Mountain Mama: Brian Benson’s Going Somewhere

first_imgDear Mountain Mama,I devoured the last book you suggested – Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island. I’m leaving on my last beach trip of the summer and I was hoping you could recommend a good read.Thanks, BookwormDear Bookworm,Anywhere you go will be better with a copy of Brian Benson’s travel memoir, Going Somewhere, in your backpack. He writes about what happens when he and Rachel, a love-struck couple in their twenties, head off on a bike trip from Wisconsin to Oregon. From their first night ride to the mountain climbs, his ability to describe his experience in the saddle made the journey so real, I found myself vicariously sore and indulging in my own candy eating sprees. Brian writes about nature so well that the lakes shimmered on the page. As eager as I was to find out what happened next, I was equally reluctant to let go of the landscapes his words created in my mind.Going Somewhere transcends the tale of an epic bike ride – it’s also a love story. Brian’s tells about the ups and downs of relating to the opposite sex from behind handlebars. His introspective and self-deprecating voice strikes the perfect chord, of being deep, relatable, and laugh-out-loud funny. So many times I folded the corner of a page thinking, yes, I’ve felt this exactly.brian-benson-going-somewhere-coverThe most inspiring part of Going Somewhere was the reminder of the kindness of strangers that awaits us when we travel, and the uncanny way that someone appears just at the right moment to offer assistance. Most of the time we’re too busy muttering under our breath about how screwed we are to look up and take notice, but when we do, we find that everything we need is right in front of us. Perhaps there’s no better encouragement for tackling our biggest dreams than realizing that for every difficulty we encounter, we’ll meet people able to help.If you’ve ever dreamed of a bike journey, Going Somewhere will leave you considering panniers and jerseys. But even if you’ve never owned a bicycle, the travel anecdotes and bigger love story make this book one you’ll hate to put down.And if you want more about Brian Benson, he’s currently blogging about his bike and book touring from Northern Wisconsin to Chicago at Travels & Happy Reading,Mountain Mamalast_img read more

Mid-year reassessment leads to improved outcomes

first_img 2SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Ron Jennings Ron is responsible for managing JMFA’s business strategies, including alliances and partner relationship development in support of national sales efforts. His extensive industry knowledge and experience in performance enhancement … Web: Details Throughout history, unexpected events and significant milestones — from natural disasters and economic downturns to regulatory constraints and the advent of new technologies — have tested the financial services industry. Time after time, credit unions have adjusted their operations and service delivery strategies in order to address changing business environments and deliver services to fill critical member needs.As we reach the mid-point of 2020, COVID-19 is the latest challenge to place pressure on consumers and financial institutions alike. In the first quarter, the U.S. economy shrank nearly 5%. Since then unemployment has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. What’s more, the economic outlook ahead is clouded by uncertainty, with predictions of further contractions, prolonged low interest rates, and falling loan demand which will further impact income.While there is no way to predict when the uncertainty will end, there are steps that can be taken now to maintain or grow reputational capital, strengthen your operations, and enhance your bottom line to prepare for the changes that lie ahead for your credit union, your members, and your community as we work through this ongoing crisis.Improve the member experienceStay-at-home orders have been lifted across the country and most businesses are opening, at least partially. However, record unemployment and under-employment persist across a broad spectrum of the population. Uncertainty about how long the virus will pose a threat increases the anxiety for millions of Americans who are looking for some peace of mind and financial security.Are you taking steps to address your members’ financial service needs?  A fully disclosed overdraft privilege program can provide a user-friendly solution to your members’ occasional financial insecurities—both now and throughout the pandemic—until more stable financial conditions return.Just make sure that the important details of your program—like overdraft limits and fees—are fully explained to your members at account opening and through on-going interactions. Your program also should provide on-going communication regarding member account status and the availability of alternative solutions that can help them maintain their finances through economic uncertainties.By taking a proactive approach to identifying user-friendly initiatives and strategies that take into account individual circumstances, you can be the solution for your members’ most pressing financial needs and protect vital sources of revenue for your credit union.Maintain compliance awareness With all of the new challenges that financial institutions are currently experiencing, it’s imperative not to become complacent when it comes to maintaining compliant programs and procedures. Litigators across the country continue to target credit unions for activity that negatively impacts consumers. This includes class action lawsuits and demand letters against institutions whose overdraft policies are deemed to be confusing.Are you utilizing best practices to manage your overdraft program? Do you have access to the latest advice on regulatory and consumer protection expectations? If not, you are risking increased examiner scrutiny and possible legal action.When your members are aware of how to access your overdraft solution—and the other services you provide to help them when they are faced with a financial downturn—there is no guesswork and no surprise fees to further complicate their situation. Using the service becomes a clear choice they can make to avoid having transactions denied or checks returned on necessary purchases and emergency expenses.If you are managing your overdraft strategy in-house, now is a good time to have a compliance expert review your policies and procedures to make sure they are in line with regulatory expectations and pose no threat of legal scrutiny or penalties.Take control of your expenses At a time when you may still have employees working from home or have reduced staffing in place, it can be tempting to push some less member-facing tasks to the back burner. But don’t overlook the long-term financial consequences of not staying on top of your existing service contracts — you could be missing out on significant benefits.For example, the changing business environment brought on by COVID-19 has increased the need for digital capabilities and more enhanced services, like contactless cards and virtual ATMs, that simplify members’ ability to complete financial transactions. As upgrading your service options becomes a higher priority, evaluating vendor contracts can provide the funds your credit union needs to reinvest in operational improvements and new technology.What’s more, changing financial needs caused by the pandemic have created more demands for employees to be engaged with new ways to address individual member challenges. Having an expert to help with evaluating contracts that are coming due or finding ways to save money, or add revenue, can be a valuable solution for improving efficiencies, as well as your service capabilities and your bottom line.When was the last time you had a professional take a look at your service contracts? Re-negotiating vendor agreements can uncover savings and improved contract terms on the services you use every day. In many cases, a no-cost expert review can have a positive impact right away on contracts that are expiring between now and early 2022 on such agreements as card processing, card brand, core data processing and much more.Utilize tools and resources that support successful results  Since the onset of COVID-19, consumer use of contactless methods for obtaining financial services has increased, due to limited access to branch facilities, work-from-home requirements and social distancing recommendations. In this unsettling environment, it’s imperative to examine how effectively you are providing consistent financial services and support to strengthen existing relationships and attract new ones.For instance, does your overdraft program include continuous member communication and on-going evaluation to make sure it is providing the best results for your members and your credit union? The combination of the right technology and sound expert advice is essential to ensuring your program is supplying accurate account tracking, analysis and reporting that is necessary to ensure a responsible solution for your members and a reliable source of revenue for your institution.Effective utilization of data to identify individual members who may be affected financially during the pandemic allows you to match your services to their needs. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that your institution will be seen as a trusted financial ally.In light of existing staffing situations, it is essential for your employees to have access to training opportunities that instill the knowledge and confidence they need to do their jobs successfully. If you are relying on employees to train new hires and provide ongoing refresher courses while some individuals may be working remotely and/or taking on new responsibilities, your training strategy may be lacking consistency and failing to fully engage everyone who needs to be involved.When it comes to training employees on critical member initiatives, like overdraft privilege and other services that offer financial stability for members, professional, program-specific trainers can take the guesswork out of the learning process and strengthen everyone’s peace of mind. With the support of experienced facilitators, you can boost your employees’ knowledge of program management, compliance, industry best practices and member engagement to make sure that everyone on staff has more confidence regarding how the program works, how to explain it effectively to members, as well as what value it brings to program users and the credit union.For the past several months, COVID-19 has had a major impact on the economic well-being of financial institutions and consumers alike. And its impact is expected to continue for the remainder of the year, at least. How you respond to your members’ needs today can have a substantial impact on the success of your credit union for years to come. By reassessing your current strategies for improving the member experience, controlling your expenses and protecting revenue, you can address the changing environment with confidence.last_img read more

Bank Indonesia to relax credit card regulations to fuel virus-battered economy

first_img“This is aimed at expanding the use of cashless transactions to mitigate the COVID-19 impacts,” Perry told reporters after BI’s board of governors meeting on Tuesday. “We are working to maintain macroeconomic and financial system stability, as well as [ensure] economic recovery.”The central bank decided to lower the credit card interest rate to 2 percent per month from the current 2.25 percent and slashed the minimum credit card payment from 10 percent to 5 percent of total outstanding credit.Read also: Explainer: BI to throw lifeline to Indonesia’s economy to fight COVID-19Furthermore, it will also lower the late payment penalty from the current 3 percent of the outstanding amount or a maximum Rp 150,000 (US$9.51) to 1 percent or a maximum of Rp 100,000. Households spending, which accounts for more than half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), is expected to decline as the pandemic forces citizens to stay at home and lowers demand, as some people have lost jobs and income. According to the government’s worst-case scenario, 3.78 million people could fall into poverty and 5.2 million could lose their jobs amid the pandemic, while the economy could contract by 0.4 percent this year.The central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate twice this year by 50 basis points in total to help boost Indonesia’s economy. The lower policy rate is expected to be transmitted into lower interest rates on various bank loans, ranging from consumer to corporate credit.According to BI data, some 27 million credit card transactions amounted to Rp 25.86 billion in February, marking a slight increase from February 2019, when 26.4 million transactions added up to a total of Rp 25.81 billion.Indonesian Credit Card Association chairman Steve Martha said the regulation would directly benefit consumers that might face financial problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that it would also benefit the industry in the long run.Read also: COVID-19 batters Indonesia’s loan growth to record low“As businesses close and lay off employees while people are forced to stay at home, they may have problems with paying their credit card bills,” Steve told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “We see some risks to the industry, and this regulation comes to ease consumers’ burden.”“We are hoping that this regulation can help credit card holders with paying their bills, so the industry could reduce the risk of rising nonperforming loans,” Steve said.Steve said the industry’s NPL was around 2 percent, adding the coronavirus pandemic “no doubt” would cause a higher bad debt ratio if not for intervention by government authorities.He admitted that the rising NPL had yet to be seen in March, but credit card transactions had started to slow compared to the previous month.The virus has infected more than 2 million people around the globe – including more than 5,500 in Indonesia, according to official data – forcing factories, shops and schools to close in various countries amid government-imposed lockdowns and social restrictions. The situation has upended supply chains, forcing companies to lay off employees and crushed demand for goods as consumers stay at home.Contacted separately, Center of Reform on Economics (Core) Indonesia research director Piter Abdullah told the Post that the relaxed regulation would have a positive impact for businesses and the banking industry, adding that it would boost consumer spending and reduce NPL risks.“Although the government has rolled out appropriate fiscal stimulus, they must not allow a protracted health crisis, because it may cause another banking crisis like in 1998,” Piter said, expressing confidence that economic policies had been aggressive enough to prevent economic meltdown.Read also: Remember these tips before using your credit cardHowever, if the government is unable to curb the virus spread, while factories and businesses remain closed and people stay indoors, such a situation could trigger a financial crisis similar to that in 1998, when borrowers defaulted on their payments and banks declared bankruptcy, Piter warned.“The 1998 NPL level of around 60 percent was caused by deep corruption, nepotism and careless debt handling, both in businesses and in the government,” Piter went on to say.“It may not be repeated this year, since the banking industry and businesses were in a healthy condition before the virus struck,” Piter said. “Thus, the government and central bank must do everything to prevent spill-over from the health crisis into a financial crisis.”Topics : Bank Indonesia (BI) will relax rules on credit cards, including lowering the maximum interest rate and late payment penalty, to boost cashless transactions and fuel economic activities during the coronavirus pandemic.BI Governor Perry Warjiyo said the regulation would serve as a stimulus for credit card holders and businesses to boost the virus-hit economy. The relaxation will take effect starting on May 1 and remain in place until the end of the year.last_img read more

Fluxys Belgium H1 profit up as small-scale LNG business grows

first_imgFluxys Belgium, the operator of the Zeebrugge LNG terminal, on Wednesday said its net profit rose in the first six months of 2017 as the small-scale LNG business keeps rising.The company’s profit for the six months was at €22.9 million ($27.2 million), up from €19.7 million during the first half of the year 2016, Fluxys Belgium’s report shows.The Fluxys Belgium group realized a turnover of €250.7 million in the first half of 2017, up 5.4 percent on the same period in 2016, when turnover was €237.8 million. This increase is mainly due to the contracts for capacity sales between Dunkirk and Zeebrugge, which started once the Dunkirk LNG terminal went into operation.The company’s investment for the period reached €36 million, with the total investment budget for the year 2017 at €103 million.These investments pertained mainly to LNG infrastructure projects at the Zeebrugge terminal, specifically the construction of a fifth LNG storage tank and additional facilities and finalizing expenditure for the second jetty, Fluxys Belgium said.The number of loading operations involving small LNG vessels increased slightly. A new element consisted of loading operations for the bunker vessel Engie Zeebrugge in which parent company Fluxys is a partner and whose home port is Zeebrugge.The number of LNG tanker-truck loading operations continued on the same level, despite the launch of similar services at other terminals in North-Western Europe. With a view to making sure it can keep responding to demand in future, a second loading station will be built at the terminal in 2018.The company noted that in the first few months of 2017 two LNG-powered ships were commissioned in Zeebrugge that are supplied from the LNG terminal with the bunkering vessel.In road transport,  the number of registered natural gas-powered vehicles in the first half rose from 4,500 to 7,100 and the number of filling stations will, according to the current schedule, reach the 100-mark by the end of this year.1 EUR = 1.18957 USDlast_img read more