Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

SCJ70. 70 weeks sharing our weekends together in this small way. I really appreciate all the great responses, emails and sharing Saturday Cup of Joe. It’s still a lot of fun for me and I look forward to many more weeks. I still try to make SCOJ focused on lending, technology, millennials and, of course, the #NextBelt. I’m coming off a busy week that included a HMDA panel/workshop with CFPB in Boston and my cousin’s wedding today in New Hope, PA. Next week you can find me at RESPRO in Denver addressing CFPB’s UDAAP authority over vendors and service providers. That’s on Thursday. And I will be in DC for MBA’s Regulatory Compliance conference in the middle of the month. Perhaps we can do an “on the road” version of SCOJ over the next two weeks.

Detroit, MI, USA


One CEO replied “Call Me” to every email for 1 week and then wrote about the wins and losses. Wins? Faster responses to issues. Greater depth to the conversation. Unexpected topics came up naturally. Utilized otherwise unutilized time (i.e. a walk to work.). Losses? Phone tag is annoying and more frustrating than waiting for an email. Hard to control time. Requires high degree of organization.


The often-overlooked aftermath of a natural disaster is rental housing. In Houston, as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, experts are predicting a run on rental units. More than 60,000 units may have been damaged or destroyed meaning that the previously available 70,000 units in the area are likely to go quick. Unfortunately rent increases and availability plummets while properties are restored (if they are restored at all). It’s hard to continue to read about the challenges and losses for people after this devastating storm but it’s important especially as we try to understand the role of federal funding, state support and private market responsibility. You may be thinking there’s a playbook because we’ve had hurricanes and damage before but the reality is that storms are getting bigger, the recovery more expensive and resources more difficult to pry from existing budgets and programs. One or two more of these storms in one season could lead to painful economic and political outcomes (well beyond rising rents).


My favorite bridge in Detroit. Connects Detroit to Belle Isle Park. Make connections this week.

Included below:

1. How Washington struggles to keep pace with cybersecurity & tech companies(Of Interest)

2. Will Millennials join federal service? (Millennial Minute)

3. Detroit in 3 Acts. PrimeTime. West Village. Pizza. (NextBelt)

4. Cultivating competition and humanness at the same time (Walk the Talk)

5. Smalltown, USA. Literally. (Quirky story of the week)

6. Today’s Thought, valuable lessons and a poem

As seen on LinkedIn this week.

Of Interest: The big news of the week, obviously, was the data breach at Equifax that may have compromised the personal data of 143 million consumers. I’ll be honest, I never love hearing these stories which only serve to stoke consumer fears and allow for the 24/7 news cycle to play on those fears. Yet, this reinforces a somewhat obvious point — we’re all in this together. This is more like a “super highway” than ever before. We’re all speeding and in many ways, we’re all benefiting from the breakneck speed of development and innovation. No one’s information is any safer than anyone else’s. Sure some cars are 5 star crash test rated and some are 4 stars but we’re all speeding and we’re all in this together. I think consumers who understand the risks acknowledge that this is a reality. Doesn’t mean Equifax is not responsible and should not make it right. They are and they should. In fact, the fallout from this story may end up being much more about how Equifax executives handle this than anything else.

The degree to which we’re honest from policymakers straight down to consumers about what risks we assume, what risks are unacceptable and how we plan to move forward encouraging innovation under these threats will determine the next 20 years of economic development in this area.

Some lawmakers recognized this. Senator Mark Warner was quoted in the Reuters piece calling this overall threat a “threat to the economic security” of the country. This is like the National Security Advisor uttering those critical words “clear and present danger” in the movie Clear and Present Danger. In that case it gave the military & paramilitary forces Constitutional cover to wage the war on drug cartels. Here, it similar & scary. Similar because cybersecurity is even more widespread and complex than anti-drug warfare. Scary because it is arguably even more destructive. Without question, there are hallway and closed-door conversations going on in the halls of power trying to understand what we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to respond to these complex technological and legal issues.

When I was in law school, I used to joke about administrative law / regulatory law as a new “emerging market” in the legal field. I was coming off working as a market research analyst for government technology contracts in homeland security and national defense. The broad spending and regulatory web convinced me the expansion was inevitable. Then President Obama was elected in the midst of the financial crisis, we got the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. The rest is history. It’s no wonder the health insurers and banks dominated the next 10 years in DC lobbying & spending. Now, enter Silicon Valley. The battle over cyberspace is just heating up. With the creation of cloud storage and computing over the last decade or so and innovations in mobile & new forms of currency, policymakers have struggled to imagine guardrails when the superhighway changes so quickly. Meanwhile, tech companies rush to DC to educate and influence how cyber law & policy is being created.

The Guardian followed this theme in a piece this week that I couldn’t help but pass along. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook (to name a few) have replaced the traditional powerhouse spenders on DC’s famous K Street for representation and advocacy around issues important to these companies. Not surprisingly, it’s hard to even know what issues don’t somehow impact these companies. They seem to be in every area of our lives. Interestingly, their presence in DC has upended the traditional power structure and brought into stark relief how we will define these companies in the future. Some in DC have tried to call them monopolies but up and down Silicon Valley, these companies are known for lofty and well-meaning missions. Behind that mission is a sort of digital capitalism. An attempt to keep cyberspace a free market.

Between the power and influence these firms wield to the statements from Senator Warner about the threats to the economic security of the US, there’s no end in sight for the regulation v innovation v safety discussion for years to come.


Millennial Minute: I’ve been writing for some time that Millennials look at the world differently and we are demanding meaningful stories with our products, services, purchases and commitments. We want to be a part of something and are willing to withhold money from those that don’t agree and pay a bit extra where we find that feeling (known as “the feels”) we are looking for. Generally, this extends to employment as well. Early on, I think many jealous (or confused) members of previous generations labeled Millennials as too picky when it came to employment misunderstanding the core values many Millennials claim — purpose, meaning and feeling valued. Now that we’ve gotten more sophisticated in our analysis of the #nextgeneration, we’re finding, not surprisingly, that Millennials are drawn to exciting opportunities that claim to offer wealth & meaning or cutting edge challenges that will ‘change the world.’ Even if changing the world is defined as subscription service healthy dog food delivered right to your door.

On one hand, it might not surprise you to learn that federal financial regulators are behind everyone in terms of staffing and developing young talent. American Banker published an article this week noting that at 18.6% of the workforce under 30 years old, financial regulators are almost 12% lower than the government as a whole (roughly 30%). According to the piece, “Millennials, in addition to driving demand for 21st-century banking and socially-conscious investing, are creating the next generation of products and services.” Understanding this thought-process is critical for your organization as it is for these federal regulators.

I remember speaking with Carl Pry of Treliant Risk Advisors on one panel and Carl told the audience that his hometown paper, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, included a recruiting ad for the CFPB with the headline “Do you want to change the world?” Seemingly, the CFPB gets it. But according to the article this week, it is not borne out in the numbers.

What is your organization doing to deal with this issue? Do you think the SEC or CFPB need to establish Millennial Advisory Committees, as the article suggests? Before you laugh, think about how easily it is to understand this so-called millennial mindset? Or how much you are willing to bet on Millennials returning to traditional habits of their parents?


NextBelt: 3 highlights in Detroit this week.

1. Is Detroit ready for Prime Time?

Amazon announced plans to identify a second American headquarters (HQ2) and, according to reports, Detroit is in the top 5 finalist for the location. Crain’s Detroit confirmed that Dan Gilbert is lobbying Amazon to select Detroit. Other sources placed Austin, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Salt Lake City as the top 5. Interestingly, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are similar situated cities in the #NextBelt. Amazon is a game-changer in commerce, retail, employment and technology. For Detroit to continue to add opportunity & jobs, this is a major step.

2. Did I gentrify Detroit?

Much of our move to Detroit has been exciting and positive. We’ve met a wonderful community of people who care deeply about their city and their friends & family. We’ve engaged with the Quicken Loans Family of Companies as well to understand what Dan Gilbert and our colleagues are doing for the city. One of the toughest part of moving to Detroit is understanding the history of the city and being sensitive to our place in the city including how neighbors and strangers might at us. I was reminded of this again when our neighborhood showed up in this story as “quickly gentrifying.” Just a few weeks ago, I had asked Meredith whether we were viewed as unwanted guests in our neighborhood. I was in a conversation with a friend who buys properties, renovates them and rents them out. He intentionally does not add certain luxury touches so that the rent will remain affordable for his tenants. In other words, he actually leaves potential profit on the table by limiting the cost and enhancement in his properties. He’s devoted to Detroit and sees it as a responsibility to not just rent his places to “new Detroit.” It struck me since I had assumed he just didn’t have the investors or capital for luxury renovations. Not so. After that conversation, I worried about how I can show my authenticity and connection to our neighborhood and Detroit. But the truth is, I’m sure we appear to be (suspect) gentrifies to long term residents of our block.

As soon as I worried about it, I stopped. We are trying to meet and connect with our neighbors. We enrolled our daughter in a school in our broader neighborhood. We care deeply about people and how we can be respectful stewards of our time & place in Detroit. No matter how long we end up living here. I know we are simultaneously “gentrifies” and just a family trying to live our lives and make our way in the world.

Shifting gears for a moment, the other reason I want to recommend the article is how methodically it lays out the layers of expertise & investment required to create opportunities in Detroit’s neighborhoods. The article identifies the challenges and lays out how sources like Detroit Development Fund need the support of Capital Impact Partners and JP Morgan Chase in order to find ways to add meaningful development. I thought the combination of the video and the article do a good job laying out all the moving parts and levers required to bring successful, sustained growth to Detroit’s neighborhoods (and several well produced montages of our actual street didn’t hurt.)

3: Food news

At risk of opening a proverbial can of anchovies, SmartAsset conducted a nationwide review of the best pizza and ranked Detroit #1. Having moved from Connecticut to Michigan, it was surprising to find decent pizza. We did, right down the street from our place, too but never thought Detroit would outrank CT in pizza — home of Pepe’s and within a short train ride to NYC. So, attack the judges if you will, but one thing is for sure, you should come here and try it for yourself. I’m looking forward to going to Buddy’s (haven’t been yet) but Supino’s and Belle Isle Pizza are two of my favorites in town.

A view from Belle Isle Park at sunset.

Walk the Talk: I’m always on the lookout for valuable lessons from places other than the traditional sources. Moneyball taught me to look at problems, value and relationships (especially relationships to work) in new and different ways as an effort to ensure I’ve thought through all the angles. This week I noticed Rickie Fowler re-tweeting Jason Sobel’s article on the competitive friendships between the pro golfers. Apparently, some in the golf world — presumably boring, out-of-touch old dudes — have taken exception to a group of young (exciting) players supporting each other when one is the champ and the others are not. Sobel harkens back to the days when Nicklaus, Palmer and Player competed for all the majors while remaining friends afterward. For anyone to suggest that there’s only one way to be a competitive champion drives me crazy. These guys are more fully formed people than many pro golfers have been in the past (of course I’m referring in part to Tiger Woods who struggled to remain an actual person during his championship run). But more than that, this is about being successful (literally at the highest peak of your profession) and being a decent person too. I’m disappointed this requires a cover story on to celebrate.


Today’s Thought: This week we watched the HBO documentary The Defiant Ones which is the career of Dr. Dre and record producer/executive Jimmy Iovine including the creation of Beats by Dre. I cannot recommend this documentary highly enough. As long as you don’t mind occasional profanity, the lessons in this thing abound. My thought, though, was what happened immediately after the last episode as the credits rolled across our screen. Meredith turned to me and laughed, “Dr Dre has 2.8 million Instagram followers and is only following 1 account.” I couldn’t think of a better bottom line to the whole story than that. That’s. The. Whole. Point. As you’ll see in the doc, Dre never waited to find out what people wanted or what the market would pay. He created. He followed his instinct and his genius. He made music over and over and over. One common characteristic among highly successful people particular those that create as part of their craft is the laser focus and long hours. The commitment to his own vision as opposed to trying to make others happy is the romantic dream that makes Dr Dre’s story special. I loved the lessons of NWA, Interscope Records and Beats by Dre, and plan to re-watch this documentary (this time with a notebook ready).


Quirky find of the week: Mental Floss published a list of the smallest town in each state. Some states like Alaska & Maine you may expect to have towns with 1 resident. Others, like NY, might be a bit surprising. Union, CT, has “as many as” 843 citizens. Each has its own story and history that make it unique (check out Centralia, PA for instance). What about your state? Has anyone ever been to one of the towns listed?


Moment of non-business: Now I Become Myself by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken

Time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken,

Worn other people’s faces,

Run madly, as if Time were there,

Terribly old, crying a warning,

“Hurry, you will be dead before — “

(What? Before you reach the morning?

Or the end of the poem is clear?

Or love safe in the walled city?)

Now to stand still, to be here,

Feel my own weight and density!

The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word

As thought shapes the shaper

Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

All fuses now, falls into place

From wish to action, word to silence,

My work, my love, my time, my face

Gathered into one intense

Gesture of growing like a plant.

As slowly as the ripening fruit

Fertile, detached, and always spent,

Falls but does not exhaust the root,

So all the poem is, can give,

Grows in me to become the song,

Made so and rooted by love.

Now there is time and Time is young.

O, in this single hour I live

All of myself and do not move.

I, the pursued, who madly ran,

Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!


Bonus Content: Ever thought of starting a business? Here are Larry Kim’s 7 doses of reality to help you decide. Still not convinced? One Founder/CEO discovered that getting smaller helped “scale” his own freedom and happiness even though it meant missing out on the dream of fame & wealth in the tech community.

Continued success,



Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well. Working on what’s next and next and next.

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Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well. Working on what’s next and next and next.