The Land of Smiles: What a Bank Can Be

A COMPLIMENT IN MONTE CARLO: I received an amazing compliment in Monte Carlo last month. A grizzled and seasoned banker looked at me owlishly over his tortoise-shell spectacles and said, “Mr. Hansen, you come from a land of smiles. But we are bankers and we care about just one thing in life: making money.”

I sat with this compliment for some time, thinking about what it meant for me personally. And, as I sat, I kept coming back to the theme of happiness. How am I happy? How is this banker happy? How is my family happy? How is this banker’s family happy? Is it really money that makes a person happy? Or is it something else?

THE HISTORY OF MONEY: When one looks at the history of money itself, it becomes very clear that the pursuit of money alone does not yield happiness. In The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson writes, “And yet the silver of the New World could not bring the rebellious Dutch Republic to heel; could not secure England for the Spanish crown; could not save Spain from an inexorable economic and imperial decline. Like King Midas, the Spanish monarchs of the sixteenth century, Charles V and Philip II, found that an abundance of precious metal could be as much a curse as a blessing…What the Spaniards had failed to understand is that the value of precious metal is not absolute…an increase in its supply will not make a society richer…”

REAL SUCCESS: The real value that people seek is an in-the-flesh connection to other human beings in the context of love. And no amount of money in the world can buy this. Maria Elita, a Greek-Australian healer, has said, “Success to me is being able to look after my grand-daughter when I can, help my children grow up respectfully, spend time with my aging parents, listen to other people’s stories of hope, kiss my boyfriend often, spend every Sunday night with my crazy Greek family, express my truth as only I can, forgive the past, embrace the future and remember The Miracle that I am. None of my success is monetary or material .. Because TRUE SUCCESS has no dollar value, cannot be measured, and does not need awards.”

My hypothesis is that the “land of smiles” is precisely where the banker in Monte Carlo wants to be. This desired place is, as Miss Elita writes, where the awards have to do with family, friends, kisses and hugs.

Now I could stop there and feel self-satisfied about this little piece I’ve written on this sunny morning with coffee, fresh orange juice, steaming croissants and love by my side.

But I won’t.

Because the journey that I want to take is with this banker. In person.


WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS FROM BANKERS: I want this particular banker to find a way “out” of the vault of his office and into the sunlight of his family’s embrace. He has a family, he has a life outside the bank. And that family does not get enough of his presence. And, deep down, he does not get enough of their presence.

Yes, this banker likes his bank and the adventure of business. And this keeps his blood pumping. But there’s a missing piece of the story: how can he take this sense of adventure, this exhilaration of the “hunt”, this heady rush of blood that comes from successful risk-taking and turn it into a gift to humanity? How can he turn his creativity with digits into a creative act for communities, for families and for the world at large. Because that’s what the world needs from bankers now.

One of the world’s most powerful bankers, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, has said, “Investment bankers are just doing God’s work.” But how can bankers fulfill on this statement of Mr. Blankfein’s? Because most of the rest of the world would disagree with him.

WHAT A BANK CAN BE: Banks have always been solid pillars in society, providing a reference point with a promise of strength, stability and assurance. The bank manager has always been a respected and acknowledged expert leader in the community. A facilitator of conversation. An authoritative source of advice and assurance. But this role lessened in the age of mass distribution and mass communication. It became a game of mass advertising, selling mass product through mass distribution.

Online gathering places allow institutions such as banks to reclaim their position of community leadership. By opening up and facilitating one on one conversation within the supercharged online community environment. And as banks listen to their customers and follow their lives, a new relationship between a bank and a customer emerges. In this relationship, the bank brings a new and deeper emotional and social intelligence to working with human beings.

BANKS TAKING THEIR PROPER PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY: Banks should take their place within the community created through human-centered actions, in ways that are consistent with their institutional strength and provision. Acting in this way in the context of community, the bank will gain true human dimension: by interacting with the community and assuming its place as a pillar in society.

This is an incredibly worthwhile objective, which provides added value and a distinct competitive advantage for banks that choose this path. It’s a path bankers can lead humanity along into the land of smiles.

Inspired by Greece

The speakers at NIC 2012 – The National Innovation Conference today were truly inspirational.

About The Conference: The NIC 2012 conference IS a living community of inspired, successful and unique people who believe in Greece and the potential of Greeks. Every person at this conference is at the center of a community, a parea, a unique network that has tremendous vitality. For an example of a very dynamic slice of those present, check out the 40 Under 40, an esteemed list of young Greek leaders in North America who have excelled in their respective business endeavors and who simultaneously strive to make the world around them a better place through community involvement, philanthropy and/or volunteerism. WHEN such networks are activated fully, Greece truly will realize itself, to quote Peter Economides, as the “apple of the Mediterranean.”

George M. Logothetis, Head of the Libra Group, stood out as a leader that could very well take the helm of Greece itself. He said, “Greece is an ancient society that has overcome many difficulties. Greece just needs the ceiling of negativity and cynicism to be lifted. Let us talk about what Greece can be.” The house filled with applause at this statement by Mr. Logothetis. He went on to quote his grandfather, who said, “The impossible I can do. It is miracles that will take a little longer.”


Paul Efmorfidis, founder of Coco-Mat Beds, encouraged the audience to “Look around you. What is around you? Work with that.” Mr. Efmorfidis went on to speak of a good business, a business that can say, “We are proud of what we are doing. Our doors are open. We do not have secrets.” Efmorfidis also insisted that “we have to be alert in this life…we have to be awake.”

THE PHILANTHROPRENEURISM PANEL: A panel discussed Philanthropreneurism, focusing on how Greeks can use entrepreneurship and new technology for the benefit of Greece. The panel included Basil Mossaidis, Director of Ahepa; Endy Zemenides, Exec. Director of Hellenic American Leadership Council; Emanuel Manoussakis, Co-Founder & CEO of; John Pyrovolakis, Exec. Director of Innovation Accelerator; Loukas Pilitsis, CEO of Piraeus Equity Partners at Piraeus Bank; and Kostas Mallios, VP, Intellectual Ventures.


“Think positive and be realistic.”

“Make sure creativity does not get lost during the process of setting up a new business.”

“Young professionals in Greece are choosing to live with family or groups of friends and become entrepreneurs vs. working for increasingly low wages or jobs where pay never arrives.”

“Social networks are in the DNA of Greeks.”

“Mentorship of young entrepreneurs in Greece is crucial.”

“One of the most actionable steps in the short term: familiarize young Greeks with how to connect with funding and wealth.”

“We are living a technological revolution in Greece.”

“The Israeli innovation model is what applies in Greece.”

“We need a true innovation eco-system in Greece.”

“Israelis push for leaders, they cultivate leaders, they push young leaders. This is the model we must also choose.”

“We must find leading students and teach them, involve them in internships, mentor them.”

“We must train and cultivate young Greek leaders here in America and then send them back to Greece.”

“The private sector should lead Greece.”

“We must have successful private sector leaders actively participating in hand-holding and mentoring. We must leave the State out of this.”

“In 1974, when Cypriots lost everything, Greek-Cypriots came and rallied and brought Cyprus back to health.”

“The path to integrity is through the crisis itself. This is not just a financial crisis. This is also a social crisis. The crisis itself will create honesty and integrity.”

“Corruption has happened because it can. When corruption cannot happen, then changes will happen.”

“Greece has hit rock-bottom. There is nowhere to go but up.”

“We must get those in need of menthorship in touch with mentors. Social networks can do this.”


Stefanos Sitaras (, a film director and super creative thinker, asked, “How do you learn to take a crisis and become a better person through it? The mechanism of doing this is like an elevator that takes you to the very bottom where you hear negative voices and you really feel and experience the crisis within your body. And then you sacrifice all of this fear, timidness and pain. You give it up. And you eliminate your dependance. And you see who you are and rise to your best self.”

Arianna Huffington (who joined by video), said that all humans must learn to “Stop looking for the victor on the white horse to arrive and start looking at the victor in the mirror.”

Peter Economides, founder of FelixBNI, closed the conference with THE riveting and exact presentation on ReBranding Greece that has won hearts and minds the world over. He praised Athens as the city that “inspires love” and as “the most inspiring place on the planet.” Mr. Economides emphasized how “brand are a set of impressions inside of our heads…brands push the human race forward.” He insisted that Greece IS “the apple of the Mediterranean” and that it is up to Greeks to nurture this beautiful reality. Economides’ rooted his talk in the truth that “everything communicates” and that it is up to Greeks to nurture, guide and create the Greece that will be victorious.

Leda Karabela ( led a powerful session after Mr. Economides’ talk, in which she asked the audience to state words that captured their feelings, voice plans that could be driven by these feelings and make vocal commitments that would bring these plans to fruition. The audience fully participated with many voices chiming in and contributing to a rich close to the conference. The hall outside afterwards buzzed with conversation as networking and introductions ensued.

One could definitely say that Gregory Pappas and the Greek America Foundation put on a truly successful event, which we hope will contribute a significant slice of human capital to the growing support for Greece worldwide.

Social Business works for the Hearts of your customer first

Brands belong to everyone, not just any specific leader of a corporation or a government. ~Peter Economides

Take your passion and make it happen! ~Irene Cara

I once met a CEO who asked his CFO and CMO, “How much money and when?” I met another one, who asked, “How many hearts won and when?” If you want to build a community, try starting with Relational KPIs. It is NOT about automation. It’s about humanization. The most perennial of brands, the ones we all love, found connection via relationship.

Economic systems are often solely attached to numerical growth whereas social systems are attached to depth of connection and meaningful relationships. Perennial business is focused on social psychology vs. pure numeric results. Organically grown business is real and deep and, in the long run, far more lucrative in all respects. Humanity needs this now.

I grew up within the system of America – I am a son of corporate America and of the Church of America, both. I also grew up all over the World – I respect the spiritual and cultural traditions of the nations. The greatest organizations and individuals I met during my travels were human. H-U-M-A-N. I’ll fight to my dying breath for the mammal, for the sweat, for the emotion, for the heart. And I’ll work to my dying day for technology to be driven BY and work FOR the heart of humanity.

Karen Gritter writes, “Getting out of the “factory” and “numbers” mentality is also critical for our planet. Factory farming is destroying our soils.” Paul Farmer writes, “I work in manufacturing and I have a couple hundred people working for me and production can occur with a few mechanics and laborers because the machinery does the rest. But production done well occurs with trust and encouragement!” I would add that “factory farming” mentality is ALSO destroying our hearts.

Kate Carter of Life Chronicles (, writes, “We at LifeChronicles love that we use technology for compassionate service to humanity-our student volunteers love that we call them Compassionate Technologists.” The robotic and the numeric MUST be “overgrown” now with flesh and filled with blood. We are human and we MUST use technologies for human ends.

Is the end goal really about numbers then? Let’s go into that mansion built by the one’s focused only on numbers and see how happy its inhabitants truly are. Now, let’s make a similar journey to the farm built by those who were focused on the heart. My hunch is that life on that farm, in spite of all the human issues, is a happier and more abundant place. And that’s the place our World needs now. A circle of Love and Trust. Not a Hierarchy of Numeric achievement.


2012: The year the CCO (Chief Customer Officer – replaced the CMO, the CCO (Chief Collaboration Officer – replaced the COO and the CSO (Chief Social Officer) replaced the CEO. We need a C-Suite that gloats over hearts won and worlds bettered vs. dollars banked and pockets lined. Once again, If you want to build a community, try starting with Relational KPIs. It is NOT about automation. It’s about humanization. The most perennial of brands, the ones we all love, found connection via relationship.

Managing Global Social Communities for Enterprise-Level Brands: An interview with Eleftherios Hatziioannou

NATHANIEL HANSEN, CEO OF THE SOCIALIZERS INTERVIEWS Eleftherios Hatziioannou New Media Manager of s.Oliver and former Social Media Manager for Mercedes-Benz Global.

This is the English version of a feature interview I submitted to Marketing Week Magazine in Greece. The article was published in the May 1-5 2011 issue. The Greek version may be found here.


1. How do enterprises handle the 24-7 nature of online social communities?

This is indeed one of the big challenges businesses have to deal with in a truly globally connected world where people get more and more used to non-stop real-time interaction. When Europe goes to bed Asia rises. There is a 24/7 stream of information and conversations going on which can be of interest for brands and businesses. But business can handle it! How? Like in real life it is all about defining some kind of a rhythm to manage the information and issues. Once you have set up the processes, roles and tools, you just need to be disciplined and do your work day-by-day. And never forget: What counts in real life counts for the social web as well. Over time you create a culture and people understand when to expect an immediate answer and when it can take some time. Communities are smart enough to understand that even a community manager needs a break. I suggest to everyone involved in social communities to be really open about what they can offer and what not. One solution could be defining a “netiquette”, which includes basic rules and guidelines about what people can expect from you and when. Like the “old school” signage at the doorstep of your shop.

2. What criteria do you use in discovering technical solutions for social campaign management and internal facing social solutions?

It depends on what you are looking at and in which phase of your social media engagement you are in. It is an evolutionary process after all. Let’s have a look at “web monitoring”. I suggest that if you are just getting started you do a lot of manual work: reading through comments, searching for tweets related to your company and also creating lists of the blogs which are interesting for your business and subscribing to them. You could organize relevant blogs with tools like Google reader for example. There are a lot of other free tools, e.g. Twitter search, to start with.

However, once you grow and start doing more activities it makes sense to look into professional monitoring tools in order to manage the amount of topics and also being able to analyze and report to your management. I recommend looking at different tools and deciding which one fits your needs best. It doesn’t mean that the expensive solution is also the best. What I definitely prefer are tools which allow you to not only have a “radar” system in place but to work with your findings by transferring them into your internal collaboration space. Think about reading a critical or false statement in a blog which you want to share with your PR colleagues who decide whether to make an official statement or not. The more you open up for the online dialogue the more you want to assign tasks with just a few clicks. Other than that simplicity is king! You want to make it easy for your co-workers to embrace the “change”.

3. What goals are realistic when managing social communities and how do excellent community managers succeed?

Behind every blog, account and profile there is a human being with basic needs: The need to be heard. The need to be appreciated. The need to be part of something greater than himself/herself. An excellent community manager understands these needs. He acts like a real friend. If you want to be a good community manager just think of how relationships and friendship works in normal life. He is the “real deal”. He is not faking anything. He is like a bridge between the inside and the outside of the company translating the language and culture in a way that it can be understood in both directions. He is a strong communicator with excellent social skills. A real champion talks with and not to the community. He filters topics according to their relevance for his audience and balances between company’s and the community’s interests. And last, but not least, he always keeps his promises and openly corrects mistakes. Belive it or not: Communities forgive when you are open about your mistakes. And who’s perfect by the way?!

4. How would your strategy differ when managing social media outposts and a branded community?

The biggest difference would be that in a branded community – which is more of a private thing – you can do more and dive deeper into user engagement. People sign up – with all the data you need to know to be safe- because they really want to be in touch with you. In general it is more of a “trusted” environment where you can engage on a deeper level. Look at it like a VIP lounge in a club. Members feel special but also expect a more “exclusive” treatment. It is more difficult to reach a broad audience if you are not a company like Apple or Google who managed to build huge audiences and communities around their excellent products and services giving special benefits to loyal users, e.g. like testing new devices first or using services before the official launch. I like the concept of branded communities especially in the B2B space where you want to have a certain level of confidentiality or privacy.

It is a different story to build and manage a community on a open and massive platform like Facebook for example. There is definitely less control. People “like” you on the go by simply clicking one button. The same applies to leaving your page again. It is a much faster game and you need to really make sure not to overload the community with your contents and tasks. This applies to formats, tonality as well as lengths of post or videos,etc. related to your communications.


5. What types of insights are most valuable to you from business intelligence gathered via social network analysis? How can such insights also be applied internally in fomenting culture change?

All insights are valuable. The more you know the better you understand the game. At least in this stage of the social media evolution. What is interesting though that in the beginning you appreciate growth in quantitative aspects. “We grew by 1000 fans in Facebook over the past week”, “we have 500 new followers on twitter this month”, “we served 1.000.000 impressions with our campaign”. This numbers definitely help creating awareness and build momentum in the beginning because we were used to measure success in such facts (e.g. CPM – cost per mille). However, I find it much more important to look into the qualitative aspects as well. And in this regard we are still at the very beginning! There are no broadly applied KPIs yet which make your performance comparable. But anything is possible: Why not measuring service levels based on the amount of complaints coming in in relation to problems solved on Facebook? Why not comparing ratio of positive mentions to negative mentions on twitter in comparison to the last month to understand customer satisfaction levels? I guess it is pretty clear what I want to say. Social media is more than just a growing number of fans. Social media is all about real conversations taking place. And there are tons of valuable data available. Think about customer feedback or suggestions related to your product or service. The question is how to handle this inbound stream of information and learning from it?

6. What are your favorite online communities? Why?

My favorite social network is Facebook. I created my profile back in 2006 when I was helping a friend after work to build awareness for a social learning network among students. And back then Facebook was still a platform mainly for students. So we thought it would be the right place to promote this startup.

If I look at Facebook today it amazes me how much they have done right in the course of the past few years. The speed of action. The level of continuous innovation. And of course the massive growth in users and usage. They also managed to hire a lot of talent. I love Facebook for allowing me to connect with my family and friends around the world. They are far away but still so close. I know what`s happening and I can choose how public I want to be. But the social web offers more than Facebook: Think about blogs and how they democratized publishing. Think about twitter and how fast we learn about news in the world today. Or think of the new rising stars who built their audience on YouTube. I find it really amazing to see how technology allows human beings to thrive!

7. You’ve spoken in interviews about culture change internally. Often a period of “cleaning up the organization” prepares the enterprise more fully for social engagement. Speak to the challenges of doing this and also the specific obstacles in a country like Greece.

Change is never easy and you have to make sure that people understand what it is all about. This means that you first have to understand where people are standing right now and what their values are. A colleague in HR in his late 50 with no Facebook profile needs to be addressed differently than a 30-year old colleague in the Marketing team already reading blogs about marketing related issues. What I find valuable is to use the concept of “storytelling” for internal change. Create relevant stories related to the values and challenges of your opponent and also make time to look into and explain the social web. Ask your CEO to “Google” himself or do a live demo of mentions about your company or products. This will work magic – trust me.

Finally, really take your time. Change does not happen over night. Spread the virus, talk to as many people as you can. Walk the talk. You cannot preach change without living it yourself. So spend a lot of time sharing links and information related to social media. Create working groups and inform people about the latest stuff and news. In short: Evangelize and keep walking!

8. Forward looking, what developments in technology do you believe are most relevant to where social communities are headed? How about in relation to where internal corporate culture is headed?

A really interesting question. What is happening right now is that we are going through a complete transformation of our communication and information behavior based on the technologies available and the development of infrastructure (networks, devices, prices for data plans). If you look at the younger generations (digital natives) you see that using various media simultaneously is a normal thing. They got used to real-time information, easy sharing of information, collaboration with friends and all the other technology-driven advances. It has become a natural thing to them. Now, imagine what this means for the “workforce” of tomorrow. Do you think they will come and work for companies which are stuck in the past? Working on ancient soft- and hardware? You cannot expect that they come into the office and forget about all the great tools and features they use in their leisure time.

So besides the cultural change in terms of opening up for online dialogue, embracing social media as a driver for business excellence and stronger customer relations we need to answer the following question: How does the workspace of the future look like? How do we learn from social media about better collaboration? And how can we make work being a playground again for more creativity and innovation? How can we empower our teams to excel?

Eleftherios Hatziioannou (1), Babis Mavridopoulos (2), Nathaniel Hansen (3) and Peter Economides (4) at the Intercontinental Hotel, Athens, Greece. March 2011.

9. What’s your favorite spot in the world?

Generally speaking I love the sea. Especially the Aegean. I guess it has to do with my origin which lies on Rhodes, in the Dodecanese, where my family lives. The deep blue colour, the sandy beaches and the lovely sun in August/ September are truly amazing and work magic if you want to re-charge for business. I will be back in May or June.

Add’l resource: Brian Solis interviews Eleftherios Hatziioannou on Solis TV here.