zen strategy - the new direction for LANZen! You know, looking back I guess we’ve all come a long way over the last decade. Few could have imagined the rise of the Internet-driven business.

The dot-com bubble didn’t slow the launch of new devices and faster connectivity. Most of my work was in infrastructure design – data centres and desktops. Corporates saw the Internet as something to be tightly controlled and restricted – filtered out of existence. Barclays had 256Mb in 2003. In total.

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How dare I question. What right do I have. If I know so much, I should start a bank! What had I done – collapsed the economy, started a bank run or something?

No. This stream of vitriol was for suggesting, “maybe people like bank branches.”

Earlier that day, MovenBank’s Brett King gave me his view about bank branches, having read my piece about the psychology of financial services buying.

We hadn’t agreed, but valuing his view, I printed it. People should have both sides. But by arguing, I’d upset someone. And the smelly stuff hit the proverbial…

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Autumn 2011 has been a really interesting time for banking. I mean new banking, not that tired old high street of ours.

MovenBank’s appeared, Zopa’s broken more records, Wonga’s won more awards and a new social P2P player’s launching, CivilisedMoney.

It generated quite a lot of Twitter traffic with people on digital banking’s front-line, like banking innovators, Darren G and Aden Davies. And raised one key question.

Online or on high street – can a click ever replace a footstep?

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You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it. Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example. Wonga - the acceptable face of credit. Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.

Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.

But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…

Here’s a question for you. Imagine all four banks merging. What would we lose? OK – so they wouldn’t share one trough – and no one makes one that big. four brands - yet nothing to choose between any of them. Are we being served?

If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank? I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.

For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?

How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?

I worry about web design. We’ve always catered for the lowest available platform. Designing for people who don’t know, or just don’t care about the Web. beautiful themes like Shelf from YooTheme push the boundaries of what's possible. Should all sites be this good?

I mean, there are some great web browsers – and they’re all free, for Pete’s sake. Gaming calls for the latest technology. People happily buy that, don’t they?

But for some reason, we have to placate the stupid and design sites like its 1999. Web designers are told that they must maintain full compatibility with everything. Not just for browsers maybe a version behind, but stuff from another age.

Well, I think it’s time we ask the question. Should we push or just follow?

Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Could  a mower teach our failing banks a valuable lesson? Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.

About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.

Once upon a time, we thought US financial policy was decided democratically. That concept was blown away like a dollar bill in Hurricane Katrina. How Standard & Poor really decided US financial policy

The US government in reality is no more than some crude Punch & Judy show, the strings being pulled by a financial Mafia run by Wall Street and its lobbyists. Everything neatly stage-managed by a company called Standard & Poor.

Standard & Poor was perceived as the US financial world’s steadying influence. The trusted hand deciding the efficacy of decisions taken on Wall Street.

The banking crash revealed a startling fallibility – but was that the real story?

They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected. What's in your wallet - a lot less plastic, these days... Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.

But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.

The inner groans from social psychologists must have been deafening recently. Politicians calling for a messaging platform ban during unrest – really? The politicians don't like people talking when it can't be controlled, do they? A typical reaction, of course. Look for something to blame. A technical scapegoat. But wait, there’s another network that gets people together. Public Transport. Maybe we should we ban that too?

No, of course not. transport is a central part of our social infrastructure, neutral. But no question. Social media was at the heart of the riots. So, is it really evil?

This is one of those flights of wonder moments. An idea that came out of the blue. What I’d like you to think about is – what places us apart from other animals? Why doing something for no reason defines us as real people... Sounds easy at first. Is it our use of tools, how smart we are – even our reasoning. But those aren’t definitions, they’re just more shades of the same colours.

Every animal will have those qualities to some extent, some smarter than others. Just what is it we have that animals really don’t – and what should we value?

Just think about it – It might just make you look at people differently…

How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM? CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting. Salesforce is great, but here's something that will get you similar beneifits right away, too... Everybody knows, we’re told often enough, that looking after customers is vital. But as a process, many companies don’t see it as that important.

In fact, most companies don’t think about managing the relationship with their customers until something goes wrong and they find they can’t.

Ironic, really. When you consider that CRM will start to deliver benefits instantly, the moment you roll it out to your users. Let’s take a look…

Just a few months ago, I had high hopes for what Tesco bank might achieve. Even with Fred Goodwin fan-boy Benny Higgins in charge. How a new bank deals with customers will make or break it. Tesco seems badly broken. But the recent prolonged outage for so many customers has been handled badly. And Benny Higgins has shown his old-school banking colours.

Given the opportunity to show strength and courage, he chose to make excuses. Instead of holding his hands up, he chose mitigation.

Every new venture has a wobble. He could have shone, but he blew his chance. Not only does Tesco have the wrong boss, it has the wrong staff. Here’s why…

If you wanted to take on the big boys, you maybe wouldn’t choose 2011 to do it. Fortunately GiffGaff thinks differently. They think differently about a lot of things.

GiffGaff doesn’t sell phones – or take your soul for two years for the privilege. GiffGaff doesn’t sell you network access and penalise you when you use it.

GiffGaff’s all about a mobile SIM – and a great package. But there’s a lot more…

OK, regular readers will know I’m not buying the hype around SmartPhone NFC. This is for a number of reasons and none of which are about it being new. for NFC mobile payments to work, it must reach all it market... and it won't. I’ve talked about security, why quick isn’t a good reason, but that’s not everything. The real show-stopper to me is market reach. NFC just won’t fit the market.

Every other payment system before NFC reached its market cheaply and quickly. Now I’m going to show just how far NFC will fall short. Time to wake up…

Can anyone tell me what message RBS is using for its current media campaign? Sure, NatWest’s you may know, but what about RBS? RBS - will the Royal Bank of Scotland brand disappear - and would will replace it?

Although owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest isn’t as hated as its parent. Strange, because really NatWest’s no better – some may even say its worse.

I’d like to talk a little about NatWest, but lets concentrate first on RBS as a brand. What can be done with a brand so damaged it’s lost the trust of its market?

Hands up all of you who’re thinking about buying a tablet in the coming months? Must admit, an iPad or new Honeycomb tablet are tempting. But… Chromebook-  the 8 second booting notebook. an alternative to an iPad?

How about Chrome OS – Much talked about 12 months ago but a bit quiet of late. With Apple and Ubuntu releasing key products, Google’s OS needs to be good.

Won’t have long to wait, its out next month – but just what is Google delivering?

I’ve just read a Management Today supplement about West Yorks Fire Service. Remember how Public Service budgets are meant to be getting cut back?

The Public Sector should think about value - not building empires! Well, it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the case, if this is a typical Public IT project. Based on what they’ve chosen, I reckon half a million’s gone up in smoke.

It should have cost a tenth of that – and it’ll only reach 60% of their users…

Everyone knows how good the iPad is to use. Its made reading stuff cool again. But what about when you have something to write about? Got something to say? iBuildApp is a new self-publishing platform for the iPad.. There’s now a great way to use your iPad to promote yourself or your company. Let me tell you about a publishing platform called iBuildApp.

Easter of 2011 will probably be remembered as the time the Cloud went down. Bad as it was for Amazon’s EC2, the sky didn’t actually fall on anybody. Bad for some - but not that many. how Amazon's EC2 Easter failure actually makes the Cloud safer...

Maybe the great bank holiday weather took many writers away for the weekend. But the number of “its all over for Cloud” rants were mercifully few.

So, what should be taken away from Amazon’s failure. What have we learnt? Well, its shown intelligent system design is as vital for Cloud as anywhere else. Along with how many “experts” can still talk through their back-ends…

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