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Virgin Galactic still shooting for the stars!

Setback or opportunity? And what can banks learn?

Virgin Galactic still shooting for the stars!

Two weeks ago Virgin Galactic suffered a terrible loss due to a test flight gone tragically wrong.

No doubt that the vision of Sir Richard Branson to develop a private space program will be delayed, pending an analysis of the circumstances of the crash. But that does not mean that everything will stop moving forward.

Time to keep on

Progress in the face of adversity has always been what drives the visionary, and Sir Richard is no different.

Space­—often referred to as the final frontier—will be conquered.

But it will not be easy. And it will be expensive.

More importantly, it is the willingness of individuals to accept the risk in exchange for the accomplishment and the competitive spirit that lives in us all that motivates disparate groups to morph into teams accepting the challenge.

Setback, yes. But Virgin Galactic is still out in front, for now. Yet the composite of the participants in the private space race is changing, and one event in particular is adding rocket fuel to the competition.

NASA widens the field

NASA just announced the selection of Boeing as the civilian contractor responsible for delivering U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. This arrangement will, in time, replace the current Russian transport arrangement.

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Until now only one company—SpaceX—has had a contract with NASA to transport cargo to the station. Outside of a wide range of satellite placement companies, the only company to offer humans a “space-like” experience is Virgin Galactic. The company expects to be operating regular flights commencing March 2015.

Should Sir Richard be worried?

No, worry is just not his style.

But motivated, yes.

Boeing will be a player

Right now Virgin Galactic has the competitive advantage.

But I dare say, it will be short-lived if Virgin does recover from the tragedy but does not continue to innovate and expand. The current version of Virgin Galactic space flight is designed to only go to the edge of space, not actually into space.

OK, that is still way cool and the ticket holders in light of the recent tragedy remain committed to taking the flight (with a small exception). But will it be enough?

With Boeing in the fray, there is no doubt that the longtime aircraft manufacturer will soon combine its commercial aircraft and space transport businesses to provide an alternative to Virgin Galactic. Soon Boeing, most likely through a joint venture with Delta or United, will offer a space program with far more features and opportunities.

Arthur C. Clarke envisioned this (Pan Am in the book 2001: A Space Odyssey) and now it is about to happen!

Knowing Sir Richard and his vision, I am certain that he has a follow-up to the current Virgin Galactic in the offing. And that would be consistent with his key to his business success—a spirit of continuing innovation.

What bankers can learn

From a banking perspective there are some key observations that we should focus on. That is, what was far-fetched only a few years ago is reality today.

Vision, combined with imagination, is the key driver to innovation.

With so much technology available today, banks no longer have to wait for a core processor to innovate. You can do it now. Having attended the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Payments Innovation Symposium there was plenty of evidence of financial institutions doing just that! Innovating!

The question is: Do you have a competitive advantage today?

The answer is yes.

Can you innovate today?

The answer is yes!

Can you start an innovation effort within your institution to exploit your competitive advantage?

The answer … YESterday!

The Wombat!

Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is president and CEO of The Copper River Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Fargo, N. D., that focuses on technology and payment systems research and consulting for community financial institutions. For nearly 30 years, Fisher has worked in the financial industry using technology to improve the bottom line. He was CIO of Community First Bankshares (now part of Bank of the West), has served as a director of the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, the chairman of the American Bankers Association Payment Systems Committee, and was a member of the Independent Community Bankers of America Payments Committee. Fisher has written numerous articles on banking technology and the payments system. He has authored or co-authored six books and recently published a book titled, "Capturing Your Customer! The New Technology of Remote Deposit." You can contact Fisher at dan@copperrivergroup.com or at 701-293-6222.
P.S. To understand Dan's nickname, check out "About the Wombat" on his website.       

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