The Safest Cities…and the Worst

By Robert McGarvey

Is Hong Kong safe? Seeing that headline in a travel publication I almost spit my coffee on the computer screen.

Understand, I would go to Hong Kong without hesitation.  There are places I would avoid – including the airport, on some days – but Hong Kong remains one of the safest cities I have spent time in.  

There are many very, very dangerous cities on this planet – many I would not want to go to – but in making such judgments I always remember that from 1973-1975 and again in 1977 I lived in Washington DC which at the time was a perennial contender for murder capital of the nation.  Was DC dangerous? Sure. Was I fearful? Nope.  I stuck in neighborhoods I believed to be safe and I was never a victim.

I also spent many nights in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the period 1989 to 2005 and were people murdered there? Personally, though, I again never felt frightened, never was a victim.  I was careful about where I went and I was very careful about my comportment (it would have been unwise to walk the Shankhill Road at night singing IRA songs). But with a modicum of prudence and discipline I found Belfast a pleasant place to spend time.

So I take sweeping characterizations of cities with a bit of suspicion.

But you want a crib sheet of cities to avoid? A starting point is this list of the most dangerous cities, according to the World Population Review.  

The worst 10:

Los Cabos

Caracas

Acapulco

Natal

Tijuana

La Paz

Fortaleza

Ciudad Victoria

Ciudad Guayana

How many have you been to?  Hell, I don’t even know where some are (Ciudad Victoria?).  I have been to Acapulco and Tijuana, and thought briefly about going to La Paz but never did.  The others hold no charm for me and probably not for many other travelers. 

The only city on the list that I have spent much time in is New Orleans and, you bet, it’s dangerous – but pick your places and I never felt frightened there, never was a victim, and I have walked a fair amount from the French Quarter through the Central Business District, at various hours of the night.

Pick your places, pick your routes, and for me that is a formula for safety. Guaranteed? Of course not.  But it’s gotten me through a half century of walking.

Along the way I also learned to disregard broadbrush labels. I use the same awareness in Phoenix as I did in Washington DC 40 years ago.  And I’d use the same awareness walking around Moscow…or Los Cabos…or Notting Hill.

As for the safest cities, the Economist offers up its list and, buckle up, here are the top five for personal security:

Singapore

Copenhagen

Hong Kong

Tokyo

Wellington

Yes, you read right. Hong Kong claims the third slot (and of course this list was compiled before the recent protests). Sure, the protests and the government reactions have complicated the formulas and expectations. But I’d still bet heavily I could walk for hours in Hong Kong and would encounter no threats.

You want to know where else is safe? Across multiple safety parameters (including digital, infrastructure, personal security), here are the top five cities per The Economist:

1. Tokyo

2. Singapore

3. Osaka

4. Amsterdam

5. Sydney

But I still think most places are safe enough. Use your eyes, use your ears and probably you will be safe.  When I don’t like how a specific neighborhood looks, I make haste to exit in search of safer ground.  

Back to where we started: is Hong Kong safe? Definitely a person could go to Hong Kong and have a very high risk stay.  Head for wherever the nearest largescale demonstration is and that will be a wish granted.

Me, I’d head in the opposite direction.  And I’m pretty sure I’d stay safe.

Hong Kong is too dangerous? Rubbish. That’s hysterical thinking, rather like saying Paris is too dangerous or New York is. Keep your wits about you and cities like that are usually very safe.

At least that has been my experience.

CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 57 Scott Anderson Open Banking, Live from DN Intersect

One site to rule them all.

This is the banking version of the Tolkien quest for the one ring that rules them all.

Call this open banking and remember that phrase. It’s about to get much buzzier and louder over the next year as open banking transforms how US financial institutions interact.

Scott Anderson, brand evangelist at Diebold Nixdorf, sat down at the company’s DN Intersect event to tell us why open banking – a big issue in Europe – is heading your way.  

Imagine one site where your member sees everything financial. Inside the credit union and outside.  Imagine a site where the consumer can decide what to use to pay for this purchase in this moment.

How cool is that?

It’s also potentially frightening to financial institutions.  The institution ceases to be a walled garden and becomes instead an open transit point. Won’t consumers flee?

Why should they? If their needs are getting served.

In many ways Anderson is optimistic about the impacts of open banking – which definitely is coming our way – on smaller FIs such as credit unions.  

One hitch however. How do credit unions get enough data to play meaningfully in this universe?  Anderson sees credit unions working in alliances with fintechs – CUSOs perhaps – to create an even playing field with big banks when it comes to open banking.

Just maybe it’s the biggest FIs that have the most to lose in an open banking universe.

Listen here

Think on that and think about how to win your institution’s share.

This podcast is one of a group of four recorded on site at the Diebold Nixdorf DN Intersect conference in Las Vegas, September 2019.

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

Listening to “CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 55 Richard Crone on Libra, Live from DN Intersect”

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Richard Crone is a longtime payments geek and when it comes to Libra, he has a particular spin.  It boils down to this: forget the talk about crypto currency. Libra fundamentally is a pre-paid account and because it is a Facebook effort, it has reach into some 2.1 billion daily users of Facebook tools (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.).

“It’s a prepaid network with global reach – there are also 90 million businesses on Facebook properties,” said Crone.

His blunt message: every credit union needs a Libra strategy and you need it now.

Understand this: Facebook may not be looking to profit off Libra per se. Its strategy seems instead to be to use Libra to drive traffic to Facebook sites and thereby increase advertising revenues.

Which may make Libra yet more attractive to financial institutions.

The conversation includes Heidi Liebenguth, managing partner at Crone Consulting, and it took place in a public space at Caesars Palace, where Crone and Liebenguth were speakers at DN Intersect, the Diebold Nixdorf meeting. There’s minor ambient noise but audio quality of the podcast is good.

Crone finds it “bizarre” that not one FDIC insured institution joined in the launch of Libra.

He also is not deterred by the regulatory scrutiny Libra has won.  In fact he sees it as a competitive advantage because it may deter competitors from plunging in with their own similar products.

Listen to this podcast and you definitely will want to dig into Libra and reach the decisions that are right for your credit union. Inaction is not a strategy.

Don’t miss a related podcast with Diebold Nixdorf executive Douglas Hartung, also on Libra.  

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

Listening to “CU2.0 Podcast Episode 54 Douglas Hartung on Libra, Live From DN Intersect “

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Buckle up for big, explosive ideas.  That’s what Douglas Hartung – senior director, business development & alliances at Diebold Nixdorf – specializes in and in this podcast he discusses Libra, bringing financial services to the globe’s underbanked and unbanked, and the exciting idea that just maybe all a person needs to send money anywhere on the planet is a smart phone.

How cool is that?

Know that just may be Libra’s promise.

While some scoff at the prospects of Libra – the Facebook backed new-style currency – Hartung believes that the sheer magnitude of the Facebook family of properties user base makes this a financial play that demands attention.

He also likes the idea of in-app payments – so in Facebook, for instance, what if you can without friction send $10 to a friend in Bali. With just a click. Without leaving the Facebook app.

Is Libra just another Bitcoin variant? Hartung says nope.  He tells why in the podcast.

A bottomline here is: pay attention to Libra.  You may regret it if you don’t.

Incidentally you will hear some taps interspersed throughout the podcast. That’s Hartung animatedly tapping on a table to emphasize his point. Get into his spirit, let the taps animate you too.

This podcast is one of a group of four recorded on site at the Diebold Nixdorf DN Intersect conference in Las Vegas, September 2019.

Don’t miss a related podcast with industry analyst Richard Crone, also on Libra. 

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

Listening to “CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 52 David Deckelmann LiveSurvey”

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What are your members thinking about you? Say you don’t know and you are setting yourself up for failure. Say you do know and, no, you haven’t asked them because you, well, just know and you are on the fast track to extinction.

If you want to know what your members think and need, ask them.

That’s where LiveSurvey comes in.  A credit union owned CUSO – developed by MAPS Credit Union in Oregon – LiveSurvey’s mission is providing realtime, instant feedback from members that lets credit unions better chart their next actions to better serve members.

When is the last time your credit union surveyed members? How many responded? Did you get anything useful?

LiveSurvey grew out of MAPS own needs.  The credit union faced the horns of a dilemma.  On one side were very pricey, consultant driven survey products. On the other side, there are inexpensive – even free – Internet tools.  Neither gave MAPS the solution it wanted and out of that grew LiveSurvey.

About 25 credit unions now use LiveSurvey which gives them the ability to query members as they wish and on whatever topic they choose.

Prices range from $500 to $1000 monthly.

Who better to help you take the next steps to grow your credit union than existing members – who when asked right will tell you what they like and what they don’t. 

MAPS make it easy and inexpensive to know.

Every credit union needs to be doing this or similar.  It’s a competitive world out there and this is crucial intel.  And it’s yours to gather if you just ask for it.

LiveSurvey CEO David Deckelmann tells all abut it in this brisk podcast.

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

Listening to “CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 51 Marc Schaefer Truliant”

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Can a credit union serve more than one employer group? You know what today’s answer is of course. But to know the history you need to talk with Marc Schafer, CEO of Truliant, a Winston Salem credit union.

That’s because Truliant was sued by a banker’s group in the mid 1990s that claimed it was illegal for a credit union to serve more than one employer group.  And the bankers won in the Supreme Court!

So how is it now legal? Listen to Schaefer and his tale of how HR 1151 became law – that’s the legislation that made multiple SEGs legal.

Along the way you will hear a great personal credit union success story. Schafer became CEO of the tiny FDIC credit union when he was 34 in 1986.  In 1995 he moved to Truliant which then was a $400 million credit union.

Truliant now is a $2.5 billion credit union.

That’s a remarkable growth story and of course you want to hear it.

Why is Schafer telling his story now? He retires at year end.

His is a terrific story of how to make credit unions work better, for more people.

Related podcasts in this series include Bucky Sebastian (who tells his take on HR 1151), Gary OaklandJim Blaine, and Teresa Freeborn.

As for Blaine, the retired CEO of SECU in North Carolina, he too has a story of being sued over multiple SEGs.  In an email he wrote this: “few know that the “original” FOM law suit was filed against SECU in state court (SECU is state-chartered) in 1977 by the NC Bankers Association when SECU added small city/county local govts to our FOM. The bankers beat us in the NC Supreme Court (on a split decision with the Chief Justice writing an ‘icy’ dissent!) and we had to divest about 9,000 local govt employees who had joined. We did so – being the ornery, stubborn folks we were! – by forming a federal credit union (today’s Local Government FCU @$2.5 billion) which immediately contracted for all services through SECU. LGFCU had a board and staff of 1, but immediately had a full array of services and about 50 branches at that time!  Needless to say our state bankers were ‘not pleased’ and sued in federal court (we forced it out of our state courts since LGFCU was federally chartered!). LGFCU/SECU won on appeal in the 3rd District (Richmond) and the bankers decided not to appeal to the US Supreme Court. When they later came gunning for Marc, the bankers made sure it got heard in the 4th District (DC) which is far more ‘business friendly’ – the 4th ruled in favor of the banks, which led to the adverse Supreme Court decision, the Campaign for Consumer Choice, and HR 1151.”

Why Hospitality Companies Are Cybersecurity Laggards

by Robert McGarvey

For some years I have reported on cybersecurity fails on the part of airlines, hotels, and miscellaneous other travel players. In the background always a question haunted me: why are so many travel companies so bad at cybersecurity? Sure, hackers hack just about everything but travel companies seem favorite targets, in part because they are indeed sources of valuable data of affluent people but also because, somehow, they just seem less capable at protecting their digital valuables (our digital valuables).

And now there’s a suggestion from Bitglass, a cloud app security broker, that just maybe hospitality companies are in fact utterly deficient in cybersecurity. In its report An Analysis of Cybersecurity in the Fortune 500, Bitglass said it “conducted research on the 2019 Fortune 500 in order to identify whether the world’s leading companies are prioritizing information security and customer privacy. Their websites were scoured for keywords, phrases, and executive security personnel in order to learn about the steps that they are taking to protect personally identifiable information (PII) and customer privacy.”

Bitglass added: “The results demonstrate that many organizations lack an authentic, lasting commitment to enhancing cybersecurity.”

It gets worse. Bitglass found that 77% of Fortune 500 companies “make no indication on their websites of who is responsible for their security strategy.”

Guess what sector is most derelict. Hospitality. 0% – none – have a named executive in charge of cybersercurity on their websites. And that’s despite the industry’s many breaches. Eight hospitality companies are in the Fortune 500, all failed.

Manufacturing is next worse. Only 8% name a cybersecurity exec on their websites. Telecom comes in third worst with 9%.

Hair splitting time. In this context “hospitality” refers mainly to hotel companies and some restaurant groups. Not airlines which are grouped under “transportation.”

Hospitality also comes in at the bottom regarding the percentage of companies with website info “about how they are protecting the data
of customers and partners.” Just 25% of hospitality companies offer this info, tied at the bottom with oil and gas companies and construction companies.

That double fail wins hospitality a starring role in Bitglass’ list of least security conscious industries.

Transportation, by the way, does much better. 57% list an executive in charge of cybersecurity and 36% have a statement. This is not to say breathe easily at airline sites (loyalty programs have had their hacker problems). But they do do better than their hotelier brethren.

Here’s the question that matters: What are we to do to stay safe? The start is accepting it is our job. Hospitality companies don’t have our backs. If we are to be safe it is because of what we do (or don’t do).

Rule one: Assume that any hospitality site you use will be hacked. Take that seriously. It means that any data you leave at the site may end up in criminals’ hands. Personally I am just as suspicious of airline sites. I follow the same precautions at both kinds.

Never use passwords that are used at important accounts – a credit union or bank, for instance – at a hospitality site. Hackers use computers to automate testing of stolen passwords at leading banks precisely because they know many of us are lazy and dumb and use a password at multiple locations. Just don’t.

Personally I use Google generated passwords at most hospitality and airline sites, mainly because I generally log in on a mobile phone with a fingerprint and a long, complex password is fine. Either way, though, remember that a hospitality site probably will be hacked.

Do keep tabs on anything of value that you have at hospitality websites. Loyalty programs have for some years been hacker targets. Your points may already have been stolen. A corrective is to regularly monitor balances. How often is enough? It depends upon how valuable a stash is. I think I have some Delta miles but couldn’t tell you when I last looked because I know there aren’t many.

But with the sites where I have large deposits of loyalty points I log in at least monthly. I can’t say I have personally seen miles stolen but I nonetheless do check regularly.

While you are at this, stop using hotel WiFi – it’s dangerous.

Personally, just this week I ignored my advice because my cellphone hotspot was anemic and I had free hotel WiFi via Hilton Honors and I was traveling with an old Chromebook that had no personal data on it. I also didn’t access any sensitive sites (banking for instance).

But whenever possible, use something safer than hotel WiFi.

Can you travel and not get hacked? Maybe. Sure in fact. I don’t believe I ever have been. But my inflexible advice is to always assume you will be hacked. That’s how to stay safer on the road.