It must be the constant noise, bright lights and ever-present cigarette smoke, but there's something about Las Vegas - where I was attending BAI's Retail Delivery event as I wrote this column - that inspires philosophical ponderings and a sudden ability to find symbolism in the most mundane objects.
For example, why do people gripe about ATM and check fees, yet they happily squander all their loose change on slot machines? Why is waiting in line at the bank branch such a chore, but waiting in even longer lines for the $9.99 all-you-can-eat buffet is OK?
What does it say about the prospects for a future cashless society that you can still play nickel slots ... or penny slots ... or $500 slots, for that matter? With branch banking booming, why are there no bank branches on the Las Vegas strip? Conversely, how did Starbucks outlets become as pervasive in Sin City as slot machines?
What are the casinos doing with all the information they are gathering about their visitors: what games they like to play and how much they'll spend playing those games; what they like to eat; and what their ATM account numbers are (because all the in-casino and hotel ATMs are privately owned)? Why is it impossible to take a cab ride for less than $10 - and why don't the cabs take credit cards?
These musings could go on and on, but all these questions lead me to a simple conclusion: Because of its mastery of anticipating customer needs and interests, its ability to create a total experience and its success at getting people to spend money on things they don't realize they need, Las Vegas seems to me to be the perfect location for an industry event focused on retail banking and ways to grow the business.
Learning more about customers and using that information to expand customer relationships (that is, sell them more products) has been the theme of this year's event - as it has been, in one form or another, at every Retail Delivery show that I've attended, going back to the late-80s. Meanwhile, Las Vegas may have given up its attempts to become a family destination, but it continues to succeed at taking care of your money - what happens there truly does stay there!
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio