My school research is in top gear right now (at least that’s what I think). One of the things that that I am doing as a part of researching schools is to reach out to as many current students or alumni as possible.

I have already interacted with 3 contacts –an alumnus, a current student and a recently admitted student. The next few days promise a lot more, I have four calls scheduled and hopefully one face-to-face meeting. Add to this the Kaplan event at Boston in early August and I am sure I will have touched base with a lot of people.

I am thinking of presenting the key information that I have gathered (and will continue to gather) from my contacts. I will post this in this blog as a series. Hopefully it will be of use to someone out there.

Here are a couple of guidelines that I plan to follow in this series:
  1.  I will not post any names, until I have explicit permission from my contacts. I will definitely share the school name though. 
  2.  I will try to be as candid as possible but there could still be information that I may not be able to post, to safeguard the interest of my contacts as well as that of the school. But, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me; I might still be able to get you the information via e-mail. It’s just that there are certain things I am not very comfortable with being put on the www.

Financial Services: Gearing up for a new era

I just came across a survey by Deloitte about the future landscape of financial services. The survey is based on inputs from over 200 financial services executives from all over the world. It covers how the financial crisis and economic downturn has impacted the thought process, practices and strategies of banks and other financial institutions.

The impact of the crisis - damaged relations, curtailed performances and disrupted services - have been revealed in terms of statistics. It also focuses on the key focus areas for banks and other institutions as they try to make up for the lost ground.

The survey results make an interesting read. You can read more by following this link.

For me the key takeaways were regarding the future strategies that banks suggest they will adopt to gain a competitive position by taking advantage of the very little opportunity that this adversity had brought along. The three important aspects (no surprises here) of the new strategy that banks have identified are:
1)     Improving Customer Experience
2)     Risk Management
3)     New Product development

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are snapshots of some of the survey results. 

Antennagate & Apple’s claim

The antenna-gate episode took a very bad turn last week when Apple tried to turn the media attention away from itself in such an un-Apple like manner. Apple claimed that other phones, specifically RIM’s Blackberry, have similar reception problems.

RIM has come back strongly with an email that declares  Apple’s claim as unacceptable’.  Apple’s claim is not totally baseless though. If they are subjected to some standards for reception, FCC should hold everyone else to the same standard. That really calls for thorough tests and study of all the phones out there. What’s really wrong is the timing of this statement. Apple is really in the middle of a self inflicted mess and now is definitely not the best time to point fingers at others (more importantly their chief competitors) to escape from the media scrutiny.

What really disturbed me is that by taking such a stance Apple has gone against the very principles that has made it such a cult brand. In terms of products Apple is in a league of its own, each of their products is so different from their competitor’s products and Apple puts a lot of effort in its design and production to make it so different. By going this route they have themselves opened the door for comparisons to be drawn, they have basically brought themselves down to be on par with the market. This really is going to take a lot to undo. 

GMAT - How my attempt to go one-up brought me down.

I took the GMAT recently after preparing for a good part of four weeks. My score was a tad below my expectation (I had a modest target of 720) but for now this score will have to do. I will try to focus more on my essays to cover up the lost ground.

I have posted a detailed account of my GMAT on the BTG forum. It’s a pretty long post and I don’t want to duplicate the content here.  You can read my post by following this link -  How my attempt to go one-up brought me down.

Sundae Bar at office

For the last few weeks this part of the country has been going through a very arid and hot summer, the sun has been at its sweltering best. Though we don’t feel the heat from within the confines of our office (all thanks to the air conditioning system which is always on the cooler side) the brightness outside was always a grim reminder of how it felt out there.
With the weather in such a harsh mode it was so timely and appropriate to treat us with some ice-cream (nothing beats an ice-cream to beat the heat!).  Our HR had arranged for a Sundae Bar at the office yesterday (July 14). Lizzy's in Waltham provided the ice cream and toppings, all we had to do was to eat and enjoy. 
We did enjoy the ice-cream, it was awesome. Most of us gathered around the kitchen, made our own customized version and had great fun. We should probably be doing this more often!

Bone-dry: Does it really have anything to do with bones?

A few of us have made it a routine to get together and spend a few minutes over a cup of coffee. Though this routine itself has become monotonous the discussions that we have are sometimes very intriguing. A few days ago during one of these discussions a colleague of mine used the phrase ‘bone-dry’, obviously to refer to something that was ‘very’ dry. The usage of this phrase (bone-dry) is very common and most of us do know what it means, but I wondered how this term actually originated. What has bone to do with dryness and who actually came up with this relationship first?

I was hoping that one of us (among our coffee group) would have answers, but to my surprise all of us were equally ignorant. Later that day I checked the Wikipedia for any information on bone-dry, and again to my surprise wiki did not have any mention either. It does have a mention of ‘bonedry’ which apparently is a type of clay that is completely dried. So I did the next best thing, just googled it, and found some interesting thoughts (though none of them mention anything concrete about the origins).

According to one source, 'Bone dry' derives from an allusion to the dryness of bone after being left in the sun (Clearly someone out there tried to dry bones under the sun!). It goes on to say that the earliest known use of this team was in 1830 by the clergyman Robert Forby. Then there are those who think that ‘bone-dry’ actually is a variant of ‘bonedry” (the dry clay which forms porcelain). Once source points to the Bible, where a reference to bone dry is made, but here a lot is left to imagination (as is the case with most of the interpretations from religious texts).

To sum up, there is no clear answer. If someone else has anything interesting to add about ‘bone-dry’ please don’t hesitate do so. 

Rendition revisited!

A few days ago I watched the movie ‘Rendition’ and subsequently a few events took place in my life which I could relate to the movie. It’s amazing how life sometimes throws so many coincidences at you.

For those who have not watched the movie, here is a brief summary to put things into perspective. The movie is about the impact of US Foreign Policy post Sep 2011 that allowed US authorities to detain suspects in secret facilities (mostly at foreign locations) and interrogate them. Basically rendition involves detention and interrogation without a trial. The movie is a good one, albeit a little slow paced, it has a very good plot and two stories have been presented very well that gives the viewer enough to judge the policy.

Coming back to my story, a few days before we watched the movie I had received a call from my cousin who lives in Dubai. He calls me every now then, just for the usual family talks. This time when he called I was at work and was busy so I informed him that I would call back later. I called him the day after I watched this movie (Rendition), nothing spooky till now. Somehow I must have goofed up the number, because when I dialed someone at the other end picked up and acknowledged in Arabic (guess so). I had no clue what he was talking about, I tired English and a couple of other languages that I can speak but this fellow kept talking in his language. I tried repeating my Cousin’s name, hoping this was some friend of his who might have accidentally got hold of this cell or maybe someone who works with him. No luck, the person at the other end went on non stop. Frustrated (and a little scared), I said ‘sorry, wrong number’ and hung up.

If you are wondering why I got scared, it had something to do with ‘Rendition’. In the movie the person they detain is a good law abiding citizen who is detained only because the intelligence agency traced some calls to his cell phone from someone in the troubled parts of the world. Does that ring a bell?

Later that day, a little past midnight, a message popped up near the taskbar on my laptop indicating that I had received an invitation from a new contact on Skype. Apparently someone wanted to be in touch with me, nothing wrong with this until I find that the name of this new contact is ‘Pervez Khan’. I really got terrified, not just because of the name, but because of the things that had happened earlier that day and more importantly because I have never come across anyone with this name. This was too much of a coincidence for me, I immediately blocked the contact, turned off my laptop and tried to get some sleep.

Phew! What a day it was, I am hoping that the coincidences in my life related to ‘Rendition’ ended that day itself.

The changing dynamics of worlds Banking Industry

Recently I came across an interesting little piece of stati.stic and I figured it is worth pondering over.

The statistic that I came across is the “The World's Top 20 Banks 1994-2010” list. Here is a good snapshot of how the banking industry has metamorphosed over the course of the last 2 decades.

A lot has changed in these two decades. In the early part of the 90’s the Japanese ruled the world, a fact well corroborated by the fact that in 1994 top 6 banks were all from Japan and no less than 11 banks from Japan figured in the top 20 (Phew! That’s more than half of the list). But soon the Japanese economy broke down and their banking system fell apart. The Japanese presence on the world’s banking sector has never been same since then, the very fact that in 2010 only one Japanese bank figures in the top 20 sums up their sorry plight.

The growth story of America banking institutions to become the dominant force today is equally remarkable. Back in 94 only two American banks belonged to the top 20 but since 1999 they have always had a strong presence with at least 4 banks in the top 20. The transition from 2008 to 2010 is the most fascinating part of the statistic above. Since the Japanese economic turmoil had led to the ultimate downfall of its banks one would have expected the recent economic downturn (which initiated in America and had the most adverse impact there) to have the same effect on American banks. Apparently, that hasn’t quite happened. On the contrary from 2008 to 2010 the American banking industry only got stronger. It seems that the heavy government intervention did indeed save these American banks and maybe even gave them a competitive edge.

Another noteworthy fact that this statistic presents is the rise of China. Anyone notice that? Just for the record, I won’t hesitate to place my bet on seeing 5 Chinese banks in this list 4 years from now. On a different note, I would have loved to see the SBI on this list some day!

Source : Chris Skinner, the Financial Services Club and The Banker Magazine (with permission)
Copyright © CognitiveBias @ Blogspot : Bloggerized by Blogger Template