Receiving Wide Coverage ...

Customer Service: The Times’ “Corner Office” Sunday column on management styles featured a Q&A with Russell Goldsmith, the CEO of City National Bank in Los Angeles. He describes a motivational companywide storytelling competition, in which employees are invited to share examples of how they or their colleagues “helped a client by going the extra mile.” The winning storytellers get iPads and the protagonists who actually went that extra mile get cash bonuses. Another story in the Sunday Times doesn’t mention banks but may be of interest to bankers concerned about customer service. This front-page article profiles Disney’s growing consulting arm, which advises various companies on how to adapt the entertainment conglomerate’s famously chipper customer-service culture for their own businesses. One trick of the trade for bank branch concierges: when employees at Disney parks give visitors directions, they point with two fingers instead of one (“it’s more polite”).

Wall Street Journal

A story on the front page of the Journal’s “Money & Investing” section this morning notes that the recently signed JOBS Act will make it easier for small banks to raise capital. Previously, if a bank had more than 500 shareholders it had to incur the expense and rigmarole of registering with the SEC. A provision in the new law raised that figure to 2,000, and the article says this change is likely to spur a wave of bank stock offerings.

We all know that Citi asked for permission from the Fed to return capital to shareholders and was humiliatingly rebuffed (only to be humiliatingly rebuffed again in last week’s say-on-pay vote). But, exactly how much capital did Citi envision returning? The company has never disclosed the amount, but the Journal, citing anonymous sources, says the formula Citi proposed using would have allowed the company to buy back $8 billion of stock over two years if it hit certain targets. That’s “far bigger than some analysts had expected,” the article says.

“Customers of MF Global … are pushing regulators to get tougher on J.P. Morgan Chase … about money that went missing from accounts just before the firm's collapse.”

Remember E.F. Hutton? Former executives of the old brokerage with the famous television commercials (“When E.F. Hutton talks…”) are starting a new firm with the same name.

Financial Times

The CFTC is looking at granting large foreign banks and overseas units of U.S. institutions a temporary exemption from new derivatives rules, the FT reports, citing anonymous sources.

New York Times

The more Ben Bernanke tries to make the Fed transparent and its goals and methods understandable to the general public, the more inscrutable the central bank seems to finance professionals, according to a story in the Times. Despite the news conferences and guest lectures to undergraduates, demand among investors for Fed Kremlinology has only increased.

And, Lastly ...

Forbes: New Zealand has granted a financial services provider license to Bitcoinica, a platform created by a 17-year-old Chinese high school student for margin trading and short-selling of the underground electronic currency Bitcoin. “This type of registered financial institution can carry out many similar activities for their own clients just like a bank,” writes the monetary futurist and Bitcoin evangelist Jon Matonis on his Forbes blog. “The structure is ideal for receiving third party funds for deposit, opening accounts for clients, and engaging in leveraged currency trading activities.” (Suffice to say that Bitcoinica is not an appropriate place to invest grandma’s nest egg; trading has been so volatile that the founder’s name has become a verb — “To be ‘Zhou Tonged’ is to be wiped out financially,” according to a widely read recent Reuters article.) Matonis praises the Kiwis as “forward-looking” for sanctioning a firm that deals in a currency with no central or governmental issuing authority, and he hopes the move will pressure “jurisdictions that continue to be overbearing” to follow suit.


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