Queen of Consumer Reform: The late Bess Myerson was best known as the first Jewish Miss America, but as a consultant to Citibank in the mid-1970s she led the charge in reforming the bank's retail practices. In a two-part series on Myerson's banking legacy, former Citi in-house counsel Duncan MacDonald recalls working with Myerson to establish the first plain-language agreement in the financial services industry. He details Myerson's transformation of the bank's collections unit from a way station for loafers to a destination for smart, experienced managers on the make. This leadership change led to fewer lawsuits against delinquent borrowers and a surge in loan workouts, according to MacDonald. As the modern-day Citi confronts a tarnished public image, MacDonald has a ready prescription. The bank "needs to relearn the lessons of the Bess Myerson era," he writes. "And it should do so by finding another Bess." His memories struck a chord with at least one reader. "The deterioration of an empire over the last decade has been caused by lack of transparency, abuses of power, greed, and legalized racketeering," writes a commenter with the handle "Intelligence Ratio." "The next chapter will be who and how we repair the uneven divide of inequality that has transpired."
Follow the Money: Banks and regulators need to step up their counter-terrorist financing efforts in order to bring down ISIS, according to lawyer Christine Duhaime. She recommends that regulators crack down on banks that violate the anti-terrorist financing provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act, lest hacktivist groups like Anonymous take matters into their own hands by attacking the websites of banks believed to be connected with ISIS funding.
Also on the blog: Bank of America global technology and operations executive Cathy Bessant is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week to offer her perspective on banks' biggest tech priorities. Her message to the industry: "our goal is not to produce shiny new toys but to make people's lives easier."
Former community bank chief Joseph Bonner predicts that some community banks could be crushed by the cost of long-delayed technological updates.
James Frischling, president and co-founder of consultancy NewOak, argues that the government is just paying lip service to the idea that it will reduce its role in the mortgage marketplace.
Risk and compliance expert Andrew Waxman identifies areas primed for technological transformation in 2015, arguing that mobile payments will make a big impact in developing countries and that electronic trading platforms will finally come to the bond market.
There's room for debate about the effectiveness of arbitration compared with litigation, according to law professor Jeff Sovern, but the core issue is that many people don't understand that they're giving up their right to a jury trial when they sign arbitration clauses.