Undocumented Mexican workers in the U.S., who often pay as much as 25% in surcharges to wire money to family and friends across the border, now have a less expensive option. At Wells Fargo, Bank of America and other institutions in the Western U.S., Mexicans no longer need proof of legal residency to open an account but can instead present an identification card issued by the Mexican consulate. This month B. of A. launched a money-transfer system called SafeSend, in which customers can use a phone or the Internet to transfer money into an escrow account. The recipient in Mexico who would have been mailed a SafeSend card can then access the account from any ATM. Remittances to Mexico topped $9 billion last year, and the banks hope to capture some of that business. Says Jeffrey Bierer, project manager for SafeSend: "In order for Bank of America to meet its goals, we need to be the bank of choice in the Hispanic community."
Business as a Jazz Band
If the metaphor for old-economy companies is a symphony with musicians who never deviate from the parts their conductor assigns, then today's successful corporation is more like a jazz ensemble: from the CEO down, everyone needs to learn to improvise and play off one another. That's the lesson of Jazz Impact, a business-improvement seminar created by Minneapolis, Minn., bassist Michael Gold for clients that include General Mills and Starbucks. "In jazz improv there is a specific tune that we use as the common ground, yet someone can present a unique version of the tune," says Gold. "This type of thinking has to be able to happen for companies to be innovative." During a 90-minute presentation with a live ensemble, Gold shows, with words and music, how jazz players trade the roles of leader and accompanist, sending one another body cues to signal change.
From Our Readers
Make mine a maritini
Our story about high-end tequilas in the Feb. 25 issue inspired this spirited response:
As a charter, and perhaps last, standing member of the Lower Montgomery Street Olive or Onion Society, established in 1956 in search of the perfect civilized martini, I cannot believe San Franciscans have come to embrace a cactus distillate requiring several buffering additives to become palatable. Herb would never have allowed it.
BRUCE A. STEELE, Scottsdale, Ariz.
The rag trade gets some high-tech help
Brooks Brothers and Prada are enlisting high-tech partners to help improve their customer service. At the Prada Epicenter in New York City's trendy SoHo district, sales reps use handheld devices to scan garment tags that are fitted with Texas Instruments' R.F.I.D. (radio frequency identification) technology the kind embedded in the electronic passes commuters use to zip past tollbooths. A tag scan at Prada accesses details about fabric, size, availability even a film clip of the garment worn by a model all of which are displayed on one of the store's ubiquitous flat plasma video screens. At the Brooks Brothers store near New York's Grand Central Terminal, attendants scan the customers. Brooks' Digital Tailoring system, above manufactured by Textile/Clothing Technology Corp. of Cary, N.C.--uses a full-body scanner that generates a 3-D model of the customer, from which attendants take precise measurements for suits, shirts and sport coats. "The fit is unparalleled except for custom tailoring by hand," says Michel Holland, the system's project manager. And the digital fit is much less expensive: only about $100 more than an off-the-rack pick. Both Brooks and Prada plan to install their technologies in stores around the U.S.
Touch And Go
Two weeks ago, Pay By Touch was launched at the Thriftway supermarket in west Seattle. From now on, registered customers need only place a finger on a small scanner to cart off as many groceries as they want. Developed by Indivos, a consumer biometric company based in Oakland, Calif., Pay By Touch may be the best thing since the express-checkout lane. It allows shoppers to authorize credit-card and bank payments using a fingerprint, a copy of which they have placed on file. "People like it for the same reason they like speed passes at gas pumps mobility and speed," says Frank Pierce, Indivos' vice president of marketing. The company is testing the system at retail outlets, including fast-food restaurants, around the country.
Pity the CEO who thinks he can be a know-it-all micromanager and still succeed. In Unnatural Leadership (Jossy-Bass), executive coaches David L. Dotlich and Peter Cairo list 10 guidelines that today's best executives are adopting. Among them: inviting change, being approachable and considering the views of the mail-room kid with the green hair. "We tell our clients, 'You have to win your followers every day,' " says Dotlich. Some of the unnatural acts the authors recommend are: "Coach and Teach Rather Than Lead and Inspire," "Expose Your Vulnerabilities" and "Trust Others Before They Earn It." Cairo says what's missing from other leadership manuals are instructions on how to practice the techniques. So each chapter in this book ends with exercises like "acknowledging your shadow side" (the power-hungry, micromanaging stuff) to smooth the transition from arrogance to unnatural humility.