Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

Flabby finances and fit bodies

April 15, 2013 3 comments

You would think personal finance management – the art of managing your money and achieving goals – would be the easiest thing to provide an online solution for.

That was certainly the thinking three or four years ago when every bank worth its salt started developing online tools that allowed customers to get a rich and useful picture of their overall finances – Kiwibank’s Heaps is an example.

heaps logo

Heaps! personal finance management

I mean it makes perfect logical sense – every bank has a wealth of transactional information that, when packaged right, can provide a huge amount of insight into where a customer’s money is going and also through automation take out all the hard work of having to manually pull together a budget.

This was the topic of a great cubicle conversation with one of my colleagues this week. D and I have been working together for the past five years on a number of major online projects – including online personal finance management.

Now D is probably one of the fittest and strongest men I know as he puts his body through a regular gym/cross fitness regime every week – and has done so as long as I’ve been working with him. His physical and mental discipline have given him a toned and hard-muscled body that would put most of us to shame. That’s his thing and even through major life interventions such as children, injury, work pressure he has kept at the training and never stopped.

My thing is Aikido. I’ve been training three times a week for as long as D and I have been working together – so it’s a good common bond that can set off some good conversations about the physical and mental sacrifices and rewards you get from long-term, dedication to doing something positive with your body.

And that’s how we got to talking about the similarities between personal finance management and physical body management – whether that be the cross-training gym, the dojo or even an organisation like Weightwatchers or Jenny Craig.

“Never be too rich…”

I don’t think there’s one person I know who wouldn’t have just a little sympathy for Wallace Simpson’s notorious quote that: “One can’t be too rich or too thin”.  By that I mean probably 95% of us would love to be a few kilograms lighter and a few thousand dollars richer. Not obsessively thinner or richer – just in control of both.

The trouble is 95 per cent of people who attempt to lose weight fail. This year it’s estimated in the US  100 million people are dieting trying to achieve the latter part of Mrs Simpson’s edict. It’s a billion dollar industry but for most it is a cyclical pattern of joining a gym or weight-loss program in January and abandonment sometime after.

With trying to get your finances into shape it’s a similar pattern – even with tools that take out all the hard work. Some people do stick at it religiously – but they are the people who were running a budget on a spreadsheet before they got these great online tools.

Finance writer Amanda Morrall says the trick is not to treat personal finances as something separate from the rest of your life. In her latest book Money Matters: Get Your Life and $$$ Sorted, Morrall looks at how average people, with ordinary  jobs, have achieved financial management, and indeed wealth, through actually connecting with their true selves. It’s a powerful insight and a great book that combines solutions with motivating tips to get people living the life they should be living.

A quote in the book has been resounding in my head since reading it. Morrall quotes the Dalai Lama responding to a question about what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die; and then dies having never really lived.”

I think that describes too many of us.

Common link

But back to my cubicle conversation with D. After a bit we found a common link between building physical strength and muscle; mastering a martial art; losing weight and keeping it off or spending less than you earn and building wealth. What’s the secret?

I think it’s a mixture of truly understanding what your life’s purpose is and, as Morrall writes, building your life around that. Otherwise you end up risking falling “into the trap of consumption where financial vampires are only too willing to take advantage of your vulnerability and exploit your financial weaknesses”.

Joining a gym or a dojo or a weightloss programme are pretty much in the same vein as opening up a tool like Heaps, Xero or Sorted. They are all capable of enabling a life-changing action – but only if they can be coupled with some internal motivation to make a life-changing action.

True it may only take one small step to begin the journey – and online can be a powerful source of sparks of inspiration – but the first step must be followed by many others heading in the same direction to get somewhere meaningful.


The online customer advocacy revolution

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Two weeks back at work with annual planning time kicking off and it really feels like the year has well and truly underway. But I’ve still got a few hazy memories of our sunny Coromandel holiday and a couple of things from that have stuck in my mind: One was just how much better the weather is up there than windy, rainy Wellington; and the second was more related to my day job – and that was how much our family holiday relied on online.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Sun kissed Coromandel beach

Just about every place we stayed in or ate at we had checked out via apps like Trip Advisor and based our decisions on user comments and reviews; I navigated the entire way with Google maps (it only led me slightly off track once near the Kaimai Range…); days out were governed by weather or tide updates; at Napier Aquarium we used an interactive video tour; and we even received updates on the how the cat and the rabbits were doing back home thanks to!

I could understand some thinking that the above list sounds a bit like technology overload on a holiday – but in fact it made our holiday one of the best ever.  None of it got in the way of tramping, sightseeing; snorkelling, swimming or just snoozing on the beach. Instead it was like travelling with a native of each place we visited – who knew all the best beaches, routes; restaurants; local history or holiday houses. Yeah, the weather helped too – and I haven’t found an app for recreating that in Wellington…

My holiday made me wonder – with the increasing adoption of smartphones – how long before this online advocacy becomes a truly mass-market activity. It doesn’t take much of a mental leap to move from trusting other vacationers about holidays to trusting bank, insurance, investor customers about what organisation has the best deal – or more importantly – who has the best service.

Online forums such as Trade Me are more and more asking questions like “Which is the best bank?” and people are making big decisions based on what others say. We have always asked others for advice but now online, particularly online in the palm of your hand, makes this so much easier and faster to get an aggregate view of an organisation or a brand.

Google now includes reviews and ratings in many search results – so an organisation can say what they like on their website, but their search results will contain the real truth that potential customers want to know. As the thought leader in banking innovation Brett King says: You can’t game this. It’s a massive challenge to traditional online marketing.

At Kiwibank we haven’t been idle while this online customer advocacy has been evolving. We’re out there engaging and supporting customers on Facebook and Twitter.

And we’ve also started rolling out our own online customer advocate – an Online Relationship Manager to customers.

Kiwibank Online Relationship Manager

Online Relationship Manager

The idea behind the Online Relationship Manager is to create a customer champion within the bank who combines the convenience of an internet service with the benefits of a real person – putting the person back into online personal banking.

The Online Relationship Manager is available through internet banking secure mail. They take the time to get to know and understand customers, and help them achieve their short and long-term goals. Contact is as hands on or off as customers wish.

The Online Relationship Manager has the authority to make things happen quickly. If they can’t help, they make the resources and expertise of Kiwibank specialists – such as in home loans and lending – available to meet the customer’s need.

The online customer advocacy revolution means the customer is in control now more than ever before. The risks for businesses that don’t get this are clear – but the opportunities to those who get it right are massive and exciting.

Me he korokoro Tui

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

“How eloquent he is; he has the throat of a Tui”.

The male grows to 30 cm and weighs 120 g. The female weighs a lighter 90 g. The Tui looks black but in the light has an iridescent green, bluish-purple and bronze colouring. An elegant lacy collar of white filaments and white throat tufts adorns his throat.

Also known as Kōkō, he stands proud on black legs and uses his curved black bill to feed but more delightfully to relay its melodious and distinctive song – the first to sing at dawn.

Mellifluous and harsh at the same time the Tui has a dual voice box which produces a song of fluting notes interspersed with clicks, creaks and groans.

Some of the huge range of Tui sounds are beyond the human register. Watching a Tui sing, one can observe gaps in the sound when the beak is agape and throat tufts throbbing. Tui will also sing at night, especially around the full moon period. As masterfully, and somewhat eerily, demonstrated by Cassidy the Talking Tui, their talent for mimicry is legendary.


Tui by William Hodges 1777

Tui are prolific nectar feeders. Their favourite foods are Kowhai; WhararikiHarakeke; Ti-koukaWhauwhaupaku; Ngaio and Kotukutuku. The Tui is fiercely territorial and noisy in flight, fluttering and whirring in acrobatic fashion. It is unique to Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Generally, when competition for the same food resources among New Zealand’s three species of honeyeater occurs, there is a hierarchy with the Tui at the top, with Korimako and Hihi successively subordinate to the species above them—they are thus frequently chased off by Tui at a food source such as a flowering Harakeke.

The Tui sings without regard for which voice box will be utilised. Some notes are too high-pitched for human ears, the Tui song exists on a different plane to other birds.

“Ko wai, ko wai tenei?
Ko au, ko au;
Tui pai, huruhuru maeneene.
Ko terepu, terewai.

Lost without a map in the world of Social Media

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The trouble with Social Media for business is that there’s a lot of noise – and currently we don’t have the tools to filter this noise.


The Prosumer

This noise is being created by The Prosumer – the consumer who produces as much (in some cases more) than they consume. While the term Prosumer originates with Toffler in the 1970s, it’s really been the advent of web 2.0 that has given this consumer segment the ability to give full flight to their insatiable creativity.

You can only marvel at what the prosumer is accomplishing. I’ve been trawling stats for a presentation and some of them are just astounding. In fact, they’re probably more astounding now as the daily rate of increase for sites like Twitter and Facebook mean the figures below are probably already understating the case. Nevertheless it’s breathtaking:

  • Every minute: 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
  • Every hour: 10.5 million songs illegally downloaded
  • 175 million registered on Twitter and 50 billion tweets in March
  • Facebook has 600 million visits a month – which translates into 300 million visits a day
  • Facebook’s total user base is equal to the 3rd biggest country in the world after China and India.
  • In New Zealand, a country of 4.4m people,  1.9m Kiwis have Facebook pages. To put that into context, here are only 2.8 million New Zealanders between the ages of 18 and 65.

I find this is the most extraordinary example of the impact of Prosumerism: In 2002 human beings created 5 Exabytes of unique information. If you want to write that it looks like this:


That’s 50 with 18 zeros. Not being a numbers guy I had to look up what to call such a large number and it turns out the term for something with that many zeroes is Quintillion. So, in 2002, 50 Quintillion bytes of data were created and what’s astounding is that this is more than was collectively generated by humans in the preceding 5,000 years. So in one year human beings created more data than in the previous 5,000 years.

We’re now doubling this every two years. This is the new reality and it’s Moore’s Law on anabolic steroids.

What it means for businesses trying to manage Social Media engagement is that the vast amount of data to filter is unfathomable. We are pioneers on a new frontier that’s as daunting and thrilling as any faced by humans before. Does that sound too cheesy? Well, as it may, but I truly believe that this unprecedented social interaction which has been enabled by Web 2.0 will transform our society. But only when we can actually make sense of the storm of digital noise that’s doubling every two years.

Dalrymple's early map of New Zealand

Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764

And that’s the rub. The tools we have now to chart social media are equivalent to the maps carried by Cook in his voyages of discovery. They show us the tantalising outlines of potentially exciting and exotic continents that make us look at our world anew. But for the moment they are only tantalising outlines.