • When asked what her company was going to do to improve consistently bad releases, the solution rep replied, “Well, for one thing, we’re only going to do one a year.”


141222iMiserable Acronym of the Year – CECL: the Current Expected Credit Loss impairment model. This bit of accounting vaporware for several years has commercial banks wondering how they will model and account for this. It’s just more paper and more assumptions without any more accuracy in the ultimate world of accounting.

Most Thrilling Moment of 2014 – This one was easy. Thanks to Slayer for entertaining the Gonzo team after our Audit Committee meetings last month. Rock powah!


GonzoBanker wants to thank all of our loyal clients and readers for a truly great 2014. Everyone – have a great holiday season and let’s get prepared to start 2015 like our asses are on fire!

-The Gonzo Team


Think of Cornerstone Advisors for all your consulting needs in the New Year.




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