The book, The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause, talks about business strategy and "how personal financial empowerment has made everyone a winner."
I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but here's what the reviewers at Amazon are saying:
This book got me thinking about why everyone mimics everyone else in business. Why do all banks act the same way (have branches, credit cards, ATMs, car loans, checking accounts, etc.)? For that matter, why do almost all car dealerships, or department stores, airlines, etc. act in the smae way?
Arkadi Kuhlmann has provided his own answer by trashing some of the sacred practices of established banks and creating a new company that is wildly successful by standing for something in the face of the customer.
Thomas A. Farin "Bank Consultant":
I expected to be told most of what I already knew. Instead I found it full of insight on ING Direct's core principals, its branding strategy, its thought process behind its maverick behavior, management communication and a number of things I hadn't thought about. Those things are core to an outstanding success story.
If you intend to reinvent your business it is a 'must read'. I will be ordering a copy for each of our staff members to prepare those willing to make the committment for a planning retreat in which we intend to reinvent our business. I suggest you do the same.
Have you had a chance to read it yet? I'm going to get a copy and, when I finish, will review it here.
In October, he put forth The Declaration of Financial Independence, and today, he's addressing the country's current economic situation.
Economic Situation- A letter to our Customers from the CEO of Savings, Arkadi Kuhlmann
As we enter the final few months of 2008 I want to thank you for your continued confidence in ING DIRECT. Over 700,000 new Savers have joined us so far this year strengthening the bank and their own financial footing through our savings, home mortgage and ShareBuilder investment accounts. Despite a challenging economic climate our Customer base is 7 million strong and growing.
The consequences of the mortgage meltdown on financial institutions and individuals continue to erode many American dreams. We will continue to stress the right way to achieve home ownership – buy only as much house as you can afford and pay off your mortgage as fast as possible. In return for good credit and prioritizing home investment, ING DIRECT mortgage Customers are rewarded with exceptional rates and a transparent, direct administration process. Rather than selling your mortgage to another bank or investor the minute you get it, we keep your mortgage and service it here. Doing so gives us flexibility to find innovative solutions to help Customers keep their homes during unexpected financial downturns.
While we don’t have an Orange crystal ball we do expect the economy to remain fragile through 2009. The best course of action for our Customers is to be disciplined: avoid splurges; identify and cut out unnecessary expenses; save for what’s essential; and hedge against these tough times. We can all benefit by developing good spending habits: confront — and cut up — credit cards; use your home as a savings vehicle — not as an ATM; and establish and contribute regularly to an IRA or 401(k).
In this difficult financial environment, we work tirelessly to safeguard your deposits, mortgages and investments. Importantly, your deposits are FDIC-insured according to its limits and your investments are SIPC-protected. Our security processes are the best in the business and are in place to protect your money from those with bad intentions. While we are constantly vigilant, we need your help. Keep passwords to yourself. Never give personal information through an email. And always install both the latest antivirus and anti-malware software on your home computer.
Thank you for your continued trust in ING DIRECT. We will not waver in our promise to provide you with great value, service, security and convenience.
CEO of Savings
This is one of the reasons customers stick with ING Direct despite better rates from other banks. ING Direct seems to care about its customers and has their best interests in mind.
ING Direct, one of the pioneering online banks, has announced its new "We, The Savers" push, encouraging Americans to focus on finance fundamentals and put saving first.
In a letter on their Web site, CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann writes that we've made some mistakes, but can emerge stronger:
There's no denying it: America is in a tough financial spot, and some of the people in our financial industries have a lot to answer for. Eventually, they will. In the meantime, there is no way to turn back the clock on this crisis and not much the average person can do to alter its course. It has to play itself out, and we have to believe – and insist – that those responsible will play their parts in fixing it.
But what we can do is make sure, as the song says, we don't get fooled again.
Below is a 10-point plan for exactly that. If you live by it, you'll be in control of your financial life. If everybody lives by it, we'll live in a stronger nation. We urge every American family to read it, talk about it together, commit to it. Then print it out and tape it to your refrigerator door. It's a declaration of financial independence that will put your future into your own hands, where it was always meant to be.
ING's 10-point plan is as follows.
We can't argue with any of the points — the level of finanical knowledge in the U.S. is way too low, and anything that can be done to improve it is a step in the right direction.
Here's what we would add to the decleration:
What would you add to ING's Decleration of Financail Independence?
ING Direct, probably the best known online bank, had "a record number of new savers, deposits and home mortgage loans" in 2007, according to an email from CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann sent to its customers.
I am happy to report that ING DIRECT's 2007 financial results are complete. Your confidence in us helped us deliver a record number of new savers, deposits and home mortgage loans. Further, we acquired ShareBuilder so we could offer you a low cost way to invest in stocks and ETFs. I'm proud of our first 7 years, but there's work to be done.
Global financial markets ended 2007 with many challenges ahead. While ING DIRECT avoided the sub-prime mortgage problem, we understand that this housing crisis threatens the well-being of countless families and, in the end, it will be seen as a major failing of the mortgage industry and its regulators.
The fact that ING DIRECT was not adversely affected is a testament to our operating philosophy that, as Americans, we should only buy houses we can afford. That way we can keep them for years to come. We believe a mortgage is a contract that both parties should execute in good faith and expect to see through to its conclusion. We will not waver from our sworn promise to provide you with great value, service and convenience.
Thank you for your continued trust in us. Stay tuned in 2008 for new ideas we'll offer to help you save your money.
The CEO of Saving
While ING hasn't been delivering the leading interest rates on its online savings account for some time, they have continued to innovate with new products like the Electric Orange checking account and business online savings account.
Kuhlmann has been an outspoken advocate of understanding you financial situation (he's not the only one) and has argued that, even though ING only offers adjustable rate mortgages, they ARE right for some people.
I don't keep any money with them anymore — there are too many better paying options — but I know that some people do because of the ease of use and dedication to the company. I wouldn't do it, but more power to them.