A Bridge Too Far

Dental miscue reveals risks of multi-tasking.

April 30, 2012

Like many Americans, I’m an accomplished multi-tasker.

Sometimes, though, information-overload strikes. Even multi-tasking mavens can get burned. Such was the case this morning at the dentist’s office.

After admirably performing my morning multi-tasking aerobics, I recalled that a pre-work jaunt to the dentist was in my immediate future. Exciting! I notified my boss of my impending late arrival, crammed for the dental exam with super-diligent flossing, and gave the dog an extra pat while smugly waltzing out the door a few minutes early.

My bold stride into the dental office was met with confusion as the receptionist asked, “Lora, why are you here? We didn’t expect you until tomorrow!” Zing!

Does multi-tasking get in your way as you juggle the demands of your workday? Accessibility to accurate information is essential to the decision-making process, but do you have the time necessary to dedicate to this time-consuming function?

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.

If you’re not making fully informed decisions due to time constraints or errors, will you arrive at the dentist unexpectedly—or worse, make a mistake with dire effect upon your members, co-workers, or personal career endeavors?

Think about how you manage information with our weekly research check-up.

Open wide! News from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) is nearly as fun as a root canal. It reports that four of five U.S. bankruptcy attorneys report a major jump in student loan debtors seeking help.

Says NACBA President William E. Brewer, Jr., “Take it from those of us on the frontline of economic distress in America: This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy. The amount of student borrowing crossed the $100 billion threshold for the first time in 2010 and total outstanding loans exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year.”

Students looking to be retrained are taking on huge amounts of debt. Many of them are near retirement age and will have complicated repayment issues.

What are the demographics—and creditworthiness—of your student loan borrowers?

Fraud and security

Next, a few fraud and security cavities need filling. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Cybersecurity: Threats Impacting the Nation,” cybersecurity breaches are on the rise: “Over the past six years, the number of incidents reported by federal agencies to the federal information security incident center has increased by nearly 680%.”

Credit unions, too, rely heavily on security infrastructure. Are you adequately addressing the trend of increasing security breaches?

For further evidence, see the GAO report, “Medicare: Important Steps Have Been Taken, But More Could Be Done to Deter Fraud.”

Medicare is a “high-risk program, in part because its complexity make it particularly vulnerable to fraud.” Incorrect coding and other errors contribute to fraud potential.

Do your security systems have open holes that could be plugged with greater attention to detail? Are there checks in place to detect errors?

Fraud trends are affecting consumers, too. In “The Rise of Financial Fraud,” the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reports “Americans in 2011 submitted more than 1.5 million complaints about financial and other fraud—up 52% in just three years. But these data do not fully represent fraud’s pervasiveness because researchers say that it often goes unreported to the authorities.”

What are your members experiencing?

Promising demographic trends

Let’s bite into some promising demographic trends. “The State of the African-American Consumer,” by Nielsen presents five key business opportunities in this market:

* Growing affluence. The number of African-American households earning $75,000 or more has grown by 63.9% in the last decade.

* Growing success educationally and professionally. This increases demand for financial management services.

* Heavy use of electronic media. Marketers should plan accordingly.

* Women-focused. Women in this demographic “tend to be the primary decision makers for most…buying decisions.”

* High adoption of technology, which provides “an influence over popular culture beyond the limits of ethnic categorization.”

And in “Young, Mobile and Growing: The State of U.S. Hispanic Consumers” Nielsen reveals “Latinos are a fundamental component to future business success, with a buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 that is projected to grow to $1.5 trillion in 2015.”

Further, this population “remains young and the primary feeder of workforce growth and new consumption.”

Another Nielsen tidbit to digest about the Hispanic market: “Hispanics in U.S. Highly Active on Mobile and Social.”

Hispanic consumers send or receive 941 text messages per month, on average—more than any other ethnic group. Therefore, mobile “presents a significant avenue of opportunity” for marketers seeking out this group.

Are your marketing efforts addressing the media habits and buying power of these important markets?

Succession planning: Are you ready?

A final research rinse with a look at succession planning. Stanford University presents some interesting commentary in “Sudden Death of a CEO: Are Companies Prepared When Lightning Strikes?”

The report warns, “A company without an operational succession plan does not have a set of viable candidates to turn to and often starts the evaluation process from scratch. In this case, the transition period can be lengthy, lasing several months or longer. Such delays can have a direct, negative impact on company performance.”

How would your credit union be affected by such an unfortunate event? Are you well-prepared from a governance perspective?

Multi-tasking has its benefits—but also its problems when details are overlooked. Sink your teeth into the data at your disposal and use it to your advantage. Wise information management will lead to a clean bill of health!

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.