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The fact is most opportunities are not corollary to the obvious.

Ten years will come-and-go quickly. It already has, and it will do so, again. And, along the way, Apple’s stock could well hit one thousand dollars ($1,000.00). You can take my word for it. But, here is additional insight.

As Galvin makes his case, Apple’s revenues may triple in the next ten years. So, the stock could indeed hit $1000. But, the real play is not so obvious, and will likely be in the form of fiber optics – because that is what is needed to pipe the content. But, Data Centers will have their role as well. And, dudes like Bob Twitchell (big smarty pants genius that he is) will help lead the way with emerging technology that makes relative technology faster, more secure, and less costly.

Reactionary investment strategy like reading news briefs off MSN and Yahoo! will kill you. Whereas proactive research will build wealth. So… read between the lines from cross-referenced information. Think in terms of convergence. For example, “Apple”, “Video Anywhere”, “Fiber Optics”, “Data Centers”, and “Venture Capital”.

Follow the money BEFORE the thundering herds sort it out.

It’s about foundational thinking and strategy – relative technologies that make for great strategic partnerships. One element of the formula building off of another.

Now you owe me.

Soon… More insight into being a physical bad-ass at fifty, and great Margarita tips.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

I was reminded of these facts by Craig Larson…

Apparently Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book entitled: The Millionaire Next Door … The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy. You should read it in order to understand a special breed of business person you are likely not. Do it!

In researching the book and then unleashing it upon the public’s senses, they (the authors, not to be confused, necessarily with that, otherwise, insidious and collective “they”) produced a portrait of who America’s millionaires are, and show that, by and large, these are quiet, understated, self-reliant Americans who are committed to hard work, education, and family.

The portrait shows that eighty percent (80%) of our millionaires are first generation affluent. To be clear, this means that less than half received no inheritance, and only nineteen percent (19%) get any income from a trust fund or estate.

Most Americans … In this case, defined at eighty percent (80%), are not self-employed. And, of those that are, two thirds are our nations millionaires. Think “Daddy Warbucks” (to whom I can often relate – but, you don’t know as much about as you thought you did until now – which also part of my point with this blog post).

Meanwhile, Seventy five percent (75%) of these self-employed millionaires are “entrepreneurs”, and the remaining quarter are self-employed professionals like doctors and accounts.

To be sure, we have high profile billionaires in America… However most of our millionaires are the nation’s bread and butter entrepreneurs and small business owners with annual incomes averaging two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) annually.

These are overwhelmingly self-made individuals, by-and-large founders and proprietors of prosaic businesses that might include: welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, paving contractors, etc.

For additional points of reference consider an other post of mine: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs, and them Corporate Fellas.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

See yesterdays post: General Motors ON

UPDATE 11/17/2010 @ 1pm: VOILA! – GM Confirms Expanding IPO by 31 percent

I’ll just keep it coming.

Peace be to my Brothers and sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

https://briancork.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/general-motors-on/

Nicholas Johnson is often found in-and-amongst the companies I’m working with to change the world. I’m not clear what it is he is doing most days. But, some times he’ll haull-off and come up with a pearl worth sharing. For example, in a recent meeting with an uncertain conclusion, he announced the existence of an on-line service called www. billfloat.com. Apparently if you need to pay a utility bill, for example (and entrepreneurs, just like most people, do that) you can convince this shadowy organization to pay your bill up to thirty days in advance for a transaction fee of a mere five dollars. All you need is a viable bank account and the best hopes of the funds being in it by a later, albeit pre-determined, date.

This is different.

Voila!

I feel billfloat is an example of: “being part of the solution, and not the problem”. Five dollars is a reasonable fee for a greater peace of mind. Obviously living paycheck-to-paycheck is living on the veritable edge. But, that is the reality for a growing segment of our national population. Here, someone clearly came up with a solution that is not, in my hardly humble opinion, userous like many of those strip-mall situated paycheck loan (shark) services.

Or, the current banking system, for that matter.

I’m often asked something along the lines of, “If you weren’t running your current business (this is assuming they understand what it is I do), what would you work on, or be doing?”

There’s not a single answer to this question; it can change day-to-day. As I’ve stated on this blog, and through a great deal of public speaking, I could never have planned or anticipated my own career-path. But, in light of our global economic situation, and Johnson’s research, I think if you asked me today, I’d say I would like to start a bank.

There are very few people who really love their bank. I use a private bank and this means I don’t have to suffer the same inconveniences realized by most folk. For example, many are dealing with overage fees that stack up, misleading fine print, and a general malaise born of an apathetic sense of fatalism. However, there’s a unique opportunity in that mainstream contempt for financial institutions. And, concurrent with this is an incredible amount of government backing that essentially makes it a no-risk environment. People are simply hungry for anything different, something contrarian.

A David to the Goliath banking industry. If you will, something heterodoxal. This is where I often realize my best potential and opportunity.

The name of my bank would be something supremely boring, like SmartBank or bank on brian (In my businesses, I typically use small caps for my name because it’s not about me, it’s about what I do). The idea behind it is that bad behaviour in the banking – which is in truth, aligned with Wall Street – world has been largely inevitable because their compensation structures incented people to do overly risky things. the Bank of brian would maintain a reserve level 2-3x higher than Federal requirements, and any other bank. I’ll aspire to World Bank status as well and align myself with European protocols (have you bothered to wonder why the US doesn’t have any World Banks?). Bank of brian would have no bonuses unless goals such as preserving mortgages were met or exceeded and loans made to emerging culture companies based on best practices, carefully monitored milestones and accountability proliferated. I suspect critics would say this would make it impossible to attract top-shelf talent. But, every time the bank gets attacked we’d turn it into an advertising opportunity to emphasize why we’re different.

To wit:

“We can’t attract top-shelf talent? Go on…We take your money and put it in a vault. We don’t need the million-dollar bonus geniuses on Wall Street to do that. SmartBank. Bank, smart.”, would say I.

Bank on brian.

In fact, the first few years of SmartBank would be largely focused on acquisition through every trick in the book. At the very beginning pull a Gmail/WordPress.com strategy ,and make it invitation-only. I’m confident this will create a buzz and also allow you to give amazing white-glove service to the initial customers that want to catch that glassy-fronted wave, who will in turn tell their friends and create a tsunami. That’s called “viral” marketing and that always works when people like what they see and experience. Ironically that would represent a novel experience with banking today where the objective appears to be lining the pockets of bankers while stripping down customers. You can also target certain profitable segments and ultra-safe depositors at first, like Gmail users in San Francisco (using Firefox with an ad-blocker) who make six figures a year. There would be only one style of checks and debit cards and they’d have a distinctive design so if you saw one you’d say, “What’s that?” a-la the American Express Black or Plum card (I have both and everyone’s follow them through every transaction) products which would then start the whole conversation again about how SmartBank is different.

For the first two years you could also do things like not allow accounts larger than the FDIC-insured limit. No one has ever heard of a bank turning away money (unless you, ironically, have poor credit). But, you’d say that although everything SmartBank does is risk-free, it’s still a startup, and if people have more than the insured limit (today it’s 250k for single and 500k for couples) in an account, they should put the extra somewhere else. Again, statistically (and, those types of numbers in the right hands [like my own] never lie) this will impact a very low percentage of customers… And, everyone; everyone, I say, will think it’s naught less than remarkable. This tactical growth can be phased out after a few years; in fact, it would be yet another PR opportunity:

“We’ve been in business now long enough that we feel comfortable with larger accounts.” Boom, free coverage.

I’m not defined as a “tech guy”, but I am more often identified with successful technology, and the associated leadership. So, of course a lot of focus would be on the Bank of brian website. Imagine, if you will, something along the lines of an old-time vintage design aesthetic combined with a Google-like (web 2.0?) simplicity and attention to speed. All logins would be two-factor, with the default being SMS’d  to you with a one-time code to log in when you gave your email address (Just so we’re clear, I’ve given this a lot of thought, for good reason, done my home work, and already using consultants). A significant part of the website would be the blog. It would have a strong Ben Franklin-like common sense voice, with a Thomas Jefferson oriented pragmatic tone with a few cool savings or home management tips each week. And, in-line with my own cultural architectural views, it would cover at least one financial industry story a day that was relevant to historical examples alined with current events for perspective.

For example:

“Bank of America spent forty million dollars on airplanes last year. We spent forty thousand to develop an iPhone application so you can check your balance from anywhere.”  (the average useful iPhone app costs $2.99.). NOTE: Not Android, at first. I say this because quality control is crucial here – and Apple defines that, while Android is working on it.

“Here’s how to block advertising when you browse the web with Firefox; it makes the web faster and less annoying.”

“So-and-so Bank’s website requires you to use Internet Explorer. We insist that you don’t because there are way cooler and faster browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari. Here are links to those open source browsers you can switch to today.”

“Goldman Sachs just paid out sixteen billion dollars in bonuses to their employees. If we had an extra sixteen billion dollars lying around, we’d put it in the bank for a rainy day. By the way… If Goldman Sachs had never paid out bonuses they never would have needed government intervention.”

Sixty eight Million Reasons Your Bank Sucks. That’s the amount Bank of America collected last quarter in needless ATM fees.” …well, needless to customers, any way.

That’s all made up, for now. The headlines would almost write themselves, and every time a financial institution is in the news it’d be an opportunity to contrast why SmartBank is different, and what the underlying philosophy is behind why it’s different.

I’m a Social Historian. I study and consider why things happen. And, then I do something about it.

As trumpeted above, all of the marketing would be on the web and viral the verbal, or word-of-mouth part would follow (like eBay and Amazon) – because it’d be an online-only bank like ING Direct. No storefronts (brick-and-mortar) where people have to wait in line, or risk a bad interaction with a disinterested teller, or get robbed and need insurance.

To be clear…Basically, a lot of the historical risk of running a bank could be eliminated. When you sign up it would have a: “tell your friends about SmartBank” address book (like LinkedIN) feature that would connect you to them if they signed up for an account, give you both money (I should make the point that Bank of America actually does have something like this, so I have to keep thinking about it because of the karma thing), and also make it easy to send them money, PayPal-style, if they have an account.

I’ll pause here and offer that you might see a trend in my thinking… I’m picking, showcasing and reflecting products and services that appear to be working, and adopting them as my own for your benefit. This can be referred to as “best practices”. And, we need o be all-in on that.

I suspect SmartBank would make money and reward shareholders and customers alike, which just might separate it from the likes of Bank of America, for example. So… How would the Bank of brian make money and also provide terrific customer service, you ask?

I think it wouldn’t touch anything risky on the financial side. However, it would be a data company. As it turns out, data is a hot industry as evidenced by hiring and investment trends (and, I’m a subject matter expert in both areas). The first three years the focus would be entirely on customer acquisition, marketing, PR, and establishing a world-class tech team building a rock-solid infrastructure. SmartBank would likely make less money than non-customer-centric banks currently do, but it would be more than enough to build an amazing product in a sustainable way, like Craigslist did with newspaper classifieds. After a certain milestone, say one-hundred billion in deposits, I would buy or clone Mint. SmartBank would have more (and accurate) data about its customers than almost any other company in the world other than credit card companies, so the online interface would have Mint-like lead generation offers that are based on accurate information. For example, if you spend one hundred and forty dollars a month on electricity, but if you switch to this new solar provider you’d save two hundred dollars a year. Think of it like Gmail (By the way… I’ll admit to referencing Gmail, consistently in this post, to honor Nicholas Johnson and his possibly being a catalyst for much of this) contextual advertising but based on where you spend your money rather than the words in an email. There also might be aggregate data opportunities for economic research or targeting, but I’m not sure if I like, or have a firm understanding of, the privacy implications there.

SmartBank probably couldn’t, and I wouldn’t want to raise Venture Capital, or anything like it, because having any sort of exit expectations, and the predatory influence that would reflect Wall Street, would completely kill the “safety story”. Like most of my businesses today, I would want to bootstrap, and after a few years would be hugely profitable. I understand the irony in this vision coming from a felon. But, there is yet another example of my being Jeffersonian, a heterodox, and the contrarian, eh.

By the way… The existence of bank of brian would also put significant pressure on existing, more traditional, banks and the Federal Reserve,  because depositors would be leaving in droves, putting pressure on their reserve requirements. Existing banks couldn’t compete in a traditional way because they have such a sordid history of customer apathy and bad PR. SmartBank wouldn’t be trying to capture their profits, so-to-speak. However, we would reflexively be unhinging them while driving much more revenue, but in smaller amounts, but a larger end-result.I think this would end up looking something like a credit union, but for the masses.

Thanks Nicholas. And, the rest you readers can thank us both, at some point.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

Preamble:

Long before the dawn hours I saw the encrypted email with the news blink into existence on my “other” laptop, and I could barely believe my eyes, and stifle a laugh:

…BONO IS BUYING A BIGGER STAKE IN FACEBOOK. THE DEAL HAPPENS TUESDAY.

As a father of a thirteen-year-old girl, I have many issues with Facebook. Mind, you the site represents many opportunities for character to be both tested and proven. But, it more often than not creates more problems than shining moments for kids mis-communicating through poorly monitored social media. I have a Facebook page, myself. But, I don’t use it; and, I don’t accept friends on it – to make a point.

I’ve addressed concerns over Facebook before. You can ponder that, here.

Hmmm. Maybe a few of you hold-outs might not know about this Facebook. So, here is a training video:

In any event… Now we have additional proof that Facebook defines poor decision-making and obfuscates reality.

It’s true… Irish rocker BONO thinks he can cash-in on the popularity of social networking website by investing money into Facebook.com. It’s inconceivable to me, but he U2 frontman has nearly doubled a prior investment in the company.

Bono, with managers at his California-based private-equity business Elevation Partners have ploughed £80 million ($120 million) into the privately-held site. This brings their total investment in Facebook to a stupendous £140 million ($210 million).

NOTE: According to a letter to investors published by the TechCrunch blog, Elevation managers were able to buy shares from insiders on the secondary market.

This would reasonably indicate that people who know what’s happening inside Facebook were eager to dump shares into the lap of a misinformed entertainer that can now add inadvertent comedian to his repetoire.

Look… BONO has been dubbed: “the face of fusion philanthropy”. We need him for that. And, I genuinely enjoy and value U2 both as musicians and environmental evangelists. But, I don’t like or value his political ranting (but, I’ll suffer it for a U2 concert). And, I’ll never follow their financial sense.

Analysts that I’ve spoken to about this (okay, that alerted me to the situation) say that the deal could actually be the start of an investment turnaround for the rocker. But, I seriously doubt it. BONO and his, otherwise, Motley Crew, also backed troubled cellphone maker Palm Inc. back in 2008. They dropped nearly  £312.5 million ($500 million) into the debt-riddled firm, known as the the maker of Treo and Centro smart phones. Shortly after that (days in fact) the stock shares plummeted (I knew about the investment, but I didn’t short the stock – I swear!). This won him the dishonour of being named “Worst Investor in America” by Financial Journal 24/7 off Wall Street earlier this year (10).

Editors highlighted “an unprecedented string of disastrous investments which even bad luck could not explain” as the reason for choosing Bono, adding that Elevation Partners is: “arguably the worst run institutional fund of any size in the United States”.

So, Facebook is a challenge for me as a Dad. Its also a yoke for poor BONO, and an abyss for hapless investors that should know better than to follow investment advice from an Irishman with a chip on his shoulder.

For the rest of the day I’ll be listening to: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Peace be to my Brothers and sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


This depends on how we might define work.

There’s a perspective, to be sure.

It can be argued that the Fed is intentionally holding rates at zero in the hopes of forcing investors, concerned about long-term challenges that include retirement, to invest in longer-term riskier assets instead of collecting “little or nothing (Bernarke)” on money market or CD’s.

Worse now for the Fed is the impression that monetary authorities work first and foremost for Wall Street.

Of course, Fed officials see this a bit differently… They see supporting Wall Street as their mechanism for supporting Main Street.

Ultimately, without the former, the latter is locked out of capital markets, and economic chaos could follow.

The purpose of Wall Street is supposed to be, or was designed to be (when it was founded in 1913) channeling investment funds into Main Street.

But most Americans no longer view Wall Street as ultimately working in their best interests – and, I believe they are mostly correct. This is the same Wall Street that aggressively pushed garbage loans onto the American people as policymakers praised the wonders of financial innovation. When did the purpose of finance evolve into simply a mechanism to enrich the relative few at the expense of many? And when did policymakers embrace this view? As Paul Krugman has noted, the Fed cannot envision a world not dominated by the magic of structured finance. Yet this is a world that failed us completely.

Look for my forthcoming post outlining the federally funded Goldman Scam that almost took AIG to it’s knees.

But, here’s the pattern outline, because I know you can’t wait:

1. Goldman creates or sells $23 billion (or more) of CDOs and stuffs them into AIG.

2. Goldman proclaims to the world they have no exposure to CDOs and warns that banks and insurers with CDO exposure will get downgraded.

3. Goldman initiates the mark downs of CDOs with AIG and others, acelerating the market’s downward spiral.

4. Huge mark to market losses lead insurer and bank credit to freeze, short term markets to lock up, ABCP to collapse.

5. AIG posts as much collateral as it has to Goldman, who has more aggressively marked down the exposure.

6. Bond insurers are downgraded, banks begin commutations with them.

7. AIG fails, Fed steps in, Goldman gets bailed out at par.

Come on! This is no accident. And no one in authority wants to find out where the truth lies.

Meanwhile…

The House has passed a bill to audit the Federal Reserve. However, we find ourselves hands-on-knees with a fast-action response from the the Fed claiming that an audit would interfere with its “independence”.

Sing me the song of irony.

Even though the Bill was buried, word got out, and  79% of the American people support at least the notion of a full audit.

NOTE: The Constitution does not empower what is becoming a central bank. And Congress, which created the Federal Reserve in 1913 (and, it coincided, oddly, somehow with the creation of Wall Street) which has the power to create credit and money (rather like Wall Street), and, certainly has the power to audit, dissolve, or do whatever it likes with the central bank (including stripping it of the power to create credit).

Point of reference: Can we agree that the Fed has bungled efforts to manage the economy, keeping unemployment low, and regulating banks?

Just in cases that white van finds me soon, the the independence argument is a red herring./1

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

______________________

1/ Something that draws attention away from the central issue.

The financial industry, lead by banks, predators all, have spent an astonishing $300 million in 2009 with lobbyists trying to hold updated regulation as bay.

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, President Barack Obama said the economy is only now beginning to recover from the: “irresponsibility of Wall Street institutions that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products…”. This in pursuit of short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences.

It’s been awhile since I’ve agreed withObama on much of anything. But, this is me adding a nod where it’s due.

By the way… The Obama also speaks up on 60 Minutes this Sunday night.  The fifteen families (Prudent Society) have an advanced screening of the Sunday interview. But he says: “the people on Wall Street still don’t get it. They’re still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down $10 million, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year in decades, and you guys caused the problem.”

I’d prefer he not use the terms “you guys”. But, the point is appreciated.

How many of you readers know able-bodied businesses that have been eviscerated by their banks closing lines-of-credit (they need it to fund their lobbying efforts), only because they can, and, given the current bail-out plan?

Little known fact #42: There is a growing number of foreclosures driven by banks closing those lines that may be tied to 2nd mortgages (this is what many true entrepreneurs do, mind you).

How many of you have a form letter from a credit card company changing terms, and compromising your best interests?

It makes more sense, if you are a banker sorting out ways to optimize bonuses, for banks to be part of the problem as opposed to a solution.

Americans don’t choose to be victimized by mysterious fees, changing terms and pages and pages of fine print.

We are not being represented with and by truth and light.

And, while innovation should be encouraged, risky schemes that threaten our entire economy should not. We can’t afford to let the same phony arguments and bad habits of Washington kill financial reform and leave American consumers and our economy vulnerable to another meltdown.

All Prudent and optimistic Gentlemen should be at the ready. Look for our signal.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

what’s all this about?

I can’t explain what that damn tree means - or, if it might stand for something.

However, here I do discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman.

brian cork by John Campbell

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about this particular Theme:

I'll warn you now that Tarski is theme of this blog created by Benedict Eastaugh and Chris Sternal-Johnson. It is named for the logician Alfred Tarski. I'll recommend his papers ‘The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages’ and ‘On the Concept of Logical Consequence’, both of which can be found in the collection Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics.